When I was in seminary, I often had this image in my mind as I felt the crunch of the end of the semester. I was on snow skies, going very fast down a very steep hill and I was very concerned. Why? First, I have never downhill skied in my life. Second at the bottom of the hill was a bunch of trees. The trees were a picture of all the finals, tests, papers and work that needed to be done by the end of the semester. It was coming fast and I had to get through it somehow. The amazing thing was that I always did but that picture is one of being overwhelmed.
There are times when we may feel completely overwhelmed. Problems may overwhelm us as well as we deal with varying difficult circumstances in our lives. For many of us, however, we might have to change the picture of skiing to the trees not just being at the bottom of the hill but on the hill itself and there is no bottom. We just keep on going trying not to hit trees. When we may have such feelings of being overwhelmed, we may have a bit of an idea of the despair the people in Micah’s day were feeling. Their whole world was crumbling around them. Everything they depended on seemed to be falling away. Micah comes to them amid their despair and gives them hope for peace in their lives. This peace will come from a baby who will be born in Bethlehem. Let’s read Micah 5:1-15.
First, let’s look at the troubled times in which these people in Judah were living. Micah wrote this prophecy about 10 years before the northern kingdom of Israel was completely destroyed and taken in exile by Assyria to the north. Micah explains that the reason for this was Israel’s own sinfulness. During their days of prosperity, they had oppressed the poor. They no longer were faithfully worshiping God alone. Micah 5:1 pictures God’s resulting terrible punishment of Jerusalem very vividly. Jerusalem will be surrounded by a siege and will quickly weaken. The scepter, the king’s symbol of authority, has been removed. Now he is even being beaten by his own symbol of his former authority. Verse 1 describes a scene of utter humiliation where there is no hope.
However, first there will be hard times as we see in verse 3. The King will come, but his coming will be like a woman giving birth to a child. The joy will come but only after there is much pain. The people will be punished by being taken captive and forced to live in a foreign land. However, in the end God will bring forth a new godly king who will restore the kingdom and unite it. When this king is born, the “rest of his brothers will return to join the Israelites.”
These verses clearly point to Jesus who was born our king. Matthew 2:5-6 quotes Micah 5:2 as proof that Jesus fulfills this prophecy. Matthew would agree that all these verses describe Jesus Christ. So often we hear Micah 5:2 quoted in some sort of Christmas program or the like and we don’t give it much more thought. It is read with the birth story and then the children sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and then we move on the next scene in the story. These verses are far more significant than we realize and so we need to look at this whole passage to understand more of who Jesus was born to be and is today.
II. The nature of the King’s rule is described next.
Verses 4-6 describe what this new king will be like. He will be a Shepherd King with some important characteristics. He will totally rely on God’s strength and power instead of on his own strength. Moreover, he will submit fully to God’s authority and not rebel against God. He will be a shepherd king which means two important things for God’s people.
First a shepherd guides and comforts his sheep which is what we see in verse 4. A shepherd king will stand for and care for his people. He knows them by name and knows their needs and characteristics. Isaiah 40:11 describes the Messiah: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” The shepherd king will bring peace, a sense of security to his sheep. The people will know their king will take care of them regardless. It is the faith that a little child has in his or her parent trusting that mom or dad will not allow any harm to come to them.
Jesus as the shepherd king brings such peace to His people. On Christmas Eve, we will be looking at another familiar passage in Isaiah 9:6-7 where Isaiah calls the Messiah the “Prince of Peace.” Even though we live in a frightening world, we can know that we are being lovingly and carefully held in the arms of our strong and faithful Shepherd. However, the Shepherd King does more than just care for his people.
A good king must also protect his people as well which is what we see in verses 5-6. Micah quotes a song which may have been sung when the kingdom was prospering. It is a song of assurance, being sure that the victory is theirs: “When the Assyrian invades our land and marches through our fortresses, we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men. They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword.” Essentially this song says, “We can beat them! Let’s go get them!” But for now all the confidence is gone and things are not going well for the people. Micah gives this victory song to assure the people that ultimately they will win under the new Shepherd King; there is reason for confidence.
III. We must now examine our duties as Kingdom citizens.
These are seen in verses 7-9. The kingdom is everywhere for Christ’s rule is everywhere. It will spread throughout the whole world and be in the midst of many people. The church today is the new remnant of Israel, the new people of God, scattered throughout the world serving that kingdom. So what are our duties as kingdom citizens in this part of Christ’s kingdom?
First, we are to be like the dew and rain from the Lord. Verse 7: “The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which do not wait for man or linger for mankind.” Often in Palestine, there was no rain from June through September and the only form of moisture was a heavy morning dew. This dew brought relief to a land desperately needing water.
We, as Kingdom citizens, are called to be dew to a parched world. We are to bring relief and life to a sin-devastated world. Think about how you do this in your daily activities. Do you bring joy into the lives of people you meet? When people meet us, do they leave feeling better? Our joy as Christians should not be seasonal but instead we should be bringing life, relief and hope to all those we come in contact with.
But there are times when it is necessary for us to be like rain or showers on the grass. Rain too is greatly appreciated when it falls on a dry land. So Christians should be felt when they make a positive and encouraging difference in a world parched by the effects of sin. There are times when we must be more dramatic and more forceful. We are called to bring relief in major ways as well. Perhaps by helping the poor and homeless in our community. Perhaps being a direct witness to a person who clearly is in need of some spiritual guidance and we share the good news of Jesus with them. Perhaps it is in welcoming refugees from war-torn countries into our community and showing Christ’s love to those who don’t believe in Jesus.
But there is another side to our duty as kingdom citizens in verse 8, which says that we are to be like a lion among the beasts of the forest. We as kingdom citizens must stand up for Jesus and fight against the evil in the world. We must take a stand against the sins of racial injustices. We must take a stand against unjust social systems that exploit the poor. We must constantly struggle against the world’s attempts to convince us that it doesn’t really matter if you are a Christian or not. We must be ready to stand up for what is right in God’s eyes.
Now there are going to be times when we feel outnumbered and ineffective. However, let’s remember that we are on the offensive for we are claiming Christ’s world for him. We have the power and authority of Christ given to us for this purpose. Verse 9 clearly states the shepherd king and his followers will have the victory. That victory gives us complete peace and joy as we live with our king forever. The King from Bethlehem has been born and has given us the victory. Let’s go out to spread the good news and to work for the kingdom in order to claim it in Jesus’ name.