In our Hebrew Bible reading Micah prophesies about a coming ruler from Bethlehem whose origin is from “the ancient of days” and who will “feed the flock” [of God] and “bring peace.” Micah writes during a time of great international turmoil when the mighty Assyrian army has taken the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity, and is threatening the borders of the southern kingdom of Judah.
Micah’s prophecy reminds us of God’s eternal plan. God establishes the salvation of God’s people even before their fall! Micah also reminds us of the international scope of God’s redemption–“and they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.” Finally, in Micah’s prophecy the ruler from Bethlehem is described as a good shepherd–“and he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord.”
Psalm 80 continues the idea of a shepherd-like ruler–“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!” The Psalmlaments the present state of the people, who find themselves eating “bread of tears” and being the laughing stock of their enemies. The
Psalmist asks that God would let God’s face shine upon God’s people.
Our epistle lection contains sayings attributed to Jesus not recorded in the gospel. We might call these the “cosmic sayings” of Jesus–since it is suggested that the sayings recorded here in the book of Hebrews are part of a divine dialog happening at the moment of Jesus’ incarnation. In this dialog Jesus declares, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. See, I have come to do your will.” Jesus’ cosmic sayings are part of the Hebrew writers attempt to show that the priestly Levitical system of sacrifice was unable to bring about obedience. Jesus in contrast offers his very body as sacrifice, in holy obedience to God. Jesus’ ability to sacrifie exerts a moral influence on the rest of humanity to do the same.
Our gospel lection records the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth during their pregnancies. When Elizabeth sees Mary the baby in her womb (John the Baptist) leaps. Elizabeth, filled with the Spirit, interprets this as a sign that Mary’s baby is the “Lord.” Elizabeth blesses Mary because Mary believed that the Lord would fulfill the prophecy that he gave to her. After receiving Elizabeth’s blessing Mary sings the famous ‘magnificat.’ In this beautiful early hymn Mary extols God who “looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant” and
“scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.”
Celebration of Worship
All of our texts today point to God’s coming deliverance. The Lord is a good Shepherd who turns tears into shouts of Joy. God does not forsake God’s people. It is the people whose faith waivers, not God’s.
This week we are encouraged to be like Mary. For she believed in the fulfillment of the prophecy, and subsequently all generations will call her blessed. As you prepare your prayers, hymns, hearts, and minds for worship consider the many promises (prophecies) made to you. Do you believe in their fulfillment? How do you show that faith in