A reading and reflection for Saturday, December 15, 2012.
The fourteenth day of Advent.
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Micah 5:2-5a NRSV
The prophet Micah's words above are often understood as messianic in nature. That is, they seem to look forward to a new leader "who is to rule in Israel...he shall be great to the ends of the earth." Micah is embarrassed by the king under which he served and so anticipates that the solution to the problem is for a new king, someone whose "origin was from old, from ancient days." The phrase "from ancient days" is used elsewhere in the prophets to indicate the time of David, the great king chosen by God under which the monarchy was expanded. We need a king from that line, Micah is saying.
There are two major connections to David in this text.
First, David was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem. In Micah's day, Jerusalem was so corrupt that the only solution would be for this new king to be born in Bethlehem, away from the palaces and pretenses, the place where the great king David was from. Micah notes that Bethlehem was the "littlest clan of Judah." This phrase is a curious phrase in Hebrew. The normal word for expressing something small here is not used, and instead, a rare word is used, tza'ir, which according to one scholar, indicates "trifling" or "insignificant."
Second, prior to being king, David was a shepherd who cared for his flocks. Here, the coming king would "stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord." The association of King-Messiah and Shepherd was common throughout the prophets, so it's not out of place here in Micah. God's relationship to his people, mediated through this anointed leader, was similar to the relationship a shepherd has with his sheep.
Micah's prediction of this coming king was designed to inspire hope. Hope that God would not abandon his people, but would send them a leader, a ruler "whose origin was from old, from ancient days." And when Micah said "from ancient days" he probably meant "from David's line." But a few hundred years later, a child would be born in Bethlehem whose human lineage was indeed from David, but whose "origin" was "in the beginning with God." (John 1:2). Christ's birth among us brought together the ancient line of David and the eternal line of the Holy God. In Christ we see a true Messiah.
1. Does it give you comfort that God can bring great things out of small things?
2. Is it important for Christians to read the Old Testament, especially so we can better appreciate the story of God that stretches from Genesis through the New Testament?
3. When is the last time you decided to read from the Old Testament?
Read this PDF. This is every mention of "David" in the prophets. What do you see? What descriptions are given about "the house of David?" What stands out to you as interesting? Are there other texts you are familiar with from the Advent or Christmas season? What promises are made to David's line?