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.
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.”
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.