1 Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.
2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.
3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.”
6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah was among the earliest of the “Minor Prophets” – the 12 prophets whose works are much shorter than those of the “Major Prophets” (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel) and are found in a single scroll.
Micah was a prophet (one who spoke for YHWH) to Judea after Northern Israel (Samaria) had been conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BCE (an event to which Micah refers in 1:6). Most scholars therefore date Micah’s prophesies to the period from 720 to 700 BCE, a time when the Assyrians were threatening to conquer Judea. He was therefore a younger contemporary of First Isaiah.
This short Book is divided into three sections: oracles of judgment and condemnation against Jerusalem and its leaders for their corruption and pretensions (Ch. 1-3); oracles of hope in which Jerusalem would be restored to righteousness (right relationship with YHWH]) (Ch. 4-5); and a lawsuit by God, a judgment by God, and a lament that moved to hope (Ch. 6-7).
The Book reflects some later additions. For example, 4:10 speaks of the Babylonian Exile (587-539 BCE) and 7:11 speaks of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem – a post-Exilic concern.
According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible, the events of the late 8th Century BCE were “dizzying”: the fall of Samaria, the expansion of Jerusalem fueled by emigrants from the north (Samaria), and the aggressions of the newest superpower, Assyria.
Today’s reading is a “divine lawsuit” and the “audience” for it is the heavenly court. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary notes that the lawsuit has cosmic dimensions (“mountains, hills, foundations of the earth”). The lawsuit argued that Israel had no reason to abandon the LORD, for the LORD had done no wrong and had conferred many benefits upon Israel.
In this passage, YHWH is both the judge and the accuser, and it is sometimes difficult to identify the speaker. The LORD demanded that the Judeans plead their case (v.1). The prophet (v.2) called for all to hear the LORD’s complaint. The LORD spoke again in vv. 3-4, and a “spokesperson” for the community spoke in verses 6 and 7. The passage emphasized morality over sacrifices.
The prophet concluded with the most famous verse in Micah – the “requirement” of the LORD is to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with the LORD. The NAOB calls it “the epitome of the entire Israelite prophetic tradition” and notes that the word “kindness” is hesed, usually translated as “loving kindness” (covenant loyalty and fidelity).
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
18 The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block8 to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was the heart of Roman imperial culture in Greece. It was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the mid-50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.
It is one of Paul’s most important letters because it is one of the earliest proclamations of Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners (“for our sins” 15:3) and his resurrection (15:4-5). The letter also contains the basic formula for celebrating the Lord’s Supper (11:23-26).
Today’s reading is the continuation of the readings of the last two weeks. In today’s verses, Paul criticized of the “wisdom of the world” and asserted that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom” (v.25). He explained that selfless love (as embodied in the cross) is seen as foolishness by those who rely on the so-called wisdom of the world (v. 18, 20). As he often did, Paul paraphrased (and modified) verses from the prophets. Verse 19 is loosely based on Isaiah 29:14b which reads (in the NRSV) “The wisdom of their wise shall perish and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.”
God’s wisdom (v. 21) includes the crucifixion of the Christ/Messiah/Anointed One of God. For Jews, a crucified Messiah was indeed a “stumbling block” (v. 23) because a Messiah who suffered was not a generally accepted notion in First Century Judaism. Because crucifixion was a particularly painful and degrading Roman form of execution, a crucified Messiah would also be inconsistent with the secular wisdom of the Greeks that expected kings and wise persons to overcome their enemies. Paul asserted that God’s kingdom inverts hierarchies (v.27).
After criticizing human wisdom, Paul said that Christ Jesus became the wisdom of God for us (v.30). The phrase in verse 30 that those who boast (which is generally frowned upon) should boast in the Lord is derived from Jeremiah 9:23-24.
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The Gospel of Matthew highlights Jesus’ origins and identity. Written around 85 CE by an anonymous author, the Gospel began Jesus’s genealogy with Abraham and depicted Jesus as a teacher of the Law like Moses. More than any other Gospel, Matthew quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures (using the Greek Septuagint Translation) to illustrate that Jesus was the Messiah.
Having been written after the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Gospel reflected the controversies between the Jesus Followers and the Pharisees for control of Judaism going forward. Accordingly, the Gospel contains many harsh sayings about the Pharisees. The Gospel is aimed primarily at the late First Century Jewish Jesus Follower community.
The Gospel relied heavily on the Gospel of Mark and included all but 60 verses from Mark. Like Luke, Matthew also used a “Sayings Source” (called “Q” by scholars) which are found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark and John. There are also a substantial number of stories that are unique to Matthew: the Annunciation of Jesus’ conception was revealed to Joseph in a dream (rather than by an angel to Mary as in Luke); the Visit of the Magi; the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod; the Flight to Egypt; the Laborers in the Vineyard; and the earthquake on Easter Morning, among others.
Today’s reading is known as “The Beatitudes” from the Latin word “beatus” (meaning “blessed”) which is a translation from the Greek “makarios” (which means “fortunate”). The Beatitudes are the first part of the Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5 to 7), which has similarities to the shorter “Sermon on the Plain” in Luke 6:17-38. Luke has four Beatitudes and Matthew has eight.
The ascent up the mountain to teach (v.1) is reminiscent of Moses’ going up the Holy Mountain (Sinai or Horeb, depending on the source) to receive the Teaching (the Torah). The Sermon on the Mount is part of Matthew’s presentation of Jesus of Nazareth as a “New Moses” whose life was threatened by the temporal king (Pharaoh/Herod), who traveled to Egypt, came back from Egypt to Israel (the Exodus/return to Israel in Matt. 2:21), went into the water (Moses in the bulrushes and the Sea of Reeds/Jesus’ Baptism), time in the Wilderness (40 years/40 days), and teaching from the mountain.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that similar blessings appear in Jewish literature and that the word “makarioi” appears 68 times in the Septuagint, usually as a translation of the Hebrew word “ashrei” meaning “happy are …” The JANT points out that “meek shall inherit the earth” (v.5) is similar to Ps. 37:11 (“But the meek shall inherit the land”). The JANT interprets the “meek” as those who do not take advantage of their position, and notes that in Jewish literature, the “heart” (v.8) represented the center of thought and conviction.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible offers similar interpretations and sees “meek” not as submissive or inconsequential, but rather aware of one’s proper position and not overweening. “Pure in heart” (v.8) is understood as sincere and free from mixed motives.
Verses 11 and 12 reflect the fact that the Jesus Follower Community in the late First Century faced hostility from both Jews and pagans. Prophets who were persecuted (v.12) include Elijah, Amos, and Jeremiah.