The Eternal Origin of Christmas
December 23, 2007 | Andrew Davis
Perhaps you have never heard a Christmas sermon from Micah, chapter five, before. Well, today, that's all going to change. You heard in my prayer, and I meditate much on the fact that God told ahead of time what he would do, that Jesus came in fulfillment of the scriptures; he came in fulfillment of prophecies. Prophecy, a supernatural phenomenon that no one can explain. A very few of us know exactly what's going to happen on Tuesday, never mind what will happen in 750 years. But God has the power to see the end from the beginning and to see it in such minute detail as leaves no doubt as to the origin, the divine origin of this book. Neither does it leave any doubt as to the divine focus of this book. The spirit of prophecy, it says in the book of Revelation, the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus Christ. Amen.
And when we read the prophets, it's Christ we're reading about. And so we look today, at the eternal origin of Christmas. Now, when I speak of the origin of Christmas, I'm venturing into a very popular topic. It seems, every year, somebody writes some interesting article about some feature or aspect of our cultural celebration in December, December 25th, we celebrate. Now, I think most of us that were at the Michael Card concert, were not shocked to hear, that it's not very likely that Jesus was actually born on December 25th. Michael Card set the date at April 11th, and so I'm not sure if he's right or not, we'll find out, now, won't be. But we're not going to change the December 25th observation. The Puritans tried to do it and they failed. And so it's still here with us, and I think we ought to just use it spiritually. Amen.
To focus on the doctrine of the incarnation. We know, if you do a little painful research and find that December 25th was a pagan holiday in the Roman calendar, in which they celebrated Sol Invictus, the unconquerable Sun, it was the time of the winter Solstice, and they were afraid, I guess, that the sun was going to lose out entirely and never be seen again. And yet here it peeks, it reaches the bottom of the trough and starts to get strong again, and they're excited and, "Come, let's eat, drink and be merry." Look, any excuse to eat, drink and be merry, in the pagan world. And so it was the celebration of the unconquerable sun, as they looked up at the sky. Well, that's what they did.
At some point, I guess, after Constantine and Christianity became the legal religion of the Roman Empire, I guess at that point, December 25th crept in. I hope I'm not popping any bubbles. I may actually be doing that later, with Santa Claus. I'm not going to try to do any of that. I'm not here to do that. I'm just saying, that kind of research is popular, people like to look into, "What was the first Christmas tree?" or, "The first time that Christmas wrapping paper was used, or the first time that greeting cards were sent out. The first Christmas caroling." As people went from door to door and sang Christmas carols. All of this historical research you can do. The origin of the certain Christmas hymns, of knowing that it was Isaac Watts together with Handel. Eric, how can you have a better combination than Isaac Watts and George Frideric Handel, Joy to the world? You can read about this, or Good King Wenceslas. Who is he? And what is the feast of Stephen? And what was he doing, looking out over the feast of Stephen, and what does it mean? You can do this kind of research and that is fascinating to do.
But here, I want to speak about the origin of Christmas itself, or really, the origin of the doctrine of the incarnation of the coming of Christ, the eternal origins, or the goings forth of Christ. In some of your translations, it speaks of the goings forth of Christ, the going forth of Christ, or the origin, the NIV gives it, in the Micah 5:2. Our text mysteriously states that Christ “…went forth.” Now, that's what the Hebrew word means. He went forth, he went forth from Heaven to Earth, he left his rightful throne, a throne of glory, a place of power, and he came and was born in the squalor, as we sing, of a stable. The poverty, the humility, he stood from that throne and took off in some sense, his robes of glory, never his deity, for that is impossible. He is always God, he always has been God, he always will be God. But he took off the outward trappings of his glory, and he laid them by, and he came to earth. His going forth. And so we're going to look back at the origins of that. What was the origin of Christmas? And I think Christmas naturally does that to us, doesn't it? It makes us think about time.
Christmas and Time.
Many, many Christmas celebrations and movies and books take people back in time, to think of what it used to be like. You can do that personally for yourself. Think about what it was like, when you were a child. Your favorite Christmas, when you were a little boy or a little girl. A specific gift that you received or perhaps didn't receive, or maybe a sibling got it and you didn't, and you're still hurting over it, all these many years later. Or a time that you got something completely unexpected, or a time that you went and took a trip and went to a relative. Maybe they lived out in the country, they had a barn and a horse and you got to smell the straw, the stable. Or maybe a time when you were in college and you're finishing up your exams and you did your Christmas shopping in unfamiliar urban setting, and then brought your gifts home, and everybody was so glad to see you after having been away for so many months. Or as parents, young parents, when you got to celebrate Christmas for the first time with your first born child and you got one of those babies first Christmas ornaments and put it on there and still look at it years later. It has the power to transport you back in your own history, doesn't it? To look back across those special occasions.
Or perhaps, for me - I like history - church history. You can look back at Christmases past. I don't just mean the ghost of Christmas past, it does that in Christmas Carol, but that we can actually look and see. It's a Wonderful Life, gives you a little time capsule glimpse of what Christmas was like, in December of 1945, when Harry Bailey comes back and he's clearly just at the end of… or perhaps 1946, when just at the end of his service, there at the end of World War II, he won the Congressional Medal of Honor. You get little snapshot of what – a black and white snapshot - of what Christmas was like, in America, in 1945. Or you go further back, like I mentioned, to Christmas Carol and what Christmas was like in London, in the 1850s, let's say, and some of those movies that portray it with the horse-drawn carriages and the gas lanterns, and there's Ebenezer Scrooge, walking through the city of London, muttering to himself, humbug about Christmas and all that. Some of you have those tendencies; I've had those tendencies a little bit, from time to time, as the overwhelming busyness of the month can come along. But there's a glimpse of what Christmas was like, back in the 1840s. Or you can go further back, to the colonial era, to Williamsburg, come to find out they didn't do much for Christmas at all. They put a candle in the window and had a meal. New Years was actually a bigger celebration back then, than Christmas. It was seen to be more of a Roman Catholic holiday and wasn't generally observed very much in the colonial time. Or you can go back to Bohemia, as I mentioned, with King Wenceslas and the feast of Stephen, December 26, and learn some things about that.
Biblically, Christmas has the power to transport you back 2000 years, doesn't it? And you can picture yourself as if you are one of the shepherds and you're kneeling down and you're looking at the baby Jesus, and we see movies about the birth of Christ, as was out a year ago, or Jesus of Nazareth, or you just read the Scriptures. And in your mind's eye, you can travel back in time, and our text does that for us, as we think about Bethlehem and the fulfillment of the prophecy that was made. But we're still moving in time because actually it was a prophecy, wasn't it? And so we go even further back in time, to the time of Micah. And Micah lived in the seventh century BC. Seventh and eighth century, so somewhere around 725 to 715 BC, around the time of Isaiah, the time of Hezekiah, and Jotham and Ahaz, the kings of Judah, that's when Micah prophesied, and he gave a prediction about the birth of Christ, that would happen over seven centuries later. And how did he do that?
Because God alone knows the future, it's a glory that he holds to himself, because he is the sovereign King of history. And he knows what's going to happen tomorrow, and he knows what's going to happen in 750 years, from the time of Micah. He knows the end from the beginning. Because we have to go - our text, I believe, takes us even further back. It takes us back to the days of eternity. And if you want to know the origin of the incarnation of Christ, you have to go back to this phrase, "The days of eternity."
That's the origin of Christmas, the days of eternity. Now, what's that? So this morning, I want to look at five questions that come out of Micah 5. First of all, who sent Christ? Second of all, where was he sent? Third of all, why was he sent? Fourth, when was he sent? And fifth, what are the final effects of his being sent? We're going to get all of that, or try to, from just three or four verses from Micah. Can it be done? I think it can.
Who Sent Christ?
“For Me” He Will Come… Who is the “Me”?
First of all, who sent the Christ? Look at Verse 2, "But you Bethlehem Ephratah, 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." For me, it's just one little Hebrew word, 'Li', in the Hebrew, 'for me', that's what it means. Now, it'd be easy to say that it's for me, Jesus came from me. Don't do that so simply and so quickly. Just because it says 'me' and you read it aloud, doesn't mean me is you. You could do this. When it says, "Today, in the city of David, a savior has been born for you." I think you should find yourself there. Or in John 17, when Jesus prays for those who will believe through the apostles word, find yourself there. But don't find yourself in the me, here in Micah 5:2. The me is the one who's speaking, the one who's issuing a decree, frankly, over Bethlehem Ephrathah, a kingly decree. He's making a statement about Bethlehem. "But you. Bethlehem," he's speaking to Bethlehem, and he's making a pronouncement. And who has the right to do that but Almighty God? And so Almighty God is saying, "For me, will this king come. He will come for me, for my purposes, he will come for my glory, he will come to do what I tell him to do."
Jesus Christ was Sent by the Father
And so who sent the Christ? It was the eternal Father, it was the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It was Almighty God, who sent the Messiah. Now, what we get just in one Hebrew word here, we get openly taught in the Gospel of John and in many other places. But it's openly taught that the Father sent the Son into the world. John 5:23, Jesus said this, "He who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him." John 6:57, "As the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me." "The living Father sent me," he says there. John 8:16, "I stand with the Father who sent me," said Jesus. John 8:18, just two verses later, "I am one who testifies for myself. My other witness is the Father who sent me." John 8:42, Jesus said to them, "If God were your father, you would love me, for I came from God. And now I'm here, I have not come on my own, but he sent me." John 10:36, "What about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world." So there's the picture of the father, setting apart his only begotten Son and sending him into the world. John 12:49, "I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. Out of Bethlehem will come for me, one who will be ruler." So the king, Almighty God is saying, "There will be a king of Israel who will be there for me and for my glory." And Jesus says, "I don't even speak a word, except what the Father has told me to say." The father sent Jesus. John 14:24, he said, "These words you hear, are not my own. They belong to the Father who sent me." And then in his prayer, "Righteous Father," John 17:25, "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you and they, the disciples know that you sent me." You want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, this is foundational. You must know that Jesus is not just an ordinary man, he's not just a great leader or a great prophet or a great teacher of Israel, a great moral figure. He is Almighty God, sent by the Father into the world.
And God chose Bethlehem to be his gateway of entry, his port of entry into the world. But it was the Father who sent him. John 20, verse 21, again, Jesus said, "Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you." That's our Great Commission in John's Gospel, the Father sent the Son into the world, and now he sent us into the world as well. And so the entrance of Christ into the world was at the bidding of the father, he saw that the world was choking in its sin, drowning in its sin, that no one could work salvation, and so his own arm worked it, by sending his only begotten Son into the world. Who sent the Christ? It was the father who did it.
Where Was He Sent?
To Bethlehem Ephrathah
Secondly, where was he sent? "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come from me, one who will be ruler over Israel. Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." Where was the Christ sent? He was sent to Bethlehem Ephrathah. Now, Bethlehem is a small town, five miles south of Jerusalem, located on the edge of the Judean desert, 2500 feet above sea level, a rather nondescript place, called by a double name, Bethlehem Ephrathah, to identify it from another Bethlehem in Galilee.
Bethlehem is Noteworthy for its History
Now, Bethlehem is noteworthy for its history, even at the time of Micah of Moresheth, it was noteworthy for its history. It had a fascinating history, beginning with the death of Rachel. Rachel, of course, was the one that Jacob had set his heart on, and he worked for seven years to gain. You remember. You remember the story of his wedding night, and how Laban tricked him and switched out Leah. It was Rachel that he wanted, but it was Leah that he got, and then he had to work another seven years to gain his beloved Rachel. Rachel had a lot of trouble, giving birth, she had a lot of trouble conceiving. Finally, she was able to conceive and give birth to Joseph, but now she's pregnant again, and she was having great difficulties, using great pain and suffering. As a matter of fact, she was dying and she gave birth to his son, and the midwife handed the son to Rachel. As she was breathing, her last breath, said, "Do not be afraid, you have a son, another son." “And with her last breath, she named him Ben-Oni, which means 'son of my sorrow',” and then died.
And she died there in Bethlehem. Her husband, Jacob, filled with grief, renamed that boy, Benjamin, son of my right hand. Isn't it amazing, how Jesus is both? Isn't it amazing, how he is both the son of sorrows and a son of the Almighty God's right hand? He is the son of sorrows, because he was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. No one ever suffered or was filled with sorrow like Jesus. When Jesus was on the cross, God poured out on him, all of our sins and all of the wrath that we deserve, and he suffered and he died. He was the son of suffering, on the cross. But now, raised from the dead on the third day, by the power of Almighty God, he sits at the right hand of God, and from that place, he will come to judge the living and the dead. He is the son of God's right hand. It says in Hebrews 1:3, "After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven." And so that's the beginning of the history of Bethlehem. Joshua's cohort, Caleb, had a son, and Caleb's son built the City of Bethlehem and established a city there. There wasn't a city there. When Rachel died, it was just a place on the map, but it was Caleb's son that built it, and it became the home of - a center place - of the tribe of Judah, but not a major place.
And there it was, that Naomi and Ruth returned to live, in the Book of Ruth. In Ruth 1:22, it says, "So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law arriving in Bethlehem, as the barley harvest was beginning." It was a famine that caused Elimelech, Naomi's husband, and her two sons, Mahlon and Killian, to leave and go to Moab. And they went to moved the two sons found wives there, one of whom was Ruth, a Moabitess. In due time, there came an ending to the famine, and Elimelech and Mahlon and Killian had all died. Naomi was in great distress, so she went back to her home area, Bethlehem, went back there to live, because there was now food. And there it was, that Ruth met Boaz, and the two of them were married and they gave birth to Obed, and Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse, of course, the father of David.
And so it was also in the course of time that David was born in Bethlehem, and around the vicinity of Bethlehem, he learned how to tend sheep and to be a shepherd, and it was there that he fought the lion and the bear, and to learn how to use a sling. And it was with those tools that he went out and met Goliath. In 1 Samuel, 17:12, it says, "Now, David was the son of an Ephathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem, in Judah." So David, the greatest king in Israel's history, came from this tiny insignificant place.
But by the time Micah came and was making his prophecy, he wasn't looking back at this interesting history, he wasn't looking back to the death of Rachel, he wasn't looking back to Ruth and Boaz and how they got together, he wasn't even looking back to the origin of David. No, he was looking ahead. In effect, he was saying, "You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, your best days are yet to come. Your greatest glory is yet to come, all of these interesting features of your history is nothing, compared to what is yet to come. You will be elevated. This little town of Bethlehem, you'll be elevated. For out of you, will come a ruler."
Bethlehem Noteworthy for Its Name
Bethlehem was also noteworthy for its name, the name literally means house of bread, Bethlehem is house of bread. It was known as a bread basket area for Jerusalem, 5 miles south of Jerusalem, and of course, it was that barley harvest that brought Naomi and Ruth back to live there. Wasn't always a place of aplenty, of course, because it was a famine that caused them to go, but there it was, a house of bread, and then Ephrathah means abundance.
So it's really a sense of a house of abundant bread, a place where you can go and be fed forever. Could it be, that Jesus fulfills that as well? Oh, I think he does. After he fed the 5000, with five loaves and two fish, you had the feeling that without breaking a sweat, he could have done that forever, he could have fed them forever, no more toil out in the fields and the vineyards. Just come to Jesus and he'll feed you. The greatest chef in history, the freshest bread and the best fish, and he would feed you forever, and they came back the next day, looking for the next meal. Isn't it funny, how we cyclically get hungry? More so this time of year, I don't know what it is. So there's plenty to eat. When you come to hear Jesus, all you have to do is just come and just like that, he can feed thousands without any effort. You remember how Jesus changed their whole way of thinking. He said, "I tell you the truth, you're looking for me not because you ate the loaves and had your fill or because I did the miracle, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." He said, "Do not labor for the food that spoils, but for the food that endures to the eternal life." “Set your eyes off of your stomach. I'm not here to give you that kind of bread. I'm going to give you a different kind of bread.” John 6:35. Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." Jesus has the power to satisfy you to the depths of your being for ever and ever. He is the feast. He won't just spread a feast, he is the feast. And he will satisfy you deeply and richly. He says later in John 6, "I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died, but here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Jesus is the Bethlehem. He is the house of bread. He is the one we come to and feed on forever and ever. And in his name, we will live.
Bethlehem Noteworthy for Its Lowliness
Bethlehem is also noteworthy for its lowliness. But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are least among the thousands of the clans of Judah. Not a noteworthy place. A small place. An insignificant place. God delights to do this. He chooses Gideon, the warrior. And he says, "I am the smallest in my family, the least of my family, our clan is the smallest. Why do you do this?" He did the same thing with Saul. You know, he chose him and he immediately was small in his own eyes. God could have chosen Rome, which was the center of the world, at that point. He could have chosen Athens, the center of the philosophers of the world. He could have chosen Alexandria or some other rich city, a center of wealth.
If he just wanted to stay within Judea, he would have gone to Jerusalem, the capital city, the palace of the great king. But instead he goes to a tiny place, an insignificant place, Bethlehem. God delights in elevating the lowly. It says in James 4:6, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." And concerning the way that the church in Corinth was made up, Paul takes this principle and elevates it up to be the way that God assembles his church. 1 Corinthians 1:26 through 29, it says, "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards. Not many were influential. Not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." God delights in elevating the humble.
Bethlehem Noteworthy for Its Fulfillment
Choosing the small and lifting it up. Bethlehem, finally, was noteworthy for its fulfillment. Why was the Christ born there? Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem? Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, the other end of the country. Now, don't imagine that the prophecy wasn't well known. The prophecy was well known. It's quoted in Matthew 2:“When [King Herod] had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘For this is what the prophet has written. ‘But you Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people, Israel.’’" Well, they knew the prophecy. Quoted again in John 7:41 and 42. The others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee?" Does not the scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" So everybody knew this prophecy. They knew that he would come from Bethlehem.
So Joseph would have been, I think, apart from a direct command of God presumptuous to make sure that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It would have been manipulative. "My son is going to be the Messiah. I'm going to see to it." That's not the way prophecy works. He would have just gone about his business in a normal way, unless external circumstances conspired to make him go to Bethlehem. He wouldn't have taken upon himself in a direct way to fulfill a prophecy. But something did force him to go, didn't it? Far away from Bethlehem, far away from Nazareth, far away from Judea, in the halls of power in Rome, there was Caesar Augustus looking over a map of the entire Roman world. And two things motivated him, I think, to have a census. The two things were taxes, money, and distribution of power, troops. So where were the population centers? How many people lived in a certain area, and where did the legions need to go? Power and pleasure, that's what rules the halls of power here in this world. That's what motivated Caesar Augustus. He's not sitting there saying, "You know, but you Bethlehem Ephrathah." Oh, she's pregnant. Okay, Mary is pregnant. We need to be sure. We get her down there. He's not thinking that at all. He's not aware of Micah. He's not thinking of the prophecy of Micah. He's thinking about his own coffers. He's thinking about his own power. And so he issues a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And this census, “This was the first census that took place when Quirinius, was Governor of Syria.”And so Joseph, it says in Luke 2, went with his pregnant wife Mary and traveled that long and very uncomfortable journey to go down to Bethlehem to the city and town of David, because he was of the house and lineage of David. That's what made him go. So Bethlehem was noteworthy for its fulfillment.
Why Was He Sent?
To Be a Ruler
Thirdly, why was he sent? It was God the Father who sent him. It was Bethlehem, that would be his portal of entry into the world. His gateway of entry into the physical world. Why was he sent? Well, look what it says in verse 2. "Out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel." He was sent to be a ruler. God establishes a throne over Israel. He yearns to establish a throne based on righteousness and holiness. A throne of power, and of purity, of compassion. A throne that will last forever. That's what he wants to establish.
Israel's kings were for the most part, corrupt and self-serving. They had no sense of the glory of God. But God wanted to establish a ruler over Israel who would rule in righteousness. Isaiah 9, verse 6, and 7. "For to us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." He wants to establish David's throne, and he wants to put his only begotten son on it. He was sent into the world to be a ruler, to be a king.
Hebrews 1, it says, "But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, oh God will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness, and therefore God, your God has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.’" He wants a throne based on righteousness established forever. And so Jesus was born a king. I was reading a sermon by Charles Spurgeon recently, and he said, no one else in history has ever been born a king. You're usually born a prince, and in due time, you become a king. Jesus was born a king. And so the Magi said, "Where is the one who has been born King over Israel?" he was born the rightful king. He was sent to be a ruler.
To Be a Shepherd
But he was also, according to verse 4, sent to be a shepherd. He will be a shepherd. The kings of Israel, were called to be shepherds of the people. And David was the best fulfillment of this. As I mentioned, when he went out to fight, Goliath, he went out with the tools of a shepherd boy. 1 Samuel 17:40, "He took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, and he put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag." No wonder Goliath said, "Am I a dog?" - that I'm here to harass the flock? Yes, you are, you're a wild dog spiritually, and I'm here to be sure you don't harass the flock. He had a shepherd's heart. Those are his father's sheep. He was responsible for them. And he went out and fought. And so when the time came for David to take the throne, 2 Samuel 5:2, "The Lord said to David, 'You will shepherd my people, Israel, and you will become their ruler.'" He is there to be a shepherd to the people.
Now, not all of the descendants of David were good shepherds. As a matter of fact, most of them weren't. And so the prophets were sent to speak out against these false shepherds, these kings, and the way they shepherded Israel. Ezekiel 34, "The word of the Lord came to me. 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says. Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves. Should not shepherd, take care of the flock? You eat the curds. You clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals. But you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak. You've not healed the sick. You've not bound up the injured. You've not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd. And when they were scattered, they became food for all the wild animals.' This is what the Sovereign Lord says, 'I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep.'"
And so Jesus was sent into Bethlehem to be a shepherd of God's sheep. To be God's shepherd. To look after his people. So God raised up a righteous shepherd. Look at verse 4. "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." This is in direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah 23: 5 and 6. "The days are coming declares the Lord, when I'll raise up to David a righteous branch. A King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days, Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called the Lord, our righteousness." This is the one, the branch of David who would shepherd the people and stand and they would be secure.
Jesus is this Good Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who is sent into the world in Bethlehem to be the shepherd of the people. Listen to this in John chapter 10. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep."
To Be a Savior
So therefore, he was sent also to be a savior. He was sent to lay down his life for us. Because we were threatened with infinite loss. We were threatened with eternal death. And so Jesus came to pay the death penalty on the cross. He came to suffer and die on the cross, a cross of wood, to be our savior. A body was prepared for him, it says in Hebrews, that he might be the servant of God to have his body broken on the cross. To have his blood shed for the forgiveness of sins, to be a savior.
It says in verse 4, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the Majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” Do you see a picture of strength? Your Good Shepherd standing on your behalf. I was reading recently about David's mighty men. I love reading the stories about these mighty men and all the things they achieved. And there's this one guy in particular that I'm interested in. His name is Shammah. "And he took a stand," it says, "in a field of lentils, when all Israel forsook him and ran away." So there he is fighting the Philistines alone. He took a stand in a field of lentils and he kept fighting until the battle was won. Now it says that they came back and found him there, but only to strip the dead. So he gave his life for his nation, at that point. He took a stand in a field and he wouldn't be deterred. Everybody else was running away, but he took a stand. That's a picture of Jesus, isn't it? He will stand and shepherd his flock. He's not running. You can't make him run. He has taken a stand on our behalf and he will not run. He will take on all of our enemies until every one of them is defeated, until every one of them lie dead at his feet, he will be victorious. He will save us from our sins. He will save us from Satan's accusations. He will save us from the grave, from death. He will save us from hell. He will take his stand as our Shepherd, as our king and he will be victorious. He has come to be our savior.
When Was He Sent?
From “The Days of Eternity”
Well, when was he sent? When was he sent? Well, in the New American Standard, in Verse 2, it says, "His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." Now, we come at last to this mysterious phrase, the days of eternity. Now, the Hebrew phrase could simply just refer to ancient days. Way back then. The times back then. And so Micah could be looking back to David. And so he will be of the house and lineage of David. But do you think that's what Micah's saying? I don't. The Hebrew actually does mean eternity. From timeless history past. Way, way back. The days of eternity.
Before the Foundation of the World
I think this is speaking in before the foundation of the world. What is the origin of Christmas? It is in the mind of God the Father and God the Son, before the world began. Before God said, "Let there be light," this plan was worked out in detail. And thus it is said in Revelation 13:8, that Jesus is "…the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world." In what sense was Jesus slain from the foundation of the world? Well, he knew that it was by his blood that the people of God would be forgiven of their sins throughout all of human history. Before even Adam and Eve were created from the dust of the earth and from the rib of Adam. Before any of that happened. Any that would be forgiven would be forgiven by the shedding of the blood of the lamb. He was the lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. It says also in Ephesians that the people of God, the sheep, were chosen in Christ from the creation of the foundation of the world. It says in Ephesians 1, "He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will." That's before he said, "Let there be light." Before there was a sun or moon or stars. Before anything was arranged on the surface of the earth. Before any oceans or mountains or rivers. Before any of that, the plan, the salvation plan of God was crafted in the mind of God. And it included Bethlehem Ephrathah. It included this little town of Bethlehem that he would enter there. This is the origin of Christmas. When also? "When in the fullness of time…", according to Galatians. You see God isn't just a God of eternity past, ancient days of eternity. He's a God of right here and right now. He's as practical as it gets. Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. He knows exactly what's going on in your lives. He knows where the rubber meets the road. And he knows that there had to be a specific time in history that Jesus entered the world. And that was planned out too.
In the Fullness of Time
What was going on at that time in Israel's history? What was happening around Bethlehem. God knew exactly what was happening in the fullness of time. It says in Galatians 4: 4 and 5. "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son. Born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." Christianity is more a history - a religion of history - than any other religion in the world. If the history isn't true, then neither is Christianity. And if Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem, then Christianity is false. If Jesus wasn't physically bodily raised from the dead on the third day, our faith is worthless. It's a religion of history. And so God worked out in the fullness of time... When the Roman Empire was at its peak, when the Jews had been scattered, when Moses was being read in synagogues all over the Roman world, when there was a system, an economic system of trade and all of that... At that time when the whole world was at peace under the Pax Romana. When Caesar would be sitting on that throne... That's when Jesus was born. In the fullness of time God sent his Son.
What Are the Final Effects of His Being Sent?
The Worldwide Fame of His Name
And finally, what are the final effects of his being sent? Look at Verse 4 and 5. "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 their peace." Well, first of all, the effect of his coming is the world-wide fame of his name. That his name would be great to the ends of the earth. For the glory of the name of God, he was sent. That people might think, great thoughts of God. Jesus does everything for the glory of his Father's name. And so it says, "He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord and in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God." It's for the majesty of the name, that he comes. For the greatness of his name. And his own name will be great because they're one and the same. Aren't they? Make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name. The one name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. And notice how missionary success is guaranteed by this passage as well. Verse 4. "And they will live securely for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth." His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, and the missionaries will go out. And they will proclaim a Gospel in his name. They will proclaim peace in the name of Jesus and the shed blood of Christ. And his name will be held great to the distant islands to the far shores of the earth.
Secondly, the final effect of his being sent is peace and security. It says in verse 5, "And he will be their peace." Naturally, we are God's enemies. I spoke about this from Colossians last week. We're at war with God. We were alienated. We were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior. It says in Colossians. Naturally, we await condemnation on Judgment Day. But now that Christ has gone forth from Bethlehem, now that he has drunk the cup of God's wrath on our behalf, God is at peace with us. And on the basis of that, we can feel at peace with God too. It says in Romans 5:1, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." He will be our peace. He will be our peace. Not our own achievements. Not on the basis of our own works. Not on the basis of coming to some peaceful frame of mind. Not on any of that. But on the basis of Christ and his finished work on the cross. He will be our peace.
And from that we get protection and security, because Jesus stands powerfully as our Shepherd. And no enemy can touch us. He will stand between you and every temptation you'll face the rest of your life. And “He will let pass,” according to 1 Corinthians 10, “only those temptations that he permits to come your way and he will make a way of escape with each one that comes.” He is filtering the things that come to your life because he is your good shepherd. He's not going to let anything touch you that will destroy you. He will not let Satan have at you. He is more than just a hedge of protection. He is an almighty wall of protection around you. He is your good shepherd. And from that comes your peace, your security and your safety.
A Dwelling Place
And you will have finally a dwelling place. Look what it says, "And they will live securely." The Jews were a harassed and helpless people. Always, throughout their history coming over the hill was the next band of Gentile raiders. It might be the Amorites, it might be the Hittites, it might be the Assyrians or the Egyptians. It might be the Babylonians or the Greeks, or the Romans. They were harassed. And they had no security at all. They lived in un-walled villages for the most part. And they would be swept away by these Gentile marauding hordes. They had no peace and no security. And even in their walled cities, God would give them up because of their sins. But Jesus comes to dwell over a place where we will have security. We will live securely there forever. It's a future home of peace and rest. It says in Micah 4:3 and 4, "He will judge between many peoples and settle disputes for strong nations fare in wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Listen to this. "Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid." Are you looking forward to that? Sitting under your own vine and fig tree. Well, I think that that's a metaphor for a peaceful, rich life of security. And maybe you will get your own vine and your own fig tree and just reach up and pluck those grapes and those figs, and eat them as much as you want. It's a picture of security and rest, and Jesus alone works it. Revelation 21:3 and 4, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God at last is with men.' And he will be their God. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe every tear from their eyes. And there will be no more death or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Before the foundation of the world, the Father and the Son agreed that Jesus would shed his blood for sins. Before the foundation of the world, they agreed that he would enter the world in Bethlehem Ephrathah, and that he would live a sinless life, and that he would do miracles, and that he would speak great teachings and parables, and that he would be arrested, and that he would be crucified, that his blood would be shed for the forgiveness of our sins, and on the third day that he will be raised in a resurrection body. And that he would ascend to heaven and sit at the right hand of God. And he would save a huge quantity of people from every tribe and language and people and nation. And they would live with him in security forever and ever.
My friends, that is the Gospel. And that's why Jesus came. Do you know him? Have you come to trust in him? The reason for the prophecy is simple. So that you might trust him. That you might trust him completely. That you might trust him for the salvation of your sins. Do you know him? I assume today... I've prayed about it. I assume that I'm speaking to someone. Maybe a large group of people who do not yet know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Oh, I trust and I pray that you will look to Jesus on the basis of this prophecy and all of the Scriptures that we've covered today. And call on the name of the Lord for the salvation of your soul. Look to him. This will be the greatest Christmas of your life. You'll look back and say, "I remember that sermon." Micah chapter 5. What got you? It was that God had the ability to predict the exact place where a baby would be born. It's not easy to do, by the way. Some women come early. Some come late. You're never quite sure if that donkey ride is going to be what does it. Halfway between Nazareth and Bethlehem, she gives birth. Oh my goodness, it cannot be. And so God rules over Caesar Augustus, and he rules over Mary and her womb, and the exact time and brings it together. And why? So that you can trust him and you can believe in him and know that he has the power to save your souls.