Wednesday 24 December 2014

Bible Book:

“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” (v. 2)

Micah 5:2-5a Wednesday 24 December 2014

Psalm: Psalm 80


Micah is proclaiming his prophetic message to the kingdom ofJudah, and its capital city, Jerusalem. It is under threat from theAssyrian army, and Micah has been proclaiming God's judgement onthe rulers who have not pursued justice. But woven through theproclamation of doom and punishment is one of comfort and promise.Punishment will not be eternal. Once God's justice is satisfied,there will be peace and divine rule in Jerusalem; there will be areturn from exile, and a glorious future.

It is in this second strand - of promise - that our passagebelongs. It promises a leader who will be raised up, to bring aboutthis future, and by the first century, it may well have becomeassociated with the idea of a Messiah who would redeem Israel fromRoman rule. This is probably its most familiar application forChristian readers, as we are used to hearing it quoted by Matthew'sGospel (Matthew 2:5-6), as part of the story of thecoming of the Magi to visit the young Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12).

Bethlehem at this time was, in many respects, a relativelyinsignificant place. But its one claim to fame is as the town ofDavid's birth. If the Messiah is to be in the line of David, thenit makes sense that he be associated also with the town ofBethlehem. Despite its insignificance, it is to have the honour ofbeing the centre of messianic glory.

The image of labour and childbirth in verse 3 refers back toMicah 4:10, where daughter Zion, or Jerusalem, is writhing like awoman in labour. This is a period of pain, of waiting, ofsuffering. But just as the pain of labour ends with the birth of anew child, the pain of exile and subjection will end with returnfor the exiles and a new future for the whole people of Israel. Andjust as a new human life should be a time of hope and expectation,the new beginning for Israel, presided over by the one who comesout from Bethlehem, will be a time of godly rule and of peace.

To Ponder

  • For what have we been waiting? What new possibilities, newbeginnings, new hopes might there be in your life and in the lifeof the Church and world, as we celebrate the birth of theChrist-child in Bethlehem?
  • How might we be faithful followers of one who is "the one ofpeace" (v. 5)? What does that mean in our world today?
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