Thursday, December 21: Micah Longs for A Ruler

Micah 5:1-5a

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.“

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.”

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.

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.

And he will be our peace.

Micah prophesied during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah over Judah.  He saw the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by Assyria, and the verses immediately preceding Micah 5 probably refer to the Assyrian siege against Judah.  Amid those dark times, Micah brought a message of hope.  From the little town of Bethlehem would come a ruler over Israel.  Those who knew the Old Testament would have remembered that David came from Bethlehem, and that God had promised his descendants would always sit on the throne (II Samuel 7:12-16).  God is always faithful to his promises!

Notice that this ruler who was yet to come would have ancient origins.  That could not be true of any merely human person; only God was spoken of in such terms (see Psalm 90:2).  The Jews of Jesus’ day clearly understood this verse to be a prediction of where the Messiah would be born (Matthew 2:4-6; John 7:42).  Not only was God promising relief to his people; he was promising the long-awaited descendant of Eve, the seed of Abraham, the son of David, Immanuel.  God never forgets his promises!

And this ruler would not be a cruel or self-interested ruler, such as both Israel and Judah had known.  He would be a shepherd, who would bring safety, security, and peace to his flock.  Recall that God transformed David from a shepherd to a king, that Ezekiel had prophesied the coming of a true and faithful shepherd.  Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was not just a good shepherd; he is the good shepherd (John 10:11).  Jesus is the one who laid down his life for his sheep.  Jesus is the one who brought peace to his sheep (Isaiah 53:5; John 14:27; Ephesians 2:14-17).  Jesus is the ruler from little Bethlehem who will gather his flock from the ends of the earth and will shepherd them in strength and majesty.  God always fulfills his promises!

As we draw closer to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, “Let us love and sing and wonder, let us praise the Savior’s name!” (John Newton) If you have not yet come to faith in Jesus, come to him now.  Bow down before him in repentance, faith, and submission.  You will find no kinder ruler or shepherd.  You will find no other Savior.

O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by;
yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray,
cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Immanuel!

(Phillips Brooks)

© 2023 Stephen A. Hoogerhyde.