“God is Here”
Advent Series (5/5)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
Chris played a song I’m going to preach about this morning. That song asks a question that is answered in the text we’re going to study. “What Child is This?” Who is this child born in Bethlehem’s cradle? Who is He, why is He, and from where did He come?
If you have a Bible I want to invite you to turn to my favorite Christmas verse. It’s in the Old Testament. It’s in the Book of Micah, which is among the last few books in the Old Testament, right after Jonah, Micah chapter 5. We’ve looked at this verse before but it’s been many years ago and we’re going to be looking at it differently today with different points of study and application.
I want to talk to you this morning about this prophecy in Micah 5 and how it finds fulfillment in the the Big Event we celebrate tomorrow, Christmas Day. Micah, chapter 5 and verse 2. And here is the prophecy of the birth of Jesus Christ foretold 700 years before it happened, 700 BC.
- Let me invite you to stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
- Let’s pray: “Dear God, we pray that through our study that we may know Christ more fully, see His glory more clearly, and serve Him more faithfully. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Wherever you open the Bible, there is a sense in which you will find some reference to this verse. Open anywhere in the 66 Books of the Bible, and let your finger fall anyplace you like and, reading that portion of Scripture in context, there will be some sort of pointing to what is described here in Micah 5:2. Here is a verse to which every part of the Bible looks. In the most general sense, the Old Testament looks forward to Micah 5:2. The New Testament is all about what is recorded here in this one verse, the turning point of history.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
This is a Christmas verse. It is about Christ. The promised coming Ruler, Messiah, King, the One “whose goings forth,” whose origins, “are from of old,” even “from everlasting.”
The Prophet Micah addresses a small village, a little town. Like Phillips Brooks in his hymn, the Prophet says: “O, little town of Bethlehem.” God speaking through the prophets says, “Though you are little among the thousands of other towns yet, out of you shall come forth to Me the One,” the One to be Ruler.
Many of you know that Bethlehem is a word that means house of bread. From Bethlehem comes the One Who said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger…(John 6:35).” Bethlehem.
Ephrathah is the name of the district in which Bethlehem is located. Ephrathah, a word that means “fruitful,” and from this district comes the One who said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit… (John 15:5).” Bethlehem Ephrathah.
In this verse, uttered seven centuries before it happened, we read of the birth of Christ. Immanuel, God with us. In my study this week I wrote down this phrase at the top of my notes: “God is Here!” And then next to that phrase I wrote what this verse teaches us about Jesus Christ. And I jotted down no fewer than four main teachings about Christ from Micah chapter 5, verse 2.
**God is Here! In Christ we see:
- God’s Promises and Prophecies
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s prophecies and promises. Jesus said, “Search the Scriptures…these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).”
It was the same point He made to those two men on the road to Emmaus not too long after His resurrection. He taught them that all of the Bible points to Him. Remember that? In the end of Luke’s gospel the Bible says “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).”
The Bible really is a “Him Book,” a book about Him, a book about Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “ For all the promises of God find their Yes in him (ESV).”
So we look at this verse and we see that it is a very specific prophecy, promising that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem…out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler…”
People in the New Testament knew this prophecy. People were wondering who Jesus was, and some who knew Micah 5:2 said, “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem…(John 7:42)?”
And in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 2, when Herod gathered the chief priests and scribes together and asked them about this newborn king and where he was to be born, the religious leaders knew this prophecy and told Herod the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem and in Matthew 2:5 they cited Micah 5:2. I’ve always liked the way those two verses went together. Micah 5:2 fulfilled in Matthew 2:5.
In Christ we see the fulfillment of God’s promises and prophecies. Did you know there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah? Over 300! For example, in the Old Testament, it is prophesied that the Messiah:
Would be the seed of a woman (Genesis 3)
Born of a Virgin (Isaiah 7)
Born in Bethlehem (our text this morning; Micah 5:2)
The wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9)
He would perform signs of healing (Isaiah 35)
Forsaken and pierced, but vindicated (Psalm 22)
Betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11)
He would be the rejected cornerstone (Psalm 118)
He would be the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53. That’s the one where the prophet says: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His [beatings] we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.)
He would be resurrected (Psalm 16; we studied this a couple weeks ago, remember: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”)
But there are many, many, more prophecies like this, well over 300.
Years ago a mathematician (Peter Stoner) illustrated the likelihood of just 8 of those 300 prophecies being fulfilled by chance. He said if you covered the entire state of Texas with silver dollars three feet deep—picture that now; all of Texas covered with silver dollars three feet deep (the Texans would like that, right?!). Then mark one silver dollar and mix that one marked silver dollar into the billions upon billions of silver dollars. Then have a blindfolded man randomly draw just one silver dollar out in the hopes that he would draw the marked one. The likelihood of his getting that one silver dollar is the same probability of just eight of these Messianic prophecies being fulfilled by chance. And that’s just 8 of the over 300 prophecies.
Isn’t that amazing? No man can arrange his life in such a way as to fulfill all of these prophecies. Who can plan his own birthplace, for example? Who can do that—decide in advance the precise geographical location he is going to be birthed into the world? No one can do that—unless He is God.
The only way all of these prophesies may be fulfilled is if God is controlling all the wonderful circumstance and events such that what He has promised, He performs. This takes us to our second consideration and that is:
- God’s Providence through History
God’s providence is that wonderfully and often surprising way God works through the ordinary events of our lives to do what is right and best for us and for His glory. God’s providence, His working behind the scenes through all events of creation, circumstances, and time.
We acknowledge God’s providence when we say, “Nothing happens by accident.” Do you ever say that? Or, “There’s a reason for everything.” By that we mean that God is working. He is working through what often appears to be merely mundane events or random happenings.
For example, apart from God’s providence Jesus would have been born in Nazareth. That’s where Joseph and Mary were living, in Nazareth. But the Prophet says in Micah 5:2 that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem. Think of it! God works through an unbelieving politician named Caesar Augustus. And God puts it into his mind and heart that he should take a census of the entire Roman world. So everyone goes to his hometown to register for the census. God did that by working through Caesar’s thoughts, plans, imaginations, and desires.
Incidentally, this is one major reason why Christians should never fear what happens in politics. Pray. Always pray. But trust that God is at work in the hearts and minds of those entrusted with authority. God’s providence.
So here go Joseph and Mary out of Nazareth and on their way to Bethlehem because Joseph is of the lineage of David. He takes Mary, who is really pregnant. Well, you’re either pregnant or you’re not. It’s not a matter of quantity, but you know what I mean. She was “great with child” as the KJV puts it in Luke 2. And here they go, hobbling along the 70 mile journey South through rocks and hills and dirt and weather. Not what you would call a pleasure trip. A bit of an inconvenience to say the least!
I like the way OS Hawkins put it in that little red devotional many of us have been enjoying this month: “Many of the things in our lives that on the surface appear inconvenient, may just be the hand of God’s providence getting us to our own Bethlehem.” Amen!
How many times have things happened to us and we couldn’t for the life of us figure out why? That job loss, that illness, that traffic accident. What’s going on? Don’t you think another Jospeh often wondered what was going on in his life—Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob in the Book of Genesis; Joseph, thrown into a well by his own brothers, abandoned, then later sold to pagan travelers, imprisoned, separated from his family for years in the foreign land of Egypt? Yet, we read later one of the greatest affirmations of God’s providence when he says years later to his brothers: “You meant what you did for evil against me, but God meant it for good, using you to get me here to Egypt that I might be used in His plan to save many lives (paraphrase of Genesis 50:20).”
God is at work in your life. He is always working, working through those seemingly insignificant or inconvenient circumstances, working in you to do what is best for you and what brings Him the greatest glory.
To quote William Cowper in that great hymn:
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by [your] feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind [what appears] a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
In this verse and in Christ we see God’s promises and prophecies, God’s providence through history. And in this verse, thirdly we see:
- God’s Plan for Humanity
God the Father is the One doing the speaking through the prophet in Micah 5. Note this particular phrase in verse 2. He says: “Out of you shall come forth to Me.” The Father is speaking to Bethlehem and says out of this little town of Bethlehem comes “The One to be Ruler” and this One “shall come forth,” says the Father, “to Me.”
Here is the Father speaking about His Son. The Son comes forth at the Father’s behest, comes to do His Father’s will. As Jesus said in John 6:38, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
Here is God’s plan for humanity: that Christ comes—in fulfillment of the Father’s plan—as “The One,” the “Ruler,” King, “in Israel.” But not just Israel.
And He is not merely to be the King of Israel. That yes, but a far greater king; no mere tribal king, but King of all people, King of all the earth. The greater context of this passage reveals this fact. Last part of verse 4: “For now He shall be great to the ends of the earth.” He is King of kings and Lord of lords, to the ends of the earth, all over the globe, over every tribe, nation, people, and tongue. And the day will come when every knee will bow before this Ruler and King and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10).
We sing, “Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.” And, “He rules the world with truth and grace.” He is The One, Ruler.
This is God’s plan for humanity, that they may be saved from the reign of the evil one, the prince of darkness, the enemy ruler, Satan, the prince of the power of the air, the one who wanders about in this world as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
Humanity may be saved from this present darkness and enter into the kingdom of light and life, entering the realm of God. This is why Jesus has come. He comes forth to the Father. Comes to fulfill God’s plan to save humanity by defeating the devil, bruising his head by dying on the cross for sin, defeating sin, death, hell, the grave so that you may have life in His name!
And there is something of a parable here in this small, unimpressive place of Bethlehem. If man had planned it, Christ would have been born in a golden palace in the center of the City of Jerusalem where only the privileged few would be allowed access to the King.
Christ’s birth in tiny Bethlehem is a reminder that salvation is not for the privileged few, the popular, the rich, or the royal. Salvation is not for those who “deserve” it or can “earn” it or have made themselves somehow “worthy” of it based on their perceived greatness, merit, performance, or achievement. God comes for humble sinners so that He alone receives the glory of salvation. And a simple manger in a simple city means equal access to every humble and willing sinner. Whosoever will let Him come and enter into this realm and reign of King Jesus.
In this verse, in Micah 5:2, and in Christ, we see God’s promises and prophecies, God’s providence through History, God’s plan for humanity, and finally:
4) God’s Presence from Eternity
The translation of the KJ or NKJV is helpful in contrasting two things: the Son’s “coming forth,” which we just addressed. The Father says, “Yet out of you (Bethlehem) [He] shall “come forth” to Me. The Son’s “coming forth” is contrasted now with His “goings forth,” a phrase that refers to His origin, where He came from.
My translation says His “goings forth” are from everlasting, literally “from the days of eternity.” Eternity.
It’s important to remember when we look at Jesus that we are witnessing the miraculous uniting together of two natures in one person. Two natures: human and divine. It’s a bit like the phrase we considered briefly last Sunday evening from Isaiah 9:6 where the prophet there says, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” A Child is born—that’s His humanity. A Son is given—that’s His eternality. This is the incarnation. Deity clothing Himself in humanity. The incarnation: God taking on human flesh.
As Charles Wesley wrote: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity.” Here is Eternal Sonship. God the Son co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. One of the same substance as the Father. Begotten, but not made. With regard to His divine nature, the Son has always existed.
Bethlehem is where He was born, but it is not where He began. He was born there, but He didn’t begin there. He has always been. There has never been a time when the Son was not.
Recall the opening verses of John’s Gospel where John refers to the Son as “the Word.” He says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him…(John 1:1-3).” The Eternal Son of God was present with the Father from eternity. The Eternal Son of God, in fact, created all things. What a marvel, what a mystery is this!
Augustine marveled at the mystery of Christmas. Referring to the birth of Christ, Augustine said: “He [was born] from a mother whom He created…carried by the hands that He formed.”
There was a time when Jesus was not. But there has never been a time that the Son was not. His “goings forth” are from old, from everlasting, from eternity.
Christmas is revelation of God’s coming to us in the Eternal Son of God. God comes to us in Bethlehem and clothes His deity with humanity, taking on human flesh and living among us as the God-Man, 100% God and 100% Man, two natures in One person so that as man He may live among us and die on the cross for our sins. And as God, He fulfills God’s righteous law and commands perfectly and dies as a spotless sacrifice, the Lamb of God to take away our sins. He pays our sin debt. As man He dies and as God He rises from the grave.
The Good News of it all is that we may know Him—really know Him—really be in the very presence of God by faith in Jesus Christ.
We gaze upon this babe in a manger and we are in the very presence of God! The God who has always been. And the marvel of it is that we can really know Him.
Seeking knowledge from a tree, Adam died. And dying on a tree, Christ offers the knowledge of God Himself, knowing Him. Relishing His presence in our daily life.
Someone said: Christmas is found not in presents, like packages and gifts, but Christmas is found in His presence, His very being.
If you are in Christ, if you have repented from sin and turned to Jesus and bowed before Him as Lord, then you live in His reign as a new creation. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that if anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.
As a new creation, Christians have new desires. Christians have a growing desire for more of the presence of Christ in their lives. A growing and greater desire for Jesus and a greater hatred for sin.
Remember, Christian, you have a new heart, a spiritual heart that is growing in vitality for more of Jesus. Your old fleshly heart that human heart is dying, losing vigor as it beats less strongly over the years, it has been superseded by a new heart that beats ever more strongly as you delight in the glories of Jesus Christ!
So be sure to define yourself by your union with Christ. Your identity is in Christ. Don’t define yourself by your job, your education, knowledge, good looks, bad looks, success, or failure. Those things do not define you. They are not who you are.
Your identity is not bound up in those things. Your identity, your purpose, your life, is Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:2-3: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” God loves you perfectly because you are “hidden with Christ,” in His perfect Son, Jesus Christ. You are “in Him” and therefore always beloved of God.
Union with Christ is not merely one aspect of Christian living, union with Christ is Christian living. Real Christianity is not some cheap “get out of hell” card. Like you pray some prayer and then you’re in and you just wait around for some supposed better place after you die. That is not Christianity. Heaven is nothing apart from Jesus. Heaven is nothing apart from Christ. Delighting in the glories and goodness of Christ.
Delighting in the glories of Christ can by no means be heaven for many who think of heaven as merely an abstract place of self-indulgence.
Listen to Paul who said in Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ.” Union with Christ is not a ticket that takes us to some imagined better place. Union with Christ is the better place. Union with Christ is Christ. Union with Christ is living. Union with Christ is knowing Him and growing in our knowledge of Him, our delighting in Him, our sharing with Him.
Again, Paul after 30 years of being united with Christ cries out in Philippians 3:10, “O, that I may know Him!” He’s like, “I know Him, but I want to know Him more!” That is life. That is union with Christ. That is Christianity.
You were forgiven of sin not merely to say, “My sins are forgiven.” You were forgiven of sin that you may know Him, live in Him, delight in Him, enjoy the fullness of joy in His presence.
John Owen was a prolific 17th Century Puritan writer, helping so many understand the joy of living for Christ, delighting in the presence of God in Christ and gazing upon His glories. Owen was no untested Christian, writing in the abstract about the joy of Christ. He lived it. He wrote often about how contemplating Christ and His glory was the key to overcoming difficulty and depression.
There was one point in his life where he came under tremendous pressure at work—critics at every turn, people opposing him and railing against him. But all this was nothing compared to the greater tragedy of his having to bury his own wife, Mary, and all eleven of his children, ten of them dying in infancy. And it was sometime after the death of his tenth child that Owen wrote these words:
“a due contemplation of the glory of Christ will restore and compose the mind…[it] will lift up the minds and hearts of all believers above all the troubles of this life, and is the sovereign antidote that will expel all the poison that is in them, which otherwise might perplex and enslave their souls.”—as cited by Michael Reeves
No matter what we face in this fallen world—sickness, tragedy, work, school, divorce, despair, death—it is our contemplating the glories of Christ that restores and composes the mind, lifting up our mind and heart above all the troubles of our life.
Christmas is about the presence of God in Christ Jesus. Delight in Him. Not just this day, Christmas Eve, not just tomorrow, Christmas Day. But every day and every hour of every day. To live is Christ. You want life? Real life? To live is Christ.
Pray with me: “God help us see that Christmas is all about our dying to ourselves and living for You, not just this day, but every day and every hour of every day.” Let’s continue praying with your heads bowed some of you may feel in your spirit a need to talk to Jesus right now. And you may wish to pray to Him a simple prayer of faith. In your spirit just say to Him:
“Lord Jesus, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. Thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness. I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior. Help me live daily for You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Remain seated as we respond in song, singing about Christ the Savior who is born, Jesus, Lord at Thy birth. Remain seated as we sing, “Silent Night.”
1 Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
’round yon virgin mother and child!
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.
2 Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
heav’nly hosts sing: “Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!”
3 Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
radiant beams from Thy holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!
4 Silent night! Holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing
“Alleluia” to our King:
“Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born.”
In a moment we are going to dismiss, but before we do, let me invite you to find the Response Card that was given to you when you entered the building today. I’d like to ask you to fill this out. Alan, how about some card-filling-out music? Maybe “Go Tell it On the Mountain?” Nice. So write down your name and any other information there. Then, there are a few options for you to check. If you are a member you can check:
___ I’m a follower of Christ and a member of Henderson’s First Baptist Church
If you’re not a member and you’re interested in learning more about Jesus or learning more about our church family, then you can check either or both of those boxes that apply.
Take a moment to do this and then we’ll stand. While you’re filling that out, just a reminder that there is no evening service tonight. Take time to share Jesus with friends and family.
Now let’s dismiss singing about that good news we have to share, that Jesus Christ is born. Stand and let’s sing, “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”
Benediction Song: Go Tell it on the Mountain—chorus, verse 1, chorus
“Amen! Love you church. God bless you and Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.”