The Runt of the Litter

December 2, 2020

Micah 5:2,4 NIV

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.
…He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.”

Today's Reading: Micah 5:2-4 (NIV)

We all love a good Cinderella story, don’t we? Whether it be “Rudy” Ruettiger’s story of hard-won glory on the gridiron, or those small, seemingly insignificant hobbits, Sam and Frodo, and their epic journey in J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” or a bobsled team from one of the most unthinkable parts of the world in one of my sons’ favorites movies, “Cool Runnings,” there is something in us that hopes with underdogs and rejoices in their triumphs. There’s a resonance with an ancient, deeply embedded longing to overcome and “live securely.”

The Lion of Judah was the runt of the litter. On the surface, He appeared to be an “Ordinary Joe” from a “Plain Jane” family in a “Podunk” town. But under the surface was the fullness of the Godhead smuggled into humanity to subvert the power of sin, de-stinger death, and reclaim His broken creation through self-giving, radically-forgiving, co-suffering love.

Wow! That was the Ruler of All Creation’s plan to restore order to the chaos of His fallen world? If anyone could force his will upon others, He could have, right? He could have coerced our allegiance at the end of a sword. Instead, Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV) tells us that though Jesus was in very nature God, He “did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Our culture tends to struggle with authority and power. On one hand we’re suspicious that under the surface of our culture’s leaders ultimately lie self-interest, greed, and a desire for control. After all, power corrupts, right? On the other hand, we see the tremendous potential for leaders to exercise their power for the good of those in their care. We long for leaders who will “stand and shepherd” people “in the strength of the Lord” that we all might “live securely.” There is only One who has ever been able to completely overcome the temptation that accompanies authority and power—One “whose origins are from old, from ancient times” – Micah 5:2b (NIV).

The apostle John recorded his fantastical vision of this Overcomer in Revelation 5. The scene opens in despair as a search was coming up empty for anyone worthy to break the seals and open a scroll that would usher in the fullness of the kingdom.
“Then one of the elders said to me (John), ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals’” – (Revelation 5:5 NIV).
So, John turns and looks for this “Lion,” and what does he see?
“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne…He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb…And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation’” – (from Revelation 5:6-10 NIV).
How did the Lion of Judah exercise His authority? How did He use His power? He stood and shepherded His flock in the strength of the Lord by laying down His life like a sacrificial lamb for them! And now, as John puts it later in Revelation 12:11, we overcome “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of [our] testimony.” We can “live securely” in His victory and the purity of His leadership to steward His power for our good! And, for that, “His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” The runt of the litter of Judah will have the last roar, and His judgment is mercy!