“He will assume his post and shepherd the people by the Lord’s strength,
by the sovereign authority of the Lᴏʀᴅ his God.
They will live securely, for at that time he will be honored
even in the distant regions of the earth.” – Micah 5:4
I wonder, like me, do you have certain traditions that you enjoy every Advent season as you prepare to celebrate Christmas? For more years than I can remember, a highlight in December is attending a candlelit service of Nine Carols and Lessons in my local church. I love how the story of Jesus’ coming is told through Scripture and song, starting in Genesis, tracing prophecies fulfilled, and concluding in the Gospels with Jesus’ birth. I must confess, it is usually only once a year at this carol service that I am reminded of our passage for today from Micah 5 and of this prophecy, from God for His people.
Let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of the initial hearers of Micah’s God-given proclamation. The people of God had rebelled, they were living in disobedience and unfaithfulness, and now, as a nation, were suffering due to the consequences of their sin. The warnings of God’s judgment were declared by Micah, but they were coupled with hope because our God is a faithful, covenant-keeping God who forgives sin, pardons rebellion, and delights in showing His loyal love (Micah 7:18).
In their longing for a Messiah to come and rescue His people, we can imagine that they expected Micah to declare that the promised King would come in power to the royal city of Jerusalem and would reign in the palace and rule over the enemy with great military might.
How unexpected, and almost unbelievable, would it have been for God’s people to hear that their promised King would come from Bethlehem, the most insignificant place, the least of all the clans of Judah; with descriptions of a shepherd, not of a mighty warrior. Surely this was not what they were waiting for?
Don’t you love this about God’s upside-down kingdom? He uses what the world sees as powerless and insignificant, He surrounds Himself with the weak and the vulnerable, and works in the most surprising ways to faithfully fulfill His promises to His children.
Let’s think about this little town of Bethlehem for a moment. Micah also refers to it using the old Jewish name from the time of Jacob and Joseph—Ephrathah. This name means “fruitful”; the current name Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” Jesus, the promised Messiah, born in this fruitful place described Himself in the Gospels as the “true Vine,” and the One born in the house of bread is indeed the “Bread of Life.” It’s exciting to come across small yet specific details like this when we mine God’s Word; things that could so easily be missed, remind us time and time again of how our God is a God of intricate detail.
Be encouraged with this assurance, dear friend. God sees and knows every single detail of that difficulty or heartache you are dealing with, the sin issue you struggle to conquer, or the loved one you are burdened for. No circumstance or trial is wasted when we invite God to work in and through it for His glory and our good. Through it all, we can stand on God’s promises, confident He will never leave us, His grace is all-sufficient, and absolutely nothing can separate us from the unbreakable love He has for us.
Remember, too, for the hearers of Micah’s prophecy, that although Bethlehem was insignificant among the clans, there was, of course, great meaning and a strong connection for them with Israel’s greatest earthly king. The shepherd boy, whose hometown was Bethlehem, was anointed as King David and given God’s covenant promise that the ultimate ruler for God’s people would come from his house and line, and His kingdom would never end.
This promised hope was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the divine Shepherd King, who came to lay down His life for His sheep. His Kingdom continues to be proclaimed and grow throughout our world today. So, in this Advent season of hopeful expectation as we consider afresh this Old Testament prophecy in Micah 5, we rejoice in seeing how our covenant-keeping God fulfilled His promises, for our King has come!
We will continue to live in expectant anticipation for we know that our King will come again. He will come in Sovereign power and authority to rule and reign, to restore and renew all that is wrong and broken in this world He so loves, but presently seems to be given over to rebellion, confusion, violence, and uncertainty. God is our security. God will be our peace. God is our sure and certain hope.
In the meantime, as we long for and await His return, we live knowing the assurance of the constant presence of our Shepherd King.
The One who calls us as His own and knows us intimately, protects and guides His flock, pursues those who go astray, and leads us to refreshing streams of living water.
Our Good Shepherd who walks with us through the dark valley, the only One who laid down His life for us, the One seated on His throne who lives to intercede for us.
Let’s pause now, before we head back into the busyness of our day and this season, using the life-giving words of this benediction to pray for ourselves and over one another:
”Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, equip you with every good thing to do his will, working in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20–21
May we be spurred on to share the Good News that brings great joy this Christmas season with those who do not yet know Jesus, the One who came to be their Savior, Shepherd, and King.
Week 4 Challenge:
When the angel announced to Mary that she would bear the Messiah, she believed. She pondered all that was happening as she prepared for the arrival of Christ. How are you preparing to celebrate the arrival of Christ at Christmas? How are you preparing for the arrival of Christ when He returns?
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