Vol. XI — No. 52 December 27, 1970
Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratan, 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. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth; then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord. his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.
Dear Friends in the Savior Jesus Christ,
Our text is taken from the book of the prophet Micah. In Micah 1:1 we read: “The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah…”
Let us review the historical setting of our text. The time of Micah’s prophecy was about 750 B.C. The Kingdom of the Jews had been divided into a Northern and Southern Kingdom since the year 977 B.C. The entire nation had been warned by the prophet Micah of impending destruction. (Micah 1:1-16.) The northern ten tribes of the Kingdom of Israel had been invaded several times by the Assyrians. Some Jews had been taken captive and deported to Babylonia. Complete defeat and exile would soon overtake the Northern Kingdom in the year 722 B.C.—only 25 years after the time of our text (in which Micah foretold the birth of the Savior). Samaria, the capital city of the Northern Kingdom, would be entirely destroyed. (1:6)
The two southern tribes, those of Judah and Benjamin, had their capital at Jerusalem. Micah prophesied that the Assyrians would come to the very gates of Jerusalem. (2:12) Micah knew that the wicked city deserved the destruction threatened already by Moses upon an apostate Israel. (Deut. 28: 15ff.) The marvelous delivery by the Angel of the Lord, who spared the city of Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom, was not revealed unto Micah at this time. (Cf. II Kings 19:35-37) God has His own time schedule. He caused the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom in the year 586 B.C. Those inhabitants who remained alive were taken captive to Babylonia. Hence, though the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin also justly deserved to be destroyed at this time, God granted an additional 136 years of grace to Judah. At this time, i.e. 750 B.C., God is warning the people of both Kingdoms to repent. In spite of God’s warning and threat to destroy them, these two tribes, like the ten tribes to the north, were continually falling into the sin of idolatry, viz, the worship of the heathen idol, Baal.
It seems almost unbelievable that God’s chosen people should fall down and worship a dumb idol as Baal. Yet that is just what they did. They forgot the promise of a Savior which God had covenanted with Abraham and had repeated frequently to their fathers. They forgot the great wonders that God had performed in making them a special people above all other peoples of the earth, when God led them out of Egypt into the Promised Land of Palestine. They forgot that Jesus the Savior should be born of their blood and in their land. Under the leadership of good kings and priests as Jotham and Hezekiah (mentioned in ch, 1:1) the people of Judah would repent for a time, but then would again lapse into unbelief and apostasy.
Such unbelief took the form of the grossest idolatry on so-called “high-places,” i.e., in groves of trees on hills and mountain-tops. At such places statues of the heathen gods were erected. The idol worship was accompanied by drunkenness and sexual immorality. Such idol worship reflected the general deterioration of the people into sins of materialism, covetousness, murder, stealing, and utter indifference to the voice of their holy Covenant-God.
Though man changes, though believers may turn back to the darkness of unbelief, yet God remains the God of Promise. God had promised the Savior. God had sworn unto their father Abraham that Jesus would be born of Jewish blood, of the tribe of Judah, of the house and lineage of David.
God’s judgments concerning both Israel and Judah serve as God’s witness against all nations who fall into idolatry and its accompanying wickedness. We must not ignore the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached and witnessed unto the world since the time of Adam and Eve. God’s unchanging holiness and righteousness are revealed in His righteous anger—in the destruction of the Kingdom of the Jews through the successive invasions of the Assyrian Chaldean, and Babylonian armies. At the same time God revealed His grace in repeating the promise of the Messiah, the Savior of sinners. Hence there is a two-fold divine witness repeated again and again to all the earth during the course of history. God desires to show the citizens of all nations the futility of idolatry and wickedness, and to draw them unto Himself through the promise of forgiveness of sins in the Savior Jesus Christ.
In our text God promised to re-establish the tribe of Judah in the land of Palestine, including reestablishment of a remnant of Judah in the city of Jerusalem and its environs. This He would do, first of all, for the sake of the “remnant” who retained their faith in Jehovah-God even during the painful years of the Babylonian captivity.
The Lord promised through the prophet Micah (4: 1-2): “But the last day it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
And why was this promise of God so significant? Because (contrary to all appearances: historical, political, and geographical--some 586 years after the virtual disappearance of Jews from the land of Palestine) this word of the Lord through Micah promised that the Savior shall indeed be born of Jewish people—in the land of Judaea. This Savior (as had always been taught) was the Savior of all mankind—not merely a Jewish Savior, but a universal Savior of all sinners. When the Jewish slaves suffered in the far-away land of Babylon, they would remember God’s gracious promise of a Redeemer.
Let us consider God’s promise that—
V. 1: “Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.” Judah is told to gather herself in troops, i.e. groups. She should huddle close together in her fear and distress. She will be hemmed in on all sides by the tyranny of a powerful oppressor. The people will endure great suffering. Even her judges, i.e. rulers, will be smitten on the cheek, insulted, and mistreated. All glory and power will have departed from Judah at the time of the coming of the Ruler over Israel. Thus it also was, as we clearly know from history. At the time of the birth of Christ Palestine was an occupied country. A half-Jew, Herod, a puppet appointed by the Roman authorities, ruled over Israel.
The Ruler over Israel shall Come not from the Imperial City of Jerusalem, but from a very Insignificant Little Town. V. 2: “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;…”
This Bethlehem had always been a small town. It was not even named among the more than one hundred cities allotted to the tribe of Judah at the time of the conquest of Palestine by the Israelites (Josh. 15:21-63). It did not even have a population of one thousand, and therefore was little among those having a thousand or more. The Ruler of Israel will not be born amidst earthly or royal splendor, yet He will be the God appointed Ruler of Israel. Hence, let us consider:
This Ruler over Israel will be God’s Eternal Son. V. 2: “… Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” This child that shall become Ruler over Israel is none other than the “Everlasting One.” He is the Only-Begotten of the Father from eternity, i.e. from of old, from everlasting. This Child is Immanuel, i.e. God with us. Is. 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Is. 9:6-7: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting : Father, the Prince of Peace of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this,” Ps. 2:6-7: “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”
This Ruler over Israel will be God’s Son Born of a Woman, the Majestic God-man, Christ Jesus. V. 3: “Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israe1.”
“He,” i.e. Jehovah-God, will turn the Israelites over to destruction, suffering, and misery until “she which travileth hath brought forth.” This Everlasting One, the Ruler of Israel, will be born of a woman. Note that no father is mentioned. This agrees with Isaiah’s prophecy in Is. 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” In the person of this Child, the ruler will be returned to Judah. All the restored glory of Israel will be manifested in this Redeemer.
“Then the remnant of His brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.” Oh, do not interpret these words in a political sense as do the unbelieving Jews, who reject the Savior, the spiritual Ruler over a spiritual Israel. When Jesus came, He confessed: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:36-37).Micah, the prophet, clearly prophesied that this God-man would be a spiritual Ruler over Israel and the remnant, i.e. Gentiles, would come unto him through faith. These Gentiles, together with the believing Jews, are His spiritual brethren, Micah 471-2: “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” And Hebrews 2:11-12: “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sancitifed are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”
V. 4: “And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.” The Shepherd-King is very active. He stands, i.e. is active, doing His divinely appointed Savior work. His strength is that of the majestic lord of heaven and earth. His strength from God the Father, His strength as God’s eternal Son, is invincible. It was victorious over sin, death, and hell. Now this victorious Shepherd-King will use all His gracious, ruling omnipotence in the interest of sinful human beings, who come to Him for refuge. Such shall abide in safety, for this Ruler over Israel, this Shepherd-King, “shall be great unto the ends of the earth.” No man, no power on earth, shall be greater than His power. It is the power unto eternal salvation unto all who accept His feeding of the Bread of Life.
This Ruler over Israel is Peace. V. 5: “And this man shall be the peace…” The Child who will be born in Bethlehem, the Savior of the world, says Micah, is Peace. Eph. 2:14: “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” The prophet Micah also tells us why His is all Israel’s, i.e. all believers’ peace: Because He shall wipe out, blot out, redeem us from all sins. Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
Dear Christian, open your heart wide for the coming of this Prince of Peace. During this season of the year meditate on the words of the Prophet Micah. Read the entire book of Micah. Jesus, born in Bethlehem is your Prince of Peace, who comes with words of pardon and forgiveness. Accept this Ruler out of Bethlehem, whose Advent was foretold so clearly 730 years before His birth. Accept your Redeemer, your Lord and Ruler, Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.