5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
That’s a quotation from Micah 5:2 which talks about the coming ruler being born in Bethlehem.
‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Bethlehem is the city where Jesus was born. Because of the Christmas story we’ve heard of it.
Without the Christmas story, you’d have never heard of it. First century Bethlehem was very small. It’s about six miles away from Jerusalem.
It is mentioned in conjunction with some significant events in the Old Testament. Jacob’s wife Rachel was buried there. Ruth and Boaz meet in Bethlehem. Most significantly, it’s also the birthplace of King Davi.
Where the text says Bethlehem in the land of Judah, that is reminding us of Judah and Jesus’ association to the tribe of Judah from which he is born.
The prophecy says are by no means least among the rulers of Judah
That is basically saying that Bethlehem is otherwise pretty insignificant. But what gives it significance is what will happen there in God’s redemptive plan.
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Bethlehem was very small and insignificant at the time that Jesus was born, but something amazing was going to happen there.
Let me illustrate it this way.
Tampico, Illinois is a small town in the northwestern part of Illinois. It’s a small town with less than 800 people. Tampico’s claim to fame is that in 1911 a baby was born there who would become America’s 40th president. Ronald Reagan.
He’s what put that town on the map. If you’ve ever been to Tampico, I’m going to go out on a limb that it was probably to visit his birthplace.
Jesus gives meaning
Jesus gives significance and meaning to Bethlehem. No one would really care about Bethlehem were it not connected to Jesus. But Jesus didn’t come just to give meaning to a place.
Jesus gives meaning to your life.
For a moment, let’s remember the other birth narrative of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. In Luke 1, you see all of these people. Zechariah and Elizabeth. Mary and Joseph. In Luke 2, you see people like Anna and Simeon at the temple.
All of these people. What do they have in common?
Their meaning and significance is directly tied to their relationship to Jesus.
And that is meant to be true for our own lives. Our meaning and purpose are meant to be grounded in Jesus. Knowing him. Living for him. Loving him. Making him known.
Bethlehem is known because it’s where Jesus was born. The cross is known to us today because it’s where Jesus died. May we be known today because we’re where Jesus lives.
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