Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Devotionals: "Do not trust a neighbor"

Micah 7:1-7
New International Version (NIV)
(1) What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave.
(2) The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains. Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.
(3) Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire—they all conspire together.
4) The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day God visits you has come, the day your watchmen sound the alarm. Now is the time of your confusion.
(original assignment 5-7)
(5) Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips.
(6) For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her Mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies are the members of his own  household.
(7) But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

The prophet Micha gives what might sound like harsh advice - don't trust neighbors or put confidences in friends! This is not what we reach out children or most likely believe ourselves.

Why do you think Michah might have given this advice?

I had a lot of trouble with this selection on its own, so I went back and read the first part of the chapter in order to put this in context. So, we open up with an incitement of everyone and their brother, and in the grand scheme of things, the charge is not unfounded. While everyone in the world is not corrupt all the time, when held against an absolute/perfect standard, the failures add up quickly. 

So, back to 5-7. What are we talking about here? Micha is telling us not to trust people. I can't be certain, but I think the level of trust implied in this comment is higher than even the old cliche of "trusting someone with your life". Trust in this case would imply  that all confidences are kept and all answers honest. When you consider that as the benchmark, then yes, even the person you share your bed with would fall short. So, when "the moment" comes, (however you want to read that), that's the situation you have. 

There are two ways to read this, both flips sides of the same coin really. The first is to say "don't over estimate the quality of the people around you when compared to God". The second is to say, "Don't underestimate the integrity of God by comparing him, or putting him in the same category as  even your spouse.

Read again verse 7. Is putting hope in the lord the same as trusting him?

Okay, I'm going to abuse the fact that I am on the internet here.

Noun / A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
Verb / Want something to happen or be the case: "he's hoping for compensation"; "I hope that the kids are OK".

Noun / Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Verb / Believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.

Ultimately, the two are different, but with marked overlap. 

 Hope is expecting him to do something, you're anticipating something will happen. Depending on what it is, I'm sure the gesture is flattering, but it's as much a silent petition to me as anything else. 

Trust, however, is knowing something to be true, possible without proof of the fact. More or less, I could consider it synonymous  or at least cousin to faith in that sense  Putting faith in God, aside from being a biblical mandate, is also less variable. With Hope, there is something that is uncertain  be it the end results, or when they will happen. With Trust, you just believe that something is going to happen. And the depth of your faith might mandate how specific that belief is. 

I'll be honest with you  I really wrestled with this devotional. I'm not entirely sure what my minister is going for here, and I am not as confident in my analysis as I would like to be. I know that in the end, we all fall short of the standards set by God, and I'm okay accepting that fact. But connecting it in with the ideas of Hope and Trust... I'm not as solid on the connections as I think I should be. 



  1. I think this needs to be taken in context as well, and in that context you'll be more confident in your analysis. Micah as been prophesying yet another round of 'you're going to get squished, conquered, and it's going to suck if you don't shape up'. Mixed in are several deliverance passages (including some that are Messianic). Then back to God's legal case against Isreal (Lying, cheating, stealing, extortion, violence, fraud, bribery, etc.)

    My translation does not use the word hope. It translates verse seven (New Living Translation) "As for me, I look to the Lord for his help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me."

    So corruption's running rampant... and he is confident, not just wishful but confident about God's actions and support.

    I think Micah is emphasizing how deep the problems are running. These are the closest relationships possible. "Friend" in mine is "Best Friend". The word 'Dishonors' for the son's actions is 'despises'. I think between the two translations we can get a good feel for what the original language was trying to say. So if a son 'dishonors' or 'dispises' his father and these close family ties. These are not people we can put full confidence in. As you said sooner or later they're always going to come up short one way or another, even when things aren't as dire as they were in Micah's time. Humans will let you down, no matter how hard they try. God won't. We may not understand what he does all the time, but we can put much more confidence in God than in people.

    I'm not sure it's implicit in this passage, but you do make a good point that it is a bad idea to expect people to live up to God's trustworthiness. Not because they mean to harm or be untrustworthy but because humans are far less than perfect.

    Hopefully I didn't mangle that too badly.


  2. In terms of what was going on in that day, I think some deep research may need to be done. However, in terms of how that reflects in your life day-in and day-out right now, I think you nailed it pretty darned close. :)