The Bethlehem Miracle

We live at a disturbing point in the history of our nation and our world. Unsettling plots are unfolding, unsettling agendas are increasing, and challenges are rising up in front of us.

This was the kind of situation confronting the nation of Israel when Christ was born. The Roman Empire had recently usurped the Greek Empire as governor of the known world. The nation of Israel had recently emerged from the Maccabean Revolution, having endured horrendous cultural and military assaults at the hands of the Greeks, led by none other than Antiochus Epiphanes, a historical type pointing ahead to the coming Antichrist. Under Roman rule, they endured exorbitant taxation and were disallowed from governing their own political affairs.

And such was the condition of the nation of Israel some 400 earlier, prior to the birth of Christ, at the end of the Old Testament. The nation of Babylon was surrounding the city of Jerusalem in a siege and would soon demolish the city, take its residents captive, including the final Old Testament king of Israel – Zedekiah. Furthermore, they would shut down the nation of Israel conclusively, killing Zedekiah’s sons and heirs before his very face, then gouging out his eyes. This was a tragic, ominous time for Israel.

It is in difficult junctures of human history that God finds a way to accomplish big and special things in small and out of the way places.

But at this tumultuous and terrible time, God gave a very special prophecy and promise about the future of the nation. For it is in difficult junctures of human history that God finds a way to accomplish big and special things in small and out of the way places. If you want to see what God is doing in the world at difficult times, learn to turn your eyes away from the headlines and look in the small places. Never underestimate what God is doing in the small places of the world.

Understanding the Prophecy

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

There are five parts to this prophecy. Let’s look at each one.

1. A child would be born in Bethlehem.

This is encouraging. This tells us that even though Zedekiah would lose his kingship and that Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar would shut down the nation, God still intended to work within the nation, in places like Bethlehem, even after the dust of captivity had settled in a distant land.

The town of Bethlehem was small, not large. It would be appropriate to call it a village. Located about 5 miles south of Jerusalem, it had actually been the birthplace of King David. It served as a border town or defense outpost for the southern region of the nation. At the time of Christ’s birth, the population appears to have been around 500-600 residents. That’s not very big.

2. He would be a ruler.

This prophecy not only guarantees that the nation of Israel would have a future, but that it would function again as a nation. It would have a ruler or a king once again, and this king would be born in the little town of Bethlehem.

3. He would be a ruler for Jehovah.

This prophecy not only guarantees that the nation of Israel would have a future, and that it would function again as a nation, but also that the coming king would rule for Jehovah. He would be different from the Davidic kings that had ruled Judah and Israel up until that point. Sin, sorrow and miserable disappointment had permeated the royal dynasties of Israel and Judah. Beginning with Saul, then David and Solomon, then Rehoboam and Jeroboam when the kingdom split, all the way down through Zedekiah – the kings had been a royal flop. But this prophecy guarantees that the next king would rule for Jehovah, not for his own personal interests.

4. He has made repeated appearances in history.

The next two details of this prophecy reach into the past in a way that is even more remarkable than the previous three details predicting the future!

This king, at his birth, will not be appearing for the first time in history. The phrase “whose goings forth have been from of old” can literally be translated “who has been coming and going throughout history.” This is truly remarkable. The baby who would be born in Bethlehem will be someone who has already been making repeated appearances in history.

5. He has been doing this from the beginning.

How far back do these repeated appearances go? “Even from everlasting.” This means that he has been doing this, as my Old Testament professor phrased it, “from time immemorial.” What does this mean? The baby has been coming and going in human history from before the beginning of time.

Pondering the prophecy

Here are some lessons from this prophecy that encourage us today.

God personally guides the affairs of history.

Ephesians 1:11 tells us, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”

This prophecy indicates to us quite clearly that God personally involves Himself in the affairs of human history. He has been doing this from the beginning, when he created the universe. He has been doing this throughout history prior to the birth of Jesus Christ, and in fact, Christ has been doing this Himself before His own birth! And he is so in control of the affairs of human history that he is able to say specifically where a baby would be born in the future in a small town in a nation that is about to be carried away captive. He is able to say that this child would be a king who would rule over a restored nation who reassembles and reorganizes in that land as a nation again. He planned it all this way.

He delights in doing great things through small things.

God frequently chooses small things, weak things, humanly insignificant and disadvantaged things to get His work done in the world.

Zechariah 4:10 says, “For who has despised the day of small things?”

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.”

Our God delights in using small things to accomplish big things, and to use weak things to accomplish strong things. Consider the power of a small word spoken. This poem, by Helen T. Allison, will help.

One little, unshed raindrop

May think itself too small;

Yet, somewhere, a thirsty flower

Awaits its fall.

One little word, unspoken,

May seem too small to say;

But, somewhere, for that one word,

A heart may pray.

He will provide the world with a perfect ruler.

This rule will fulfill his mission in two phases.

First, he came into the world to suffer.

We call the birth of Christ “the first advent.” While it is true that the incarnation of Christ was not the first appearance of Christ in this world, it is true that the birth of Jesus Christ was His first appearance as a human being with human flesh and blood and a human existence. And when he was born as a human, appeared first to die and to deliver sinners from the spiritual bondage of sin.

1 Timothy 1:15 says, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

And Isaiah 53:4-7 concurs, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

But this was not his last advent into the world.

Then, he will come into the world to reign.

But Jesus Christ will finish His delivering work in the world when he returns a second time to finish what he began. At his first advent, he entered this world in a manger and then died on a cross. When he comes again, he will enter on a majestic white horse in the clouds and sit down on a throne – the throne of the world.

Isaiah 9:6-7 says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: And the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to stablish it with judgment and with justice From henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

The Mighty Amazon River

The mighty Amazon river, 4,345 miles long, is the longest river in the world. Yet it begins as a mere, icy trickle from an Andes glacier.

As it surges across the wilderness, hundreds of tributaries run into it. Along the way, the Amazon transforms from a small stream into a river; it is a moving inland sea that drains nearly half the continent of South America.

The river’s power is so great that even when it reaches the Atlantic, it refuses to die. It pushes fresh, muddy water into the ocean as far as 100 miles offshore.

The miracle God promised and eventually performed in the little town of Bethlehem will eventually overwhelm all of the evil in the world. Just as certain as Jesus was born, he will rule the entire world for God’s glory.

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