But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace. – Micah 5:2-5a
How will these things be? How will it all be different in the latter days?
There will be a baby.
You, O Bethlehem, haven’t been Royal David’s City for three centuries, ever since your most famous son captured the stronghold of Zion and called it by his own name. And that means that this child, this Ruler who comes from you, will be David’s Son indeed – but he’ll be no Crown Prince of Judah. He will be born among the tattered remnants of his father’s kingdom, in a town that has lapsed once again into insignificance since the old days.
Nevertheless: he will be born with a kingly calling, born to be the Ruler David was on his better days, the morning-light-after-the-rain sort (2 Sam 23:3-4). He will bring the good old days back with him, and better: his coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Mic 5:2), which is to say, before Abraham was, he is (John 8:58). His “coming forth” is the sallying forth of the Serpent-Crusher, the riding out of the Seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to possess the gate of his enemies. Every seemingly forgotten promise is now due to be remembered, a day of reckoning for the God who appears to have so recklessly overcommitted Himself.
This is the real why of all the death, destruction, and horror; not that Yahweh flew off the handle after one too many improprieties from His people, but that He knew all along that the woes of His people’s overthrow were not to be the pangs of death but the pangs of childbirth, so as to bring this child into the world (Mic 5:3). When he has arrived, then the time of scattering will be past, the time of gathering begun. But the scattering must take place, if he is to come at all. The royal Son cannot be born royal; his Father will use the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.
What we get in return for all of the misery is a Good Shepherd. The very presence of God, and His being pleased to name us as His own (5:4), are the pasture we are starving for, and this one will take us there. We will “dwell secure” – literally, just “dwell” or “stay” – never removed from this presence and grace, because this Ruler will be great to the ends of the earth. Who would dare to try to take us away? Where would they take us to be out of reach of his power to deliver and protect?
He will be, quite simply, peace – not only because his greatness will protect them from harm, but because he will take away the cause for God’s coming in wrath against His people, and will therefore have no more need for Assyria or Babylon to be the rod of His anger (Isa 10:5). As long as he lives, it will be in truth not merely David but the Lord of Hosts Himself who reigns in, over, and for His Israel (4:7).
The baby born in Bethlehem, nearly 700 years after this word was spoken, was the sign (Luke 2:12) that it was all true, that payment was due on all God had promised. He was all that the prophet spoke and more: a just ruler and descendant of David according to the flesh, whose coming forth was from days far more ancient than David or Moses or Abraham or even Adam; the Good Shepherd who would lay down his life for the sheep; himself our peace, the tearer-down of the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, man and God.
When this baby was born, one could then safely say, there’s only one way this can turn out now. The kingdom must come; the Lord must reign and send His word out to every corner of the earth; there will be peace, because Peace is here.
That means real, heavyweight joy for us who believe that this is all true. It means defiant joy, sometimes angry joy, that refuses to abide anything that would darken the appearance of the light; the news is too good to be spoiled by foes without or fears within – these must be overthrown. It means thankful joy, joy that eats and drinks and is merry, joy that bathes in twinkly light reflected off red bulbs hung on spruce twigs. It means astonished joy, joy as of those who dream, for whom the Lord has done great things, because He has.
Take courage, friends, and merry Christmas.