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“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).

THIS TEXT IS ONE OF MANY FROM THE HEBREW PROPHETS QUOTED OR ALLUDED TO IN THE WRITINGS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. It foretells that the Messiah (“Anointed One”) would be born in the village of Bethlehem — just one of the numerous details about the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:1–6).

If you had lived in the first century and were looking for the coming of the Messiah, you probably would have been looking for a kingly figure more majestic than Jesus. Bethlehem was an unpromising place to begin, but Nazareth, the village where Jesus grew up, was even more lowly. He was a peasant. How could He be the king who would lead Israel in its freedom-fight against Rome?

But what was the “territory” Jesus promised to reclaim and rule over? It was the human heart. His was a mission to defeat Satan, the great usurper. And He did exactly that. In Jesus Christ, God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).

There is a marvelous irony in Jesus’ humble birth in a place like Bethlehem. If the God of the Old Testament and the New is indeed real, and if in fact He entered the world and took upon Himself human form, who would have expected that it would be in such lowly circumstances? Yet when we think about it for a moment, it seems altogether appropriate. If it is our pride that is the root of our sin, there can be no deliverance for us if we won’t humble ourselves once again before our King. But are we not beautifully moved to do so when we see the humility of the King Himself? Although He is unimaginably powerful and glorious, He was willing to accomplish our rescue by sharing our weakness. He conquered the consequences of our pride not by arrogant command but by the ultimate act of submission.

Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies, all years.
Older than eternity, now he is new.
Now native to earth as I am,
nailed to my poor planet,
caught that I might be free.
(Luci Shaw)

Gary Henry — +

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