Throughout the Old Testament, there are many prophecies about the Messiah and what He will do. Remarkably, even though various authors never met and they wrote centuries apart from one another, they all paint the same picture. The Messiah will be born. The Messiah will reign forever. And the Messiah is God Himself. This week, as we study Micah’s prophecy of the birth and reign of Jesus, we will be drawn into the glory of the Christmas season and God’s unending love for us.
You, Micah, chapter five, verses one through five, chapter seven, eight through nine, and verses eight through 2018 through 20. Now muster your troops, o daughter of troops. Siege is laid against us with a rod. They strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. But you, O Bethlehem Ephraath, who are do little to be among the clans of Judah.
From you shall come forth for me, one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth. Then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel, and he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God, and they shall dwell secure. For now he shall be great to the ends of the earth, and he shall be their peace.
When the Assyrian come to our land and treats in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men.
Rejoice not over me, o my enemy. When I fall, I shall rise. When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him. Until he pleads my case and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light. I shall look upon his vindication. Who is a God like you, pardoning inequity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance. He does not retain his anger forever because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us.
He will tread our inequities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.
This is our last week in our series on the minor prophets. Next Sunday, of course, is Christmas Eve, and if you for some reason, have missed our many announcements, next Sunday on Christmas Eve, there will be no morning service. So if you come here at 10:45 a.m. Next Sunday, you will be by yourself. Instead of our morning service, we have our traditional evening candlelight service at 05:00 p.m.
Where the choir will sing. We'll have a short message from classic nativity text. And it is a great, if not the best, opportunity to invite someone to church. Because if you mention to your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and you say, hey, next week is Christmas Eve, do you want to come to church with me? I bet you will find people are more willing to come to church with you than they normally are.
Okay, but come at 05:00 p.m. Don't come at 10:45 a.m.. Okay, that's next week. Then two weeks after Christmas Eve. So that is three weeks from today, January 7, we are beginning our next 40 day all church focus, which means for six weeks, all of our life group material, all of our sermons, will align around the same topic.
We've recorded videos for life groups to use as we have in the past. And this year, we are studying why christians might not feel at home in our current cultural moment. What are we supposed to do if we feel our beliefs are not supported by many of the people around us? Or what is God's plan for us here in this time when, for instance, those in power don't always make the decisions that we think that they should? What should we do?
Should we bail on our culture? Should we just keep our head down and stay quiet? Should we flee to somewhere else that's more supportive of our beliefs? Should we try to force people to follow our beliefs like they might force us to follow theirs? Or is there a different approach?
How do we live in this kind of place in time? How do we live in a place that isn't home? How do we live when we are exiled, as the Bible calls it? And the Bible actually has a lot to say on that topic. It is hugely important as we enter 2024 for your individual peace, for how we interact with our neighbors, for our unity as a church.
It's what we need to study. We're starting January 7, so if you're not in a life group already, that is a great time to check one out. It's the beginning of the year. It's just for six weeks, so get plugged in again. That begins in three weeks.
Today, like we said, we're studying the Book of Micah, which includes one of the most well known Christmas references in all of the Bible, because Micah identifies the birthplace of the savior. So when Luke later gives his nativity account, he's actually referencing back to Micah. You might remember, for instance, Luke says, luke, chapter two, Joseph went up from Galilee to the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was at the house and lineage of David to be registered with his wife Mary, or his betrothed, who was with child.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the end.
Have you heard that before? Maybe. If you have, then you have also heard Micah, because Luke ties what he says back to what Micah prophesied 700 years before it happened. The Christ will come from the tribe of Judah. More specifically, he will come from o little town of Bethlehem in his birth.
So when his mom is in labor and then she gives birth, as Micah describes it, it is a turning point in the history of Israel and really a turning point in the history of the world. So as we study this text from the book of Micah today, we will see who is the Christ? One reason we should consider the claim of who he says he is, and then the depth of his compassion. Who is the Christ? One reason we should consider his claim and then the depth of his compassion.
So first, who is the Christ? Who is this one who was born in Bethlehem? It is God himself. The Christ is God himself. Micah, along with many other biblical authors, really, throughout scripture, describes Jesus in what seems to be deliberately contradictory terms.
For instance, Micah here says a ruler will be born through very normal means. A woman is in labor. She gives birth. Nothing terribly unusual about that. It happens every day.
I know, like, if you witness a life being knit together in the womb, you realize it's miraculous, but it's like an everyday miracle. It's how every single one of us got here. So in a way, this ruler will be just like us, but yet in another way, totally unlike us. This ruler who is born has always been. Micah uses the phrase his coming forth was from ancient of days, verse two of chapter five.
And ancient of days is a specific phrase that means forever ago. So if you ask Micah, this ruler who was coming from, when does he come forth? Micah would say there was never a time that he was not. He always was. He is ancient of days.
He is from eternity past. He is without beginning. And yet simultaneously, there will be a moment in which he will be born. His existence preceded his birth. And then at the time of his birth, the infinite will become finite.
The timeless one will enter time. He will experience growth and aging even though he is ageless. It's seemingly contradictory, but it's how Jesus is always described. He is two things together that we don't think can go together. He is fully God and he is fully human.
And this is from an Old Testament prophecy about him. So in other words, it is not New Testament witnesses of Christ who invented the idea of the incarnation. It's laced throughout the Old Testament. For instance, I mean, Micah's account of this eternal God being born in Bethlehem. That should remind us of Isaiah nine, which we also hear a lot this time of year.
Right? For unto us a child is born, onto us a son is given. And the government shall be on his shoulders. And his name shall be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace, of the increase of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will sit on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
It's never ending. It's just like Micah. There is a moment when a birth occurs onto us, a child is born, unto us a son is given. And yet this child is mighty God from everlasting. He is Emmanuel.
He is God himself with us. So what? Emmanuel means God with us. He comes to David's throne to rule and establish peace, not for one lifetime, but forever. Micah says that he comes to establish peace to the ends of the earth.
Verse five. And people everywhere will dwell in security because of him. So both Isaiah and Micah are saying, the world has never seen a ruler like this before. He is God himself. This is the claim throughout the Bible about Jesus Old Testament prophecy or New Testament fulfillment.
It is how Jesus is always described. It is what Jesus said about himself many times, many different ways. He called himself the I am. So he used the name of God in reference to himself. He said, before Abraham was born, I am.
It's ultimately why he was crucified. The religious leaders accused him of blasphemy, that he, a man, claimed to be God. It is what is still controversial about Jesus today because many people, many, almost everyone in fact, are willing to say Jesus was a good teacher. He had some great ideas. Islam even calls Jesus a prophet.
They respect him. But if you start saying, I believe Jesus is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end, the first and the last, the unmade maker of the universe, the judge of the living and the dead. He is the one who was, who is, and who is yet to come. If you say that about him, that's the dividing line. But if you're a Christian, that's who you believe he is.
It's a bold claim. So if you're not quite there yet, if you can't quite fall on your knees before Jesus and say, my lord and my God, Micah gives us some help. He gives us some evidence for why we might warm up to the idea that Jesus is who he says he is. This is not an airtight case. Nothing ever is.
But it's one piece of evidence that can help us. So, one reason to believe his claim that he is the ancient of days is that he comes from nothing to rule. Everything Micah mentions, this coming ruler, will be born in one of the least notable places in Judah, which is Bethlehem. It is not for nothing that we sing o little town of Bethlehem. We sing that because it's true.
Micah says Bethlehem is too little to be counted among the clans of Judah. Bethlehem is a totally insignificant nothingville. It's like when I used to go visit my grandma when she was still alive and in her town. One traffic light, no post office, right? The center of town just had a mailbox, one of those blue middle r shaped like drop points.
Pull the handle, and it creaks. In her town, that was the entire post office. You had to drive three towns over just to buy stamps. That's Bethlehem. And yet from Bethlehem, one shall come who will be great to the ends of the earth, who will reign forever and ever.
Micah intentionally draws our attention to how unlikely it would be for someone from such a humble birth could rise to such world renowned status and influence. And to be sure, of course, Jesus'renown status and influence still has yet more to come. Right? We're still waiting on the day when Jesus comes back, sets all the wrongs, right, eliminates all evil, ushers in complete peace and harmony as far as the east is from the west. Jesus has not done everything that Micah speaks of yet.
But even still, if you are a skeptic, so glad that you're here, but you've got to wonder how. How did someone from an oppressed little corner of the roman empire who had no family status, who had no material resources, who never carried an official title, who was executed as a criminal, how did he become unquestionably the most famous person in the history of the world, where still today, about a third of the planet is trusting in him for their eternity? How could he have pulled that off, especially in the time period he lived, right? Today, if you're a nobody, you can post something online, go viral.
You reach the world.
But then there was no system for that. In fact, there was systems to keep unknown people unknown. So how did he rise to the influence that he did? Or look at it another way, how many other people from that time period who actually did have tremendous power and influence? The people who commanded armies, who ruled regions, who had statues built in their honor, who had mausoleums for their burial?
How many of those very significant leaders have you even heard of today? Hardly any of them. And yet here's Jesus a nobody. Essentially everyone has heard of him. If you eliminate the possibility that there is something utterly unique about Jesus, something divine about him, it is hard to envision how he became as renowned as he is to the ends of the earth.
And that's the point. Starting with such humble beginnings points to, there must be something more about this ruler. If you compare Jesus to the founders of other religions that we still know about today, Muhammad, Buddha, they came from more influential families than Jesus did. Not that they didn't have difficulties to overcome themselves, but it's easier to plot a path to their fame than it is to do that with Jesus. And God wants it that way.
God wants us to look at Jesus and think, I don't really know how this could have happened unless he was who he said he was. Especially if you look beyond Jesus to the New Testament church, because again, after Jesus, it's the same question. How did a tiny persecuted group, tiny in a relatively short amount of time, gain enough influence to become the dominant religion in the roman empire? How did they essentially conquer Rome when they held no power, when most of their adherents were from powerless groups like women in the poor? How could they have won?
And these early christians, there's no evidence anywhere that they ever used a sword to gain influence like Muhammad eventually did. They never used a raid to protect themselves or their message, like Muhammad eventually felt like he must do. These christians won by losing, by being beat up, by being killed, by being shamed. And it worked. How does that work?
How do you conquer an empire by being defeated if there isn't something utterly unique about Jesus? I know of one pastor, when his kids were old enough to understand, just to show them how improbable the success of the early church was, this pastor planned a trip for his family to go to the Holy Land, go to Jerusalem, not to see any of the sites. They didn't even go to any of the tourist stops. Just to have a sense of how out of the way Jerusalem was in the, you know, it's way over there in the corner, especially Bethlehem small.
So they first went there, looked around, then immediately flew to Rome.
Three hour, 45 minutes flight from where Jesus started to where the power of the roman empire lived. Those cities are nowhere near each other, especially if you can't fly, and you can only walk or use tiny little sailboats. So they holy land, flew to Rome, got off the plane, and immediately saw how many crosses are still littered everywhere. They're on top of buildings, even non church buildings, but there's just as many churches as there are coffee shops. That's an exaggeration, but not by much.
So this tiny little nowhere ville, mailbox for a post office, small band of followers who had no power, who used no sword, who were persecuted by both the religious leaders and the Roman Empire. Somehow they defeated Rome when Rome was an unquestioned world power. How does that happen? Why do we today, as many people have noticed, I didn't come up with this, but why do we still today name our children Paul, who was one of the leaders of the early church, while we name our dogs Nero, who was the roman emperor at the time. How could Paul be more famous and admired than Nero?
And really, for many of us, the only reason we've ever even heard of Nero is because of how he persecuted christians. Right? These 2000 years later, it's really christians who have put Nero on the map, not the other way around. Like Nero is propped up by the Jesus crowd. Nero may not even be a name in our minds if he didn't get the christian bump, because besides Nero, how many other roman emperors can you name?
There were about 70 of them. What, you got three or four? So how did this powerless group gain more influence in the world than the most powerful answer? There's something special about Jesus. And just as a little aside here, scripture tells us Romans 811, the same power that worked within Jesus, lives within us as christians.
So don't ever think that you are too small to make a difference. In fact, being small might be an advantage, because God often uses the unexpected people to make a great influence in his kingdom. One corinthians 127. And following God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose the what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
God chooses what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing. The things that are so that no. 1 may boast in the presence of God. God often works in a way that leaves people no explanation for what happened, other than there's something about Jesus. So whoever you are, whatever your background, no matter if anyone even knows your name, God can do tremendous things through you.
Even if you come from Bethlehem, just follow God, obey him. Stay faithful in the smallest ways. Make as much about Jesus as you can, every chance you get and see what happens. If your legacy is tied to his legacy, you will be great because his legacy is forever and ever to the ends of the earth. But if you try to write your own legacy, you try to build your own kingdom, you probably end up like Nero.
Okay, side point over, get us back on track. Now we've said the Christ is God himself, and that fact has reinforced, not totally proven, by his humble beginnings. And now, finally, although there is much to say here, let's look at the depth of his compassion he advocates, even for the guilty. Micah writes, chapter seven. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him.
Until when will this be over? Until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out into the light. I will look upon his vindication. Who is a God like you, pardoning inequity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance.
If you read those verses closely, especially verse nine, it gives us a sequence of events that we would not expect, because Micah confesses. He admits, first, he has sinned against the Lord, and then second, the Lord will plead his case. Already. That is strange, because what case would you plead? What could a lawyer say if the client is guilty?
All right, well, you go up to the judge and say, well, yes, my client did it. You got us caught red handed. He is a sinner. The end. That's not much of a plea.
So what does he say? We'll leave that question hanging for a minute. But for now, just remember, some kind of plea is made on behalf of the sinner by the Lord himself. So then after the plea comes a judgment, a verdict comes down. And what would we expect that to be?
If the judge gives a verdict to someone who admits guilt, we expect the guilty to receive some kind of penalty. We certainly wouldn't expect a reward. But here's this guilty guy is now treated favorably. He's set free, sees vindication, the light of day. Which leads us questioning, how could that happen?
And it brings us back to the plea and the one who made it. It must have been quite a case made by God, the lawyer, the advocate in the courtroom, the Lord himself must have come up with something pretty good on behalf of the guy who admitted guilt. Micah doesn't give us a whole lot more information than that. But in the New Testament, we find out more about this divine advocate and the case that he makes. One, John two, one identifies Jesus as our advocate.
It reads, if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. So Jesus stands before the throne of God and pleads our case. In other words, God is the judge and God is the defense attorney. It's not as cut and dry as, like, the Father is the judge and Jesus is the defense attorney. You remember Jesus said, the Father gives all judgment to me in the Trinity.
Every member of the Trinity is involved in every action of the Trinity. Feel free to send in a sermon. Question about that. All right. But the question for today is, what case does Jesus make on our behalf again?
Imagine you've been caught red handed. No doubt about it, you are guilty for sure. And now Jesus is your lawyer. What's he gonna say? He's not gonna claim that you're innocent, because that wouldn't be true.
He won't claim that a penalty isn't warranted because the penalty is warranted. So maybe you'd guess that he'd argue, hey, yeah, judge, my client's wrong, but I think he's getting a lot better. He's made some strides lately. Look at all the progress that's going on. He's on upward trajectory.
That's not the case he makes either, for many reasons, but one reason. I mean, think if the judge only lets you off because you're improving, what happens on the day that you do something worse than you've ever done before?
Which might be in all of our futures, none of us might have done the worst thing that we will ever do yet. And if our defense is built around improving, then it's going to fall apart on the days we don't improve. So Jesus can't say we're innocent. Can't say penalty isn't due. Won't say that we're improving.
Maybe he'll just plead for mercy on our behalf. Maybe he would say, yes, judge, my client is as guilty as it gets, but can you let it slide this time? Can we forget all about it? Can't you give him another chance? Come on, please.
That's not what he argues either. Because let me tell you, your forgiveness in Christ is much more secure than that. As Micah says here, we're not just given mercy. It's not like God says. Okay, I guess I can just let it slide this time.
You gave me a great sob story. Well done. You can go. But I'm not real happy about it. That's not the picture.
Instead, we're vindicated. Lord delights in us. That's more than mercy. That's something else. And again, first, John provides some information regarding what the Lord pleads in our case.
One John one nine. Probably many of us have memorized this verse. If we confess our sins, you know it, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins. Have you ever stopped to think about why John would use the word just in reference to forgiveness? Like, what does justice have to do with forgiveness.
Didn't it just say, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and merciful to forgive our know, he just let it slide, right? That's not what John says, because that's not the case Jesus makes on our behalf. Jesus doesn't argue for our pardon based on mercy alone. He doesn't say, can't we just let it go? Instead, Jesus argues for our pardon on the basis of justice.
In other words, if forgiving us is a just action, then withholding forgiveness would be an unjust action. Or to say it another way, not forgiving us. This is his case. Not forgiving us would be wrong. He said, unless God wants to commit an injustice, which he won't do, then he must forgive us.
And that's a pretty strong case if you can make it and Jesus does. Again, this is first John. But Jesus is the propitiation of our sins. Which means when Jesus advocates for us, he claims that the penalty which we owe is already paid. The picture is we walk into the courtroom, judge says, guilty payment is owed.
Jesus says, you're right, they are guilty. Not going to waste any time trying to prove they are innocent. But Jesus says what they owe is already paid. On the cross. When Jesus shed his blood and bore the curse of sin on our behalf, everything that we would ever owe for our sin has been paid.
So Jesus says, you must let them go. In fact, it would be wrong and unjust to demand any more payment from them because the court can't get paid twice. If a court levies a fine of even one more cent on my client, if you'd look at my client with a scowl, that would be unjust. Because it is wrong to penalize someone more when the penalty they pay has already been paid. Jesus says, on the basis of justice, not mercy, you've got to set them free.
That's as strong of a case as there is. We're not released on some small technicality. We're not released because the judge was in a good mood that day. We're released because the full penalty has already been served. Our advocate says, there is no way to punish us any further.
If you want to be just and we walk away free and clear, totally vindicated. So listen, when you are burdened with your sin, when you feel like God couldn't want anything to do with you, when you feel like if people knew everything that was in your heart or in your past that they would reject you, do not comfort yourself by saying, well, I think I'm getting better, though I hope you are. Do not comfort yourself by saying, well, I sure hope God won't lose his patience with me this time. I sure hope he gives me one more chance.
Don't you see how flimsy that kind of forgiveness is? Don't you see how unstable your vindication would be if it rested on any of those arguments? No. Instead, when you are burdened by your sin, rest in the confidence that what you owe has already been paid. And in fact, it would be wrong and unjust for God to demand any more penalty from you.
Hear Jesus say, I know all about your sin. I paid for every last drop of it. Everything that is due justice was served. Judgment came down, but it came down on me, not on you. As Micah says here, your sins have been cast into the sea.
They're totally gone. You stand before God spotless. No matter what's in your past, no matter what's in your future, you have an advocate who stood in your place. If you have never trusted him, tell him today. Say, Jesus, I want you to plead my case.
I need you to plead my case. I'm guilty, but through you I can be free. Let's pray. Father, thank you for Jesus, our advocate. Thank you that he is a propitiation for our sins.
Thank you that he stands and pleads our case. Thank you that we will never owe, ever, because he has paid. Let us see your vindication that you have provided. Lord, let us feel the light of day on our faith. Let us rejoice that our sins have been cast into the sea as far as the east is from the west.
We trust Jesus. We love him. We put our faith in him. We celebrate him this season, and always it's in his name we pray. Amen.
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