Summary: Bethlehem, after all, is no mean city...
In Micah 3 a threat was made against the judges and rulers of Israel. In Micah 5:1 we are reminded that the judge, or leader, would be smitten upon the cheek. This also has Messianic overtones, of Jesus the ultimate judge, prince and ruler being smitten on our behalf.
That thought is carried forward in the following verse:
‘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’
Bethlehem was a small City in Judah.
Here Rachel, who had once said to her doting husband Jacob, "Give me a son, or I die!" was buried after her death giving birth to her second son and his twelfth, Benjamin. It was here that Rachel was metaphorically heard weeping for her children when they were carried into exile, and for the massacred innocents under King Herod.
Amongst those buried in Bethlehem, was the Judge (literally Saviour) Ibzan.
To here the widow Naomi returned from Moab with her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth, and here Ruth found her kinsman-redeemer in the person of Boaz.
In Bethlehem the young David was anointed King. Bethlehem was where David had fed his father's sheep.
This City was once a stronghold of the Philistines, from whence David's mighty men drew water which he poured out as a drink-offering to the LORD.
The City was fortified by Rehoboam for the defence of Judah.
To Bethlehem some of the people fled at the time of the upheavals of the exile: Bethlehemites were also amongst those numbered as returning from exile.
To Bethlehem went a young couple during the census in the days of Caesar Augustus. There was born, "a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord." Laid in a manger, he would have known the company of creatures of His creation.
Angels acknowledged Him, and shepherds worshipped Him. The wicked sought to destroy Him, for our kinsman-redeemer drew near. The very heavens which He had created led wise men to Him.
And the wise still seek Him in a day when He may be found. Not a child in a manger, but the very birth of God within our hearts.
Bethlehem is, after all, no mean City.
In Micah 4:9 the people of God had been encouraged to think of their troubles like a woman’s labour. It is painful at the time, but the end result is cause for rejoicing.
The image is taken up again in Micah 5:3: they will be given up until she that travaileth brings forth. There is more than a veiled reference to the birth of Jesus here. Then, says the writer, “the remnant of His brethren shall return.”
The imagery of Bethlehem, of David, of leadership all finds its ultimate expression in the person of Jesus. It is He who shall stand and feed His people “in the strength of the LORD” (Micah 5:4). He is the great shepherd of His sheep.
‘Peace’ had been glib upon the lips of the false prophets. However, the only assurance of peace against the Assyrians in Micah’s near future resided in the One who was to come (Micah 5:5).
So it is for us. He is our peace, and He gives us the peace which the world cannot give. Through His under-shepherds and principal men the kingdom of the gospel ultimately prevails over the Empire-building of men, from Nimrod who built the first city (Micah 5:6), through the Assyrians and Babylonians, to our own day.