Thursday, December 24, 2015

Small Town, Eternal Significance

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. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. 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 5:2-5)
The prophet Micah alternates, as the prophets often did, between the warning of judgment and the promise of restoration. He foretold the fall of Samaria, capital of the northern Kingdom, Israel, and the people were carried off into Assyrian captivity. He foretold the fall of Jerusalem, capital of the southern kingdom, Judah, which was later carried off into Babylonian captivity. But then, in chapter 5, he speaks of a remnant, a return and a Ruler whose reign would cover the earth. He speaks of Messiah, God’s anointed King.

It would begin in the small, seemingly inconsequential town of Bethlehem, but one mighty in eternal significance. For from there this Ruler would arise who comes from long ages past, indeed, from eternity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” says John the Evangelist. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).

But until then Israel would be abandoned, given over to captivity, for as with all births, there is a time of travail. And though the Jews were eventually allowed to return to Jerusalem, they remained under foreign rule and so also in exile. Yet there would come a true return, a gathering together of Israel with this Messiah who was to be born in Bethlehem.

Messiah would stand up for his people and shepherd them. He would not be a transient ruler who would pass away or be overtaken but would persevere and endure for their sake. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus identified himself as this shepherd: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

This Messiah does not stand in his own strength but in the strength of the LORD. He does not stand in his own name, yet he has been given the majestic name of the LORD, and his greatness extends to the ends of the earth:
Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does ... By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:19, 30)

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
“He will be our peace,” the prophet says. Not only Israel, but all the world benefits from Messiah’s reign and will know his peace. In the end, every knee will gladly bow before him and every tongue gratefully confess him as Lord. After the cross and resurrection, but before he ascended to his throne at the right hand of the Father, Lord Jesus gathered his disciples and said to them,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
The nations will not lose their identities but will find them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. They will be included in God’s people, Israel — “grafted in” is how Paul puts it — through faith in Jesus the Messiah. “And in this way all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

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