who build Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with injustice!
Her officials give justice for a bribe,
and her priests teach for hire.
Her prophets offer divination for silver,
yet they rely on the Lord, saying,
“Isn’t the Lord in our midst?
Evil won’t come upon us!” (Micah 3:9-11).
Such blithe, naive arrogance was dangerous, Micah knew, for the mid-eighth century was a dangerous time, when the cruel military power of Assyria was on the rise. This crisis called for just, wise, decisive leadership–for, in short, another David!
Today’s Hebrew Bible reading is quoted in Matthew 2:5-6. When the foreign sages come to Judah following a star, looking for a new-born king, they come to the big city of Jerusalem, and to Herod’s palace–because where else would you look for a king? Herod consults the scribes, who then read to him, and to his guests from the east, Micah’s ancient prophecy.
Sure enough, Jesus, like David, would be born humbly, in the little village of Bethlehem–the child of a peasant girl and her itinerant laborer husband. We need to hear just how unlikely this sounds! Because sometimes, in this season, we Christians wonder how Jesus’ own people could’ve missed him–implying, of course, that we would have done a better job. But an old African American spiritual, with far more wisdom, recognizes the truth:
Sweet little Jesus Boy, we made you be born in a manger.
Sweet little Holy Child, we didn’t know who You were.
Didn’t know you’d come to save us, Lord; to take our sins away.
Our eyes were blind, we couldn’t see, we didn’t know it was you.
Herod’s scribes, who gave the wise men their directions from Scripture, did not go with them to the manger—I wonder why? Likely it was because they couldn’t believe that Micah really meant it! Surely Messiah would not actually come in such a way!
Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah for the very good reason that he was born among the poor– not the wealthy, powerful, or influential. As he grew, he surrounded himself with the least, the lost, and the outcast–not the best and the brightest. No one ever expected that Messiah would come like this! No one looked for, dreamed of, or wanted such a Messiah! But as Micah, and Mick, remind us “You can’t always get what you want. . . You get what you need.”
Jesus is still an astonishment, friends. He still shows up in the most unlikely places, among the most unlikely people—the least, the lost, the lowly. So if we would find him, that is where we too must go. And when we are lonely, when we have lost our way, we need only turn our heads to find him right there, beside us. Because that is who he is. That is what he does.
Jesus is still not the King we thought that we wanted—but he is the one that we need: the one who “shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD”. . . the “one of peace.”