you are small among the clans of Judah;
one will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for me.
His origin is from antiquity,
from ancient times.
As the Magi traveled towards the land of Jacob, they did so with the expectation that a King would be born there. Fully expecting this new King to be born as a prince, their search led them to the palace of King Herod. It is here that they are informed by a rather uninterested bunch of scribes that the Messianic King they sought was to be born in Bethlehem. Those scribes cited this very text. They noted from these words that the Messiah would not come out the palace or capital of Israel, but out of one of the lowliest towns in the countryside.
While the connection to David is one that shouldn’t be overlooked, the point of this prophecy pertains more to the status of Bethlehem than the great King who had come from it previously. In fact, Bethlehem remained an insignificant village even after David was made King. For this reason, God orchestrated the events of history to ensure that the pregnant Mary would deliver her son in Bethlehem. Why did God go to such lengths to accomplish His will in this way? If this Messiah is meant to defeat all evil and bless all the families of the world, why did God choose such an unassuming place for His arrival?
As John Piper has said “Because when he acts this way we can’t boast in the merits or achievements of men but only in the glorious mercy of God. We can’t say, “Well, of course he set his favor on Bethlehem, look at the human glory Bethlehem has achieved!” All we can say is, “God is wonderfully free; he is not impressed by our bigness; he does nothing in order to attract attention to our accomplishments; he does everything to magnify his glorious freedom and mercy.”
Jesus came to earth without pomp or circumstance; the Bethlehem birth was just the beginning of all that He would do in His humiliating Incarnation. He humbled Himself to glorify us. He died so we can live. He became sin so we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus left the home that was His from the ancient days, to be born in the world that He created to redeem the people He created even though they would reject Him.
Take some time today to reflect on the humility of our King and consider what He achieved for us through it.