For Sunday, December 23, 2012
Fourth Sunday of Advent
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).
The prophet Micah was writing to a nation in deep trouble. It had already split in half when the northern portion (Israel) had fallen to the Assyrians. Now it looked like the remaining southern portion, Judah, was also under threat. Micah’s message was ironically this: “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” As he says in verse 3: “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth …” Yet there was a silver lining. One of Judah’s obscure towns, Bethlehem, would give rise to a ruler who would return from ancient times to restore the nation, bring her peace, and extend the blessing to the very ends of the earth (v. 2, see above).
Imagine yourself as a Jew in Jesus’ day reading this passage, connecting the dots to Jesus, and realizing that a 700 year-old prophecy was coming true in front of your very eyes. How much more exciting is it for us to realize two thousand years hence that this promise has neither been forgotten or forsaken. Christ’s kingdom is being established. His greatness is reaching to the very ends of the earth.
Just as Isaiah spoke of a shoot rising up from the stump of Jesse (Isa. 11:1) now Micah prophesies about something of profound significance arising from the insignificant little town of Bethlehem. A tree can be cut down, but if the stump is left in the ground, inevitably a shoot will emerge and the tree will start to grow again. This is a picture of the irrepressible love of God whose shoot rose out of the stump of Jesse in the form of Jesus of Bethlehem.
Micah goes on to say this: “And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.” We are this flock and Jesus is indeed feeding us today in the strength of the Lord. His name is going to the ends of the earth to bring peace to every people so that all of us can live securely in Him. This is indeed a reason to proclaim, “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”
This is a re-write of a post originally published December of 2009. Please use with attribution.