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Ruler Out of Bethlehem

Most of us are unaware of the hyoid bone, a small U-shaped bone in our throats. Seemingly insignificant, the hyoid bone gives us the ability to speak. How often God uses small things for great purposes!

Today’s reading in Micah gives another example of this important lesson. Israel and Judah were experiencing a vacuum of godly leadership and now faced judgment. In fact, Micah prophesied Israel’s coming destruction: their enemies would “strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with the rod” (Micah 5:1).

But there was also the promise of a new ruler, not from one of the great cities of the land, but from Bethlehem, “small among the clans of Judah.” From this seemingly insignificant town would come a “ruler over Israel.” Yet this was no ordinary, earthly ruler. His nature was divine and eternal, “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” This ruler would gather God’s people again. He would stand “in the strength of the Lord,” and “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:2–4).

Only Jesus fits this promise, and the Gospel of Matthew confirms it (Matt. 2:1–8). Fast forward to the days of King Herod and the birth of Jesus in the town of Bethlehem. Seven hundred years after the prophecy of Micah, the Magi stood before Herod asking for the newborn king of the Jews. When Herod inquired of the priests and scribes where the Messiah was to be born, they pointed to Bethlehem, quoting Micah: “Out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matt. 2:6). Amazing as it sounds, this vulnerable infant, born so long ago in the small town of Bethlehem, was none other than our eternal God coming in fulfillment of His promise hundreds of years before.

Apply the Word

God is not afraid to use the small and weak things of the world for His purpose, as His own Incarnation shows. Find someone you know who may struggle with their own sense of worth, and use today’s lesson to encourage them. Remind them that our gracious God identifies with, and even uses, what the world might not value. That includes you!

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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