Tuesday, December 25, 2012

CHRISTMAS 2012 - Micah 5:1-6 : God brings Ultimate Significance out of Insignificance and Weakness!



Text :  Micah 5:1-6 ; Matthew  2:1-6
Title : God brings  Ultimate Significance  out of  Insignificance and Weakness!

Merry Christmas everyone! We, of all people  have  a strong reason  to say this, for with  Christ’s birth  everything has changed  for us. The  true Light  has come into the world , and as Isaiah says : “ The people  who walked in darkness have seen a great light ; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined” (9:2). Like the Shepherds  we have seen Christ by faith. We have believed   that He is  God’s Messiah who  deals  effectively with  the sin of the world  (and my sin) , now and in the days to come.  He  was born to deal with  the oppression  that the fall  has brought about . He was born to deal with our great adversary , Satan . He was born to set us free ; He was born to  make us holy ; He was born to take us to heaven.    
On this Christmas morning I have chosen for us  Micah 5:1-6 ,  a  well- known text from the OT. It is a well known, but also a very obscure   text, which if you would read without understanding the immediate context (the days that Micah prophesied) , or within  the greater context ( the Bible)  , it  would leave you confused. 
So what I want to do is to  help us to understand  the historical context. From there   I want you to see  that God  delights  to glorify Himself  through what  appears to be  weak and foolish,  and then by way of application  send you away with  a  strengthened  confidence  that   you may  indeed  continue to  have strong confidence and trust  in Christ’s  person and work  for you and for the world !

THE CONTEXT :

v.1.  Micah prophesies  in the same days as Isaiah (1:1). He observes the  present distress of Israel -in this case the Assyrian invasion of 701 B.C.  "With a rod  they strike  the judge  (ruler/ king) of Israel on the cheek" , is an image of Hezekiah's total humiliation before the Assyrians  (see 2 Kings 18 ; Isaiah 36). At this time  even mighty  Babylon (see reference to  the land of  Nimrod  in v.6)  was in subjection to Assyria.
"Muster  your troops", is a summons not to lose hope, but to exercise faith against all hope, for  Micah says  that  God will  intervene in due time.

v.2  It is  therefore in the  context of Israel's humiliation and the demonstration of her powerlessness against  Assyria  that this  great messianic prophecy is given. God will send a  ruler, a king “ whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” He will come from the house of David, which presently in  701 BC   is   a former shadow of itself.  In her own strength  she cannot stand before her  enemy.  

v.3 & 4 :  This time of weakness will last  until the Messiah comes. What may surprise you  is that  we are talking here  about a period of 700 years  from this prophecy to the birth of  Jesus  the Messiah.  That may sound like eternity. Remember however    that God's  timing  is very different  to  ours.  The apostle Peter reminds us  in this regard   that we should not overlook this one fact … “that with the Lord  one day  is as a thousand  years  and  a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient to you…”  (2  Peter 3:9,10) . Don’t be tempted to think  of everything in terms of the scope of our own lives.  God sees history on a much grander scale!   You and I are  reminded that we are not infinite. Our lives  in the grander scheme of things are  of minute proportion.  
So , Micah says  that when  the Messiah comes, the effects  shall be  apparent: He will shepherd His flock ; they shall be secure … He will be their peace !  The  "rest of his  brothers" most likely refers   to the  ingathering of the Gentiles -  a process already underway, but yet to be  consummated in history.

v.5 &6  "The Assyrian" represents the enemies of the kingdom of God. Understand  that the  future is presented here  in the terms of the prophets' own world and  experience.  But  what is clear  from Micah’s prophecy and  from the message of the entire Bible  is that  the victory and the  rule and the kingdom will be Christ's !  Naturally   He will accomplish this  through  the involvement and participation of His people and  His  leaders.  He uses  Abraham, and Moses   and the Judges of Israel .  He even uses pagan kings  ( e.g. Cyrus  in Isaiah 45) to accomplish His purposes. God will raise up  people  to do whatever He desires . “ Seven”  (v.5)  is the number of perfection and “eight is one more than that! The Messiah's kingdom will have all the leaders we need and the very best of them; the enemy will be no match for them.  Jesus will reign!  All this  actually  needs to be read in wider context e.g.  Micah 4  where  we read of the golden age  ushered in by the Messiah. The golden age is the  messianic age, the consummation of the kingdom of God in the world will be brought to pass by the rule of this coming King.

I trust  that you are beginning  to see something that you haven’t perhaps consciously seen before . This is all happening now! The  Messiah has come. His kingdom is forcefully  advancing in this  world amidst many enemies.  Don’t  get lost in the details . Don’t let wars in Syria  and Mali detract  you. Don’t let the corruption of governments  and of people  steal your joy. You need to hear and see   the Bible's great vision  concerning the  reign of  Christ in this  world  and through His  church.  Wherever  He comes into the life of people  and communities  He brings peace. Swords are beaten to plowshares and spears  into pruning hooks  (Micah 4:3) . The body of Christ is  the army of God that pulls down the stronghold of  the enemy who is symbolically here the Assyrian.

That is what we see here before us  in the prophecy of Micah . And what I want you to see now is that  God brings life out of insignificance and obscurity. You can only see this  by faith through the careful  meditation  upon the Word of God , and with the help of the Holy Spirit,   who opens our spiritual eyes to these things. If you do not see this by faith , you  will miss it. Unfortunately we fallen human beings  are always looking for the “WOW” factor .  That is what the Pharisees and scribes and people of Israel  were looking for – a Jewish  ruler  who would conquer  the nations for  the glory of Israel . That was not God’s plan at all !

A surprising Observation : The Messiah will  conquer  through   Insignificance !
The chief priests and the scribes  in  Matthew 2  knew that Micah 5 was a clear reference to the Messiah. So  when Herod the king wanted to know  where this  messianic King was to be born (after the visit of the three wise men from the east) , King Herod was plainly told : He will be born in Bethlehem!  So it was written by the  prophet.     So it was determined in the holy Scriptures  by the  God  who  holds the future of the world and all its peoples in His hand.  And in this regard He  had predestined that His eternal Son would  be miraculously  was born  in Bethlehem.  His  mother  would be an  insignificant peasant woman   from Nazareth.  She  became  pregnant by divine design.
The human  reason why Jesus was born in Bethlehem  (and not in  Nazareth in Galilee)  was  because of  a decree  that went out from the Roman  Caesar Augustus,   that all the world should be registered. This required each head of the household to return to his place of birth.  Joseph  the husband of Mary needed to return  to Bethlehem  with his young family, and  with a highly pregnant Mary. And so it came to pass  that Jesus  of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem, and not in Nazareth.  
The divine  reason why Jesus  was  born  in Bethlehem was according to God’s design . This is what He had put into the mouth of  His servant Micah. Not Caesar Augustus , not  Quirinius the governor of Syria , not King Herod the present  corrupt  king of Israel whose design it was to kill Jesus  could resist this  divine design. It had to happen as the prophet had said !  Christ had to be born in  Bethlehem , the city of David   

But not only did the  chief priests and the scribes know this.  It appears as if  many  of   the  common people of Israel also knew this ! Once , when  people were divided in their opinion  about who Jesus was, some observed:   "Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" (John 7:42).   

So both the spiritual leaders and the people knew that Micah 5 predicted the coming of the Ruler – Messiah who would be king in Israel.  He would come at a time when Israel was politically insignificant and downtrodden. This was substantially true for these 700 years.  What they  could not see because of the darkness of their own hearts  was  that this insignificant  baby born to insignificant parents in an insignificant town, in an insignificant stable  was much more,   and infinitely  more  than they with human eyes and reason could conceive.

Application:
Dear people,  don’t stumble at the thought of   insignificance and obscurity. Don’t  look for the WOW factor. Look for the faithful, consistent  testimony of  Scripture  concerning the  true nature of the Messiah  in His humble birth , His humble life and  terrible death.

Why does God do this? Because  He will share His glory with no one else!  When  God acts, no man  will have reason  to   boast.  Note – God chooses Bethlehem and not Jerusalem! In fact,  the city of  Jerusalem becomes the city of shame. She not only  killed the prophets in her long history, but she  became the city  of the   earthly grave of  the Messiah. She was the city that Jesus wept over. She was the city that submitted  Him to the cruelest torture and  forms of execution.  

In Bethlehem, God  did not choose the local Hilton hotel. As a matter of fact the was no room at the local inn  (because so many others had come to register).  God chose a stable  for His  Son to be born in.  No one gets the glory. No one  gets  to sainthood  because they made space  in their home for a humble  family from Nazareth who had come to  be registered in the census.
God glorifies Himself  in the things that are not. He comes to us  through the despised and the insignificant – and THAT is the reason why most people cannot see Him! To most people  this is  offensive  and scandalous’

This is precisely what  the apostle Paul  said to the Corinthians  in 1 Corinthians   1:27-31  :   
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Invitation
And now,  I call upon you  on this Christmas day  to  put your faith fully  in  Christ.
·         Do not be intimidated by  Christ’s obscurity in the Scriptures. Marvel that you are able to see Him  in these sacred pages.
·         Do not look for more than what is revealed.  Don’t look  for the WOW factor. Trust Him  with all your heart. What He has showed you now is sufficient.
·         Do not be intimidated by the picture that this world presents to you in the daily news. Remember that God promised  Micah   to deliver His people  in the worst of times . He does it again and again. In fact , the time when Christ came  was the worst of times for Israel as they were groaning under the Roman yoke.  
·         Do not be surprised that the church suffers in the midst of all these things. In the midst of all these things God (Immanuel) is with us!  Remember that Jesus said in John’s gospel : “ In this world you will have trouble , but take heart, I have overcome the world.
·         Remember  that God  will get  the glory. Not  towns and  cities, not human kings  - no one  shares  His glory!  The angels had it right : "Glory to God in the highest!" Not glory to us.

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