No One Will Make Them Afraid

By Michael Fitzpatrick

A Reading from Micah 3:9-4:5

9 Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob
and chiefs of the house of Israel,
who abhor justice
and pervert all equity,
10 who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with wrong!
11 Its rulers give judgment for a bribe;
its priests teach for a price;
its prophets give oracles for money;
yet they lean upon the Lord and say,
“Surely the Lord is with us!
No harm shall come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the temple a wooded height.

1 In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s temple
shall be established as the highest of the mountains
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
2     and many nations shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
3 He shall judge between many peoples
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
neither shall they learn war any more;
4 but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

5 For all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.


My favorite Scripture verse is in our reading for today, though it may not be the one you expect. Micah 4:3 contains the ambition of the United Nations: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears in to pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” I do love these verses, with their expansive and astonishing glimpse into the kingdom of heaven.

But they can sometimes dwarf the elegant simplicity yet piercing profundity of the following verse: “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.” This astonishing vision of peace in the kingdom should be a watchword for us today.

First, each person has their own vine and fig tree, enough for their provision (the vine) and shelter (shade of a fig tree). It’s a world where no one has to take from another because everyone has enough. Yet it is just enough. The verse does not say some rent a fig tree from the one who owns a lot of them! A person only needs one vine, one fig tree, and is content with having enough.

And no one will make them afraid. Each person under their fig tree is safe, secure, at leisure, unafraid that someone will come to harm them. Every time I read this verse I ask myself, “Who cannot sit unafraid under their fig tree because I make them afraid?” Living for the kingdom means being someone who will not make others afraid anymore.

Finally, they sit in security because the Lord Almighty has spoken. This is not an accomplishment of hard work or activism, as important as those are. We cannot overcome the sinful powers of this world apart from the Word of the Lord. If people are unafraid under their own tree, it is because God is a God who teaches us his ways so that we may walk in his paths.

Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, California, where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Nakuru – The Anglican Church of Kenya
Church of St. Mark, Brooklyn, New York


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