We often think of the prophets of the Old Covenant (or "Testament", another word for "covenant") as ancients. It may startle the reader when the prophet Micah refers to the "ancient" times long before him, as we picture his days of old. But of course, his generation was the latest of generations in their days. Micah lived during the time of Isaiah, and we have evidence that they knew each other quite well. In fact, Micah quotes his contemporary in 4:1-3 (from Isaiah 2:2-4)
Both men called out the leaders of both (the Divided Kingdoms) of Israel and Judah. They had courted the world's view of righteousness and had become relativists in faith in various gods, with the Self as being god Number One. (Sound familiar?) The northern Kingdom of Israel would fall first to the Assyrians in 722 BC and Judah would succumb to Assyrian's captors, the Babylonians just 136 later. The tree of God's chosen had become a stump. (See Isaiah 11) Neither Micah nor Isaiah seemed to waver in their declaration of the Word of God, and they appeared to have understood that human acceptance or rejection of God's Word does not increase or diminish its truth. It would be a lesson that Jeremiah would later learn as well.
But what the prophets may have not understood is what their prophecies meant. Micah told of the birth of the Messiah from Bethlehem among the tiny clan of the Ephrathites. "And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord...and He shall be their peace. Whether Micah understood the words put into his mouth by God is not what is important. God delivered on the promise.
John the Baptist had his doubt about the Word of God that had come from his mouth as well.
John had been sent to prepare the way and he had been prophesied from "ancient days" as well. (Malachi 3:1) But now imprisoned by Herod who himself remains in sin as well as still on the throne of Judah, John's expectations of God Incarnate had been wrong. From his jail cell, John sends his own disciples to Jesus to ask the haunting question, "Are you the One to come, or shall we look for another?" (Matthew 11:1-19)
Jesus was and is the One to come, and He came at a most interesting time. He was born in a manger in a land controlled by "Emperor Caesar Augustus, son of God", the latter moniker referenced from his adopted father Julius who had been declared divine after his death. As one historian reminds us, following the end of the Roman republic, Emperor Augustus ruled over a kingdom that was in political conflict, moral decay, recreational sex, violence, religious disunity, widespread poverty, and general hopelessness. (Sound familiar?)
Jesus came in darkness (John 1:5), the particular pitch favored by the counterfeit god of this age and ancient days long before us and Micah. But the One who would not be diminished but also holy and righteousness has come to light your darkness save you for eternity. Use the twelve days of Christmas (December 26-January 5) to worship Christ in church and in daily devotionals. You will be preparing yourself for the Epiphany (January 6), when His true divine identity is proclaimed. Gloria Deo--Glory to God.
Rev. Timothy Matthew
of Redeemer Lutheran