None shall make them afraid

January 25, 2021 · Print This Article

There’s something about poems. They can capture a moment, an emotion, distilling events down to their constituent parts.

Many believe American’s first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, did this on the inauguration of the new US President last week. In a spoken word style five-minute poem, Gorman used the power of words to deliver a message of unity and togetherness. If you listened to it, no doubt some sentences would’ve resonated more than others.

Maybe you remember these words: “Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to her own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made”. I like figs and I like not being afraid, but where does this idea come from?

Gorman was inspired by another poet. Micah was his name, and he penned these words, capturing a moment in his divided nation’s history, Judah, almost three millennia ago. He was a biblical prophet speaking correction and hope into the national crisis. Yet the similarity to both pieces of writing goes beyond their national circumstances.

‘The Hill We Climb’ is the title of Gorman’s poem. The struggle up a hill and reaching its summit are often associated with personal revelation and deeper insight. It is ironic that Micah’s epiphany that “everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid” and that peace will come through bridges, not blade, is a result of an ascension up a hill.

In this famed passage, Micah talks of a people going “up to the mountain of the Lord”. There they find “the word of the Lord” – his teaching – which transforms the hearts of the hearer so that “nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more”.1 It is one of the more beautiful of Old Testament passages. But you have to wonder what teaching can have such an effect?

Many may answer differently, but let Micah offer a suggestion. In the face of his national corruption and division, the prophet-poet offers a nutshell teaching that could help us achieve such peace and unity with our neighbours. Concluding his book, he writes, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”.2

If you like me think this is an ideal worth striving for, then we can build communities where none will be afraid.

Richard Fowler

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

1The Bible, Micah 4:1-4
2Micah 6:8
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