2 “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.
3 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.
4 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.
5 And he shall be their peace.”
Micah 5:2-5a, ESV
Micah the prophet, a native of Moresheth, spoke of coming judgment toward the people of Israel. Their world was in despair. Their political leaders had been overthrown or had died. It looked as if there was absolutely no hope for the Israelite nation.
The Assyrians were on their way to capture the Israelites and take them into captivity for a long while. Micah’s friends and family in Israel were distraught. Who wouldn’t be? It is easy for us to lose hope when things are not going our way. It is easy to lose hope when our lives seem to be crashing in on us. Yet, Micah had a certain hope. He had hope that one day, Israel would be delivered. As one commentator notes: “He was sure that Jehovah still had a final word. He looked forward to a purified and restored nation.”
Micah’s prophecy in verse 2 shows not only the physical reality of the birth of Christ but also the spiritual realization. Yes, it is true that Christ would be literally born in Ephrathah, the town from which David came that eventually was joined into Bethlehem. However, it was also true that this anticipated person to be the ruler of Israel was coming from eternity – or the “ancient of days.”
The captivity Israel found themselves in was only temporary, even though it was hard to imagine. Verse 3 – “…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.” Once again, Israel was falling on hard times and would not be rescued from these difficulties until the Savior was born in Bethlehem to a virgin girl and Nazarene carpenter.
Christ has come to shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord(v. 4). The meaning of this phrase is that “he will lead them in pastures of tender grass and beside the waters of quietness through the grace and power of God.”This sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?
The psalmist wrote in Psalm 23 that the Good Shepherd leads us beside still waters and restores our soul. The same God that has come to restore Israel will be the one who restores the souls of individual members of the household of Israel – those of the bloodline and those who have been adopted into the family of God (as Paul lays out for us in Romans 10 and 11). There was more to Christ’s coming that to physically free Israel from captivity. It would be foolish to think this was the only purpose of Christ’s coming. Christ came to free Israel spiritually rather than to free them physically from despair and captivity.
There was such a lack of peace and security among the people of Israel at this point in her history that it was almost unbelievable to think someone could bring peace.
The peace which Christ brings into the world is a peace that transcends all knowledge and understanding. There is no way to fully describe the peace Christ gives those who place their faith and trust in him. And that’s just it – the catch is that this peace is only available to those who make Christ their trust.
Christ came to seek and save the lost, but the peace Christ gives cannot be given to those who will not accept it. It is, most definitely a gift. Therefore, it must be accepted.
You see, this is the good news of Christmas. Christ comes to give us peace, even in the midst of all the despair and captivity in which we find ourselves. Just like the people of Israel, we, too, were held captive by the evil enemy. We were no longer ruled by the King but ruled by the enemy’s king. And the only way to escape this captivity was for someone to set us free from this bondage.
The people of Israel were looking forward to that day when they would be set free, as Micah prophesied – and eventually, they were set free. However, the implication they never truly understood was that eventually they would be set free spiritually from being required to keep the law. When Christ came, he kept the law for them because they could not keep it themselves.
In the same way, Christ came and kept the law in our place as well and paid the penalty for our sins that we owed. This is the gospel, but it’s also Christmas. Christmas has good and bad news. The bad news is that to understand Christmas, we must understand our sinfulness and the reasoning behind Christ’s coming. Christ came because there was no other way for mankind to truly be rescued from their grave condition. But the good news is that Christ came and lived the life we could not live and paid the debt we could not pay with his life and death. Then he gave us the ultimate seal of our salvation in his resurrection.
Micah’s prophecy is all about the good and bad news of Christmas, we just may have to dig to find it.
May our hearts be open this Christmas season to accept the peace of Christ in our lives and prepare him room in our hearts and homes.
Armor D. Peisker, “Micah” in Beacon Bible Commentary: Hosea – Malachi (Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1966), 193.
 Ibid, 217.