When the prophet Micah announced hope for the discouraged people of God, he opened with a surprising statement: he revealed that the promised Messiah would come not from Jerusalem—the royal city from which most of his original Jewish hearers would have anticipated a king to hail—but from Bethlehem. It was in this small, unexpected town that God’s work would unfold before His people.
Jerusalem was the most prominent city in Israel. It was the city of the great King David, the location of the temple, and the primary focus of God’s people. Bethlehem would not have been on anyone’s radar. It was “too little to be among the clans of Judah.” It wouldn’t have made their Top 100 list, and it certainly wouldn’t have been in their Top 10. Yet the significance of Bethlehem is found in its insignificance.
Thinking about the rest of the Bible story, we realize that this makes perfect sense. This is how God works! When Goliath taunted the people of Israel, the strong and brave soldiers of Israel fled. Instead of using these “great” soldiers, God used a small, insignificant shepherd boy—from Bethlehem, of all places!—with five stones and a sling to deliver God’s people. When the good news of the Messiah’s birth came, we might have expected that the cultural elite of the day would have been the first to hear of it, but instead, God brought the news to a few insignificant shepherds. This is God’s way.
Those who dismiss the message of the Bible often stumble over the fact that God’s answer for the world lay in a baby who was born in obscurity. This is not a message that anyone would ever invent! Yet it was into this insignificant place that the Messiah came to rule. The one who lay in a Bethlehem food trough was the one with a neverending kingdom which surpasses all other kingdoms.
Recognizing the pattern of God’s ways in ancient days enables us to recognize the Messiah now that He has come. It readies us for the reality that the one upon whom all God’s promises rested would die a humiliating death on a cross. It reminds us that this is God’s way and always has been. And it therefore changes the way we look at our lives. If you consider yourself of significance, beware: for such a view is often the precursor to being humbled. But if you consider yourself of little import, little ability, and little influence, then be encouraged, for God works through insignificant people in insignificant places. So be of no doubt that today God can do great things through you. That has always been His way.
23 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.
3Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
4And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
5And he shall be their peace.
When the Assyrian comes into our land
and treads in our palaces,
then we will raise against him seven shepherds
and eight princes of men;
6they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword,
and the land of Nimrod at its entrances;
and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian
when he comes into our land
and treads within our border.
A Remnant Shall Be Delivered
7Then the remnant of Jacob shall be
in the midst of many peoples
like dew from the Lord,
like showers on the grass,
which delay not for a man
nor wait for the children of man.
8And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations,
in the midst of many peoples,
like a lion among the beasts of the forest,
like a young lion among the flocks of sheep,
which, when it goes through, treads down
and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
9Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries,
and all your enemies shall be cut off.
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