Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Least Among Judah's Princes"

I received a wonderful devotional yesterday from Denver Seminary; and I wanted to share some of the meditations in it with all of you who follow my blog.
This meditation is for December 3, and is written by Dr. Rick Hess, who is the Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages.

“Least Among Judah’s Princes”
Mica 5:2 (NIV) “As for you, O Bethlehem Ephratah, although you are least among Judah’s princes; yet my ruler in Israel will emerge with origins that are ancient, from long ago.”

The prophet Micah wrote some seven centuries before Jesus’ birth.  It was a difficult time when the people of God had turned away from Him and the prophet warned of judgment.  He also promised a time beyond of restoration and the return of a ruler who would bring peace and the kingdom of God.  This ruler would be found in the line of David who was born in Bethlehem (1 Sam. 16), centuries after Micah prophesied.  Many hundreds of years later the gospel writer Matthew saw God’s people experiencing that judgment in his days.  He found in Jesus the fulfillment of Micah’s promised ruler.  This was made crystal clear in both Jesus’ human lineage from David (Matt. 1:1-17) and in His actual birth in Bethlehem.  It is there that Matthew cites Micah’s prophecy (Matt. 2:6).

But in doing so he changes the description of Bethlehem.  Micah, picturing towns as “princes,” had noted how Bethlehem (in the region called Ephratah) was the least or smallest in Judah.  Perhaps he remembered how David had been chosen despite being the youngest or least among his brothers (1 Sam. 16:10-13).  Matthew, writing after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, could not bring himself to call Bethlehem the “least” any longer.  However humble and insignificant His birth at the time, the Son of God’s incarnation in this village would forever transform its status so that it was “by no means least.”

In a similar way we are called to live like Christ.  For many of us this does not mean that we will become popular or powerful in the eyes of the world.  However, it does mean that our lives can change the world where it counts in following Christ and spreading the good news of His Kingdom.  As Micah and Matthew knew in their times, the meaning of Jesus’ apparently insignificant birth was far more earth-shattering than the great powers and leaders of their times.  As with Jesus, God delights to take the weak, the poor, and the insignificant, and to transform the world through such disciples.

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