All building up to this
‘A promised ruler from Bethlehem.’ That’s the title of Micah 5 in my Bible.
Everything so far has been building up to this.
This promised ruler, who we now know to be Jesus, came in the context of all that had gone on before.
Unfortunately, the back story to the coming of Jesus is often ignored and overlooked. I know Christians who say they don’t like the Old Testament, who say it’s too hard to understand and it confuses them about God. They prefer to concentrate on Jesus. But Jesus came as a result of all that went on in the Old Testament. The Old Testament may throw up all kinds of questions, but it cannot be ignored.
When I read through this chapter for the first time, my initial reaction was to panic and believe I didn’t understand it and couldn’t possibly write about it. At which point, the temptation is to walk away or gloss over it or find a more familiar passage to focus on. But it’s all there for a reason, so here goes.
Remember, Micah’s prophesying that a time is coming when Israel will be destroyed and its leaders rendered powerless.
‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.’ Micah 5:2
‘O little town of Bethlehem.’ Small. Insignificant. Overlooked.
‘Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light.’ The ruler over Israel. Whose origins are from old. Who fits within the context of all that has gone before. Right back to the beginning of time.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. John 1:1-2
Jesus is rooted in history. He refers back to examples from ancient times in his teaching and quotes the Scriptures. The past makes sense of the present.
And so while God’s people will be abandoned and scattered for a season, a new ruler is coming to change all that.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be our peace… Micah 5:4-5
When the tough times came upon them, God’s people clung to words of prophecy such as these. These promises gave them hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. They built up a picture of this coming deliverer, based on descriptions such as this. Therefore when Jesus came, you can see why it was hard for them to accept that he was to be their saviour, their ruler. He didn’t stand up and fight for them as they had come to expect. He didn’t display the kind of majesty and strength they’d been anticipating. He didn’t bring the kind of peace and security they’d imagined. They knew this ruler would be different but they had no idea how different.
The rescue that Jesus brings is not of this world but is representative of God’s upside-down kingdom. Not done the world’s way, but God’s way.
God’s people are going to be scattered amongst the nations, like dewdrops glistening on the grass or like a wild animal prowling amongst the tame. But God will turn his attention to these nations: to their instruments of war and their symbols of idolatry. They will have to face the consequences of their actions.
I will take vengeance in anger and wrath
on the nations that have not obeyed me. Micah 5:15
This is exactly why lots of people I know struggle with the Old Testament. This is an image of God that they don’t like, that they don’t know what to do with: this God of wrath and vengeance.
We like the ‘God so loved the world…’ kind of God. That we understand. But actually, that in the context of this is even more powerful. This is why God had to go to the lengths of sending His own son. He’d sent all these other messengers, these prophets like Micah, and no one had taken any notice. He threatened and warned and sent disaster and still the people did not understand and listen.
This is exactly why Jesus had to come.
Everything that has happened so far has been building up to this.