5) The Lord’s Ruler
Text: Micah 5:1-15
Micah’s message is to declare ‘Who is like the Lord!’ So far in this series we’ve looked at how the Lord sees the sin of his people, we’ve looked at the Lord’s message of judgment, we’ve looked at how it’s the Lord’s Spirit that makes all the difference in our lives, and we’ve looked at how even though the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are a mess, the Lord’s Kingdom is majestic. This morning we’re going to look at the Lord’s Ruler. Every worldly kingdom has a ruler and the same is true of God’s kingdom. And it’s this ruler and the effects of his reign that Micah looks at in chapter 5.
1) The Lord’s Ruler is Humble
The first thing that Micah tells us about the Lord’s Ruler is that he comes from humble origins. Micah writes, ‘2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel… (Mic 5:2a)’
a) The Lord’s Ruler will come from Bethlehem
So the first thing we learn about the Lord’s Ruler is that he will come from Bethlehem. This prophecy was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. When King Herod sought the location of the Messiah’s birth his royal scholars refer to this verse without hesitation. Matthew writes, ‘4 …[Herod] asked [the chief priests and teachers of the law where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” (Mt 2:5b-6). 700 years before Jesus was born God revealed to Micah that he would be born in Bethlehem. So what do we know about Bethlehem itself?
b) Bethlehem is insignificant
Firstly, we know that as a town it was completely insignificant. We know that it was insignificant for two reasons. Firstly, Micah not only gives us the name of the town, but also the region, this is Bethlehem of Ephrathah. If it was significant you’d just have to say Bethlehem and everyone would know where you were talking about, but Bethlehem was just another tiny village, like thousands of other tiny villages. Secondly, Micah tells us that it was ‘small among the clans of Judah.’ In fact, it was so small that it’s not even mentioned among the 115 towns that Joshua allotted to Judah after the conquest of Canaan (Josh 15:20-63). In Australian terms Bethlehem was a one pub town, or as my dad used to say it was one of those towns that if you blinked you’d miss it.
c) Bethlehem is significant
But in another sense Bethlehem is significant. Firstly, its name is significant. Bethlehem means ‘House of Bread,’ and Ephrathah means ‘abundant.’ And for Micah names are important. Remember all the towns he mentioned in chapter 1? Not one of them lived up to their name, but Bethlehem will. The town that provides abundant bread, will provide a ruler for God’s people. Secondly, Bethlehem was the birth place of King David, it was it’s one claim to fame, but that claim would pale in comparison to what was to come, for out of Bethlehem would come the Lord’s Ruler, the Messiah, the Christ, through whom God’s salvation would come.
So what does all this have to say for us today?
i) God delights to use unlikely instruments
Firstly, it tells us that God delights to use unlikely instruments. Israel’s future greatness doesn’t rest on the greatness of a human king, or the influence of its greatest cities, instead it rests on God’s divine intervention to bring greatness out of a tiny town like Bethlehem. In the same way God doesn’t achieve his greatest works through charismatic leaders, but through the hands and lips of humble believers committed to doing his will. That was true of Jesus who wasn’t born into prominence, or wealth or power, but into obscurity, poverty and weakness. And that was also true of the early church. Paul writes, ‘26 …Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are. (1 Cor 1:26-28)’ So, do you believe that as unlikely as it sounds, God would use you to achieve his purposes? If you don’t think you’re good enough, or important enough, or smart enough to be used by God, then remember Bethlehem, it was nothing until God made it famous. In the same way God wants to use you to achieve his purposes.
b) God’s grace is our only hope
Secondly, Micah reminds us that our only hope is in God’s grace. The only way Bethlehem would become great was for God to choose it for his divine purposes. And the same is true for you and me. The only hope that we have is if God chooses us, and if God saves us through Jesus Christ, and if God empowers us through his Holy Spirit. It’s not because we were worthy to be saved, but rather ‘8 …While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8b)’ It’s not by our efforts, rather Paul writes, ‘5 [God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Tit 3:5)’ And it’s not because now that we’re saved we’re such good people, rather ‘13 …it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phil 2:13)’ God takes broken, sinful, selfish people like you and me, and in his love and mercy he heals us and forgives us and makes us new. Is your hope in God’s grace, in the fact that God the Father chose you, that God the Son saved you, and God the Spirit empowers you to serve God’s purposes?
2) The Lord’s Ruler is Great
So the Lord’s Ruler comes from humble Bethlehem, which reminds us of our humble beginnings, but Micah then turns to the greatness of this ruler from Bethlehem. According to Micah the Lord’s Ruler is great in four ways.
a) Great in his person
Firstly, the Lord’s Ruler is great in his person. Micah writes, ‘2 …out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Mic 5:2b)’ The Messiah’s origins go way back. They go back to King David and God’s promise that his throne will never end, they go back to Abraham and God’s promise that his descendant will be a blessing to all nations, they go back even further to Adam and Eve and God’s promise that one of their descendants will crush Satan’s head, but they go back further still to God himself. The Bible actually uses both these phrases, ‘from of old,’ and ‘from ancient times’ of God. Abraham calls God ‘33 …the Eternal God. (Gen 21:33b)’ God isn’t just from ancient times he has always existed, he is the eternal God. Moses sings, ‘27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Dt 33:27a)’ Habakkuk asks ‘12 O Lord, are you not from everlasting? (Hab 1:12a)’ And the Psalmist writes, ‘19 God is enthroned forever… (Ps 55:19a)’ The point that Micah wants us to see is that the Lord’s Ruler doesn’t just come from the lineage of David, but that he is the eternal, everlasting God, born as a baby in Bethlehem. David’s line had failed, and so God promises to send a ruler who will not fail, a ruler who would establish God’s kingdom forever and ever. This ruler isn’t just great, he’s Great with a capital G. Jesus isn’t a good man, he’s the God-man.
b) Great in his calling
Secondly, he will be great in his calling. Notice that Micah writes, ‘2 …out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel… (Mic 5:2b)’ God is sending this ruler not primarily for the people’s sake but for His sake. This ruler has come to achieve God’s purposes in history. And that’s exactly what we see in Jesus ministry. Jesus says, ‘34 My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (Jn 4:34)’ And just before he goes to the cross Jesus says, ‘42 …not my will, but yours be done. (Lk 22:42b)’ Jesus’ primary calling was to do the will of God. Jesus put God’s purposes and God’s desires above everyone else’s, even his own. What about you? As a follower of Jesus do you put his will before your own? Do you serve his purposes? Paul said, ‘For me to live is Christ! (Phil1:21)’ Is Jesus who you live for, or are you living for yourself? Like Jesus can you say, ‘Not my will, but yours be done’?
c) Great in his ministry
Thirdly, he will be great in his ministry. Micah adds, ‘4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. (Mic 5:4a)’ Unlike the false shepherds of Micah’s day, who abused and oppressed God’s people, God promises to send a good shepherd who will care for God’s people. And again Jesus uses this very same image about himself. He says, ‘11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (Jn 10:11)’ While the false shepherds committed sins against God’s people, Jesus came so that our sins might be laid upon him. Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah writes, ‘6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:6)’ Jesus laid down his life in order to save his sheep. So of course the question is: did Jesus lay down his life for you? Is Jesus your shepherd? Do you belong to his flock, the church? All it takes is believing that Jesus is God’s Ruler and trusting in his death on the cross.
d) Great in his salvation
Finally, the Lord’s Ruler is great in his salvation. Micah continues, ‘4 …And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. 5 And he will be their peace. (Mic 5:4b-5a)’ According to Micah this Ruler from Bethlehem will bring security and peace. And that’s exactly what Jesus promises those who put their faith in him. He says, ‘33 …in me you may have peace. (Jn 16:33a)’ And the reason why Jesus’ salvation is so great is that he doesn’t just bring a temporary peace for this life, rather he brings peace between us and God, a peace that lasts for all eternity. Paul writes, ‘1 …since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:1)’ Through faith in Jesus we are made right with God. Elsewhere the Bible says 25 Therefore [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him… (Heb 7:25a)’ Only through faith in Jesus can we be saved from our sin.
The Lord’s Ruler is Jesus Christ. And he is great, not just because he was a good man, but because he is God in the flesh, because he came to do God’s will, because he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, because he is able to save completely those who come to him in faith. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, that he is the Lord’s Ruler prophesied by Micah? Do you believe that He did God’s will, and do you also desire to do God’s will? Do you believe he is the good shepherd who laid down his life for you? And have you come to him in faith, to be saved completely from your sins? Micah’s point about the greatness of the Lord’s Ruler isn’t so you can say ‘that’s great!’ but so that you will bow your knee before Jesus Christ and profess him as your Lord and Saviour, as worthy of your life-long worship.
3) The Lord’s Ruler Brings Transformation
And that’s the third thing that Micah tells us about the Lord’s Ruler, that he brings transformation. If you recognize him as the Lord’s Ruler it means your life will change.
Firstly, and as we’ve already seen, the Lord’s Ruler brings deliverance. And Micah talks about this deliverance on two levels.
i) The Lord’s Ruler brings deliverance from sin
Firstly, it’s the Lord’s Ruler who brings deliverance. Micah writes, ‘6 …He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our borders. (Mic 5:6b)’ In Micah’s day this deliverance was seen in terms of deliverance from Assyria. Assyria was the obvious enemy of God’s people. But Micah uses Assyria, and Nimrod in the previous verse, as metaphors for worldly powers in opposition to God. Micah’s point is that the Lord’s Ruler will bring deliverance from the powers of evil that Assyria and Babylon represent. And like we’re seen that’s exactly what Jesus came to do - not to defeat the Romans, but to defeat the power of sin and Satan.
ii) The Lord’s Ruler raises up leaders
Secondly, according to Micah the Lord’s Ruler will raise up leaders for God’s people. He writes, ‘5 …When the Assyrian invades our land and marches through our fortresses, we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men. (Mic 5:5b)’ The numbers 7 and 8 imply that the Lord will more than adequately supply leadership for his people. And that’s exactly what Jesus does, he raises up men who will lead his people. Initially these men were the 12 disciples, but they in turn appointed elders. And Paul commissions them to, ‘28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Act 20:28)’ And Peter refers to Jesus as the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5:4). Micah is painting a picture of the church, a community of people that are united by their faith in Jesus Christ, and who are led by faithful leaders who constantly remind God’s people of the truth of their salvation as found in God’s word.
Secondly, the Lord’s Ruler brings blessing. Micah writes, ‘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. (Mic 5:7)’ Micah uses the imagery of dew that falls on grass. In Palestine where there is limited rainfall, dew is an absolute blessing to people who rely on agriculture. In fact, it was seen as a direct blessing from God. And that’s what the church is meant to be like, like rain on a dry and parched land. In a world that is full of hatred, anger, bitterness and brokenness, we are called to bring God’s love, and God’s peace, and God’s healing and the hope of the gospel. Our church is called to be a blessing in our community. I was really challenged about this: Am I a blessing in my street? Is my neighbourhood a better place because I moved in? I’m sure it’s not worse, but have I done anything to be a blessing in my local neighbourhood? What about you? And what about our church, will we be a blessing to Camira?
Thirdly, the Lord’s Ruler brings conflict. Micah adds, ‘8 The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which mauls and mangles as it goes, and no one can rescue. (Mic 5:8)’ That sort of sounds in complete opposition to what I just said. How can we be like refreshing dew while we maul and mangle people like a lion? But Micah isn’t speaking of the same people here. The truth is that as we faithfully serve God, and stand up for what God says is right, it will mean we help certain people and oppose others, or that we will help someone in one situation and confront them in another. Because God is a God of both mercy and justice, we also love mercy and hate injustice. Just as a lion isn’t domesticated, neither should the church be domesticated by the world. Rather than adopt a worldly message, and worldly priorities, and worldly methods, we are called to stand against sin and the values of our world, and instead stand for God’s will and fight for his values. Jesus said, ‘34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Mt 10:34)’ Allegiance to Jesus means conflict with the world. So while on the one hand we are a blessing to the world, on the other hand we are in conflict with the world. While on one hand we love our neighbour and seek to serve them, at the same time we won’t compromise our Christians value and what God calls right and wrong. On the one hand we are like light in a dark place, and on the other hand we are like salt in a raw wound.
Finally, the Lord’s Ruler brings holiness. So far we’ve looked at how the church works in the world, but the truth is God is just as active in the church. Micah talks about three issues that the Lord’s Ruler confronts in the church.
i) False Hopes
Firstly, Jesus wants to confront false hopes. Micah writes, ‘10 “In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will destroy your horses from among you and demolish your chariots. 11 I will destroy the cities of your land and tear down all your strongholds. (Mic 5:10-11)’ The people in Micah’s day put their hope in their military capabilities, in their horses and chariots and strongholds, but such things created false hope. Those things couldn’t save them. But Jesus teaches us that we cannot save ourselves, only he can do that. Jesus says, ‘20 …unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:20)’ Our only hope is to put our faith in Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross. Paul writes, ‘17 …[don’t] put your hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but put your hope in God… (1 Tim 6:17b)’ The point is that we aren’t to trust or rely on anything except Jesus Christ for our salvation. We don’t put our hope in ourselves, or our retirement fund, or our jobs, or our houses, or even other people. Only Jesus can save us, only Jesus can give us eternal life, only Jesus can reconcile sinners with God. So put your hope in Jesus.
ii) False Teachings
Secondly, Jesus confronts false teachings. Micah talks about how the Lord’s Ruler ‘12 …will destroy your witchcraft and you will no longer cast spells. (Mic 5:12)’ In Micah’s day rulers eased their concerns about the future by going to mediums and diviners, and even today mediums and astrology and tarot cards are becoming more popular. But the teachings of spiritualism today again lead us into a false hope. The Prophet Isaiah writes, ‘19 When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? (Isa 8:19a)’ And Jesus came to make that possible. Instead of consulting the dead, or spirits, in Jesus we can consult God himself. In Jesus we can approach God as our loving Father (Mt 6:9; Rom 8:15). Instead of turning towards spiritualism for answers, in Jesus we can approach God directly in prayer.
iii) False Worship
Thirdly, Jesus confronts false worship. Micah writes, ‘13 I will destroy your carved images and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands. 14 I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles and demolish your cities. (Mic 5:13-14)’ In Micah’s day people where lured away by the paganism all around them, the carved stone idols and the sacred stones of Baal, and the poles of the fertility goddess Asherah. And even today God’s people are lured away by the contemporary idolatries of materialism and individualism and sensualism. Today people worship their possessions and pleasure and themselves. But Jesus came to turn people away from themselves and towards God. Jesus said, ‘23 …a time has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth… (Jn 4:23)’ And Jesus gave us that same mission to confront false worship and proclaim the truth. Jesus told Paul that his mission was ‘18 to open [people’s] eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Act 26:18)’ And the early church was full of people who ‘9 …turned from idols to serve the living and true God. (1 Thess 1:9b)’
Jesus wants to transform our lives. Jesus wants to change us from people who rely on false hopes, and false teaching and false worship, to people who rely on God, who trust the gospel, and who worship God in spirit and truth and with reverence and awe. Jesus wants to get rid of any worldly influence in our lives and instead make us holy. Jesus wants to cleanse us from our sin, so that we can serve the living God.
This morning Micah wants us to meet the Lord’s Ruler. He wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ. And even though he came from such humble beginnings, he is in fact the greatest person to ever live. He is God in the flesh, he is worthy of all honour and power. He obeyed God’s will, he laid down his life for us. He is able to save completely those who come to God through faith in him. And the thing about the Lord’s Ruler is that he came to reign over us and to transform us through the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that you will trust no one else except Jesus, that you will listen to no one else except Jesus, that you will worship no one else except Jesus. Is Jesus your Lord? Does Jesus rule your life? Amen.