“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me, one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” -Micah 5:2 (ESV)
One of the most remarkable prophecies in looking forward to the coming of Christ is found in Micah 5:2. This statement, written 700 years before the birth of Jesus, is referenced in Matthew 2 in the nativity account. Not only is Christ born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, but it speaks of the Messiah’s origin coming “from ancient days”. Only the God-Man, Jesus Christ, could fulfill this prophecy!
Sometimes, however, we can look at verse like this, and miss the full riches of God’s Word. The prophet Micah of Moresheth was from a small town in Judah. The rest of Micah is largely taken up with indictments of the wickedness of Jerusalem and the urban populace. This was a time when injustice reigned, when it must have seemed as if an entire way of life was under attack from crooked officials, corrupted religion, confiscatory taxes, and the outright government seizure of land.
In many ways, Micah comes across here as a “good ol’ boy” type of guy. He wasn’t a member of the literati, he wasn’t a famous politician, and there’s no indication he was in tight with the “thought leaders” of the day. He was massively critical of the base wickedness that was the defined culture of his time, especially that emanating from the civil and ecclesiastical power center of Jerusalem. We can think of the frustration of Micah, in seeing this, in feeling the impact, in having to deal with such an evil, seemingly ascendant “high society.” Everything big or substantial seemed to be in rebellion against God. Yet, there’s also this hope. The Messiah isn’t going to come out of that—all of that evil will end. There will be peace (Micah 4:3). And it will come out of a town too small to even be counted, essentially—a rural backwater of Judah. How astonishing this must have been to Micah, and how it still astonishes today! The Prince of Peace, the God-Man, our Savior, will come out of this humble afterthought of a place. This speck on the map will be the scene of the most beautiful and glorious fulfillment of God’s promise!
We recall in this, that God so very often displays His glory and power by using the small things of the world to work His will (1 Cor. 1:27). That which is small, despised, and disdained in this world is not necessarily so in God’s eyes. Rather, we know any labor, no matter how frustrated or seemingly small, is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).
Wherever God has placed us in this life, we are called to be faithful. We can become discouraged because it seems as if we aren’t as influential as we wish we were, or are captivated by large-scale efforts of others, or feel as if we are swimming against a great and terrible tide. Yet we understand this: God knows where He has each of His children, and has them there for a reason. We are simply to be faithful where we are called, whether that is an upper-class suburb, a struggling metropolis, or a flyspeck village. Time and time again in Scripture, we see this truth: that God delights in working mighty things with the humblest places and people. We don’t judge success and rewards from worldly standards or gain, but store up our treasures in heaven by simply being constant in that which the Lord has commanded us, regardless of our lot.
That the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would be born in Bethlehem is not just a Messianic prophecy fulfilled. It is also a gracious reminder, from an infinitely gracious God, that the small, the least, the seemingly forgotten are in reality anything but. Christian, let us be encouraged in all our labors, serving our Great King, born from amidst the Least.