This won’t come as a shock to anyone who knows me, but as a kid, I was often the last to be picked to play basketball. No matter how much I hustled, I couldn’t overcome the limitations of being the shortest guy in the class.
Whether you’re tall or short, I bet at some point in your life you’ve felt the same way—that feeling of being less than, of being insignificant. Spiritually, relationally, vocationally or otherwise—we feel we don’t measure up. Small. Overlooked. Invisible.
A few thousand years ago, you’d have said the same thing about Bethlehem in contrast to the surrounding towns and clans. It was the birthplace of the great King David, but that was its only claim to fame. And yet, of Bethlehem the prophet Micah wrote:
“Bethlehem, Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)
Countering Israel’s fears, the prophet foretold of a new ruler in the line of King David who would come from Bethlehem. Micah used the name Ephrathah, the ancient name of Bethlehem that meant “House of bread” or “House of fruitfulness.” (In the name of the town, you can already see the parallels to Jesus, the One who will be called the Bread of Life.)
Micah prophesied that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem to rule on behalf of God Himself. And in choosing Bethlehem as the birthplace of the future King, God shows how He delights in bestowing significance upon the insignificant.
1. Greatness will come from the place of humility.
Bethlehem was a minor town. Yes, King David was born there, but like David himself, there was no initial pomp to impress you. When God told Samuel to anoint the next king, He sent him to Jesse’s house, and when Samuel saw Jesse’s strongest son, God said:
“Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Jesse hadn’t even thought to bring in the youngest—David, the shepherd boy. Surely if God is the Captain choosing the best for His team, He’s not going for David, the boy writing songs and playing his harp, who spends all his time with the sheep!
But God’s plan was for the great king to arise from a place of great humility. God knows that when He brings greatness out of humility, He gets all the praise. Someone humble—that’s who God can work with. God lifts up the humble in order to magnify His grace, mercy, and freedom. That’s why a thousand years later, the Apostle Paul would write:
“God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence.” (1 Cor. 1:27-29)
God is not impressed by our achievements, by our gifts, talents, or boastings. The world has enough people who boast of their accomplishments. God raises up people who will boast only in Him.
2. Authority will come from the place of vulnerability.
Another important aspect of Micah’s prophecy: this Ruler with worldwide authority will come from a place of utter vulnerability. Even though Bethlehem was under threat of siege, Micah foresaw how ultimate authority would one day rise out of this town through Jesus.
Authority and vulnerability. Centuries later, a pregnant teen gave birth in a smelly stable in Bethlehem, and we see in that scene of humility and vulnerability the truth: the King of the world is the swaddled Baby crying quietly in the manger.
The world’s vision of authority emphasizes strength and power. Don’t you dare show weakness! Never concede. Never back down! The world looks for status in the luxurious life, not the meager manger.
But God turns upside down all expectations. The Son of God became an infant. The One through whom and in whom and for whom the whole world was made and holds together submitted to the helplessness of infancy to demonstrate that His ways surpass the ways of the world.
3. Security will come through the strength of God.
Micah foretold the coming of Messiah from Bethlehem and also pointed toward the future reign of Jesus when He comes again.
“He will stand and shepherd them in the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord his God. They will live securely, for then his greatness will extend to the ends of the earth.” (Micah 5:4)
This Ruler who rises from humble circumstances, from the place of vulnerability, will return to shepherd “in the strength of the Lord.”
It’s easy in our day for leaders with authority to rule in their own strength. You may feel insecure about your status, wondering if you have what it takes. You try to compensate for that insecurity in other ways. When you’re not secure about your own name, you drop the names of others. When you’re not secure in your own status, you promote yourself and list your accomplishments. When you’re in a place of leadership, you minimize your vulnerability by blaming others for failure or by abusing the privilege you’ve been given.
Yet those of us who follow Christ must remember our security comes from God’s strength alone. Our well-being comes from knowing an all-powerful, all-good God who orchestrates all things for His glory.
So, today, if you feel less than, inferior, that you can never measure up, look not to yourself but to the greatness of Christ. If you feel vulnerable, small, or insignificant, remember that Jesus arose from a place of obscurity. If you feel weak, unsure, and unknown, draw your strength from God. God specializes in lavishing grace upon unworthy people. He delights in doing great things through the one the world would pick last.
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