Mountain to Manger

In Micah 4 the prophet speaks in grandiose and epic terms, referring to the establishment of the “house of the Lord” as the raising up of a mountain. This is no ordinary house. This is not just a family. This is an imposing image, an image of strength and reliability. Which truly is an interesting way to refer to the people of God, especially considering the fact that they’d been just about everything but strong and reliable. 

The prophet goes on to talk about how the unique strength of this mountain-house would be the clarity that would flow from it.

“Out of Zion shall flow instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” – Micah 4:2

This is what will draw the nations to the house of the Lord – a different way of understanding life. This is a story about a unique way of living in a world profoundly filled up with “sameness.” And this will go on to be illustrated in the next verse (4:3) by the image of swords being beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; there’s a different kind of wisdom flowing out of this mountain-house, one that the world needs to see exemplified and one that the world hungers for even when it can’t articulate this hunger. Acts of violence give way to cultivation of soil, war gives way to harvest.

And how will all of this happen? How will the mountain-house of God’s wisdom be established?

In the least likely of ways: through the birth of an unexpected ruler in an unexpected little town in a place called Ephrathah. This little clan and this little town will produce one “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2), and he will be the ruler who will be the foundation of the raising of this new mountain. The mountain from which flows the wisdom and Word of God. Out of a specific womb, emerging from a unique region comes the answer for the entire world.

And this, obviously, is a Christmas text. But look closely, because it’s not only a Christmas text. It is also a text about the church, the people of God. If we track the story we see that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem wasn’t just the beginning of His earthly life, Luke 2 was the seed that would eventually produce the fruit of Acts 2. This manger was the genesis point of the raising of the prophesied mountain.

And at Christmas, as I read this text, I am forced to ask the question: am I living in such a way that people are coming to me asking about the Word of God? Or am I living in patterns so similar to the rest of the nations that I don’t look much at all like a mountain of revelation? Because the powerful word of Micah isn’t just that something has happened or is going to happen, but that what will happen has the power to create a host of other happenings! The birth of this ancient-present ruler sets into motion a transformation project of global scale! And as one who has pledged my allegiance to Jesus I am devoting my life to allowing this work to take root in me.

Am I embracing the way of Jesus? Am I living in the shadow of the mountain that His manger established?

Part of the answer to this question is in Micah 5:4. The prophet says that this Ruler will “stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they shall live secure…” – so perhaps the questions become more nuanced in this Christmas season:

• Am I feeding on what Jesus is providing or on something else?

• Am I allowing His unique strength to become my strength or am I relying on a lesser strength to bring me security?

• Am I taking time to bask in the majesty of His name, or am I spending my energy trying to elevate my name?

Sometimes it seems like a daunting task, to walk out the pathway from receiving the baby in the manger to living in the pattern of the God of the mountain. But I would encourage you, the journey from the Manger to the Mountain isn’t as far as we might think. It’s really begins with a simple choice. We must choose this day what we will consume: His word of peace and hope or the world’s word of war and hostility. And there’s no better time than Christmas to choose to be filled with the hope and peace of Jesus.

And it will require embracing the peculiar story of a God who would be born in a feeding trough, and the kind of life that sort of humility demands. That’s where our strength truly is, and that’s where our hope lives. If our life ceases to be about us and becomes grounded in serving Him, we are exchanging our strength for His!

And maybe the prophet Micah is grinning at us from so long ago because he knows a secret that those who choose to truly follow Jesus quickly find out: The Mountain isn’t far when the Manger is in view.

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