“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 growing more and more immoral. The Israelites were consumed with materialism. In defiance of the Mosaic Law people were buying up large tracts of land, and this was creating serious problems for the poor as the disparity between the haves and the have-not’s widened. Bribery, injustice, lying and murder were commonplace. These were very serious sins. However, the most egregious offense before God was idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of something or someone other than God.
Paul describes idolatry in Romans 1:21-24. He writes, “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.” What exactly is Paul saying? He is accusing us of exchanging the Creator for the created. He is accusing us of turning away from devotion to God and becoming devoted to things that God has given us. As we approach Christmas, who or what do you find yourself really worshipping?
Because Israel had abandoned God, God was about to abandon them. God was preparing to send an enemy army from the North, the Assyrians, to destroy them. The nation of Israel was facing a very dark period in her history. But God never fully abandons His people. Thus, it was at this time that God raised up, from a tiny little village, a prophet named Micah. God raised Micah up for one purpose—to take a message of warning and judgment to the nation of Israel. However, in the midst of this message was a ray of hope. “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.”
With these 36 words, Micah offered hope to a nation that was facing total destruction. In fact, in 722 B.C., during Micah’s lifetime, the Assyrian army came and defeated Israel and deported them to Assyria where they died. This dark period in Israel’s history gives us a picture of the world ever since the Fall (Genesis 3). Darkness describes a world without hope.
It was in this dark moment that Micah spoke these prophetic words of hope. Micah spoke these words over 2700 years ago, yet here we are reading them. Why are these words so important? What was in Micah’s message that brought a ray of hope? What was he trying to convey to his countrymen? Micah wanted the Israelites to know that God would not permanently forsake them. He wanted them to know that God had a plan for their future. He wanted them to know that even in the midst of darkness there is hope. Do you need a message of hope? God has offered hope to the world. That is what Christmas is all about—HOPE!!
Understand that if it were not for the plan of God to save us, we would all be hopelessly lost. But God did have a plan. Micah 5:2 is one of the verses in the Bible that lifts the veil so we can see God’s plan. In this one verse, we discover God’s plan for the world. What was God’s plan and how was it going to unfold? On this side of the cross and with the completion of God’s Word, 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.”
At the beginning of the 1st century, the people believed the time was near. There was expectancy in the air. Luke 3:15states, “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John (the Baptist) might possibly be the Christ.” Of course, we know he wasn’t. This too explains why the Magi came from the east in search of Him. 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. “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.”
As you excitedly anticipate the coming of Christmas, do you have hope in Jesus Christ? If not, why not invite Him into your heart now. He is the only One who offers real and lasting hope. He truly is the hope of Christmas!