Taken from the prophet Micah’s call in Micah 6:8 to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, the aims of Voices for Justice are well expressed in the first two (doing justice and loving mercy), but Christians of a more activist mindset can find it more difficult to walk humbly with our God. 

So it was with great solemnity that, on the Sunday night, we held a public service of repentance on the front lawns of Parliament House. Earlier in the day we had all made pledges to repent of behaviours and attitudes in our lives that were damaging to the poor of the world. Invariably they had to do with our Western lifestyle. We each wrote our pledges on little flags which we then pegged to a giant map of the world laid out on the lawn. A number of Christian leaders then came forward and declared what they were now committing themselves to do to live out the call of Micah in their own lives. It was a very moving time. In this type of work we need to constantly be reminded that if we do not live out this way of life ourselves, we have nothing worthwhile to say to those in power.

"When we take a close look at the prophets of the Old Testament we see that they were often rather strange characters who sometimes performed quite bizarre symbolic acts."

On the following day I attended a workshop that gave solid Biblical background to the call to live with integrity as we ask others to do. The workshop was about the Old Testament prophets and political engagement with politics and society. The panel included Dave Andrews, Deborah Storie, and Phil Ireland. The discussion was opened with the point that the prophets of the Old Testament were primarily spokespersons and not fortune tellers (which is pretty much the opposite of what I was taught when I first became a Christian in my teens).

When we take a close look at the prophets of the Old Testament we see that they were often rather strange characters who sometimes performed quite bizarre symbolic acts. Ezekiel 4 is a good example of this. Generally, the prophets were into what you might call 'shock and awe', unlike the people in the 'wisdom' books of the OT (Job, Psalms, Proverbs and others like these). The message that a prophet carries is a burden to them. The point that really challenged me though was that, as mentioned above, a prophet embraced the Word, that is, they lived out what they spoke. Some examples of prophetic actions from the Old Testament are as follows:

• Elijah and Elsha (1 Kings 19)

• Ezekiel (3: 1-3, 4: 1-3, 24: 3-13)

• Jeremiah (chapter 19)

• Zechariah

• Jeroboam and the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 11)

• Isaiah (chapter 20)

• Micah (1: 8)

The natural question to arise out of this study was about whether or not there is room for such prophetic action today. The answer is a resounding ‘yes. Dave Andrews made the point though that prophetic action needs to be colourful and creative, and designed to engage people, as opposed to being angry. Anger is to be a last resort. My first thought on hearing this was that Jesus expressed prophetic anger at times, particularly in turning over the tables in the temple. But the point to remember with that action of Jesus was that it was one his last and it was probably the final trigger that soon got him killed.

For those not into turning over tables and creating a scene which might have serious consequences, it is encouraging to remind ourselves that one of the most prophetic acts that anyone can engage in today is to participate in a church. And the word to be emphasised is 'participate'. It is about being active in a church, not being a pew-warmer. The point to be made here is that participating in a church community dismantles the individualist ethos so prevalent in our culture. Our primary prophetic actions need to be through the church, as people in the church can inspire each other. Importantly too, the most effective acts are often the most unseen ones. The most important thing is to live the prophetic life.

A distinguishing characteristic of the prophets was their sympathy with God. And in following the example of Jesus, who was strong in relating to the powerful and gentle in relating to the powerless, the prophet is to do the same. Prophets always treat people as human beings - as people with dignity, especially the people they are prophesying to. We need to remember what we are wanting to draw people to. We need to also respect the non-Christian prophetic voice. God does not only work through Christians. God can and indeed does work through anyone He wishes.

"Prophets always treat people as human beings - as people with dignity, especially the people they are prophesying to. We need to remember what we are wanting to draw people to. We need to also respect the non-Christian prophetic voice. God does not only work through Christians. God can and indeed does work through anyone He wishes."

In this workshop we were also reminded that not everyone is called to be prophetic, and similarly, sometimes to be prophetic is to make space for others to do the prophetic acts. Prophets also see the world through the eyes of God. It is also pertinent to remember that often, people in the OT thought the prophets suffered from mental illness. Even Jesus' own family thought this of him. But we need to remember too, that if they do have a mental illness, then that is fine. Michael Leunig is a great example of this, as someone who has been public about his own struggles.

It is panel discussions like this that stay with me for a very long time. A colleague mentioned to me afterwards that it was dialogues like this that made her want to go back to the Bible. That of course can only be a good thing. We sing a song at our church sometimes which talks about being a prophet of hope. The term 'prophet of doom' has widespread use, so the term 'prophet of hope' sounds somewhat of an oxymoron. I think the prophets were both. They sounded warnings of judgment as well as the hope of what a future with God can be like.

Voices for Justice is a prophetic movement of Christians who are seeking to do all they can to bring in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. It is inspiring, creative, moving and joyful. When I first attended in 2008, someone told us that history belongs to the dreamers. Back in 2000 when Australia and many other nations signed up to the Millennium Development Goals to halve global poverty by 2015, it was considered by many to be an impossible task. Ten years later, the dream is on its way to becoming reality. There is much work to be done, but Australia's commitment to giving 0.5 per cent of GNI in overseas aid by 2015 is the result of much pressure by millions of people around the world. There are MPs in both major parties who are personally committed to increasing this to the 0.7 per cent that is required of all rich nations. We need to pray for these MPs as they seek to influence their parties to do what is right and heed the call of Micah to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. 

www.micahchallenge.org.au