Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
The prophet Micah was active about 700 BC at the time the Assyrians were threatening Judah. Prophesying doom for his people unless they change their practices, he here visualizes God as bringing charges against the Jews in a law court. God begins by speaking of what he has done for the Jews, but the scene breaks off, no doubt because some careless scribe lost the manuscript. The next scene reveals the penitent asking God how to approach him. Shall he make animal sacrifices or bring farm products to the altar? Shall he sacrifice his first-born son? the actual sacrifice at the altar of the eldest son had once been widely practiced among Jews and was still going on in some areas. The answer that Micah has God give to this question is one of the treasures of Hebrew prophecy.
First Corinthians 1:18-31
As promised in our last epistle, we have today Paul’s doctrine of the cross. As Paul was well aware, to be nailed to the cross was a punishment reserved for the lowest criminals. It involved not only a slow death in great pain, but the most revolting physical responses. It was utterly shameful. Yet foolishly, paradoxically, Jesus’s dying on the cross offered salvation. How can this be? First Isaiah had already pointed out that God cannot be found through wisdom and discernment. The rational thinking of Jews and Greeks never revealed a truth about the divine. God chose to reveal himself in what is low, what is despised, things that look foolish to those who demand wisdom. Death on the cross was the ultimate expression of those upside-down truths Jesus had been teaching–“blessed are those who mourn,” Blessed are the meek,” Blessed are those who hunger” (Matt. 5:1-10). Jesus’s despicable death, turned out to be God’s glorious gift.
© Arthur H. Cash