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 Ephrathah,
who are too 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 of 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 comes into our land
and treads in our palaces,
then we will raise against him seven shepherds
and eight princes of men;
they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword,
and the land of Nimrod at its entrances;
and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian
when he comes into our land
and treads within our border.
Then the remnant of Jacob shall be
in the midst of many peoples
like dew from the LORD,
like showers on the grass,
which delay not for a man
nor wait for the children of man.
And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations,
in the midst of many peoples,
like a lion among the beasts of the forest,
like a young lion among the flocks of sheep,
which, when it goes through, treads down
and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries,
and all your enemies shall be cut off.
And in that day, declares the LORD,
I will cut off your horses from among you
and will destroy your chariots;
and I will cut off the cities of your land
and throw down all your strongholds;
and I will cut off sorceries from your hand,
and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes;
and I will cut off your carved images
and your pillars from among you,
and you shall bow down no more
to the work of your hands;
and I will root out your Asherah images from among you
and destroy your cities.
And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance
on the nations that did not obey.
(Micah 5 ESV)
One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
(Luke 14 ESV)
For the Love of God
IF THE FORWARD-LOOKING VISION OF Micah 4 does not include any description of a coming Messiah, the opening verses of Micah 5 redress the balance. The chapter begins with a sad depiction of Jerusalem and her king (5:1). Probably the historical allusion is to the invasion of the Assyrians under Sennacherib in 701 B.C. Although in God’s providence Jerusalem held up, the other walled towns of Judah were breached, and King Hezekiah was humiliated and almost overthrown. Ideally, the king from David’s line was to quell rebellion and disorder “with a rod of iron” (Ps. 2); he was to promote justice by striking with the rod of his mouth (Isa. 11:4). Yet here “Israel’s ruler” is struck “on the cheek with a rod” (5:1).
But the dynasty survives. Without filling in the intermediate steps, Micah the prophet envisages another king from the Davidic line (5:2-4). He springs from Bethlehem Ephrathah, ancestral home of David, the birthplace of his dynasty. From this village, God says, “will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (5:2). This wording is not affirming the eternal preexistence of this messianic figure (though of course it is not denying it). Rather, the glorious prospect is grounded in the past, in the ancient Davidic dynasty. When this king takes up the scepter, he will “shepherd his flock,” not in the uncertain strength of Hezekiah or any other king who precedes him in the line, but “in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God” (5:4). And in due course “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth,” and the secure peace pictured in the previous chapter will be ushered in (5:4-5).
So in the fullness of time, God arranged international affairs to ensure that Jesus was born not in Nazareth, the residence of Mary and Joseph, but in Bethlehem, their ancestral home (Luke 2). It was almost as if Almighty God was going a second mile: not only would it be said that Jesus “as to his human nature was a descendant of David” (Rom. 1:3) and thus an offshoot from Bethlehem, but that he was actually born there. Indeed, when the Magi arrived in Herod’s court to inquire as to where the promised King had been born, the chief priests and teachers of the Law quoted this passage in Micah 5 to settle the matter: he would be born in Bethlehem in Judea (Matt. 2:5-6). Though the village of Bethlehem was entirely unprepossessing (“small among the clans of Judah,” 5:2), with such a son it could “by no means” be considered “least among the rulers of Judah” (Matt. 2:6).