Commentary & Application
Our Hope in Bethlehem's Baby
Micah 4:11-5:1 A. The Lord’s Greater Plans in the Captivity of Judah
Micah 5:2-5 B. The Lord’s Spiritual Plans in and by the Child
4:11 Judah was in a tragic transition time. She was going to be judged. Already many nations have been assembled against her. She would be taken captive by Babylon (4:10). Babylon itself thinks it has in its own might and purpose taken Zion. She gloats over her captive country and its people.
4:12 But they do not know the Lord’s thoughts and plans. God’s purpose go far beyond their understanding. They have their own perspective in which they conquer this country, but they do not realize God’s greater plans. The Lord has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor (4:12). We see with our eyes a powerful country tearing up another, but in the Lord’s perspective, we see a glorious and mighty plan taking place.
4:13 Judah is called to “arise and thresh.” Babylon its destroyer will instead be destroyed. The Lord will empower that small fragile spread out nation in such a way that their enemies will be dismayed. They will take those countries wealth and use it for the glory of the Lord.
5:1 Now once again the prophet returns to the present scene as in verse 11. The Lord has called the troops to lay siege against Israel. The Lord has directed them to knock out the government of Israel. Judah will be knocked down by the Lord. Babylon is just His tool.
Application Some of the most confusing aspects to this world in which we live are not at all confusing to the Lord. His purposes far exceed our understandings and therefore must live with confidence that the Lord knows what He is doing. It is not foolish to trust the most difficult situations into the Lord’s hands. For if He does love and care for you, then you can be sure all will turn out well. But we should remember perhaps a lot of testing is unnecessary. Our disobedience has brought calamity to correct us. There remains a hope for the people of God, but may it never be that we need to go through such tragic circumstances to be able to trust Him.
5:2 The Lord hinted of some strategy in 4:12-13 that would totally undermine the enemies of His people. It is here in Micah 5:2 that we see God’s “secret” weapon. It is very clear that this strength that will eventually become so powerful that they will overthrow their greatest enemies. This strength will be something totally different than man would devise or dream up. From man’s perspective, there is no hope. But God has His plan to implement one of His greatest plans through this seemingly insignificant town of Bethlehem. Even today, it remains to be a tiny little enclave of people. There were not even enough people in that town to become a head of a family or clan. No one would dream of something happening there in Bethlehem of Ephrathah. But it is just this small point that makes God’s plan so much more dramatic.
Out of this tiny town of Bethlehem will “go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” A ruler will come from this town. One might wonder how kings of royal descent would even have a descendant born in such a lowly place. This is all the more unbelievable, that one whose days are of eternity will be born in such a lowly place on earth. Rome or at least Antioch should be the place of a universal king. We would at least put such a leader’s birth in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. But outside of Jerusalem, almost speaking of His concern for the whole world, would come a ruler.
By looking back we can easily see the answer to the enigma of this verse. But the most one could think of its meaning from that context is that a person’s descendants go way back. But this perspective seems to drop when in the next line, the last words of the verse the prophet utters “from the days of eternity.” This seems to totally drop this descendants interpretation, unless this one happens to be the son of God. But what does this mean? We could not dare to interpret this verse before it happened. It is too bold and utter complexity to suggest such things. But Jesus the Messiah was indeed born in Bethlehem and was not just called the Son of Man but was the Son of God. John’s words form the Gospel, “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God,” echo back ever reminding us of His “days of eternity.”
Application Have we given up hope? Do not fear impossibility but unfaithfulness on our part. But even in our faithlessness, we can humble our hearts and look to Him for hope for truly with God “when their is a will, there is a way.” He might do it so inconspicuously, but this is only because He wants all the glory. He wants us to stand back in awe at His mighty name. Always have hope for He can devise a plan where man has given up hope. The inner cities, the depraved heart, the bankrupt world? God is doing something in our midst. Let’s just keep an eye on such amazing activities of God. Even more directly, if God has raised a ruler up, should not we, should not we all look to this ruler and follow Him? Why do you challenge His authority? His descendant as well as His power must convince us of His right to authority over our lives before it is too late.
5:3 The hope of Israel, God’s people, is not in themselves. Notice how God emphasizes that in the first part of verse 3. The Lord “will give them up until that time.” His people will be in captivity and under foreign domination until the time the Lord discerns best for her. We would say it is never best to be under captivity; we are for freedom. But we forget that our sinful natures are best dealt with through discipline. Freedom will in that context be abused. Israel will be in the hands of their enemies until that time.
What should we expect to see that will turn the ball rolling? A mother will go into labor; a child will be born. From that we would see the remainder of “His” brethren return to the sons of Israel. Now no one is surprised from the former verse that if there is to be a ruler then he like everyone else should be born. But there usually isn’t any change until that one has taken power. We should look for a change even at the birth of this ruler. From this we will begin to see a change in “His brethren.” They will return from their wayward ways. Paul puts it this way in Galatians 4:4-5,
“But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
We see the two essential elements in this OT and NT passage. A child would be born just at the right time and as a result the remainder might come to Him.
Application God’s timing is never off. He is greatly moving in this world. The Son has come and now still calling the remainder to Himself. I have come and encourage others to come to this ruler.
5:4-5a A ruler becomes a shepherd. The imagery wouldn’t impress many of those dressed in royal gowns. But we know that it was well used and appreciated both by Jesus Christ the shepherd and His sheep. We know how much we were like lost sheep needing to be cared for. We were wayward and nothing could better describe us. And so was the nation of Israel. They had held the truth of God and yet rejected it for cheap and vile things. This one would not just be a Rabbi or a prophet, but The Shepherd that would by God’s almighty hand lead His people into God’s presence. We often wonder about those backsliders. We do know from this verse and its similar one in the NT that the ones Jesus calls remain. They hear His voice and do not turn astray.
“I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd.” John 10:14-16
We are like the animals that followed Noah to the ark. God compelled them to come. Somehow they hear His voice and they come. And they remain in the flock, protected and cared for. The might of the Ruler and Shepherd will reach the ends of the earth. Just as we know today it reaches places even like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Haiti and Greenland.
This prophecy is closed with some powerful words, “And this One will be our peace.” We are to know that this is true in two ways. He first brought us into the fold by giving His live as a peace offering between God and man. He offered His own body as the sacrifice. In this He commanded peace as Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Once we are in the fold then we experience the emotional and supporting peace by which we know He is taking good care of us.
Application Thank you for being my peacemaker and the peacemaker for millions spread across this globe. We need your shepherding. We need to submit ourselves to Him and to those whom He has appointed over us.
5:5b-15 The scope of the words, “And this One will be our peace,” are explained in the following verses. Keil describes it well,
"In this relation the Messiah is called the Prince of peace in Isaiah 9:5, as securing peace for Israel in a higher and more perfect sense than Solomon. But in what manner? This is explained more fully in what follows: viz. (1) by defending Israel against the attacks of the imperial power (5b-6); (2) by exalting it into a power able to overcome the nations (7-9); and (3) by exterminating al the materials of war, and everything of an idolatrous nature, and so preventing the possibility of war (10-15). Asshur is a type of the nations of the world by which the people of the Lord are attacked, because in the time of the prophet this power was the imperial power which Israel was endangered."
The Lord has His work as planned. Israel would know of God’s peace. This doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be any attacks and enemies. The enemies would get more vicious as they see their ‘rights’ to evil being taken away. But the Lord intends good and He will be their peace.
Application This section is very comforting knowing we can have peace even in times of distress. The Lord promised this during His sufferings as well as through the church’s persecution. And today, we too find that He is our peace. The greater the surrounding troubles, the more we know the truth of this peace in His person. Please be my peace, and may I find perfect rest in Thee. Even when the times get difficult, may your peace be mine for your glory.
Biblical Foundations for Freedom