Micah 5 and John 1:19-42
Some reflections from Jane Thomas
Where is home for you? Do you have a place above everywhere else where you just belong? Where you feel right? Where you feel connected, familiar and safe?
For the people of ancient Judah this was a defining question. The prophet Micah expresses a terrible sense of besiegement in the opening verse of chapter 5. Little Judah stands vulnerable and alone, surrounded by powerful nations bristling with military might. And well might she be fearful. Judah’s sister state Israel had just fallen to the might of Assyria, and as we know from history, Judah’s fate as a nation of people dragged into exile in Babylon was the inevitable next step.
Exile – a dark time of longing, of heartrending home sickness and sense of abandonment from both place and God.
Move forward 600 years and John the Baptist appears rather dramatically on the scene in the first chapter of the gospel of John. He is a voice in the desert wilderness, baptising and calling the Hebrew people home to their God. (The Hebrews are of course back in Judah by now, however under the control of a new foreign power, the Romans.) When interrogated by Hebrew officials as to his identity, and therefore authority, John the Baptist chooses to quote from the prophet Isaiah (40:3):
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”
For those listening, Isaiah’s words pierced right into the emotional heart of God’s ancient promise of rescue from exile and the beautiful assurance of God to His people in exile, that He has not abandoned them. God will reclaim His people and form a highway through the mountainous and difficult route from exile in Babylon, back home to Judah; a highway straight, level, accessible. A way to come home! – making straight the way of the Lord.
Micah 5 also declares the promise of rescue for the people of God. From Bethlehem shall come a Ruler, a Shepherd, a Lion, who will cleanse the nation of its sinfulness, protect it from its enemies, and provide for the people a home of security, wellbeing and peace.
The gospel of John begins with John the Baptist testifying with utter conviction that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the Messiah, in whom and with whom the Spirit of God dwells. Jesus is the Lamb of God, the one who can deliver the world/rescue the world from sin.
John cries out:
God has provided a way home for us! Come home from exile! Here is the Lamb of God who will take us home, and indeed, is our home.
What does home in Jesus mean for you, and for the people who you meet, as you walk the path of this day?
“To live in the world without belonging to the world summarises the essence of the spiritual life. Jesus keeps us aware that our true home is not the house of fear, in which the powers of hate and violence rule, but the home of love where God resides.” Henri Nouwen