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. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace. —Micah 5:2–4 (ESV)
In today’s passage, the prophet Micah tells of a ruler who will come in strength and secure God’s people: “And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.” But this is also a ruler who has a humble beginning and sets the example of what we sometimes call ‘servant leadership’.
You may be familiar with this passage as a ‘Christmas’ text, and for good reason. When Jesus was born, King Herod heard from the magi that they were seeking the newly born ‘king of the Jews’. At this, Herod consulted experts in the Scripture to ask where the Messiah, the promised savior, was expected to be born. They quoted to him today’s text from Micah—and Bethlehem is the answer.
The Savior who would one day come, offering peace to all men, would be born in ‘little’ Bethlehem. Remember, too, from Luke’s Gospel that Jesus’ birth was attended by anything but royalty. He was visited by lowly shepherds. Humble beginnings. Micah contrasts the humble place of the Messiah’s birth with His greatness: He is ‘from old, from ancient days’; he will ‘shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God’.
Micah reminds us both of Jesus’ greatness and the peace that He has brought us as our Savior, as well as the humble beginnings that he had. A small-town boy, an itinerate ministry without luxury, the violent death of a criminal for our sins—Jesus lived out the principle he taught us: the first shall be last, the last shall be first. Don’t let your humble circumstances discourage you, for God blesses the humble. And like Jesus, live to serve others. There is strength in humility.