‘In that day I will gather the halting…’
These words are from John Calvin’s commentary translation of Micah 4:6 (though strictly speaking it is John Owen translating Calvin’s Latin).
A week ago I headed up to the gym where I normally join a Spin cycling class. But there was no class that evening so I decided to join a Step (or Bodystep) class. Twenty years ago I was a regular in these classes when they were very much at the height of their popularity. It had been a while though and so I was a little unsure how I’d go with the choreography and drill. But after a few minutes I felt like I was back in the swing and my confidence grew with each step and move. 15 minutes of activity passed and I jumped up with my right leg on to the board, swung my left leg up and down and aaaaagh…! The calf muscle in my left leg suddenly tightened and immediately I had to stop. A few minutes later I was hobbling out of the class – feeling like one of Calvin’s ‘halting’. It was a humbling experience.
The ESV uses ‘lame’ – the translation of Micah 4:6-7 runs:
“In that day, declares the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted; and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore.” (Micah 4:6-7).
The Hebrew word ‘lame’ or ‘halting’ is ‘sala’ which is used back in Genesis 32:31 when Jacob was ‘limping’ because of his hip. Micah uses it twice in 4:6-7, and it occurs in Zephaniah 3:19. These are the four uses as a verb. There are four uses as a noun: Job 18:12, Psalm 35:15; 38:17 and Jeremiah 20:10.
On Micah 4, Calvin comments: “The Prophet saw that they were in a manner broken down; and then their dispersion was as it were a symbol of final ruin. If then the faithful had their minds continually fixed on that spectacle, they might have a hundred times despaired. The Prophet therefore comes here seasonably to their help, and reminds them, that though they were now halting, there was yet in God new vigour; that though they were scattered, it was yet in God’s power to gather those who had been driven afar off.”
Today, I met with Simon Manchester and some fellow clergy and we were discussing some of the current joys and challenges of ministry. Having just had this temporary ‘lameness’, the words of Micah 4 were timely especially as it was Simon who drew the Micah 4 passage to my attention. That was back in March 2021 when I read a delightful interview in the Southern Cross magazine by Simon Manchester of Rev Dick Lucas (at the grand age of 95). At the end of the interview Simon asked Dick Lucas:
‘What keeps you hopeful for the church and for yourself?’ To which Dick Lucas referenced Karl Barth expressing hope back in 1922 to a gathering by quoting from Calvin’s commentary on Micah 4:6:
“Although the church is at the present time hardly far from a dead or at best sick man, there is no reason for despair, for the Lord raises up his own suddenly, as he waked the dead from the grave. This we must clearly remember, lest, when the church fails to shine forth, we conclude too quickly that her light has died utterly away. But the church in the world is so preserved that she rises suddenly from the dead. Her very preservation through the days is due to a succession of such miracles. Let us cling to the remembrance that she is not without her resurrection, or rather, not without her many resurrections.” [John Calvin].