Friday, January 25, 2013

EJ100 #23 Micah 5:1-5

Today's Essential Jesus reading: Micah 5:1-5.

Micah was one of the minor prophets who prophesied to Judah, writing at a similar time to Isaiah. This passage is often read at public events at Christmas time.

Jerusalem is warned to gather together their troops [5:1a], because a siege is laid against the city. Assyrian troops came close to besieging Jerusalem in the time of Uzziah, but it wasn't until Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians came against Jerusalem that she was besieged for any length of time (and successfully) [2 Kings 24:10-11].

Israel's ruler was warned he would suffer blows [5:1b]. This indeed happened to King Jehoiachin, who was taken prisoner into exile to Babylon [2 Kings 24:12].

The little town of Bethlehem (a.k.a. Bethlehem Ephrathah for long), however, was given good news by Micah. Bethlehem was the birthplace of David, the son of Jesse who had become king of Israel and whose dynasty ruled Judah. Out of this town (and thus from this lineage) would come one who would rule over Israel. But this particular ruler was different to the other kings of David's house. This ruler would be described as one
"whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." [Micah 5:2c]
Ancient origins for a future ruler is not merely another way of referring to the long-established Davidic dynasty. Rather, it is a pointer to the fact that this ruler would be something more than human: he would be everlasting, eternal, immortal.

Jesus Christ applied this verse to himself, when he claimed to be older than Abraham:
" 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!' " [John 8:58]
Jesus completely shocked the Jews when he said this. They responded to him as a blasphemer, picking up stones to stone him [John 8:59].

With this statement Jesus was claiming not only to be immortal. He was also specifically claiming to be God himself, because Jesus deliberately and carefully framed his response to include the statement, "I am". Hebrew speakers would have recognised this phrase as the personal name of God first told to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM" [Exodus 3:14], which is also rendered YHWH, Yahweh, Jehovah, or, in English Bibles, the LORD.

Jesus is the LORD God. They are one and the same.

Israel will be abandoned until she who is in labour bears a son (Mary, bearing Jesus; but also figuratively the Jewish nation bearing the Messiah) [5:3a]. Also, Israel will be abandoned until
"the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites." [5:3b]
How can a person who is an Israelites have brothers who are separated from the Israelites? Such a prophecy may relate to the exile, and indicate a bringing in of the Diaspora Jews. But it also relates to the Gentile Christians who would join Jewish Christians and become united into one Church, because
"... in Christ you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile ... for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [Galatians 3:26-28]
"This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." [Ephesians 3:6]
It is not unreasonable to interpret Micah's words with this second meaning. Gentiles return to God, joining the Israelites, when they become believers in and followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself let his disciples know that he had come not just for the Jews but also for others who would recognise him. Using the metaphor of a shepherd caring for his sheep (which I explained in yesterday's post), Jesus said:
" 'I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them in also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.' " [John 10:16]
Jesus is the shepherd who will rule over God's people, the true Israel.

Micah described Jesus, saying,
"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 the ends of the earth." [Micah 5:4]
Jesus stood and shepherded his flock as he preached on a mountain so that his disciples might know how to live [Matthew 5-7]. Jesus stood and shepherded his flock in the strength of the LORD his God when he prayed at Gethsemane 'Yet not as I will, but as you will' [Matthew 26:39] and then went to the cross. Jesus stood and shepherded his flock in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God when he ascended to heaven to the right hand of God the Father to intercede for us [Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 12:2].

Because Jesus has fulfilled Micah's prophecy, I know that I will live securely in the promises of God, for Jesus' greatness will reach the furthest extents of the earth [Micah 5:4]. This is comforting. This knowledge brings me peace. Jesus "will be [my] peace" [Micah 5:5].

>What do you need reassurance and security for today?

Why do I love and worship Jesus?
Jesus is eternal and yet he still cares for ephemeral little me!

LORD Jesus,
You were here before the world began.
Your origins are "of ancient times".
And yet you care for me.
Such a mystery!
Thank you for your grace and love.
Thank you for noticing me and caring for me.
Thank you for shepherding me.

Next reading: Zechariah 9:9-17.

No comments: