Every year at Christmas I like to focus on a different text or theme of the season. Last year I focused on Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Jesus Who would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. When it seemed like God’s promises and plan was forgotten or even dead, the Israelites saw God break the silence through a humble Baby’s birth. Truly we serve a God that is not dead, but actively working His plan of redemption! Last year, the old Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” particularly grabbed my attention on this similar theme.
This year, Micah’s book of prophetic warning and yet message of restorative hope riveted my attention. It is in this book that we see the little insignificant town of Bethlehem prophesied to be the birthplace of Messiah.
Micah ministers among Israel and Judah at a time of extreme corruption, compromise, pride, and persistence in rebellion to God’s design for His people to reflect His nature. In a world where the leadership–including the spiritual leadership–demised into continual injustice, Micah sternly warns of impending judgment. God’s warning to His people of the coming judgment is also balanced in the text with God’s loving heart of compassion and faithfulness to His covenant and overall redemptive plan. Although the current Assyrian threat in Micah’s day (contemporary with Isaiah’s ministry as well) would escalate, God’s plan would still prevail. Although the Babylonian empire would ultimately fulfill the prophetic warnings found in Micah and Isaiah, God’s plan would still prevail. Even as Micah focuses on an even greater eschatological focus, including both judgment and deliverance, God’s plan would still prevail.
It is in this judgment and restoration themed context that we read the beginning of Micah’s fifth chapter regarding Bethlehem. Micah 5:1 begins contrasting the current Judean king’s inability to shepherd and protect the people with this coming Bethlehem child who will be the ultimate Shepherd-King ruling in complete sufficiency. Thus, in Judah’s struggles under Assyrian and Babylonian judgment, their ultimate hope lied in the glorious promise of the long-expected Rescuer of God. It is indeed from this simple town of Bethlehem that the unexpected shepherd boy David became Israel’s king. Likewise, it is in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant that the Messiah would come in his lineage. Furthermore, Micah declares that the Redeemer’s birthplace would be from the same humble origin as David. Thus, the fulfillment of the promises given to through the shepherd-boy-king (David) would be the coming of this long-awaited ultimate, all-sufficient Shepherd-King.
Amidst this bleak outlook of Israel’s sin and the coming judgment, there is hope! For God has not forgotten His covenant. Israel will rise again through God’s glorious work of redemption. Further, Israel’s influence in birthing the Messiah will bring many more into the Kingdom than ever expected… all nations!
It is gloriously clear that the coming of Jesus is in fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy. Jesus is our Shepherd-King! Paul writes in Romans 11 how we Gentiles are graciously grafted into God’s overall sovereign redemptive plan. Thus, this Christmas may we stand in awe at the work and reign of our manger-born, Shepherd-King! He is our Shepherd! He is our King! He is our Peace!
Worshipping our Shepherd-King,