2*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….4And 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; 5and he shall be the one of peace.
Mary and Joseph lived in the small rural settlement of Nazareth, in Galilee. The Roman occupying army knew from their tax records that Mary and Joseph both came from David’s royal family in Bethlehem. So at the time of the Roman registration and taxation, Mary and Joseph were ordered to return for processing to their ancestral home of Bethlehem.
Seven hundred years before Christ’s coming, the prophet Micah foretold that Messiah would be born in this Bethlehem. So it was at the decree of a pagan emperor, in far off Rome, that a very pregnant Mary and anxious Joseph were dispatched to Bethlehem. It was an arduous 70 mile uphill climb by twisting roads to the hill country of Judea. In the best of conditions the difficult journey would have taken them at least a week. But here is the wondrous and delightful irony; it was the command of an unsuspecting Caesar that led Mary and Joseph into the fulfillment of this key Messianic prophecy — that Messiah must be born in little Bethlehem.
But there was more than one little town of Bethlehem in ancient Israel. There was more than one “Beth-lehem,” or “House of Bread.” So the prophet Micah was careful to specify that it would be Bethlehem, that is, Bethlehem in the region of Ephrathah. It was that Bethlehem that was “one of the little clans of Judah.” It was from the peasant clan village, barely a wide spot in the roadway, that the Ruler would come forth who would be great to the very ends of the earth. It was from the House of Bread that God’s Living Bread would come forth to be the feed his people’s souls.
Just as David had once been an overlooked, despised, youngest son of Jesse, so little Bethlehem of Ephrathah, was an overlooked and belittled clan village in Judah. But from these humble and despised beginnings would the Ruler come forth “whose origin is from old, from ancient of days” (literally, “the days of immeasurable time”). From such lowly beginnings would come forth the King of eternity and time.
It is most unlikely that the prophet Micah could have known or begun to grasp the significance of all that the Spirit gave him to see or write. But still, Micah foretold the one, who, while fully sharing in all our human weaknesses and struggles, is also fully God. He is the meek and lowly one, who will shepherd the flock of the Lord and rule over all things. Micah says that he will be “the One of peace.” He will make for us peace with God, and share the very peace of God.
Ponder and treasure the words the Christmas angels proclaim: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth!”
Let your heart be at peace!
Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest with today’s scripture text,
Micah 5:2-5, and devotional.