Summary: Micah prophesied during the reigns of four kings. He probably wondered whether any administration would last. It was to this humble prophet that God sent a prophecy of the birthplace of a Ruler whose kingdom would never fade away.
This morning, we’re going to examine a passage from the book of Micah that relates to the Christmas season; and I’ve entitled our message, “A Ruler Called Peace.” “Micah [prophesied] during the reigns of four kings in Israel and three kings in Judah. He probably wondered, as he watched the parade of monarchs pass by during his lifetime, whether any administration would last. It was to this humble prophet that God sent a prophecy of the birthplace of a Ruler whose kingdom would never [fade away].”(1)
Now, since we’re going to be viewing a prophecy, I want us to consider some things first. When God is up to something He will speak through His prophets, in order to let His people in on it. In Amos 3:7, we read, “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Now, keep in mind that a lot of times prophecy can be a hard pill to swallow, because the Lord will often rebuke, correct, and even pronounce judgment through the words of a prophet.
However, another aspect of prophecy is encouragement. 2 Chronicles 15:8 says, “When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage,” and in 2 Chronicles 18:12, we read, “The words of the prophets with one accord encourage the king.” So, God will use prophecy to encourage His people; and let me tell you, prophecy is especially encouraging when it speaks of future blessing. But something even more encouraging is the fulfillment of prophecy, as the confirmation will increase our faith; and as we view a prophecy of the Messiah this morning, in Micah chapter 5, we will be both encouraged and strengthened in our faith.
A Ruler Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-5a)
2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. 3 Therefore He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel. 4 And He shall 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 abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 and this One shall be peace.
In verse 2 of this prophecy, we find some interesting phraseology. First of all, we read about “Bethlehem Ephrathah.” So, why was this particular designation used for the birthplace of the coming Ruler? The city was identified in this manner to distinguish it from another Bethlehem, which was in the tribe of Zebulun, as seen in Joshua 19:15.(2) “Bethlehem” means “house of bread,” and “Ephrathah” means “fruitfulness.” The slopes surrounding it were filled with abundance, such as figs, almonds, grapes and even olives. It was a fitting place for the birth of the One who will be called the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35)!(3)
Next, we see the phrase “thousands of Judah.” So, what does this mean? Well, “the tribes were divided into small portions called thousands,” similar to what is seen today in the country of England, where “certain divisions of counties are called hundreds.”(4) “Each tribe was divided into its thousands, but those places that were too small to get a thousand people together were put into other tribes. Bethlehem was so lowly that it was not even counted among the possessions of Judah.”(5)
“Bethlehem had always been a small, out-of-the-way place. It was not the magnificent city of commerce, politics and religion that Jerusalem was. When thinking of a place for the Savior to be born, Bethlehem was one of the last places anyone would think of – anyone except God. As so often happens, good things come in small packages,” right? Think about it. If you get a Christmas gift in a tiny box, there might be some expensive jewelry in it! Well, “Bethlehem was one of those small packages. But [let me remind you that] some good and significant things had already happened at Bethlehem!”(6)
For example, “Rachel gave birth to Benjamin in Bethlehem (Genesis 35:18). Before she died, she called the name of her infant son ‘Benoni,’ which means ‘the son of sorrow.’ But his father, Jacob, called him ‘Benjamin,’ which means ‘the son of the right hand.’ Jesus Christ was seen as the man of ‘sorrows’ (Isaiah 53:3) and the Son of the [heavenly] Father’s right hand (Acts 5:31).”(7) “Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, was buried [near] Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19). The [account] of Ruth, the Moabite woman, had a happy ending at Bethlehem. There, she won the heart of a man named Boaz as she gleaned in his fields. She also became one of Jesus’ ancestors there at Bethlehem, [and let’s not forget that] King David was born [near] Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:1, 17:12).(8)