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Micah 5

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting (v. 2).

The Old Testament prophets served as prosecuting attorneys for God. They were given the task of bringing indictments against the people for violating the terms of their covenant with God, announcing judgment and calling them to repentance. Such was happening in this passage. Micah was informing the kingdom of Judah that it soon would fall to Babylon. But as we already have seen, it was typical for God to couple promises of future redemption with His words of judgment, and this passage is another example. Having already revealed to His people that their Messiah would come in David’s line and would reign from his throne, God here got very specific and made known where the Redeemer would be born—Bethlehem.

This probably was surprising to the Israelites. They likely assumed the coming Redeemer-King would be born in a prominent city, with Jerusalem being the most obvious place. Why did God select Bethlehem? Perhaps because Bethlehem was David’s ancestral home town and was known as the “City of David.” Or perhaps because Bethlehem literally meant “city of bread,” making it an appropriate place for the advent of the Bread of Life. In any case, it was a backwater town at the time of Micah’s prophecy, and so it remained until Jesus’day. When “the fullness of time” arrived, God worked sovereignly to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy, as the gospel accounts show. He moved the emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus, to order a census that required all citizens of Israel to return to their ancestral home towns. That meant that Joseph had to journey from Nazareth in the north of Israel to Bethlehem in the south—taking Mary, his betrothed wife, with him. And so it was that during their brief time in Bethlehem, her labor came upon her and she gave birth to the long-foretold Messiah. In an out-of-the-way village, in a humble stable, the God of Israel came among His people.

Though Jesus’ life began in humiliation, it progressed toward exaltation. The progression was not always linear—glory broke through as the angels heralded His birth, and His greatest humiliation came at the end of His life, on the cross. But in the end, He rose from the grave in triumph and ascended to His coronation, in fulfillment of the Old Testament revelations of God’s redemptive plan.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

In the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we sing of Jesus’ birthplace, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Indeed, on that glad night, the messianic hopes of God’s people were fulfilled, as was the dread of the Serpent’s seed. The lesson for all is clear—God keeps His word, for His glory and our good.

For Further Study
  • Rom. 15:8
  • 2 Cor. 1:20
  • Heb. 11:13
  • 2 Peter 1:3–4

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From the September 2003 Issue
Sep 2003 Issue