Summary: Jesus was born in the right place at the right time so that you can respond right now.
Born in Bethlehem
Rev. Brian Bill
December 12-13, 2015
Isn’t it great singing Christmas music? I know most of the words to many carols but struggle to get them to sound right when they come out of my mouth. Many kids, on the other hand, don’t know all the words but they don’t hesitate to sing them with gusto.
Here is how some of our carols come out of kids:
• Deck the halls with Buddy Holly
• We three kings of porridge and tar
• He’s making a list, chicken and rice
• Olive, the other reindeer
• Oh, what fun it is to ride with one horse, soap and hay
• Sleep in heavenly peas
• You’ll go down in Listerine
• And my favorite, Chipmunks roasting in a forest fire!
Some of you are laughing, but now it’s your turn. Let’s see how well you do on this Christmas Carol Quiz.
• Give Attention to the Melodious Celestial Beings – “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”
• Embellish the Entryways – “Deck the Halls”
• Nocturnal Noiselessness – “Silent Night”
• Jubilation to the Entire Terrestrial Orb – “Joy to the World”
• Alas, Diminutive Settlement in Israel – “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem”
This weekend we’re focusing on that little town of Bethlehem. Last week we went all the way back to Genesis 3:15 to show that Jesus is the seed of Eve who was bruised on the heel by the serpent. Even though Jesus was battered by the onslaughts of Satan, He destroyed death and the devil on the Cross so that you and I can be delivered from our sins.
The prophet Micah recorded an astonishing predictive prophecy 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Turn in your Bibles to the book that bears his name. You’ll find it near the end of the Old Testament. It’s located between Jonah and Nahum. Or find the book of Matthew and go left 7 books. If none of that helps, do what I did and look in the Table of Contents! It’s found on page 989 in the pew Bible.
Micah’s name means, “Who is like Yahweh?” Judah and Israel had risen to heights of material affluence but had fallen to the depths of moral decadence. Well-trained terrorists were threatening to take them down. Sounds very similar to America today, doesn’t it? Someone has said, “The religion of China is Confucian. The religion of America is Confusion.”
Micah warned the people about the evil influence of pagan religions and he spoke against social injustices. All of his sermons were given in the context of the impending threat from the nation of Assyria, who would eventually destroy Israel in 721 B.C. Micah wanted the people to know that their sins would cause the nation to implode inwardly and be attacked outwardly.
Let’s work our way through the opening verses of Micah 5. Things are starting to fall apart in Israel, the northern kingdom. Take a look at verse 1: “Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.”
The context of this prophecy takes place shortly after the mighty Assyrian army scattered the 10 northern tribes into exile. The message also applies to the southern kingdom, which was destroyed by the Babylonians 135 years later. In both situations, the kings were humiliated when they were hit in the face. In Isaiah 10:5, the Assyrian army is referred to as a rod. When a king is struck on the “cheek with a rod,” it represents the worst insult possible.
They are told to “muster your troops,” which is a summons to get ready to defend themselves because the ‘mother of all battles’ is about to begin. Jerusalem is referred to as the “daughter of troops.” Like today, Jerusalem has often known conflict and war.
They were able to push the Assyrians away from Jerusalem but after Assyria imploded Babylon came on the scene and destroyed Jerusalem ending the reign of the last recorded king from David’s line. Persia eventually usurped Babylon as the world power. The Greeks then conquered the Persians, who were later destroyed by the Romans, who were in power when Christ was born. With things looking extremely bleak, the promise remained of a coming shepherd king who was to be born in Bethlehem.
Micah ministered during the reigns of four kings in Israel and three kings in Judah. One of those kings was Hezekiah. Interestingly, he was in the news last week when a clay imprint, dating from the 8th Century B.C. was discovered bearing these words: “Belonging to Hezekiah (son of) Ahaz King of Judah.” I love watching the archaeological world go crazy when another biblical fact is confirmed. One secular publication ran this headline, “Archaeologist Says the Bible’s King Hezekiah is Real.” Duh. We shouldn’t be surprised, right? With apologies to Star War fans, Christianity is rooted in real history, not in some mythical far-away galaxy.