Sermon #14 Micah Series
Title: Blessed Bethlehem!
Text: Micah 5:1-3
Subject: The Incarnation and Birth of Christ
Date: Sunday Morning — December 25, 2011
Tape: Micah #14
Readings: Luke 2:1-20
“1 ¶ And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 ([And] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
“8 ¶ And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen [it], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard [it] wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered [them] in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
More than four hundred years before the Lord Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem God’s Prophet Micah specified the very place His birth, not merely by its name but also by distinguishing it specifically as Bethlehem Ephratah. Turn with me to Micah 5:2 and read it for yourself. There was another place in Israel called Bethlehem; but that Bethlehem was one of the cities in the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15). Our Lord Jesus did not spring from the tribe of Zebulun, but from the tribe of Judah. He is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” So, to make his prophecy distinct and precise, Micah was inspired by God the Holy Spirit to tell us that the Christ, the Sent One of God, would come into this world at a city in Judah, Bethlehem Ephratah.
(Micah 5:2) “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; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting.”
The title of my message is — Blessed Bethlehem! That is the title of my message; but my subject is the One born at Bethlehem Ephratah more than two thousand years ago, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Proposition: God sent His Son into the world through the womb of a virgin, the Seed a woman, so that He might make Him a sinless Man, a man who had no sin, knew no sin and did no sin, that He might make that sinless Man sin for us, and that He might make us the righteousness of God in Him. — That is the message of Micah 5:1-3.
(Micah 5:1-3) “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. 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; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting. 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 Israel.”
God sent His Son into the world through the womb of a virgin, the Seed a woman, so that He might make Him a sinless Man, a man who had no sin, knew no sin and did no sin, that He might make that sinless Man sin for us, and that He might make us the righteousness of God in Him.
Divisions: I am going to spend the bulk of my time in verse 2; but I want you to see this marvellous prophecy in its context. So let me call your attention to three things in these three verses. First Micah tells us about the sacrifice of Christ at Jerusalem, then about the incarnation and birth of Christ at Bethlehem, and then about the results of our Savior’s life and death as our Substitute.
1. In verse 1 Micah declares that the Judge of Israel must be smitten with a rod upon the cheek.
2. Then we read in verse 2 that the Sent One of God must be born in Bethlehem Ephratah.
3. In the 3rd verse of Micah 5 God’s Prophet assures us that the result of these things shall be the salvation of Israel.
The Smitten Judge
First, in verse 1, Micah declares that the Judge of Israel must be smitten with a rod upon the cheek. — “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” (Micah 5:1).
Without question Micah’s prophetic eye is here looking beyond the Assyrian monarch’s invasion and the Jews’ Babylonian captivity. He is looking to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation of God’s Israel by Him. Micah 5:1 must be read, as it stands, in connection with the last verses of Micah 4.
(Micah 4:11-5:1) “Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. 12 But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor. 13 Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.”
Don’t stop there. Read on…
(Micah 5:1) “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.”
In verse 13 of chapter 4 God’s Church is promised triumph over all her enemies. Here God’s Prophet calls for Zion to rally, to gather herself in troops against her enemies. It is as though he had said, “Laugh them to scorn. The gates of hell shall not prevail against us. We may be taken captive for a while; but Zion shall triumph and glory over her enemies at last. Babylon shall be crushed beneath our feet! There is a Babe to be born at Bethlehem, God in our flesh, Who shall conquer and make us more than conquerors over you! God is with us (Isaiah 8:9-10). Jehovah our Judge, Jehovah our King shall save us (Isaiah 33:22; Psalm 33:7.”
(Isaiah 8:9-10) “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. 10 Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God [is] with us.”
(Isaiah 33:22) “For the LORD [is] our judge, the LORD [is] our lawgiver, the LORD [is] our king; he will save us.”
(Psalms 32:7) “Thou [art] my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.”
In order to accomplish this great salvation He Who is the Judge of Israel, Jehovah our King, must be smitten for us. — “They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek!”
(Isaiah 50:6) “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”
(Lamentations 3:30) “He giveth [his] cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach.”
(Matthew 26:67) “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote [him] with the palms of their hands.”
(Matthew 27:30) “And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.”
Our blessed Lord Jesus, Who was smitten of men with a rod was smitten of God with the sword of justice as our Substitute when He who knew no sin was made sin for us. But He could not die as a Man upon the cursed tree, under the wrath of God as One made a curse for us, until He came into this world in our flesh. So…
The Sent One of God
Second, we read in verse 2 that the Sent One of God must be born in Bethlehem Ephratah. — “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” (Micah 5:2). There is much more in this magnificent verse of Inspiration than I can state in this brief space of time; but I do want to call your attention to four things in this second verse of Micah 5.
1. The Place
First, Micah identified the place of our Savior’s birth as Bethlehem Ephratah, a tiny little village in Judah. No place on earth could have been more suitable.
In Bethlehem Rachel gave birth to Benjamin and died. Before she died, she called the name of her infant son Benoni, “The son of sorrow.” But his father, Jacob, called him Benjamin, “The son of the right hand.” — Christ was truly “the man of sorrows” and “the Son of the Father's right hand” (Genesis 35:18).
In Bethlehem Ruth met Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer, who redeemed her from poverty! The Lord Jesus Christ, our Kinsman-Redeemer, came to earth at Bethlehem to redeem us.
In Bethlehem David was born, chosen of God to be king over Israel. Our blessed Savior, King of kings and Lord of lords was born in Bethlehem. — “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, Christ the Lord!”
Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” What a fitting name for the birthplace of Him Who is “The Bread of Life!” — “He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
Bethlehem was “little among the thousands of Judah.” — Our Lord always comes to the “little ones,” not to Hebron's high hills nor to Jerusalem's royal palaces, but to the little villages to be the Savior of the poor and needy. In Zechariah we read that the Man on the red horse stood among the myrtle trees. The myrtle trees grow at the bottom of the hill; and the Man on the red horse always rides there. He does not ride upon the mountain tops, but in the valley, among the myrtle trees. He rides among the broken, the humble in heart, the contrite ones. — “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My Word” (Isaiah 66:2).
Ephratah means “fruitfulness.” — All our fruitfulness comes to us from Him Who is God our Savior, Mary’s Son and Mary’s Lord, born at Bethlehem! — He says, “From Me is thy fruit found” (Hosea 14:8).
Once more, we have before us a marvelous display of God’s sovereign, absolute rule of all things in providence to accomplish the good purpose of His grace toward chosen sinners. — Our Savior was not born in Nazareth of Galilee, where Mary and Joseph resided. Instead, He was born at Bethlehem.
He who orders all things in heaven, earth and hell, turns the hearts of kings whithersoever he will. — “The king's heart [is] in the hand of the LORD, [as] the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). It was the Lord God who caused Augustus to make a decree and begin enforcing it at precisely the time when Mary’s pregnancy had come to full term.
Neither Augustus nor Cyrenius had any idea what they were doing, or why. I have no doubt at all, being typical politicians, they acted only upon the unprincipled principle of expediency. What they were actually doing was carrying forth the eternal designs of our God for the salvation of His people and the glory of His own great name. Like the king of Assyria, they meant it not so, neither did their hearts think so, but they were performing the work of the Lord (Isaiah 10:5-12).
(Isaiah 10:5-12) “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. 6 I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 7 Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but [it is] in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. 8 For he saith, [Are] not my princes altogether kings? 9 [Is] not Calno as Carchemish? [is] not Hamath as Arpad? [is] not Samaria as Damascus? 10 As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; 11 Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols? 12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, [that] when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.”
So it was with this act of the first Roman emperor. It was an act which laid the foundation for the Kingdom of God, before which all the kingdoms of this world must soon bow and crumble.
Our God graciously and wisely rules and over rules all things, the good and the evil, for the accomplishment of His will.
(Psalms 76:10) “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.”
Š Adam’s Fall
Š Lot’s Incest
Š Elimelech’s Move
Š David and Bathsheba
Š Judas’ Betrayal
Our heavenly Father’s providential rule of the universe ought to quieten our hearts, while we sail through the troubled waters of this world. — If we believe God, we should never be greatly disturbed by the affairs of this world, or the conduct of earthly rulers. We ought to regard all things as the will of God. We should look upon every action of every political ruler as the oracle of God. It mattered not whither Shemei cussed David or praised David, God blessed him! Let us learn to regard all men and all devils, too, as creatures of God Almighty, created to serve His purpose, without the ability to think, wiggle, or move, except by the will of God (Ecclesiastes 5:8).
(Ecclesiastes 5:8) “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for [he that is] higher than the highest regardeth; and [there be] higher than they.”
The Salvation of Israel
Third, in the 3rd verse of Micah 5, God’s Prophet assures us that the result of these things shall be the salvation of Israel. — “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” (Micah 5:3).
2. God’s Sent One
Micah describes the incarnation and birth of our Lord Jesus Christ as the advent of God’s Sent One. — “Out of thee shall He come forth unto Me.” Let us never fail to see and rejoice in the workings of the Triune Jehovah in the salvation of our souls.
Š Planned by the Father (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Š Purchased by the Son (Ephesians 1:7-12)
Š Performed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Our Lord Jesus Christ came here as the Sent One of the Triune God.
Š Sent by Divine Decree (Romans 8:28-31)
Š Sent as Jehovah’s Servant (Isaiah 42:4)
Š Sent on a Divine Mission (Matthew 1:21)
Š Sent by Jehovah’s Love!
Jehovah sent Him! Think on that! — Let your soul get hold of it. In every period of His life realize that He suffered what Jehovah willed. Every step of His life was marked with the approval of the great I AM. Let every thought that you have of Christ be connected with the eternal, ever-blessed God. — “He shall come forth unto Me,” says our God!
3. Sent to Rule
Next Micah tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ was sent here “to be Ruler in Israel.” In Matthew 2:2 we read that our Lord Jesus Christ was “born King,” not born to be a king, but “born King!” Many men have been born to be kings; but no mere man was ever born king. He Who is God our King was born King, born to be Ruler in Israel.
Š Our Savior was our Mediator King from everlasting.
Š The Apostles bowed before Him, and owned Him as their King while He walked in their midst.
Š All the seed of Israel bow to Him as their King in conversion. — He rules over all Israel. — Any who do not bow to Him as their King are not of Israel.
Š Jesus Christ is King in His Kingdom, in the Church of the living God.
Š Christ is King over all the universe.
Š Soon all the universe shall acknowledge Him as King (Philippians 2:8-11).
4. His Goings
Notice the last line of verse 2. — There we are told that our Savior’s “goings forth [have been] of old, from everlasting!”
Š Of old He went forth as our Covenant Head in election, “according as He hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world.”
“Christ be My first elect, He said,
Then chose our souls in Christ our Head.”
He had goings forth for His people, as their Representative before the Throne, even before we were begotten in the world. It was from everlasting that His mighty fingers grasped the pen, the stylus of ages, and wrote His own name, the name of the eternal Son of God and signed the compact with His Father, that He would pay blood for blood, wound for wound, suffering for suffering, agony for agony, and death for death, in the behalf of His people. It was from everlasting that He gave Himself up, without a murmuring word, that from the crown of His head to the sole of His foot He might sweat blood, that He might be spit upon, pierced, mocked, rent asunder, suffer the pain of death, and the agonies of the cross. His goings forth as our Surety were from everlasting.
Pause, my soul, and wonder! His delights were with the sons of men before there were any sons of men. Without any pause He thinks of us from everlasting to everlasting. He set His affection upon us from everlasting! — Imagine that!
“My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity cannot erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.”
I am sure He would not love me so long, and then leave off loving me. If He intended to be tired of me, He would have been tired of me long before now. If He had not loved me with a love as deep as hell and as unutterable as the grave, if He had not given His whole heart to me, I am sure He would have turned from me long ago.
He knew what I would be, and He has had long time enough to consider of it; but I am His choice, and that is the end of the matter! Unworthy as I am, it is not mine to grumble, if He is content with me. And, blessed be His holy name forever, He is content with me!
“His love in times past forbids me to think.
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink.
Since “His goings forth were of old from everlasting,” They will be “to everlasting.” There is much more to be said about this; but I must move one. Look at verse 3.
The Salvation of Israel
Third, in the 3rd verse of Micah 5 God’s Prophet assures us that the result of these things shall be the salvation of Israel. — “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” (Micah 5:3).
Israel shall be cast off and given up until the fulness of the Gentiles is brought in. Then, at last, “all Israel shall be saved.”
(Romans 11:25-29) “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, [they are] enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, [they are] beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God [are] without repentance.”
“All Israel shall be saved.” — Who is that talking about? Who shall be saved?
Š Every chosen sinner!
Š Every redeemed sinner!
Š Every called sinner!
Š Every sinner who comes to Christ!
Satan roars against those who are coming to Christ. He roars, “You are not elected.” But the fact that you come proves the liar of hell a liar again. The Lord Jesus says, “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out!”
Yes, the remnant shall return and “all Israel shall be saved,” because Christ Who was born at Bethlehem died at Calvary in the place of poor, needy sinners.
Jesus, my Savior, to Bethlehem came,
Laid in a manger so lowly He came;
O it was wonderful, blest be His name,
Seeking for me, seeking for me,
To Bethlehem He came!
Jesus, my Savior, on Calvary's tree
Paid the great debt and my soul He set free;
O it is wonderful! — How can it be?
Dying for me, dying for me,
Dying for me on Calvary's tree!
Jesus, my Savior, Who bought me with blood,
While I was wand’ring in darkness from God,
Graciously called me and saved my poor soul,
Graciously called, graciously called,
Graciously brought me home to my God!
Jesus, my Savior, shall come from on high.
Sweet is the promise as weary years fly:
O I shall see Him descend from the sky,
Coming for me, coming for me!
Coming for me, for me;
Soon I shall see Him coming for me!
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