Scripture: Micah 5:2
“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.”
During the 8th century B.C., the nation of Israel was a lot like modern-day America. The culture was becoming increasingly immoral. Moreover, the Israelites were consumed with materialism. In defiance of the Mosaic Law, people purchased large tracts of land, thus creating serious economic problems for the poor, as the disparity grew between the “haves” and “have-nots.” Bribery, injustice, lying, and murder, very serious sins, were commonplace. Nevertheless, the most egregious offense before God was idolatry, the worship of something or someone other than God.
Paul describes idolatry in Romans 1:21-24:
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”
As a result, Paul tells us, “God gave them over.” What exactly is Paul saying? He is accusing them of exchanging the Creator for creation. Instead of being devoted to God, they had become devoted to things God had given them. Let me ask: Does this describe you? As Christmas approaches, whom or what do you really worship?
Idolatry is an age-old temptation. Pastor and author Warren Wiersbe writes, “When the nation [of Israel] was divided after Solomon’s death, the Northern Kingdom established its own religious system in competition with the Mosaic worship in the temple at Jerusalem. But the people of Judah [the Southern Kingdom] had secretly begun to worship the false gods of Canaan; and their hearts were not true to Jehovah, even when they stood in the temple courts and offered their sacrifices.” The prophet Isaiah described their worship as follows: “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men’” (Isaiah 29:13). Is this not a picture of America?
Now, because Israel had abandoned God, He was about to abandon them. God was preparing to send an opposing army from the north, the Assyrians, to destroy them. Therefore, the nation of Israel was facing a very dark period in history. But listen, God never fully abandons His people, and He never leaves Himself without a witness. And so, it was at this time that God raised up a prophet, Micah, from a tiny little village called Moresheth, located approximately 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. “Micah” means one who is like Jehovah. Micah, a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah, came from a very humble family. God raised up Micah for one purpose—to take a message of warning and judgment to the nation of Israel. But in the midst of this message of judgment is a brilliant ray of hope, found in Micah 5:2. “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.”
In thirty-six simple words, Micah offered hope to a nation facing total destruction. In 722 B.C., during Micah’s lifetime, the Assyrian army came and did, in fact, defeat Israel. The Assyrians annihilated the nation of Israel; the remaining Israelites were deported to Assyria, where they died. What a bleak time. This dark period in Israel’s history is a reflection of the world ever since man first sinned against God in the Garden of Eden. Darkness describes a world without hope.
At this dark, somber moment in time, Micah prophesied: “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.” More than 2,700 years have passed since Micah spoke these words, yet here we are reading them in 2014. Why do these words matter? e HWhat ray of hope did Micah convey to his fellow countrymen in this message? Micah wanted the Israelites to know that God would not forsake them permanently and that He had a plan for their future. Micah wanted Israel to know that, even in the midst of overwhelming darkness, there is hope.
About 100 years after Micah died, God raised up another prophet by the name of Jeremiah to speak a similar message of warning and judgment to the southern kingdom, Judah. Reminiscent of Micah’s prophecy, Jeremiah’s message also contained a word of hope. Jeremiah 29:11-13 states, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Do you need a message of hope today? Take heart! God has offered hope to the world. As a matter of fact, that is what Christmas is all about—HOPE!!
Hope has been at the heart of the message from God to the world from the very beginning. Even before He created the world, God knew we would rebel against Him and go our own way. If we are honest, we must admit that each of us has, at one time or another, abandoned God and gone our own way, and that is really the definition of sin. Sin is living your life independent of God. In essence, you say to God, “I don’t need you!” Well, guess what? Everyone needs something. You need something to survive this world, and whatever or whomever you depend on has become your god!
Understand that if it were not God’s plan to save us, we would all be hopelessly lost, but God did have a plan. In Micah 5:2, God lifts the veil so we can see His plan. This passage is one of the greatest prophecies in the Old Testament. In this one verse, we discover God’s plan for the world.
So what was God’s plan and how was it going to unfold? On this side of the cross, we have the advantage of the complete written Word of God. Therefore, we know that before time began, God planned to send a Savior into the world to rescue us. 1 Peter 1:18-20 states, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”
Looking back through the corridor of time, we are able to see God’s plan. But what about all of the men and women who lived during Old Testament times? How were they to know God’s plan to save them? And what about people who lived at the beginning of the first century? How could they know who the Savior would be? Some are surprised to learn that they too had the Word of God. Throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis, God foretold of the coming Messiah—“The Anointed One, the Savior of the world.” But the big question was: who would this Savior be? And how would people recognize Him?
The Old Testament shows us that, even then, people wanted to know who is this Savior and when is He coming. 1 Peter 1:10-11 states, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and glories that would follow.” At the dawn of the first century, people believed the time was near. There was a sense of expectancy in the air. In fact, in Luke 2, we learn about Simeon, an old man whose only purpose for living was to see the Messiah. Day after day, Simeon waited for the promised Messiah to appear in the Temple. Earlier, God had told him that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah so, expectantly, Simeon waited. Luke 3:15 records, “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John (the Baptist) might possibly be the Christ,” but we know he wasn’t.
The Magi came from the east in search of Him because, again, there was expectancy and excitement in the air. In Matthew 2:2, the Magi asked: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” The prophet Micah provides the answer to their question, and with his answer he provides three clues that help identify the Messiah. In order to discover these clues, stay tuned for the next two devotions that you will receive before Christmas morning.
Lord, thank You for coming into the world to save us. I love and need You so much! Help me re member the true meaning of Christmas as it approaches. In Your name I pray. Amen!