St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Look To Little Bethlehem!

Sermon on Micah 5:2-5a

Text: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. 5 And he will be our peace.”

If you had been in charge of where the Messiah would be born, where would you have chosen? Perhaps, you might have chosen Rome, which was the capital of the Roman Empire. This was the center of political power. From here the news could have traveled far and wide about the birth. Perhaps, you might have chosen Jerusalem. Jerusalem was, after all, the center of religious life for the Jewish people. The temple was there. One of those two sites would have made a great deal of sense. Yet, the Savior of the world was born in a place whose claim to fame was that King David had been born there. However, that was 2,000 years in the past. It really was just a small village. Yet, from that little village, God accomplished great things. As we get ready to transition from the Advent season to Christmas, let us pause for a few moments and LOOK TO LITTLE BETHLEHEM 1. To Marvel At Our Savior’s Birth and 2. To Appreciate His Royal Blessings.

The prophet Micah was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah, which means that he lived about 700 years before the birth of Jesus. His message was similar to that of Isaiah, as he warned about the coming wrath of God because of the unfaithfulness of the people of Judah. As a matter of fact, the verse that precedes our text says, “Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.” (Micah 5:1) Dire times were in the future of the people. They would be attacked. A siege would be brought against them. They would be struck hard.

It is on this background that God makes a beautiful promise of restoration. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Verse 2) He promises that a Ruler would arise for his people. This Ruler that arose would be unique for a variety of reasons.

First of all, we have the location where this Ruler would come from. Micah specifically mentions “Bethlehem Ephrathah.” There were two Bethlehems in Israel. There was one in the northern part of Israel, in the territory of the tribe of Zebulun, and another in the southern part in the region of Ephrathah, just outside of Jerusalem. It was well-known that the Messiah, this Ruler, would come from this southern Bethlehem. We see this from the story of the wise men, who came looking for the one who was born king of the Jews. They went to Jerusalem, thinking that they might find him there. Instead, the biblical scholars were able to point to this passage and tell the wise men that the king that they were looking for would be born in Bethlehem. This fact reminds us that God is in control of every aspect of our lives. He told his people where the Messiah would be born 700 years before it happened.

The next thing that we note about this Ruler that God would send is that his “origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Verse 2) Yes, this Ruler would be able to trace his lineage back to David, to Abraham, to Adam. However, there is more that can be said about this Ruler. When it says, “from ancient times,” it has the idea of forever. This Ruler that would come has always existed. In other words, he would be eternal. He would be God. Jesus highlighted this aspect about himself in answer to a question that was brought to him by the Jewish authorities. Jesus said of himself, “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58) The leaders knew exactly the claim that Jesus was making about himself when he said these words, as they tried to put him to death for blasphemy. Yet, what Jesus said was true. He was the Ruler who was to come, whose origins are “from of old, from ancient times.” He was God come down from heaven.

We learn more about this Ruler in verse 3, “Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son.” In this section, we are reminded that the Ruler who was to come would be a human being. He would be born of a woman. This further highlights the uniqueness of this individual, because he was not only true God, but also true man at the same time. While it is impossible for us to understand how this could be true, yet, we thank God that he sent this one to be our Ruler, our Savior. We needed a Savior, who was a human being, under the law’s demands, just as we are. Jesus was subject to the law. However, he had to be true God so that he could do what we could not do. We cannot keep God’s laws perfectly, which is what God demands for entrance into his heaven. We have failed time without number. Jesus, because he was true God, was able to keep these laws perfectly for us, as our Substitute. God is very clear about the penalty for breaking his commands, and that is death, both physical and eternal. This what you and I have deserved because of our sins. Because Jesus was a human being, it meant that he could suffer and die. However, he had to be true God so that his suffering and death would count for all people. Now, when God looks at us, he no longer sees the multitude of sins that we have committed. Rather, he sees Jesus’ perfection applied to our account. This is the reason that we celebrate Christmas. We see God’s love in action as he sent the very Savior we needed. We look to little Bethlehem and marvel at our Savior’s birth.

Normally, when you have a ruler, the expectation is that you must do things for him. You are there to serve him. However, our Ruler, who was born in Bethlehem is here to give to us. Listen to the blessings that he wants to shower upon us. We read in verse 4, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.”

“He will stand . . . in the strength of the LORD.” This Ruler will stand. He will endure. In our Ruler we have a sense of permanence. Everything else in our lives tends to come and go. Those things that many place their trust in will fail them when they need them the most. Wealth evaporates. Health fails. However, our Ruler is one that will endure no matter what. We can count on him being there for us, no matter what.

He “will shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD.” Think of the many beautiful ways that God uses the picture of a shepherd as he deals with his people. David had this confidence in his Shepherd. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:2&3) We know that our Ruler will provide all that we need for this life and for the life to come. David also said of this Shepherd, “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3) You and I are not wandering aimlessly through life. Our Good Shepherd is there, guiding and directing our lives in ways that are best for us. We have the ultimate showing of our Shepherd’s love for us, as Jesus reminds us in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus loved us, wandering sheep that we were, so much that he willingly laid down his life for us and rose again so that we would be with him for all eternity.

Another blessing that we receive from our Ruler is “They will live securely.” The devil is going to do his level best to try and take us from our Ruler. On our own, we would be lost. There would be no hope for us. However, our Ruler makes this promise to us in John 10:28&29, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” You can rest secure, because your King has come.

This brings us to the last blessing that is ours because of what happened in that little village of Bethlehem so many years ago. It says in verse 5, “He will be our peace.” These are just a few words, but they pack so much meaning. Our Ruler, Jesus, is our peace. He is the embodiment of peace that we have. We have peace with God. Because our sins have been forgiven, we do not have to fear our God. Rather, we live in peace with him as our loving Father. Because we have peace with God, we can live in peace with those around us. As we interact with people, we can reflect the love that God has shown to us by loving them. This means that we do not always have to be right. We can let others have their way. It means that we forgive people when they sin against us, rather than holding on to grudges that, in reality, only hurt us. Because Jesus is our peace, we can live in peace with those around us.

In addition, we can live in peace, even when the things of this life do their very best to throw us into disarray. At times, we may feel like Jesus’ disciples did on the Sea of Galilee, when a storm arose and threatened to sink their boat. The wind was howling. The waves were beating against the side of the boat and spilling into the boat. Perhaps, it feels that way in our lives, as well. If it’s not one thing going wrong in our lives, it’s another, or, more than likely, many things. We may get the feeling that we are about to get overwhelmed and drown in the midst of them. However, that same Jesus that stood up in the boat and told the waves to be still, is in control of our lives. He is there leading, guiding, and directing our lives. We can count on him to, at just the right time, to tell the storms in our lives to be still. He is our peace for this life.

He is, also, our peace for the life to come. Because Jesus has taken away all of our sins, we know that we will, in his good time, enter into the eternal peace of heaven that he has won for us. There we will be completely freed from all that makes our lives miserable here on this earth. We will enjoy eternal peace that no one can disturb. We have this to look forward to because Jesus is our peace. He brings blessing upon blessing to his people.

A favorite Christmas carol is “O Little Town Of Bethlehem.” The first verse of that song reminds us of the quiet little village. “ O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie! Above thy deep And dreamless sleep The silent stars go by.” However, as that verse continues, we know that something special happened that first Christmas night: “Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting light. The hopes and fears Of all the years Are met in thee tonight.” Dear friends, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, look to little Bethlehem and marvel at God’s love in the Savior born for you. Praise him for the many blessings that are yours because of that blessed birth. Amen.