When the magi from the East come to Jerusalem expecting to find the king of the Jews, King Herod’s scribes quote this passage from Micah 5:2 as evidence that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathat, 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.”
Micah prophesied during the reigns of the kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, who reigned during the late eighth and early seventh centuries (759-687 BCE). At this time Israel and Judah experience great turmoil as the Assyrians invaded the region. Corruption and hypocrisy were rampant. Micah prophesied that God would punish Israel and Judah for their sins. God’s promise enters this perilous world in a surprising way. Micah vows that God’s ancient covenant with Israel is secure and reliable. The covenant will be fulfilled with a new leader in the line of David.
Micah calls us to see God’s faithfulness in surprising ways, to look where we might not expect. Micah reminds us that the promise of God’s covenant is certain. Yet the expression of its fulfillment is not always predictable. While there is much that separates us from eighth-century Israel and Judah, the dynamics are not unlike the world in which we live.
We too know terror and fragility on national, international and personal levels. We too seek hope that the world will be different. We too yearn for security and peace. The promise of Micah is that God will be faithful and will appear in surprising ways. Micah invites us to look for God’s presence where we least expect and to be attuned to the voices of the small, the powerless and the vulnerable.