by Vijay Chandra
Micah 4-5 contains some remarkable prophecies of salvation.
First, from Babylon Jehovah promises deliverance and redemption. Notice how the prophet stresses “there” in Micah 4:10, “there you will be rescued”–there the LORD will redeem you from the land of your enemies. Deliverance and redemption happen in Babylon itself, the place we would least expect Jehovah to save His people.
The deliverance of Micah 4:10 will be like the deliverance of Exodus 3:8, “And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of the land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Redemption. Redemption is an important word in the concept of salvation. To redeem, Jehovah enters into a relationship with the people He redeems. The right to redeem was, under the law, only possible to a near kinsman, which truth is beautifully illustrated in the story of Ruth. In order to redeem us, Jehovah became one of us, a man, and as a man Jehovah pays a price for our redemption which is his own life (Hebrews 2:14, 15, 16, 17).
Second: Jehovah will turn the table on the enemies who surround Zion (his church). They imagine that they have come together to destroy Zion, but they do not know that Jehovah himself has gathered them for a very different purpose. Jehovah has a plan for his enemies, the enemies of his people. He has thoughts, but they are not the thoughts of “peace, prosperity, and salvation.” The wicked, fools that they are, do not perceive Jehovah’s plans, as Micah describes in Micah 4:13 (see Isaiah 41:4-16; Jeremiah 51:33; Revelation 14:18-20).
Now Micah speaks of the third deliverance which we have in Micah 5:1, 2, and we will look at this particular deliverance in some detail. In the midst of this prophecy (Micah 4:9–Micah 5:3), Micah prophesies specifically about the birth of the Messiah. Micah 5:2 is unique in the Old Testament prophecies because it specifies the birthplace of the Messiah. To us, the prophecy of Bethlehem is warm, comforting, and familiar, but to Micah’s contemporaries it was a surprise. Micah tells us that the messiah will be born in Bethlehem, that he will not be born in a palace. This prophecy comes immediately after the humiliation of Micah 5:1. But it also means that out of the rubble of the kingdom of David a better, greater, eternal ruler will come. That ruler will deliver and save Israel (and us) from sin and death.
I. His Birth Place:
- The text addresses the little town of Bethlehem. There were two towns called “Bethlehem” in Canaan, but Micah specifies Bethlehem-Ephratah in the territory of Judah (“among the thousands of Judah”).
- Bethlehem-Ephratah or Bethlehem-Judah has a long history in the Old Testament.
(a) It is first mentioned in Genesis 35:19 as the burial place of Rachel.
(b) Later, during the period of the judges, it is featured as the place where Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz lived.
(c) Later still, Bethlehem is named as the birthplace of David.
(d) Much later, Bethlehem is named among the list of returning captives: Ezra 2:21 reports that 123 men returned from Babylon to Bethlehem.
- The other Bethlehem is Bethlehem-Zebulun, mentioned in Joshua 19:5 as a city apportioned to the tribe of Zebulun. Bethlehem-Zebulun was, in fact, in the region of Galilee, and even more interesting, Nazareth was very close to Bethlehem-Zebulun but far away from Bethlehem-Ephratah. We might expect, therefore, that if Mary is from Nazareth it would be much more likely for her to give birth in Bethlehem-Zebulun instead of Bethlehem-Judah. But God had a different purpose for Mary and Jesus Christ.
(a) About Bethlehem-Ephratah. Micah writes that it is “little”–the idea is not that Bethlehem was small in population, although it probably was, but that it was small in “strength,” inferior in “social status.” There is no evidence that the Jews ever attached any great importance to Bethlehem. David never exalted it or honored it as a royal city, and it lay almost unnoticed. Even the name “Bethlehem” (house of bread) and Ephratah (fruitful) did not bring it any honor in Israel. Bethlehem was overlooked, “forgotten,” ignored, even despised.
(b) Micah underlines Bethlehem’s unimportance and insignificance by adding “little among the thousands of Judah.” Literally, the Hebrew reads, “Little to be among the thousands,” that is, “too little to be among the thousands”–that means Bethlehem-Ephratah was too small, too insignificant, and too unimportant to be mentioned.
Micah teaches us that the Messiah, according to the flesh, will have humble origins, a very unimportant beginning, and will be born in an insignificant place.
a. First, he tells us that the Messiah will be born when the line of David is also brought low (Micah 5:1). Micah tells us that the judge (or king) of Israel will be humiliated and Zion (Jerusalem) will be besieged.
But from there Micah moves to a humble town or village called Bethlehem. Bethlehem tells God’s people that David’s line shall be preserved. Every Jew knew that Bethlehem-Ephratah was the humble beginning of David himself.
But Bethlehem also tells God’s people that David’s line will no longer flourish in Jerusalem to receive the Messiah. Here, Micah is quoting 1 Samuel 16:1, 11. Just as in Bethlehem God provided for himself a king of humble origins, the youngest and most insignificant of Jesse’s sons, so God will provide for himself a king from Bethlehem again. This is the wonder of God’s providence.
b. We are told that the Messiah will have a very lowly beginning. He will not be rich, or be born in a palace. Instead, the promised ruler will not even look like a king. Isaiah 11:1 speaks of a “rod out of the stem of Jesse, and the Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Isaiah 53:2 proclaims a “root out of a dry ground” that hath no form or comeliness.” Zechariah 6:11 prophesies that the Messiah shall be “the man whose name is THE BRANCH where the meaning of the word translated “branch” is “twig or sprout.”
God arranged this in His providence deliberately for our salvation. Messiah’s lowly birth in Bethlehem is part of the humiliation of the Son of God (Philippians 2:5-11), part of His suffering.
Why does the Messiah choose to be born in the obscure village of Bethlehem instead of in the royal city of Jerusalem? The answer is that Christ was born in Bethlehem because we are sinners. That is a sign to us of the depth of our sin and that we must be humbled that the Son of God was so degraded and humiliated as to be born in Bethlehem. His sufferings in Bethlehem culminated in the cross, where he suffered the full burden of the wrath of God for our sins. In Christmas seasons we hardly hear about the “sin” of the suffering of our Savior. We must see Bethlehem-Ephratah in Judah under the shadow of the cross.
II. HIS ETERNITY
Did the origin of the Messiah begin in Bethlehem?
In fact, the Messiah, strictly speaking, does not have an origin, for He is eternal. Micah 5:2 is not speaking only of the Messiah’s birthplace according to the flesh. Behind His incarnation and His lowly birth are what Micah calls Messiah’s eternal “going forth.”
a. The phrase “from of old” is used elsewhere in scripture, and it means not only a long time go, but refers to “eternity itself.”
In Deuteronomy 33:27 we read the following: “The eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
In Psalm 74:12 we read, “Yet God my king is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”
Psalm 90:2 declares “from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Psalm 93:2 says, “Your throne is established from of old, you are from everlasting.”
b. The phrase “from everlasting” means literally “from the days of eternity” and is a very strong expression of eternality. The prophet Micah does not teach merely that the Messiah has a very long family tree but that the Messiah is eternal, and that is saying that the “Messiah is God,” possessed of the same attribute of eternality as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
This Savior promised by God through Micah is an “eternal” divine Savior, the Son of God.
We sinful people need a Savior who has come to seek and to save us, the rotten humanity deep in sin. We need a Savior who has almighty power, because only almighty God can deliver us from the power of sin and death.
The text (Micah 5:2) promises exactly that kind of Savior. Therefore, such a text as this should be of great comfort to us.
c. We need to examine the words “goings forth.” Micah does not merely teach that the Messiah is eternal, but he writes about the Messiah’s “goings forth,” “whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting.”
A “going forth” refers to the place, the times, the mode, or the act of going out. In other words, the Messiah’s going forth refer to his activity.
(1) We see this as we compare other examples of the word translated “going forth.” In Daniel 9:25 there is a “going forth” of a decree to build the city of Jerusalem.
In Deuteronomy 8:3 there is the proceeding (going forth) of a word of the mouth of God.
In 2 Samuel 3:25 there is a going out (going forth) of David to do something.
We learn from this that the activity of the Messiah is constant and eternal: there are “goings forth” (plural) and these goings forth are “from of old, from everlasting.”
(2) This is a reference to the truth that the Son is eternally begotten of the Father (John 1:1-18) within the being of God, which truth theologians call “the eternal generation of the Son.” This refers to the eternal works of the Son: the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son and the eternal decree of election and reprobation. This is also a reference to the works of the Son in time. His first work was his work of creation in which he, as the eternal Word, spoke and brought all things into being.
His work includes all his works of providence and all the goings forth of the Messiah in the Old Testament (as the Angel of the Lord). God underlines here an eternally prepared and promised salvation. Our deliverance from sin and misery is not an afterthought, for the Messiah who is decreed and promised is from eternity, and from the beginning this Messiah has been active (in creation) preparing by his many goings forth for his own coming to save his people. We can surely trust such a God.
III. HIS RULE:
a. Micah 5:2 tells us that the Messiah will be a “ruler in Israel.”
First, this means that the Messiah will be the Messiah for the Jews. It was to the Jews that God first promised a Savior. The Jews had come to expect one who would come from the line of Judah and of David, and that the Messiah would deliver them from their enemies and especially from sin.
(1) That Messiah is the Lord Jesus Christ, who even today sits on David’s throne. About Jesus the angel Gabriel said, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:31). As Peter in Acts 2:30, 31, 32, declared on the day of Pentecost as Peter declared who Jesus Christ is, Peter declared His resurrection, that God has raised Him up, He being exalted at the right hand of God. This does not mean that Jesus will be a merely Jewish king over an Israelite nation. Micah 5:3 tells us that when He is born, “the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel” and Micah 5:4 declares, “Now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.” Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is sovereign, powerful.
(2) The New Testament teaches us that the children of Abraham and of Israel are all who believe in Jesus Christ, whether ethnically Jew or Gentile (Galatians 3:29).
b. Second: The Messiah will be the ruler for God himself. We see that in Micah 5:2 in that significant phrase “unto me.” The Messiah does not belong to Israel or to you and me. We often say that Jesus is “my Savior,” but really, we must say that Jesus is God’s Savior.
This does not mean, of course, that Jesus saves, delivers, or rules over God. It means that Jesus comes in the decree of God, to serve God, to reveal God, and to glorify God. This was always Jesus’ own confession: “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).
Again we are reminded of Jehovah’s words concerning David in 1 Samuel 16:1, “I have provided me a king among his (Jesse’s) sons.” God was never at loss, who will be the king, where will the king come from, or where can I find a king? God’s king was ordained in eternity, prepared throughout the Old Testament, and finally revealed and given in the New Testament.
Jesus, the Messiah from Bethlehem Judah, rules by delivering his people from sin and death. The rest of Micah 5 will describe in some detail the rule of the Messiah. He will be a shepherd who delivers and preserves his people.
He will save his people by the Incarnation. That will be His great “going forth.” He will become a man with our nature (His humanity is seen in Philippians 2:1-10), born in Bethlehem. He will redeem us by His death on the cross. For that very reason He will be born into this world.
If sinners [we are all sinners because we are born in sin (Romans 3:2-26)]. For us to be saved and delivered, the Messiah must die. Furthermore, He will accomplish our salvation by the glorious resurrection, for death will not be the end of the one whose goings forth are from everlasting (Micah 5:2).
Most of the so-called religious leaders died, such as Mohammed, Buddha, and many gurus who worshipped many gods but they all died and will never be resurrected.
Those who are celebrating Christmas, do you understand why Christ came into this world? Have you been saved by this Messiah? Recognize and confess your sins. If Jesus has come forth to rule over you, your life will reflect that. Jesus does not rule over us with a rod of iron and smash us into pieces like the potter’s vessel. Today, Jesus rules us by His word and the Holy Spirit and He subdues our hearts to Himself. Is Jesus your king, do you love Him? If He truly is your king, will you obey Him and serve Him?