Third Sunday in Advent

Third Sunday in Advent              BETHLEHEM RUTH  15

Scripture: Micah 5:1-5a

Mobilize! Marshal your troops!
    The enemy is laying siege to Jerusalem.
They will strike Israel’s leader
    in the face with a rod.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
    whose origins are in the distant past,
    will come from you on my behalf.
The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies
    until the woman in labor gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
    will return from exile to their own land.
And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
Then his people will live there undisturbed,
    for he will be highly honored around the world.
    And he will be the source of peace.

Some thoughts:   

     The Scriptures often have meanings on several levels at the same time. While they apply to the immediate situation, they may also be a shadow of what is to come at a later time, or they may be a more general commentary on life. Therefore, it behooves us to pay attention to each word and phrase of God’s Word. Such is the case in this most familiar prophetic passage from the First Testament.

     The diet of the nomadic Hebrews consisted primarily of bread, meat, and liquids. The “staff of bread” is the “support of life.” To the Hebrew, bread was essential to life. So, when Jesus said to the Jews, “I am the bread of life” they would have heard that statement as far more profound than we might think. The “I am” harkened back to the burning bush where Moses asked God what his name was and God responded, “I AM that I AM.” So, God, bread, and life are all tied together in this word. Now, the house of that “bread” was Bethlehem, meaning “house (beth in Hebrew) of bread (lechem in Hebrew),” God’s first house on earth.

     This little village, about six miles southwest of Jerusalem, figured prominently in God’s grand unfolding story. It was the burial place of Rachel who died giving birth to Benjamin, the last of the twelve sons of Jacob. It was here that the Moabitess, Ruth, met Boaz, the son of Salmon and Rahab, the prostitute, who was instrumental in the destruction of Jericho. In both of these circumstances by grafting two non-Jewish women into the covenant of his people, God was indicating that the inclusive gospel extended to all peoples. It was here in Bethlehem that a descendant of Boaz and Ruth’s marriage, David, Israel’s greatest king (c.1000 BC), called home.      Micah, the prophet and author of this book, lived around 725 BC, during the exile. At the time of this writing Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, was a prominent leader bringing the exiles back to Jerusalem. He was the focus of Israel’s hope for deliverance, but he mysteriously disappeared ending any fulfillment to this prophetic passage.  

     This pericope is another example of the prophetic accuracy of Scripture as the various intricacies are precise in detail while spanning many centuries. At the time the ordinary everyday events were occurring in such a humble place, I wonder if the players had any awareness of the significance of the part they were playing in God’s grandest design. I wonder if we even grasp the significance. You see, the last verses of this passage have yet to be fulfilled, as we await the return of the Prince of Peace, the Bread of Life, the kingly Son of Bethlehem.

Music: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” Salt Lake Vocal Artists


O Holy child of Bethlehem descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels, the great, glad tidings tell. O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.      ―Phillip Brooks

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