We’re reading in our lectionary from the prophet Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, during the 16th week of the year. Micah lived in the southern kingdom of Judea in the 8th century when Assyrian armies destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and began deporting many of its people to Assyria.
Archeologists and historians think a good number of people from the northern kingdom immigrated south to Judea at this time and eventually they contributed to its growth. But first, they needed land and houses to live in. Micah warns warns Judea’s wealthy class against treating the new immigrants badly.
Woe to those who plan iniquity…
They covet fields, and seize them;
houses, and they take them;
They cheat an owner of his house,
a man of his inheritance. (Micah 2, 1-6)
The same people whom God led out of Egypt and gave land to freely are gouging the poor immigrants:
O my people, what have I done to you,
or how have I wearied you? Answer me!
For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
from the place of slavery I released you;
Prophets like Micah called for social justice. They raised up issues that don’t go out of date. We need prophetic voices to raise them up today in a society increasingly anti-immigrant. Housing, immigration, unfair real estate practices?
You have been told what’s good, what the LORD requires of you: Only do justice and love goodness and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 8:8)
“But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah,least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”Micah 5: 1-2.
Matthew’s Gospel (2: 5-6) reports that the chief priests and scribes cite this passage from Micah as the ancient promise of a messiah in the line of David will be born in Bethlehem. The reading is also the first reading for the Feast of the Birth of Mary, September 8, and one of the readings for the common of feasts of Mary.