Study 6 MICAH: THE GLORY OF BETHLEHEM EPHRATHAH
STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS
by Francis Dixon
(Key-verse: Micah 5:2)
The prophet Micah sets before us an amazing prophecy of the Lord’s first coming – a prophecy that was made over 700 years before the birth of Christ, and which was fulfilled literally. Notice the phrase in verse 2 – “…out of you will come for me one who will be ruler…” This can only refer to one person, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and notice the wonderful description of Him at the end of this verse. Some have said that Jesus is a created being, that He was only invested with deity, and thereby only became the Son of God at His birth or perhaps at His baptism. Micah does not say this, however. He speaks of Him as the One “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”, or, as the King James version renders it, “The Ancient of Days”. The Lord Jesus is the eternal Son of God – look up Psalm 90:1-2 and compare John 1:1.
It is important to notice that Micah does not only speak about Christ’s first coming but also of His second coming; in our key-verse the whole theme of his prophecy is His first coming, but in the verse that follows (read verse 3 and notice the word “until”), there is an anticipation of His second coming. Today we stand between the two. All the way through the Old Testament we have prophecies relating to both advents, and helpfully we can see that they are placed side by side in Micah 5:2-3. Notice three things that Micah tells us about Christ’s first coming:-
1. THE PROPHECY OF HIS COMING
In the Old Testament there are very many prophecies of the coming and the birth of Christ, and all these prophecies were fulfilled literally when He came. The first prophecy is found in Genesis 3:15; another is found in Isaiah 7:14; and there are probably at least a hundred of these that all link up the one with the other and provide clues that lead us to Christ – now read Matthew 2:3-6, and pause at verse 5. How did the Chief Priests and Scribes know that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea? The end of verse 5 and verse 6 give us the answer. They knew because God had recorded the fact through His prophet Micah. So, in the fullness of time, Micah’s prophecy was fulfilled literally. It seems so strange to us that when the Lord Jesus came the Jews did not recognize Him, as we are told in John 1:11; but here we are faced with the mystery of Israel’s blindness (2 Corinthians 3:14; Romans 11:25), and yet surely there is an even greater mystery – the mystery of Gentile blindness, of so many people today who see no beauty in the Lord Jesus that they should desire Him (Isaiah 53:2). Is it a mystery, in the light of 2 Corinthians 4:4?
2. THE PLACE OF HIS COMING
Where was Jesus born? The place is mentioned in the prophecy. He was to be born in Bethlehem. But there was more than one Bethlehem, so Micah is very careful to say that the Saviour would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah. How wonderfully the overruling providence of God is seen in the fact that Jesus was actually born in this little town of Bethlehem! God is sovereign in Heaven and earth, and it was He who moved Caesar Augustus to fix a census which made it necessary for Joseph and Mary to make a journey of eighty miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Jesus was to be born. The place Bethlehem Ephrathah is significant for three reasons:
- 1. Bethlehem was a royal city. David was born there, and thus it was a suitable place for the birth of David’s Greater Son, King Jesus!
- 2. The names are significant. Bethlehem means ‘House of Bread’, and Ephrathah means ‘fruitfulness’. Our Lord described Himself as the Bread of Life who alone could give satisfaction to human souls (John 6:35), and He alone is the One who can produce within us real fruit for His glory (John 15:5).
- 3. Bethlehem was a very small place. Micah speaks of it as “small among the clans of Judah”. How wonderful it is that our Lord was not born in Jerusalem or Rome, in New York or London! Our Lord always lives amongst humble people – Isaiah 57:15
3. THE PURPOSE OF HIS COMING
Why did Jesus come to Bethlehem? Why was He born of the Virgin Mary? Why did He leave Heaven and come into this world of sin? There were two main reasons why He came, and Micah speaks about both of them:-
- 1. He came to REDEEM His people. Micah tells us this in Micah 5:1 – “They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.” Here surely is an indication of the fact that our Lord was born to die. He is indeed “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). In the eternal purpose of God it was decreed that in the fullness of time He would come to be the Sin-bearer and Redeemer of His people – look up Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 4:4-5; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Peter 2:24.
- 2. He came to RULE OVER His people, as indicated in Micah 5:2. The word ‘ruler’ may be translated ‘governor’, and the thought is given emphasis in Isaiah 9:6.
We have seen that the two-fold purpose of Christ’s first coming was that He should redeem His people and that He should rule over His people. Now face these two questions:
- (1) Is He your Redeemer (Job 19:25; 1 Peter 1:18-19)?
- (2) Is He your Ruler? Does He have complete control of your personality?