By David Faust
After 40 years of marriage, it’s hard for me to surprise my wife. We know each other so well that we finish each other’s sentences and communicate a lot through squints, nods, and raised eyebrows. How could I ever surprise her with an unexpected gift?
A couple of years ago I thought I had done it. During a trip to Atlanta I found one of those high-powered, pulverizes-everything juicing machines on sale at a mall. I bought the juicer, lugged the large box home on the plane, and managed to hide it till December 25—only to find a gift-wrapped box the same size under the tree on Christmas morning with my name on it. My wife had bought me the exact same juicer!
God knows us better than anyone else, and he has surprising blessings in store for us. About 700 years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Micah pointed the Jewish people toward three surprising gifts from God.
An Unpretentious Messiah
The Jews expected a king wrapped in royal robes; God sent them a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. They wanted a ruler who would free them from Roman domination; God sent a humble servant who, as the carol reminds us, would “save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”
The virgin birth was an extraordinary miracle, but Jesus’ birthplace seemed unimpressive. Micah predicted that the “ruler over Israel” would come from Bethlehem, a town “small among the clans of Judah” (5:2). Outside a small town’s crowded inn, a rustic manger held the King of Glory.
His unpretentious coming would lead to far-reaching blessings. According to Micah, the grown-up Messiah would “stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord” and “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth” (v. 4). Even more, “he will be our peace” (v. 5).
Micah asked a logical question: “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?” (6:6). What should we give Almighty God for his Son’s birthday? Micah considered a potential shopping list. “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?” (vs. 6, 7). Maybe God expects something even more costly and personal. “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (v. 7). How could we possibly give the Lord what he deserves?
Micah concluded, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (v. 8). These requirements echo what Jesus called the greatest commandments: love the Lord (“walk humbly with your God”) and love your neighbor (“act justly and love mercy”).
In a world cluttered with impossible-sounding religious demands, God’s expectations sound refreshingly simple. Sin hounds us and perfection eludes us, but with the Holy Spirit’s help we can act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
Grace Beyond Imagination
Micah prayed, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives?” (7:18).
Micah was writing centuries before the cross, but he foresaw God’s gift of joy to the world that makes “heav’n and nature sing.” In the fullness of time, Jesus, the living Word, whose name means “the Lord saves,” came to reconcile us back to God and to each other. It’s hard to imagine a greater gift than that.
1. Has God ever surprised you? If so, how?
2. How will you pursue justice, mercy, and a humble walk with God in the year ahead?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 20, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Micah 4, 5
Micah 6, 7
Zephaniah 1, 2