« AnteriorContinuar »
may be famous in Israel!" They prophesied without being conscious of it; for who are the people to whom it is addressed? is it not the family of the Lord Jesus? The son whom Ruth bore was Obed, and Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David, and one of the descendants of David was Mary, the blessed Virgin. How wonderful, that in the fields in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, by the blessing of Jehovah, the covenant between Boaz and Ruth was concluded! And how remarkable, that the people at that time should say,-" The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house, like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel!" strange, that the great Prince of peace should have a mother from amidst the heathen! and how gladdening and enlivening, thus to be able to trace the secret government of the Almighty God in histories at first sight the most unlikely! They shew us that for more than a thousand years He was mysteriously employed in preparing with wonderful care for the advent of the future Saviour!
We now leave Bethlehem, but only to return to i after an interval of about a hundred and fifty years Hark! What sounds so beautifully in the distance a we approach the gates of the little city? It is joyfu and heart-enrapturing, like music from another sphere. Yonder, leaning against a rock, stands a youth, ruddy with exercise, and beautiful; around him peaceful flocks are pasturing, and before him rests the harp, whose strings he is touching, and to whose notes he is singing songs of inspiration. As the sun rises out
of the sea, he commences his morning hymn-" The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun; which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race." When the storm-cloud gathers over his head, he brings out other tones from his lyre, and sings
"O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty: who coverest thyself with light as with a garment; who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain; who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; who maketh the clouds his chariot; who walketh upon the wings of the wind." Night falls around, and the stars twinkle in the firmament, when the beautiful youth sings his evening song
"O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained, what is man, that thou art mindful of him; and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" These are the words which he sings to the music of his harp. Do you not recognise the pious shepherd on Bethlehem's hills? David the beloved is his name. Deep and mysterious tones proceed in the quiet solitude from his sacred lyre; and the sheep and the lambs play around him joyfully. This harper was sent to consecrate by his minstrelsy those silent heights; and his psalms were the prelude to a sweet and immortal song that was to be sung upon those very hills!
David has exchanged the shepherd's crook for the sceptre, and now wears the kingly crown. We must
once more return with him to Bethlehem, for in warlike array he enters the field against the Philistines, who have taken possession of his father's city. The king is thirsty from the heat and fatigue of the day, and says to his generals—“Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!" Upon this, three heroes rush with drawn swords into the camp of the Philistines, draw some of the water from the well of Bethlehem, and bring it to David. The king, however, will not drink it, but pours it out as a drink-offering unto the Lord. This was another important and most significant occurrence. In Bethlehem there was a precious fountain. My brethren, this water flows to the present day, and has water enough to satisfy the whole world; and whosoever drinks of it, in him it becomes a spring of living water flowing unto everlasting life. This spiritual water, like that poured out by the hands of David, flows unto the Lord in prayer and praise, in aspirations and in actions done to his honour; while the three heroes who fetched it from the well of Bethlehem may be compared to a true and living faith, which, armed with the sword of the word, penetrates through all hindrance and opposition, doubt and delay, until it reaches the spring, when it both drinks and procures water for others. May this faith which accompanied David's thirst accompany yours also, ye pilgrims towards Bethlehem; and may your joy over the nativity of our blessed Lord gush forth and flow like the rivers of waters!
II. God had distinguished the town of Bethlehem in
various ways, and thus afforded ample food for conjecture to the deeper spirits among the Israelites. last, seven hundred years before Christ, the prophet Micah arose, and followed those obscure hints and intimations by a clear and definite prophecy which no one could mistake,-Out of Bethlehem should come forth the Governor that was to rule the people Israel. All the world now knew this, and the faithful were no longer at a loss on what point in the universe to direct their gaze, an object having been provided for the aspirations of their hearts." And thou, Bethlehem !” Thus begins this wonderful sentence. The words "And thou!" are those of the Lord, but Micah utters them; thereby expressing the emotions which are excited in his heart by the divine revelation.
They have a threefold signification. The prophet, by using them, first particularizes the city; secondly, they may be taken as an exclamation of joy and gladness; and thirdly, they express the astonishment and wonder which Micah experiences at the idea, that out of Bethlehem the Governor was to come that should rule the people Israel. It appears to him almost in. credible, that out of the insignificant village which Joshua thought unworthy of being reckoned among the cities of Judah, and which was too small to furnish even a thousand men of war to accompany a leader into the field,—that out of this shepherd's hamlet the Saviour of the world, the God-man, the King of kings should come forth. Yet, astonishing though it may appear, Micah's faith is not shaken. No! the though is pleasant to his heart, and is sweet and consoling to
him. Is it not so to you also, my brethren?" If there is one among you who takes no pleasure in contemplating the Lord of glory in his mean and lowly form, descending among us in such humility that the poorest worm or the frailest sinner was inspired with courage, and had confidence to approach Him-if there is one among you who loves not to consider Him in this point of view, then he is unfit for the kingdom of heaven. In the pilgrim's weeds which Jesus wore, ye must discern those garments that "smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia ;" in his deepest humiliation, the eye of faith must behold his brightest glory; and his garland of thorns must waft a consolation to your souls, such as could proceed from no kingly crown. If this be not so, ye are still far from his kingdom, and the rejoicing over the birth of Jesus can find no response in your hearts.
“And thou !”—What joy as well as astonishment and wonder are expressed in those little words! It is the exclamation of rapture and delight! Micah had been threatening his country and his people with terrible things when suddenly there gleamed through the darkness of the night, a star of hope pointing towards Bethlehem. What then was to happen within Bethlehem's walls? and what did the prophet experience on beholding it? The clouds of sorrow which had gathered over his soul were instantly dispelled as though by a whirlwind. Joy transported him beyond himself; and in his delight he uttered the salutation "And thou!" to the little city on the mountains. rocks could speak, and if solitudes had voices, of how