THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE MESSIAH
Micah 5:2 says, “But you Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting.” Micah, the prophet, lived some 700 years before the birth of Christ. Micah 5:2-5 contains some remarkable pre-announcements about the birth of some great person whom God was going to bring out of the nation of Israel and who would be God's appointed Ruler or Messiah in Israel. In verse 3 he predicts that God would give up the nation of Israel to their enemies until the woman chosen to give Him birth should bring Him into the world. Isaiah said this woman would be a virgin, and the mother of Jesus had never known a man. Eight hundred years before Micah lived, Moses also made a prediction about this same future ruler of Israel. In Deuteronomy 18:18,19, just before Israel entered the land of promise, God said to Moses: “I will raise them up a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” God warned Israel that when this man comes, if anyone refuses to obey Him, he will be held accountable to God. Micah revealed some valuable information about this coming Ruler.
The first thing we learn from the text is the birthplace of the Messiah, the future king of Israel. The place of the Messiah's nativity was a matter of prophecy. Micah made a specific statement which history itself could verify or deny. Micah certainly put himself and the Bible on the spot by making a concrete, clear-cut prophecy. He could easily be proven false should he be born in any city except Bethlehem. Furthermore, he was to be born in Bethlehem Ephratah There were two Bethlehems in Israel, one in Galilee in the north and the other in Judea in the south. To prevent any confusion or misunderstanding, Micah states that He is to be born in Bethlehem Ephratah in Judea. This Bethlehem was the home of David, the greatest king Israel ever had before the Messiah appeared. He was not to be born in Jerusalem, but in the little town of Bethlehem. Rachel, Jacob's beloved wife, died in this little village. Bethlehem literally means “house of bread.” It is most fitting that Jesus was born in a place called the house of bread when He said, “I am the bread of life. If any man eat the bread that I give him he will live forever.” The oldest Christian church building in the world stands in Bethlehem. It was built around 330 A.D. by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great the first Christian Emperor of the ancient Roman Empire. Tradition says it
was built over the spot where Christ was born. Helena thought it was the place where He was born. It is today one the most famous cities in the world Thousands of tourists from all over the world visit this city every year. Whatever one's view is on Christmas, this is the season of the year when we are compelled to think of the birth of Christ. Western Civilization honors Him, , sings about Him and hears much about Bethlehem and the birth of Christ at this season of the year.
Another interesting thing about this prophecy is that the all Jews acknowledged Micah 5:2 as a Messianic prophecy. There are many prophecies about the Messiah that Israel did not then and still does not clearly perceive and recognize, but in the first century the religious leaders of Israel did know that this one was a clear reference to the Messiah We read in Matthew 2 when Jesus was born in Bethlehem that wise men from the East were guided by a miraculous star till they found Jesus and worshiped Him. They embarked on a journey in the direction of that star, and traveled an unknown length of time before arriving in Jerusalem. They came to worship the new born King of Israel. It is possible they were acquainted with this prophecy we are studying. As the capital, they thought Jerusalem would be the best place to obtain authentic information about the new born King. These wise men, probably Astrologers, said to some in Jerusalem, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews, for we have ve have seen His star in the East and are come to worship Him”(Matthew 2:2)..
The news traveled fast and soon the whole city was filled with excitement, but King Herod the Great was filled with alarm. He had usurped the throne he was on, was hated by his subjects, and now he hears about a new born King who might drive him from his throne. Therefore, Herod took immediate measures characterized by his usual cunning. His first move was to call together all the chief priests and Rabbis, and he demanded they tell him where the Messiah was to be born. In reply they quoted to him the prophecy in Micah 5:2 we are now investigating. The greatest Bible scholars in Israel told Herod that Bethlehem was the city predicted by the prophet Micah to be the birthplace of their coming King. Herod's next move was to extract from the wise men the exact time they first saw that star. Herod then murdered every child in Bethlehem two years old and under, but Joseph and Mary were warned by God to take Jesus to Egypt. This is the probable reason we don't know the exact time of His birth. It was necessary to keep it secret to prevent Herod the Great from taking His life. But my chief point is that the Jews knew about this prophecy and understood the Messiah would have to be born in Bethlehem. This
would be the first mark of identification when the Messiah made His appearance. All the religious leaders of Israel seem to have known about this prophecy we investigating in this study. You would have thought the Sanhedrin would have been wonderfully happy to hear about the birth of their Messiah in Bethlehem, but sadly it was not so.
Another interesting aspect of this prophecy is that God said to the little town of Bethlehem, “Out of you shall He come forth to Me who is to be ruler in Israel.” He was to be the King of Israel. When the wise men arrived in Jerusalem their first inquiry was, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews.” This was a very unique thing that Jesus Christ was said to be, “born the King of the Jews.” Very few have ever been “born king.” Men are born princes, but they are seldom ever born kings. I am not sure that you can find an instance in history where any infant was born king. I think the wise men were right; they came to worship a king, and a king He was. The moment He came on earth He was a King. As soon as He opened His eyes and greeted the sunshine, He was a King–even though the world did not know it. He was born a King. God sent Him to be the King of Israel. It is true that most of the nation said, ”We will not have this man to reign over us.” Although most of the nation of Israel rejected Him, that did not change His divine appointment as the Messiah of Israel. God made this appointment and no nation in the world can overrule it. The nation of Israel would be extremely wise to reconsider the evidence of the Christian religion, for they will be shut out of heaven if they do not turn to Jesus Christ. The apostle John said this about Jesus in Revelation 1:4,5 : “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, from the seven spirits that are before the throne and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” Micah did not know that the Messiah of the Jews was to be the ruler and king of all nations. Today, He is not only the God-appointed king of Israel but also the king and Ruler of all nations, now sitting at the right hand of God in the heavens. To all who reject His universal rulership over the world, Jesus gave this warning, “If you believe not that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
Everything I have said thus far pertained to His birthplace and kingship. However, Micah revealed another great truth about the birth of the Messiah. The text says of this One to be born in Bethlehem, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
This One to be born in Bethlehem is said to have goings forth from everlasting. This literally means He existed before He was born. He existed from the days of eternity. This prophecy expresses the eternity of the Messiah's divine nature. These words are a prediction that the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem had an eternal existence. He would not be an ordinary human being. His goings forth or existence was from everlasting. This part of Micah's prophecy expresses the pre-existence of the One to be born in Bethlehem. He was to be a Divine Being as well as a human being. Micah predicted that the birth of the Messiah would be an incarnation-- God becoming flesh. It meant one of the divine beings in the Godhead would become a man, and the result would be that the man would be part God and part man, part human and part Divine. We can offer no explanation how this could be. We fully acknowledge the difficulty, and we bow before the mystery. The apostle John gives us the correct explanation of this mystery that all Christians must accept. In John 1:1-3 the apostle says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made..” Then verse 14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.” This is what happened when the Messiah was born in Bethlehem. It is clearly taught in the New Testament the second person in the Godhead became flesh by assuming the form of Jesus of Nazareth. There was a mysterious union between the second person in the Godhead and Jesus that extends all the way back into eternity.
Finally, the most exciting thing about this prophecy is that it has been fulfilled; it no longer belongs to the future but to the past. The Messiah has made His appearance and was born in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. Matthew 2:1 says, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea.” Jesus of Nazareth therefore qualifies as the Messiah from the viewpoint of this prophetical statement. In some ways this is the most remarkable of all the prophecies about Christ. About the time Jesus was to born, it began to look as if one of the prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament was going to fail, and it was Micah 5:2. When the days began to draw near for the child to be born, Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth. Prophecy said that He would be born in Bethlehem. However, Mary was in Nazareth some eighty miles from Bethlehem. But our God works in mysterious ways. He used the Emperor of Rome to help fulfill the prophecy of Micah and get Mary to Bethlehem. Just in the nick of time, Augustus
Caesar decreed that all of the Roman Empire would take a census for purposes of taxation. In order to do this, all men had to return to the city of their birth, and Joseph was from Bethlehem. Accordingly, Mary and Joseph, with royal blood flowing in their veins, set out on their eighty- mile journey to Bethlehem. The trip must have been exceedingly hard on Mary. I am sure they did not expect so soon the great event that immortalized their journey. She had not been in Bethlehem very long till she knew it was time for her baby to be born. It must have greatly worried them. They probably thought they could get back home in time for the child to be born, but the time was accomplished and the child was to be born now. Their greatest problem was that Bethlehem was full of people. because of the tax enrollment. Joseph and Mary sought admission to an inn, but there was no room for them. Jesus was crowded out of a place s evens to be born. Little did the occupants of that inn imagine who it was they were turning away. Nothing was left for them to occupy but an empty stable, probably used for sheltering. animals.
This incident at His birth is symbolic of the tragedy of His whole life. Today, most people in the world crowd Him out of their hearts. The only place He can make His home today is the inn of the soul, the home of the heart. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said these words to one of the churches in Asia Minor, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.” The door in that passage is he heart.
It was there in Bethlehem in such lowly surroundings that Mary brought forth her firstborn Son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, from which animals fed. Because of that birth in Bethlehem, it will always be one of the most famous cities on this earth. Around this time of the year we hear a beautiful song about Bethlehem. It goes like this.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love;
O morning stars together proclaim the holy birth;
And praises sing to God the King , and peace to men on earth.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us w e pray,
Cast out our sin and enter in–be born in us today;
We hear the heavenly angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel.