Scripture: Micah 5:2
“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.”
Homes are decorated. Packages are wrapped. School is out until 2015. All of these things remind us that Christmas is just days away. Children are giddy with a sense of wonder and expectation, but what about you? Are you hopeful as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Or are you hopeless from headlines and circumstances, much like Israel must have been at the time Micah prophesied?
In Matthew 2:2, the Magi inquired, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” The prophet Micah provides the answer to their question. In this devotion, we will look at two of three clues from Micah’s prophecy that help identify the Messiah. Here is the first clue: The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Look at Micah 5:2 again. “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.” Why Bethlehem? Why did God select Bethlehem as the birthplace for the Savior of the world? There are several reasons.
The first reason is that “Bethlehem” means house of bread. Bread is important because it sustains and gives life to us. Likewise, the Messiah came to offer eternal life to the world! In John 6:47-51, Jesus said:
“I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
In His infinite wisdom, God chose Bethlehem, the house of bread, as the birthplace of Jesus, the “Bread of Life.” The promised Messiah was born in the town of Bethlehem just as Micah foretold.
The second reason Bethlehem was chosen is due to a history that links it to the Messiah (Matthew 1). Rachel, Jacob’s wife, died in Bethlehem while giving birth to Benjamin; the Messiah came from Jacob’s lineage. Centuries later, Ruth and Naomi came to Bethlehem, where Boaz fell in love with Ruth and married her. Ruth gave birth to Obed, the father of Jesse and grandfather of King David. David was Bethlehem’s greatest son, and God promised the Messiah would come through the line of David. In 2 Samuel 7:12-13 the Lord spoke to King David and said, “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” This promised Messiah did indeed come from the line of David, who was born in Bethlehem.
The third and less obvious reason Bethlehem was chosen is because it was small and insignificant. Isn’t it interesting that God chose the little town of Bethlehem to be the birthplace of the Messiah rather than a great city like Jerusalem or Athens? Why? Because God delights in using insignificant places and people to accomplish His will. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 states:
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as wise and significant, or do you see yourself as lowly and, perhaps, unwise? Be careful how you see yourself. Remember, God has a habit of choosing the lowly and insignificant. So the first clue that Micah gave concerning the coming Messiah was that He would be born in the little town of Bethlehem…and He was.
The second clue Micah offers is that the Messiah would be ruler of a kingdom. Verse 2 states, “Out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.” This second clue caused nearly everyone alive at the time of Christ to miss the fact that He was the Messiah. The Jews were looking for a king. They expected a deliverer like Moses, someone to rescue them from cruel Roman occupation. But therein lies the rub—you can’t take one verse or one truth from God’s Word and focus on it to the exclusion of the rest of the Bible. Throughout the Old Testament, there were two strands of prophecies that describe the coming Messiah. One strand depicted Him as a Suffering Servant while the other depicted him as a Ruling King. Sadly, the religious leaders of Jesus’ time were completely focused on one strand of truth to the exclusion of the other. Yes, the coming Messiah would be a King, and yes, He would rule over His Kingdom. But at the same time, he would be a Suffering Servant. Isaiah 52 and 53 provide the illustration:
“See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted…But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us had turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer…because He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
The promised Messiah would rule over a kingdom…but not before He suffered as a lowly servant. When Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate asked if he was the king of the Jews. Jesus replied:
“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Pilate heard the words of Jesus that day, but he did not understand. Do you? Did you know that Jesus is a King? In fact, He is THE King, and He rules over His Kingdom, which will last forever. He has provided the only way for you to become part of this kingdom. You must place your faith and trust in Him. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was the inauguration of His Kingdom. When He returns, He will complete the fulfillment of His Kingdom. Remember the two strands—His Kingdom is here now, and His Kingdom is coming soon. That is why we pray Thy Kingdom come! And this is why Christians have hope. He is our reason for living. Our lives are not about politics, headlines, or one-day-only sales. Like children, we can be full of excitement and expectation when we focus on the Second Coming of our King.
From Micah we learn that the Messiah would 1) be born in Bethlehem and 2) rule over a Kingdom. Stay tuned for Micah’s third clue before Christmas Day. Amen!
Dear heavenly Father, it is so obvious that Jesus was and is the promised Messiah, who came into this world to save us. Thank you for loving us so much that you sent your only Son to be born in Bethlehem, that He might live and die for the sins of the world. When I open presents on Christmas morning, help me remember that Jesus came into the world to die for me. I love you, Lord! Amen!