February 2, 2019

Small town superstar

Many popular people were born in small towns including singers CĂ©line Dion and Shania Twain, hockey player Sidney Crosby, and insulin discoverer Frederick Banting. So was the greatest Person ever born, Son of God Jesus Christ. His birth was foretold many years prior to when it happened:

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. (Micah 5:2)

Micah prophesied in Judah during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (about 750–700 B.C.). He wrote what God gave him to write about the same time as Isaiah. It was a prosperous time but Micah denounced the wealthy who were oppressing the poor and warned of impending judgment. He also gave messages of hope, telling of a day when the nations would “beat their swords into plowshares” and of a royal Deliverer who would come to save God’s people from all her enemies.

He would be born in a small town. Matthew writes about it in the first book of the New Testament. He quotes the OT prophecy with . . .

In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “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.” (Matthew 2:5–6)

When Jesus was born, a group of magi called “wise men” saw the star that announced his arrival. I’ve wondered how they knew about this and were convinced to follow the star. I’ve heard that some historians trace these men back to the days of Daniel and think that they heard about this future event from him, a godly Jewish boy who became a leader in their country. No matter the method by which they knew the King of the Jews would be born, there was a respect for this event in their hearts. They were pagans, yet the wanted to honor this new king. They also wanted to protect Him:

Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:7–12)

I love that Matthew recorded this. It tells me that God made the good news available to people outside the Jewish world even before Jesus was born. This is like a prophecy that points to the reality that salvation is for all people, Jews and Gentiles, shepherds and wise men, and later those ‘publicans and sinners’ that Jesus ate and spent time with only to be criticized by the religious leaders of His day.

Lord, this passage takes on new meaning as I get a big picture view of Your plan. You somehow made Your arrival known to these magi who otherwise would have no idea what the God of Israel was doing. They were deeply moved by this revelation, enough to travel a long way to pay homage to Him while He was still an infant. That is a testimony to Your great power. In this world that needs to see what You can do, I am encouraged. No one and nothing is beyond Your reach!

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