Friday 08 September 2017

Bible Book:

from ancient days.” (v. 2)

Micah 5:1-4 Friday 8 September 2017

Psalm: Psalm 45


Today's passage is related to the day in the Christian calendarwhen traditionally the Church says "happy birthday" to Mary, so,unsurprisingly, it takes us to a familiar place - Bethlehem (wehave no idea where Mary herself was born). Christians, reading thispassage, sometimes tend to get very excited about prophecy - "Wow!How did Micah know where Jesus would be born?" The thing is, Micahwas looking back 300 years, rather than forward 700 years. He waswriting, probably, around the end of the 8th century BC, a decadeor two after the northern half of David's divided kingdom (Israel -the ten tribes living mainly in Galilee and Samaria) had fallen tothe Assyrians and many had been taken into exile (verse 1), and thesouthern half (Judah) was increasingly under threat too. A numberof prophets, including Micah and Isaiah, were urging the people notto give up hope and were promising that another king, like David(verse 2), would soon defeat their enemies, bring back the exiles(verse 3) and restore the kingdom (verse 4). And where would thisgreat king come from? Bethlehem, of course - the birthplace of KingDavid. They would just have to endure a little longer (like a womanin labour - verse 3) until this new king was on the throne. Isaiahmade a very similar promise (see Isaiah 7-9). Unfortunately, thingswent from bad to worse and carried on that way.

Micah, like Isaiah, was trying to give hope to his hearers in8th-century BC Judah and Israel. They were not predicting the birthof Jesus - they were hoping for something to happen within just afew months or years, and to say to their hearers that they wouldhave to wait another seven centuries would hardly bring muchcomfort! But, like plastic and paper, prophecies can be recycled,and New Testament Gospel writers found new uses for old words,weaving them into their stories of Jesus and filling them with newmeaning.

To Ponder

  • Many Christians (but very few Jews) would regard the words ofMicah as 'predictive text' - foretelling events in the (verydistant) future, rather than an expression of hope for theimmediate future. Do you think that prophecy in this context isbest understood as prediction or promise? Why?
  • How helpful is it to regard Jesus as a king, like David? Thismight have made sense to 1st-century Christian Jews, living withthe aftermath of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem (see Matthew 2:6, for example), but how much sensedoes it make to us, 2,000 years later, when we hear the words in aChristmas carol service?
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