“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.”
- Micah 5:2
Today’s text tells us that the Messiah will come out of Bethlehem Ephrathah, but it doesn’t tell us why.
Jerusalem would have had more resonance with the centers of power: the government and the temple. Jerusalem would have been a big city, with big walls, full of important people. King after king after king had been born there. Why Bethlehem?
Why not Hebron? David located his government there for a time. This was where Caleb, a leader from the tribe of Judah, courageously battled the giants. This would be where many revolutionaries in the late first century BCE would take their stands. Why Bethlehem?
Or how about Bethel? That would give you the “beth” (house), but you’d replace “house of bread” (Beth-lehem) with “house of God” (Beth-el). And since we now know that the Messiah would also be God, it would make a lot of sense for God the Son to be born in the “house of God.” Poetic. This place was also a center of worship after Israel divided and the people in the northern kingdom stopped crossing the border to go to the temple in Jerusalem. Why Bethlehem again?
We don’t know. We aren’t told why God chose this particular place, this particular community. And this is a common experience for us.
God’s ways often strike us as mysterious (if we’re in a generous mood) or arbitrary (if we’re not). We ask “Why? Why? Why?” and he doesn’t answer. Don’t mistake his non-answer for a non-response. Don’t let your questions drown out his voice.
He does tell us something about Bethlehem Ephrathah. He tells us it’s small. And he tells us that its smallness won’t prevent it from participating in his great work. This is good news.
Where might God be speaking good news to you in the midst of your questions? Which questions do you need to set aside for the moment in order to receive good news from God?