Sermon for Advent Midweek Service, December 8, AD 2021

Micah 5:2-5a

As you heard last week, 700 years before the birth of Christ, Micah gives a prophecy of judgment on the people of Israel and Judah. These people were to be God’s people yet have fallen into worshiping other gods and many terrible injustices against God’s law because of this idolatry. Therefore, Israel and Judah will be judged, Israel conquered and destroyed by the mighty Assyrian empire, and Judah badly wounded, though not fully destroyed. This is not the end of the woes for the people of Judah. Micah says that things will get worse and worse for them, more and more painful like a woman in labor. Yet like a woman in labor, this pain will bear fruit. For God will bring forth from them, in their darkest hour, a ruler – one who will be born in Bethlehem.

Why Bethlehem? Of course, you’ve heard the Christmas songs, you’ve heard of Bethlehem, the place where Jesus is born. What is so special about Bethlehem? Well, outwardly, it’s about as special as Tampico, Illinois. It’s a town so small that it wasn’t even worth mentioning when the cities were given out to the tribes of Israel as they entered the promised land. Like, Tampico, the birthplace of Ronald Reagan, its importance comes from whom it is associated with.
Several Biblical figures from the Old Testament are associated with Bethlehem, but the most important is David. David, the shepherd boy who slew Goliath and eventually became the greatest king of Israel. David was promised by God that his family house would last forever and he would never lack a descendant on the throne. David did not rule from Bethlehem, however. He set his capital in Jerusalem, and all the kings from Solomon on ruled there. Jerusalem became a much more impressive place than Bethlehem, much larger, with a place and the temple mount, really the center of everything in the nation. It makes sense, just like nobody expected Ronald Reagan to run his administration from Tampico, Illinois.

Now in Micah’s time there were actual Sons of David ruling from Jerusalem, they’re mentioned in chapter 1 – Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. But none of these guys were associated with Bethlehem. None of them were the promised ruler that Micah is talking about. No any other king ruling from Jerusalem to follow them. This is where the wise men got confused. You probably remember the wise men – they followed the star, but went to Jerusalem to look for the new king. They had to be corrected by the Word of God, by this very prophecy – the ruler will come from Bethlehem, not Jerusalem!

The wisdom of men is often thwarted by the Word of God. Many such cases! In Judah’s darkest hour, the ruler will come from a place no more important than Tampico, Illinois. He will come as a baby, laid in a manger. Yet this baby, Jesus, is also Immanuel, God with us. He is the Son of God, who has existed from eternity. At the same time the newest child in Bethlehem will be the One who existed eternally before the world was created.

This baby born in Bethlehem will come at the time least likely to establish the kingdom. A foreigner named Herod will rule on the throne, jealous of any one who would usurp his rule. Above him would be Caesar Augustus, greatest of the Roman Emperors, one of the most powerful men to ever live. If ever there was a time for some upstart from a tiny town to begin an eternal kingdom, it would not be this time. Yet God is not held back by history or circumstances. He is the author of history. He displays his authority by bringing forth rescue in the darkest times, by using the humblest means to defeat the greatest enemies.

David, the lowly shepherd boy, who defeated the giant Goliath was only an image of what his descendant born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, would do. David was the glory of Old Testament Israel, he ruled from Old Testament Jerusalem, a worldly kingdom. So Jesus will be the glory of the New Testament Jerusalem, the church, and He will gather his brothers into His kingdom, not just those descended from Abraham by birth, but those who are true Israel, true Sons of Abraham by faith, of all nations.

Jesus does not defeat his enemy as a warrior dressed for battle, or as a conquering king. He stands as the shepherd of His flock. He does the true work of the Messiah, the anointed king. He heals, he drives out demons, he raises the dead, he calls to repentance, he preaches of the coming of the kingdom. Jesus, Immanuel, is God humbly deigning to dwell with us and save us, even to the point of death on a cross. In greatest humility, this Son of David, Son of Bethlehem finally conquers through His death. He is wrongly put to death by all who would refuse him as king, and as the king He takes on all the punishment for His people.

Because of your sin he had to die. Because you rejected him as king and choose to serve other kings of much more glamorous places like Washington, Los Angeles, and New York, or wherever you keep your throne, He had to suffer on the cross. In spite of this sin, in spite of the darkness, and in the midst of the darkness, Christ shines forth from a manger in Bethlehem saying, “Peace.”

Jesus is peace. Jesus has died for your sins and brought this peace between God and the whole world. The resurrection of Jesus is the proof that this is true. All the hostility is gone. God’s anger, his judgment on the people of Judah, his judgment on you, is gone. It was swallowed up in the death of Jesus. Jesus is the true King, doing what no earthly ruler could ever do. Not Solomon, not Jotham, not Ahaz, not Hezekiah, not Ronald Reagan could bring about this peace. Jesus has brought about a peace that extends to the ends of the earth. It is the peace of His Kingdom.

Bethlehem has brought forth again a ruler for Israel. All you who believe in Him are the true Israel, and he gathers you into his kingdom even now. Even in the darkest hour, those who trust in Him see the peace that the rule of Jesus brings. It is the peace we receive from his promises in the word. It is the peace of the everlasting promises of baptism. It is the peace of His body and blood through the bread and wine. Again, God works in a humble way to establish his kingdom. The wisdom of men is often thwarted by the Word of God. Yet you know for certain that Christ rules – in Bethlehem, in Tampico, and even in Lockport, Illinois. Amen.






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