Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Devotion 11. A Ruler From Bethlehem.

Micah 5:2 contains a very specific prophesy about Christ. The context of this verse is a message of hope. This passage likely contains prophesy spoken by Micah during the reign of Hezekiah. Jerusalem was under constant threat and, ultimately, attack from Assyria. Micah condemned much in the worship and lifestyle of Jerusalem. He spoke of its destruction as a result of God’s anger over their sin. But he also spoke a word of hope.

Remember also what prophesy is in the Biblical context. It is a word spoken by God through his prophet.

Look at this specific prophesy.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

This prophesy told Israel that its Messiah would be born in the little town of Bethlehem. We know it was little at that time because it say the town is too little to even be in the clans of Judah. (The designation “Ephrathah” distinguishes it from another town in the north of Israel also called Bethlehem.)

The Jews clearly understood this prophesy as Messianic. After the Magi came seeking “the king of the Jews”, an upset King Herod sent for the chief priests and scribes. He asked them where Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:3-4). He was not a Godly man, but even he knew Christ was promised. He also seemed to understand that Christ would be king of the Jews. He just did not want that to happen. The priests and scribes cited Micah 5:2 and told him Christ would be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5-6). Matthew related the story so as to show Jesus’ birth fulfilled this prophesy.

The reason God had Jesus born in Bethlehem was that it was the birthplace of David. 1 Samuel 16 contains the story of God sending Samuel to Bethlehem to find David and anoint him king. It was one more way God revealed that he kept his covenant with David. It was also one more way God manifested Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah.

Micah went on to tell Israel the Messiah would be the shepherd of all who believed in him. Verse 4 says “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd in John 10. Through faith in Jesus, one could enter the flock and be saved (John 10:9).

Out of Bethlehem came a savior, a king and a shepherd.

Phillips Brooks wrote the well known hymn about Bethlehem in 1868. He went there and was inspired by the view of Bethlehem at night from the hills outside the town. I like these words in the second stanza:

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God, the King,
And peace to men on earth.

That would be a worthy endeavor for us the Christmas. Proclaim Christ.
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