Micah 5:1-4

Sermon preached on December 14, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

When our daughter Patricia was 3 she got terribly sick one day. We took her to the hospital and they diagnosed her with a kidney infection. The thing I remember most about being at the hospital with her was when they tried to find a vein to put the IV in. The doctor couldn't get it in. He kept trying and trying and he couldn't find a vein. After he tried one of the nurses there tried and she couldn't get it in. With Patricia being so young and being dehydrated, it was an difficult job. If my memory is correct, they actually had to call a nurse who was known to be good at getting at IV's in. She finally got it in.

It was a horrible experience. I was with Patricia the whole time. She was crying and crying and urging them to stop. I knew why they had to get the IV in. In order for her to get better, she needed the IV so they could hydrate her and give her medicine through it. But she didn't understand it. She was very cranky and resistant. She wanted them to stop poking that needle in her. To her, anything was better than that. I tried to comfort her and tell her that she had to go through that in order to get better.

In our text we have something similar. There is much for us to learn here.

The first thing we should see is that

this prophecy was given to the people when they were in the midst of great trouble.

Micah prophesied during very troubling times. Judah's very existence was threatened by the great Assyrian Empire, which defeated the northern kingdom of Israel. They even came and besieged Jerusalem and for a time it seemed that Judah was going to be destroyed. Judah was weak and her enemies were powerful.

But it wasn't just a time of external trouble and danger. Internally things were not good. Corruption abounded and justice was perverted. Judgment loomed. We read about this in chapter 4:10. It says,

"Writhe in agony,
O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor,
for now you must leave the city to camp in the open field.
You will go to Babylon;"

Micah, like the prophet Jeremiah, predicted the Babylonian captivity. Jerusalem was going to be destroyed. Israel would be held captive in Babylon for 70 years. Verse 1 of chapter 5 tells of some of the hardship that would come to Judah—that Israel's ruler would be struck on the cheek with a rod. John Calvin writes,

"He means that the Jews would be subdued by their enemies, that their judges and governors would be exposed to every kind of contumely and dishonor; for to strike on the cheek is to offer the greatest indignity; as indeed it is the greatest contempt;"

When trouble and sorrow come it's very difficult. At such times we have all sorts of doubts about God, about His love for us, about the future, about the whole purpose of life. The ancient people of God felt those pains—one only has to read the Book of Habakkuk to see that.

But God's people are not to despair in difficult times. Micah, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, here in chapter 5:2f urges God's people not to lose heart. He tells them things that should cause them to have great hope even in the midst of their trouble.

In the face of great danger, in the face of upcoming suffering—God gives His people not just a promise, but the greatest promise that could be given. What the ancient people were told was absolutely remarkable. It's about the birth of Jesus. It's about the true meaning of Christmas—something that changes everything.

To help His ancient people in the midst of their difficulty,

He tells them about the birth of a ruler, who will be born in Bethlehem, this ruler's origins are from old, from ancient times. This ruler would deliver them and bring them peace.

We read,

"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.
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor
gives birth and the rest of his brothers
return to join the Israelites.
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.
And he will be their peace."

What a prophecy. There's none that is greater than this. In the midst of great trouble God tells His people to take heart—that they will be rescued, that One who was going to be born in Bethlehem will change everything. What wonderful things He tells us about the one who will be born in Bethlehem.

First, Micah tells them that

the ruler's origins are from old, from ancient times.

The ruler that Micah predicted would be born in Bethlehem would not be like the rest of us. Our lives began at conception. We didn't exist before that.

But with Jesus it was different. It tells us that Jesus' origins were, 'from old, from ancient times'. What this means is that Jesus' existed before He was born in Bethlehem. His human life began with His conception in the womb of Mary. But the wonderful truth we should understand is that Jesus is eternal. Only God is eternal so this shows us that Jesus is divine. He existed as the second person of the Trinity from eternity.

We see this in many places in Scripture. For example, in John 1:1-3, the apostle John wrote,

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made."

Jesus made everything. He is the great Creator. When Genesis 1:1 tells us that in the beginning God made the heavens and the earth, we should understand that, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, was the One that created. We see this teaching in Colossians 1:15-17 as well. It says about Jesus,

"He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together."

These verses point us to the eternity of Jesus. Jesus did not begin His life when He was born in Bethlehem. Rather He came down from heaven. Yes, it is true, His human life began in Bethlehem, but He was different than the rest of us. He came down from heaven.

For example, in John 3:13 (REB) Jesus said,

"No one has gone up into heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven."

The name, 'Son of Man' is one of the titles that Jesus applied to Himself. It is a very interesting title. John 3 shows that it's a very exalted title, the Son of Man came down from heaven. In John 6:61-63 Jesus was aware that some of his disciples were grumbling about His teaching. He said to them,

"Does this offend you?
What if you see the Son of Man
ascend to where he was before!"

Jesus used this title, 'Son of Man' it in such a way that a reference to Daniel 7:13-14 unmistakable. We read,

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me
was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days
and was led into his presence.
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power;
all peoples, nations and men
of every language worshiped him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one
that will never be destroyed."

In Daniel the title has marks of divinity. Jesus used the term that way. In Matthew 25:31 He said,

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory."

In Matthew 9:6 He said that the Son of Man had authority to forgive sins. In Matthew 13:41 He said that the Son of Man has authority over angels. In Matthew 12:8 Jesus said that the Son of Man was Lord of the Sabbath. The point is that Jesus often used this term, Son of Man, as one that showed absolute authority.

Jesus' eternity is affirmed in other passages. You'll remember that in John 8:56 Jesus said to His opponents,

"Your father Abraham rejoiced
at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."

They expressed skepticism at that and replied,

"You are not yet fifty years old,
and you have seen Abraham!"

Jesus replied with a most astonishing statement. He said,

"I tell you the truth,
before Abraham was born, I am!"

Jesus not only stated that he existed before Abraham, but He applied one of the names that expressed God's eternity to Himself. He said He was,

"I Am."

This was the name that was revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14 at the burning bush.

The fact that the Jews took up stones to stone Him shows that they understood it as a claim to deity. John Calvin writes,

"By these words He excludes Himself from the ordinary number of men and claims for Himself a heavenly and divine power…"

Leon Morris writes,

"A mode of being which has a definite beginning is contrasted with one which is eternal."

Leon Morris tells us that it's significant that Jesus said, "I am' and not 'I was'.

"It is eternity of being and not simply being which has lasted through several centuries that the expression indicates."

The thrust of all this is that Jesus was not merely human, but that He is divine. He was truly human. But what is emphasized in our text is that He is God. Jesus is truly God.

But someone may object and ask about the word, 'origins'?

It says that His 'origins' are from old, from ancient times. Doesn't that imply that He had an origin, a beginning?

If you look into the Hebrew word that Micah used, one of the things that we see about it is that in the Old Testament it is sometimes used of God. For example, in Hosea 6:3 it's used to describe the 'appearance' of the Lord. we read,

"Let us strive to know the LORD.
appearance is as sure as the dawn.
He will come to us like the rain,
like the spring showers that water the land."

So we are not to interpret the word, 'origin' as it's translated in the New International Version to imply that Jesus had a beginning. The Hebrew word could also be translated, 'coming forth' or 'appearance'. If you look at the KJV, it translates it, (see also ASV, NASB, which are similar)

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little
among the thousands of Judah,
yet out of thee shall he come forth
unto me that is to be ruler in Israel;
whose goings forth have been
from of old, from everlasting."

So the Hebrew word does not imply that Jesus had a beginning at some point in the past. Rather it emphasizes His eternity.

The point of all this is the One who was going to save Israel was the eternal God Himself. He was going to come to earth and save them. He was going to come from Bethlehem. The incarnation itself is hinted at here.

Secondly, in this regard, the Israelites should have had great hope because these things that were going to come to pass were

according to God's long established plan.

This ruler's goings have been from of old, from everlasting. He is the Lord of time. God's people were in trouble. But that didn't take God by surprise. He had already been at work for centuries, bringing His purposes to pass. John Calvin tells us that Micah,

"intimates here that it would not be a sudden thing, that a prince should arise to govern the people; for it had been already long ago determined by God."

Christians, God has a plan and that plan is thoroughly wise. That plan was established before the foundation of the world. He will bring His purposes of salvation to pass. We see that in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joseph. (and so many others.) They faced great hardship and disappointment. At times their paths were dark. At times it seemed that God's promises could not possibly be fulfilled. But God's ways prevailed. He saved His people. His ruler emerged from Bethlehem. He wrought victory for God's people.

Christians, take comfort from this. Things may look dark. Sometimes earthly circumstances make it look like God does not care for us. But nothing could be further from the truth. Romans 8:28 says,

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good
of those who love him,
who have been called
according to his purpose."

The second great truth that we are told about the ruler who would come from Bethlehem is that

He will shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord and in the majesty of His name.

We read,

"Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor
gives birth and the rest of his brothers
return to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name
of the LORD his God."

Micah is telling the ancient people of God what Jesus told them in John 10. In John 10 Jesus told the people that He was the 'Good Shepherd'. He told them that He would protect them in the strength of the Lord. He said, (John 10:27-30)

"My sheep hear My voice,
I know them, and they follow Me.
I give them eternal life,
and they will never perish—ever!
No one will snatch them out of My hand.
My Father, who has given them to Me,
is greater than all.
No one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
The Father and I are one."

Christians, what a Savior you have in Jesus! How wonderful He is! He loves you and is absolutely committed to you. John Calvin writes,

"As to the word 'feed', it no doubt expresses what Christ is to his people, to the flock committed to him and to his care. Christ then rules not in his Church as a dreaded tyrant, who distresses his subjects with fear; but he is a Shepherd who gently deals with his flock."

Calvin says on the phrase, the majesty of the name of the Lord His God,

"as much power as there is in God, so much protection will there be in Christ, whenever it will be necessary to defend and protect the Church against her enemies. Let us hence learn that no less safety is to be expected from Christ, than there is of power in God. Now, since the power of God, as we confess, is immeasurable, and since his omnipotence far surpasses and swallows up all our conceptions, let us hence learn to extend both high and low all our hopes. — Why so? Because we have a King sufficiently powerful, who has undertaken to defend us, and to whose protection the Father has committed us. Since then we have been delivered up to Christ's care and defense, there is no cause why we should doubt respecting our safety."

The third thing we see about the ruler who will be born in Bethlehem is that

He will establish peace for His people.

In verse 4 we read,

"And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach
to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace."

There is going to be a new heavens and a new earth wherein will dwell righteousness. There you will be safe. There you will dwell in perfect joy and happiness. He will be your peace. There will be no more suffering, no more misery, no more death, for the old order of things will have passed away. You will live with Jesus and be perfectly happy. He will be your peace.

Lastly, if there are any here who are not Christians, what does this passage say to you?

It tells you that you need Jesus.

We are all sinners. Yes, it's true that some are better than others. But that doesn't matter. The wages of sin is death. The ancient people of Israel were up against dreadful enemies that they could not overcome. It was because of their sin. They needed to be saved. They needed the King who would be born in Bethlehem. You need Him too. Without Him you'll be lost. Go to Him and ask Him to save you.