Scott Sanders launches our Advent series by getting lost in the bush and finding the humble path - at expense of his pride.
Josh Dowton is an Associate Pastor at Northside Baptist Church.
Today's reading is Micah 5:2-5a
For the first decade of my life, I grew up in a small town in rural New South Wales — we had a total population of less than 300 people (the primary school I went to had around 65 students and we only had 3 teachers). You might say that we were, in the grand scheme of things, pretty much insignificant.
There’s a feeling that comes with the realisation of your own insignificance; it feels like you can’t change anything, so why bother trying? It’s also easy to feel threatened by the big and scary world around you, over which you have little-to-no control.
Often, these fears can present as anger.
In the late 8th Century BCE, the Kingdom of Judah must have felt pretty threatened by the big and scary world around them. The massive and powerful Assyrian Empire was dominating the whole region, and was in the process of crushing the northern Kingdom of Israel. The Jewish kings were powerless to stop them.
Many of the people had abandoned their trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and were now following other gods. They had largely forgotten the kind of life that they were called to live as a demonstration to the nations of God’s character and love — the powerful were exploiting and oppressing the vulnerable for their own gain — and they were now facing the very real possibility of destruction and exile.
But there was still hope.
Though there would be insult, judgement, and even violent destruction, it wasn’t the end of the story. God would not, in the end, abandon them to their own insignificance. In fact, God was going to raise up a leader from the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem (which also happened to be the hometown of King David), and this would change everything.
Out of the chaos there would come order. Out of the darkness there would be light. Out of the ugliness there would be beauty. And out of death there would be life.
In this season of Advent, we remember ‘God with us’ in the form of a vulnerable baby born in insignificance (in an insignificant town in an insignificant part of the powerful Roman Empire). We remember how this changed everything. And we remember how we ultimately find significance not in our own striving, but rather as we join in with this extraordinary story of hope.
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The Ruler from Bethlehem
2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
5 and he shall be the one of peace.
If the Assyrians come into our land
and tread upon our soil,
we will raise against them seven shepherds
and eight installed as rulers.