“Such a little town”
Date: December 11, 2011
Scripture: Micah 5:1-5
from the series Christmas B.C.
It is quite common, particularly in the United States, to be driving along on a major highway and see a giant billboard that reads, 'Jesus Is The Answer'.
And we know Jesus is the answer….what is the question?
'Do I matter to God?'. 'Does God care?'.
Scientists tell us that our sun is one of 500 billion stars in the Milky Way,
• medium-sized galaxy among 200 billion others
• All swarming with stars.
Can one person, on a speck of a planet, in a speck of a solar system, in a medium-sized galaxy, make a difference to the Creator of that Universe?
Does God really care about me?
The celebration we call Christmas answers this question for us.
• God cares for us so much that He sent His Son to save us from our sins
• From the penalty our sins deserved.
• Jesus is indeed the answer.
as a preacher I really believe/all my heart/when I stand up to preach I am not just doing/order to say something, but rather because I have something to say.
Not something I have concocted in my own mind,
But I really feel every time I preach God has laid on my heart for His people to hear.
Maybe not always what people want to hear,
But what people need to hear.
Hopefully the reason you feel you need a preacher at a church is so that you can be challenged to be more like Christ.
It is to be corrected/convictions we face on a daily basis.
one of gratitude that we have been taught something
Or corrected in an area, which may make a difference in our lives or in our eternity.
What makes something so deep a conviction within you that you are serious about change or response?
What does it take for you to feel conviction over something?
How many times do you have to feel conviction over something before a change develops?
The people of Isaiah’s time responded quite differently to the confrontation of their sin.
Rather than responding with repentance they responded by going all out in their sin.
So, where does this CONVICTION come from?
Why do we have this instinctive awareness or feeling that this kind of thing is wrong?
Where do we get our opinion that this is unjust? Not right?
o According to Isaiah 51:7, we know what is wrong/right because God has written His law on our hearts.
In other words, spotting injustice is part of the programming that our holy and JUST God has given us.
o "A sense of justice comes with the kit of being human."
And if you doubt this,
I challenge you/pick/copy/newspaper, whether it leans to the right or to the left.
o Take ten minutes and note how many articles
o That relate to humanity's longing and aching/peace/ justice.
o I promise you will have no trouble finding dozens/examples.
This is why stories are written about murder/child abuse, bank robberies/drug busts, epidemics and wars.
This is why things like this are considered NEWS
We all instinctively know their presence is a bad thing.
We think, "This is wrong. Someone should do something!"
So we put these stories in newspapers and on TV.
This is why for this next year every presidential candidate will promise to deal with these kind of things in their own way,
o because no matter what party they are affiliated with,
o they know we ALL cry out that someone has to do something
o something has to be done,
o Something to deal with all the injustice in the world.
Well that inner voice that tells us when things aren't right
SAME VOICE we read about in the pages of the Bible
Coming from God through the lips of His PROPHETS...
PROPHETS who spoke out over/over again about the actions and attitudes they saw as just plain wrong.
This is why the EMOTION that most often characterizes the Prophets of Scripture is not joy or serenity, but rather ANGER.
Don’t the prophets of the Bible tend to strike you as being kind of CRANKY?
Here's a few examples to show you what I mean.
The prophet Amos said, "Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who oppress the poor and crush the needy!" (Amos 4:1)
Isaiah says, "Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to Me; I cannot STAND your evil assemblies!" (Isaiah 1:13)
Micah says, "Should you not know justice, you who hate good and love evil, who tear the skin from My people and the flesh from their bones, who eat My people's flesh, strip off their skin, break their bones in pieces, chop them up like meat for the pan?" (Micah 3:1-3)
Doesn't that sound a little CRANKY to you?
Seriously, do you FEEL the anger in those words?
"The Prophet’s were men with intense desire.
God has thrust a burden upon his soul, and he is bowed and stunned at man's fierce greed.
Prophecy is the voice God has lent to their silent agony.
God is raging in the prophet's words."
Well, God's prophets didn't just angrily preach about all the injustice of the world.
• They didn't just echo this inner conviction that we all have when things are out of whack in this fallen planet of ours.
No, God ALSO used these men to give us HOPE.
Over the centuries He used His prophets to tell humanity that a Deliverer would come,
• a "wrong-righter", a "Justice-Bringer"
• who would one day be born;
• and if you've been with us for the past few weeks,
Then you know that during this Advent season we've been studying some of these prophecies about the Deliverer,
o The Messiah/born that first Christmas night
o These prophecies given hundreds/thousands/years before Jesus came into the world.
This morning we come to a "Christmas B.C. text" delivered by the prophet Micah seven centuries before Jesus' birth.
o It's recorded in Micah 5:1-5.
o We don't read from this book/Bible that often, so you might have trouble finding it.
Follow along now as I read this portion of Micah's prophecy.
Read Micah 5:1-5
• according/prophet Jeremiah, Micah lived/mid-sized town called Moresheth
• located about 25 miles south of Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 26:18)
In our text Micah warned/Hebrew people of his day that, because of their sin, the Promised Land would be invaded.
Pagan armies would besiege cities, including Jerusalem.
Kings would be humiliated.
And yes, this is the same dark and gloomy period of history that I told you about last Sunday.
So, Micah wasn't alone in speaking for God during this dark time.
Isaiah, who we looked at last week, was his contemporary, as were Hosea and Amos.
By the way, Hebrew word/prophet literally means "to see."
That name and title seems fit doesn’t it?
These guys SAW things that people tend to become blind to.
The truth is, there is so MUCH injustice in the world that,
If we're not careful, after a while we get used to it.
So, God gave us prophets to prod us to wake up
And to keep listening to our programming.
Even today, thousands of years after they preached
God has preserved their messages in His Written Word
This is to remind us to open our eyes and ears...
And then we don't get so used to injustice and become callous and indifferent.
Micah 6:8 is a perfect example of this kind of God-given REMINDER where it says, "God has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
In other words, Micah reaches across the centuries and says to you and me,
"You guys have no excuse--don't plead ignorance
Because God HAS shown you what is good and what He requires.
He put it in His book
He wired it into your programming so you know better!"
And we DO all know better, so we need to guard against turning a blind eye to injustice.
Nothing awakens this part of our programming
nothing makes us notice injustice
Like those times when we think WE are treated unfairly.
When that happens we want something done!
We want justice!
We want to get even!
Dave Hagler, a former referee and umpire shares the following in a story he wrote for The L. A. Times:
"I was driving a little too fast in the snow in Boulder, Colorado, and a policeman pulled me over and gave me a speeding ticket. I tried to talk him out of it, telling him how worried I was about insurance, what a good driver I was, and so on; but he just callously told me that, if I didn't like it, I could go to court. The first game of the next baseball season I was umpiring behind home plate and the first batter up was the same policeman. I recognized him. He recognized me and he sheepishly asked, 'How did the thing with the ticket go?' I just looked at him and said, 'Swing at everything.'"
Like Hagler, when we feel we have been dealt with unjustly
o We get ANGRY
o We expect something to be done to make things right again.
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, urges God's people not to lose heart.
He tells them to have great hope even in the midst of their trouble.
o In the face of great danger,
o in the face of upcoming suffering
o God gives His people not just a promise
o But the greatest promise that could be given.
o What the ancient people were told was absolutely remarkable.
o It's about the birth of Jesus.
o It's about the true meaning of Christmas—something that changes everything.
Well, the things Micah saw in his day not only ANGERED him, but also connected him once again with all the ancient promises of a Redeemer, a Justice-Bringer.
o In the midst of his anger over all the BAD he saw
o God whispered into Micah's ear and said,
"Remember, Micah, Someone is coming Who will make things right.
The Messiah is coming, Micah, and He will bring My peace to this fallen, fearful world."
Micah responded to God's whispers in chapter 4 verse 3.
He said the coming Redeemer would be Someone Who would,
"...judge between many peoples and settle disputes for strong nations far and wide."
Micah said a day would dawn when, under this Person's leadership, the nations would
"...beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."
Back to this morning's Christmas B. C. text in chapter 5: what can we learn about the promised Messiah from this part of Micah's prophecy?
I want to point out two things.
(1) Micah tells us Jesus would be born in an unexpected PLACE.
In verse 2 Micah spelled out exactly WHERE Jesus would be born,
o an unexpected place called Bethlehem Ephrathah,
o I say EXACTLY because "Ephrathah" distinguished this particular Bethlehem from other villages with the same name.
So the people who heard this or read it over the centuries knew exactly WHERE the Messiah was to be born but I imagine they thought, "Bethlehem Ephrathah?
Why Bethlehem Ephrathah?
They don't even have a decent hospital.
It's nothing but a village where shepherds live, lowest/ low!
Why not a big city like Jerusalem; it's only five miles away.
Or, why not a beautiful town like Capernaum located right on the Sea of Galilee?
Any place but Bethlehem!"
I'm sure they would have thought this because Bethlehem was so small it hardly showed up on the map.
It would be like telling people in America that the Messiah was to be born in the town of Yemassee.
When I say “TOWN” I’m exaggerating greatly as you know, a town you can throw a stone over.
Nothing there but the old train depot that brought in the recruits to PI.
Nobody would know it was or is there.
Well, Bethlehem was like that--SMALL--and by the way, the words "small" or "too little" in verse 2 literally mean, "lowly, least, weak, or despised."
o Bethlehem was so lowly that it was not even counted among the possessions of Judah.
o In fact, in the division under Joshua, it was omitted altogether. (Joshua 15:1-62)
o But in spite of its size--a great deal of important Jewish history happened there.
■Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel, died in Bethlehem giving birth to her second son, Benjamin.
■Boaz redeemed Ruth from her poverty in Bethlehem.
■Perhaps most memorable, King David was born there...and now the Messiah would be born there as well.
Well, through Micah, God said this would be the place.
• God circled the exact spot on the map.
• The Deliverer, the Justice-Bringer
• The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
Think of it this way, Micah prophesied DEFEAT would come to MIGHTY Jerusalem, but VICTORY would come through TINY Bethlehem.
God often works this way, doesn't He?!
God uses the weak...the insignificant...the unlikely.
In 1st Corinthians 1:26-27 Paul reminds us of this principle when he writes, "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.
¬¬¬Can you think of some other Biblical examples of this principle?
■God chose two weak and aged childless senior adults, named Abraham and Sarah to be the source from whom an entire nation would spring.
■He used a boy named Joseph sold into slavery by his jealous brothers to rule the nation of Egypt and eventually provide a food source for His people.
■God used the tiny tear of a baby named Moses to move the heart of Pharaoh's daughter so that Israel could have a great leader to deliver them from bondage.
■God made a shepherd boy, named David, into Israel's greatest King.
■He used twelve uneducated men to turn the world upside down.
So you see, God delights in using the "Bethlehems" of life.
• He uses LITTLE things in a BIG way.
• As Paul reminds us, His is a power that is perfectly displayed in weakness or insignificance.
Well, can you see how this principle applies to you and me?
That means that there is no one too small,
no one too untalented,
For God to use to accomplish GREAT tasks in His kingdom.
"If you feel weak, limited, or ordinary, then you are the best material through which God can work."
I hope whenever you sing, "O LITTLE Town of Bethlehem," you'll remember that!
o So, the Messiah would be born in a place where people would never think to look.
o The hinge of history was to be on the door of Bethlehem
God used Micah to tell the world the unexpected location of the Messiahs' birth 700 years prior
o then God moves things around so that it happened that way
o This tells me that my God is in control!
He is SOVEREIGN! Think of it.
God moved the heart of a pagan Roman emperor, who lived 1500 miles from Israel, to declare that a census had to be taken of the entire world.
And not just any census;
People had to travel to their family's hometown/order to be counted.
But that's not all.
Mary was close to her delivery date;
So Joseph decided to bring her along on the 80-mile journey when technically he could have gone by himself.
When they finally arrived, Mary is ready to give birth so Jesus is born in that unlikely place that Micah had foretold.
God orchestrated this perfectly.
He made sure they were in the right place at the right time.
This tells us that NOTHING can thwart God's purposes.
Even when the world seems to go wild, GOD is still in total control.
Look at history and you will see that nothing has been able to stop His message of love for His creation from getting out
• His truth from marching on.
• Nothing stops God's purposes from coming to fruition.
• Nothing can stop God's sovereign plans for YOUR life--MY life.
In the midst of perplexing times--difficult times--times when WE face injustice and hardship—
o We need to remember that God is in control
o He won't allow anything into our lives that doesn't make us better Christians
o or that He can't use to further His kingdom.
"Because you and I are IN Christ Jesus, HIS glory and OUR good are linked together.
Because we are united with Christ, whatever is for His glory is also for our good
And whatever is for our good is for His glory.
"The "train" of your life may seem out of control
you may have sighted Dead Man's Curve right ahead
But the Engineer has not abandoned the train of your life.
¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬In the discouragement and the despair of your life
o There may be times you cannot see your heavenly Father; but He sees you.
o You can trust Him! He is Sovereign!
o God is moving you toward a greater goal that He has planned for you,
o If you are a child of God, never live in pessimism and despair. Never.
o God knows where He is taking your life.
o God knows where He is taking your children's lives.
o God has a design.
o You may not SEE Him, but He never takes His eyes off you.
So, God's Son was born in an unlikely PLACE, and that shows us He can use unlikely PEOPLE;
and the fact that He set all this up shows us He is in absolute control.
We can learn these two vital principles thanks to Micah's prophecy.
But with this Christmas B.C. text, Micah tells us something else.
(2) It tells us the Messiah would bring Justice and Peace in an unexpected WAY.
• Jesus would come
• not to sit on earthly thrones and police the world
• righting wrong with a sword;
• But as Micah said, instead He would "Shepherd His flock...HE would be their peace."
As we have learned over the past couple of weeks, our problems,
• Both as individuals and society stem from the fact that we are fallen beings living in opposition to our Creator.
With that in mind, we need to realize that the Being Who has experienced the MOST injustice is our Holy God, our Creator.
Our sins are an affront to Him
So for TRUE justice to be done, someone has to pay.
And that's why Jesus came.
The Messiah, The Good Shepherd, came to lay down His life for His sheep.
This King wore an unexpected different kind of crown.
In a very real sense, the first Christmas "tree" was the one Jesus hung on—
The Christ of Christmas was born to pay for our sin so that we could get back what Adam and Eve lost—
a personal relationship with God,
A relationship through which He would be our peace as He forgives and begins to change us from within.
You see, the Messiah came to change the world from the inside out instead of the outside in.
One of the more popular laws of physics goes like this,
"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
This law of physics applies not just too physical objects
But also applies to the problems we find in our unjust, peace-less world.
Here's how it works.
o One person, changed by a relationship with Jesus Christ,
o who acknowledges the Messiah as his/her Shepherd,
o Can change his/her world that they live in.
And when that happens, dominoes beginning to fall, the world gets better for other people.
Do you see the dominoes falling, the ripple effect that you have made in life?
When we allow God's love to change us within
then He loves others through us
And changes the world one heart at a time.
Well, Jesus frequently referred to this kind of impact that a Christian can have on the world.
o Sermon on the Mount/taught/Christians can be as influential as salt on a flavorless meal or light in a dark room.
Then a few chapters later, in Matthew 13, He alluded to this again when He said, "The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."
And just as Jesus says here
People who acknowledge Him as Lord can have an incredibly POSITIVE impact on our society.
As Paul puts it in his letter to the Philippians, "...we can shine like stars in the universe..."
o What is truly amazing is that this influence can begin with just one person!
o Just one you!
When even ONE individual is changed by the power of God, then the world can change.
It may seem odd
it may seem like an unlikely "Bethlehem" kind of way to change our world
but that's the way it works!
You see, nations as a whole do not follow Jesus, but nations are made up of individuals;
and individuals can follow Him and, when they do, nations change!
The prophet Jeremiah talked about this.
Jeremiah 8:5 refers to the nation of Israel and asks, "Why then has this nation turned away?
Why does Jerusalem always turn away?"
Then in verse 6 he answers his own question.
He says, "Here's why. It's because no ONE repents of his wickedness, saying, 'What have I done?'
Each pursues his OWN course, like a horse charging into battle."
Proverbs 21:31 “the horse is prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.’
So you see, nations turn from injustice when individuals changed by the grace of God do.
"If you want a better world composed of better nations, inhabited by better states,
filled with better counties, made up of better cities,
comprised of better neighborhoods,
Illuminated by better churches,
populated with better families,
then you have to start by becoming a better person."
Father God, Thank You for Jesus; Thank You for sending the Deliverer, the Redeemer. I humbly ask that right now--as we think of all we have learned--You would speak to each of us. Speak to those of us who have become blind and callous to the injustice that is all around us. Open our eyes such that our hearts break for the hurting co-workers, lonely neighbors.
Empower us to be Your agents of peace. Equip us from within to be Your hands and feet. Give us opportunities to share the Gospel; use us as world-changers. If there are people present who don't know You, I ask that You would knock on their hearts door. If there are Christians present Whom You want to serve in this church, tap them on the shoulder. Lead us to respond as we sing in accordance with Your will. I ask this in Jesus' name. AMEN
Won't you come now as God leads? Ralph and I will be waiting here at the front to receive you.