Micah 5:2 (NIV)
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 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.
Matthew 2:4-6 (NIV)
When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Jesus came to us not only from a people and a story; he also came to us in a place: Bethlehem, in Israel.
Big cities hold great appeal to the modern mind. The lights, the activity, the opportunities, the options, and even the anonymity provide a draw to those wanting to experience the very best that life has to offer. In a city, you can get known. In a city, you can get whatever you want, whenever you want it. In a city, you can hide away, and perhaps no one will come knocking on your door because it takes too long to get there.
But for we who grew up in small towns, we had a different experience. The lights are quaint down at the hardware store, especially at Christmas and when the “a” in the neon sign is flickering. The activities are, well, limited. The opportunities are endless, if you know someone at one of the three businesses offering a job. The options are interesting for dining; in my town there was the pizza place and the breakfast place and a few other almost-out-of-business spots, and then the diner if you were in the mood for less gourmet cuisine. And as for anonymity, it’s pretty hard to escape the fact that literally everyone in your town probably knows where you live, and could guide someone to your house without even looking up your address.
Bethlehem seems to have been the latter. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the population may have been 1000 or less (some estimates say 300 or less). Bethlehem is the birthplace of David, the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite (1 Sam. 16:1), the root from which Jesus comes to us. The name “Bethlehem,” in Hebrew, means the “House of Bread.” Beautiful. The Bread of Life comes into the world, in a small village named the “House of Bread” on the outskirts of Jerusalem. How fitting. A small town feeds the world, like the loaves of bread in Jesus’ hands fed the masses.
In my university years, I studied for a season at an Institute on a hill near Bethlehem in Israel. Through a strange series of circumstances, after taking a bus across the country to ask for my wife’s hand in marriage (it’s a long story), I ended up being lost outside of Bethlehem at 2 am in the morning. I had gotten off the bus at the wrong stop, and there were no more buses to be found. When I was finally pointed in the direction of the school where I was staying, I had to run across a field to get home. For a moment, I paused, looked up at the stars, and thought “Jesus was born here.” My eyes welled up, and I continued running to my destination.
From the small places, the out of the way places, the places where one wonders if anything good can come out of them, comes God’s greatest deliverance of all. “Though you are small,” little town, “out of you will come a ruler, who will shepherd my people Israel” (Mic. 2:6; Matt. 5:2).
Do you ever feel small, hidden, out of the way or misunderstood? If so, count it all joy. The Lord loves to come to, and work through, the small.
Jesus, you entered the world through the small. It’s from the small places, where our best intentions crash into our daily struggle, that your glory radiates. You know how small I can feel at times, how insignificant my day to day life can feel in the scope of eternity. But it is in the small things you work, and I know you will work through me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Are there small things you are doing right now that the Lord has led you to do, but you are wondering if they are significant? In light of today’s daily text, how might you see them in a different light?
For the Awakening,