Rev. Bruce Modahl
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. (Micah 5:2)
The prophets were contrarians. They surprised their hearers with words of judgment when times were good. They surprised them with glad tidings when times were bad. Micah was no exception.
Micah 5:2 and the following verses overflow with words of hope. The times were very bad. The Assyrian army had already overrun the northern kingdom and now laid siege to Jerusalem.
Micah proclaims a new king shall arise from Bethlehem. That was King David’s hometown. All the kings who sat on the throne in Jerusalem traced their ancestry to David and Bethlehem. All of them said their “origins were from of old, from ancient days.”
When reading any portion of scripture, we attend to what the words meant to the people who first heard them. So what meaning did Micah 5:2 have for the people in Jerusalem, surrounded by a hostile army?
At the very minimum, Micah was telling the people they had a future. In the near term, Micah’s prophecy was fulfilled when the siege was lifted by God’s wondrous intervention. There was another descendent of David who assumed the throne after his father. The prophet surprised them with hope.
On this Christmas Eve, we hear the prophet’s words fulfilled again in Bethlehem, by a newborn heir of David. His lineage, however, is far more ancient than King David. As we say in the creed, he is “eternally begotten of the Father.” Cross and death encompassed Jesus. But by God’s wondrous intervention, he broke death’s siege and was raised to rule eternally. He did it for us.
Heavenly Father, your prophet surprises us with hope. Your Son, whose birth we celebrate this night, sets us free from sin’s power and promises us a future the grave cannot take from us. Empower us daily to make use of Christ’s benefits: mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and confidence in his promises. In Jesus’ name, Amen.