by Meghan Johnston Aelabouni 

Three friends sat together one day, reflecting on their lives and imagining their legacies. “At my funeral,” the first said, “I hope people say that I worked hard all my life and that I never let people down.” The second friend replied, “When I die, I hope they say that I cared about what mattered most: the love of family and friends.” Finally the third friend chimed in: “When it’s my turn, and my loved ones gather around my casket to say goodbye, I sure hope they say, ‘Look! He’s moving!’”

This joke is about identity and legacy: how we come to be defined by the way we live and the impact our lives have on others. (It also makes a nice parable about not quitting before we’re done!) And it reminds me of the story of Micah, the prophet.

For the most part, Micah’s identity is a mystery to us. We know that he lived and prophesied during the 8th to 7th centuries BCE, around the same time as the prophets Isaiah, Amos and Hosea. Micah came from a rural town called Moresheth in the kingdom of Judah, 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, yet Micah’s preaching was directed mainly to cities, Jerusalem in the south and Samaria in the north. We even know that Micah’s name means “Who is like God?” But about Micah himself very little is known. Did he have brothers and sisters, a spouse and children? How did Micah become a prophet? What did people say about him at his funeral? Only God knows.

Micah’s legacy, on the other hand, is clear—and powerful. Twenty-seven centuries after his death, Micah’s words still live. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all recognize Micah as a prophet, and the words of Micah 6:8 ring true for all three religions: “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?” Christians especially recall Micah’s promise that from “Bethlehem of Ephrathah” would come “one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2). Each time we sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we recognize Jesus as the one whose coming Micah foretold.

A living legacy

Micah is defined, therefore, by his well-known words of challenge and comfort to the people of God. We know Micah by the way he responded to God’s call in the time and place in which he lived. This begs the question: How will you and I and the church be remembered? What legacy shall we leave? How will we respond to God’s call in our time and place?

Meghan Johnston Aelabouni is a full time Ph.D. student and a mom to three.