But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Mic. 5:2)
I’ve been to Bethlehem. The town itself is unremarkable. One of the most memorable parts of my visit was a coffee shop by the name of Stars & Bucks. The sign was a green and white circle with a familiar font.
Of course, people don’t flock by the millions each year to see a knock-off coffee shop. They go to see the Church of the Nativity—the site believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. Today’s verse comes to us from the prophet Micah, who prophesied approximately 700 years before Jesus made his entrance in Bethlehem.
Micah calls the town “too little to be among the clans of Judah”—Bethlehem was such a small, obscure, and overlooked village, it was hardly worth counting. It was an unlikely location for great things to happen. But our God specializes in taking the unlikely, obscure, and overlooked and doing great things: “From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” A king. The Messiah. From Bethlehem.
God specializes in taking the unlikely, obscure, and overlooked and doing great things.
Centuries before Micah penned his prophecy, another unlikely king came from Bethlehem. David, the shepherd boy who became the mighty warrior and great king, was born in this obscure town. David was the most unlikely of his brothers. Samuel almost overlooked him. Yet David was the Lord’s choice (1 Sam. 16). He became the greatest king Israel had ever had, a man after God’s own heart (13:14).
Israel waited and longed for another king like David, a good and righteous ruler. But as the years went by, they feared the Lord had forgotten them.
Waiting. Hope. Fear. They go hand in hand. We fear our hopes won’t be realized, the waiting will never end, or the answer won’t be to our liking. We fear we’ve been forgotten or overlooked, too obscure to be of any importance.
But, because of what happened on a still night in a remote village, you and I never have to fear again. Our truest hope and deepest longing collided with our greatest fear—not just in Bethlehem but in Jesus.
Our truest hope and deepest longing collided with our greatest fear—not just in Bethlehem but in Jesus.
Waiting is still hard. Hope deferred can cause us to doubt. But because of what happened in Bethlehem, we wait with confidence. The God who sent his Son into an obscure and unlikely town to fulfill all hope is the same God who still draws near to everyone who feels overlooked. We haven’t been forgotten—we’ve been redeemed.
We don’t sing about this small village because it was great. We sing because greatness itself chose to come to us in this unlikely place. So anchor all your hopes, all your longings, all your waiting, and all your fears in Jesus. “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you” (Ps. 39:7).
What are you waiting on or fearful about today? In what ways does this story remind you that you’re not overlooked or forgotten by God?
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
– Phillips Brooks, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”