Introduction: The inspiration for the message for today is from Mic 5:2 from an original translation of the Septuagint Micah 5:1 - 1And you, Bethlehem, House of Ephrathah, you are little to be in thousands of Judah. From out of you, He will loosened away from Me to be a ruler into Israel. And, His exits [from Me] are from a beginning, from out of days of eternity.” (CSRV) This verse from the Bible was the inspiration for our opening hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem. The verse was a foretelling of the Messiah who would be loosen away from God the Father to come to our sinful Age. There is so much Christology to come from this one verse(!), but we will cover this some other day. What is interesting about Mic 5:2 is the similar prophecy of a Messiah to come and rescue God’s people found in Isaiah.
- These prophecies were made in the midst of trouble faced by kings of Judah. The fulfillment of those prophecies came in the form of a baby born from the earthly heritage of Bethlehem, house of Ephratha, also in troubled times.
- God may seem slow with acting on what He sees. This is because He wants to give people a chance to repent before taking action. But that does not mean He won’t take action to discipline the evil-doers – and also to rescue the remnant of His people who do repent.
- We need to keep this pattern in mind of Good News promises from God in the midst of trouble as we look forward to Jesus’ second and final return.
- Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, You warned us in last week’s message that there would be tough times for all who love You. Throughout Your word, especially in the Old Testament (OT), You repeatedly warned of coming death and destruction to those who would not repent from their evil ways. And yet, by Your grace, You also provided the Good News to Your people about rescuing them from the consequences of their sin. Please send the Holy Spirit to grant us in faith eyes to see, ears to hear, and a circumcised heart to desire to turn from our sinful ways. We entrust this petition to You, Lord Jesus, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and throughout eternity. Amen.
Background: Throughout the season of Advent, there are usually readings from Isaiah. Today, we also had a reading from the OT Minor Prophet, Micah. It’s worth spending a moment to learn more about these and other prophets who were contemporaries in the latter days of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It’s also fruitful to look into the circumstances under which they prophesied God’s word, and yet in the midst of gloom & doom, the Lord provided the sweet Gospel messages of eternal redemption from this sinful, evil Age.
- We’ll take the Gospel first. 😊 Let’s look at one prophesy of a redeemer during periods of siege threats.
- Our OT reading for today was from Mic 5:2-5a. This was probably written sometime around the invasion of Syria by Tiglath-Pileser III starting in 734BC. Damascus fell in 732BC to the Assyrians who also took most of the territory of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In simple terms, the Assyrians were knocking on the door of Samaria, which was the capitol of Israel at the time. God had sent a warning to turn from their sinful ways. That warning was in the form of military conquests and the resulting oppression of many Israelites who were overtaken. The remaining portion of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722BC. That left Judah very vulnerable to an eventual Assyrian invasion under a successor to Tiglath-Pileser, King Sennacherib. In the midst of all of this trouble of war and rumor of war is the sweet Gospel message - 2And you, Bethlehem, House of Ephrathah, you are little to be in thousands of Judah, from out of you, He will loosened away from Me to be a ruler into Israel. And, His exits are from a beginning, from out of days of eternity.” (CSRV)
- The prophet Isaiah began prophesying in 740BC, which was when the Southern Kingdom ruler, King Uzziah, had died (Isa 6:1). There was a period of time between Isaiah chapters six (6) & seven (7) when Uzziah’s son, Jotham ruled, and after him Jotham’s son, Ahaz. Chapter seven (7) begins this way - 1Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it. Just imagine if you lived in a city where armies from two neighboring states came to wipe the city out including all who are in that city. You would think everyone would get religion after witnessing decline and decay of their civilization along with seeing the land of relatives get overrun by ruthless armies. In the midst of this trouble was the inspired word of God given through Isaiah - 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel. We will read this again in the Christmas Eve service this Friday, because some 700yrs after this prophecy, the Almighty Son of God loosened away from heaven to come personally to rescue us from eternal destruction.
- These prophecies seemed out of context with the observations of the evil of God’s people.
- What’s moreso is God didn’t send only Micah and Isaiah to Israel and Judah. Other contemporaries of Isaiah and Micah included Hosea and Amos. Things were so bad in the worship life of the people of Israel and Judah that God initially called Amos from being a shepherd and arborist during the latter part of Uzziah’s reign. Within a year or so, God called Hosea to prophesy to the Northern Kingdom. Hosea was the only prophet to have come from the Northern Kingdom. All others were from the Southern Kingdom – it was that difficult to find someone in the Northern Kingdom to faithfully know and speak the Lord’s word.
- The Israelites of the north were practicing all kinds of evil. For example from Hosea 4:1-2 - 1Listen to the word of the Lord, you sons of Israel, Because the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, For there is no faithfulness, nor loyalty, Nor knowledge of God in the land. 2 There is oath-taking, denial, murder, stealing, and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.
- To provide some 21st century context with 8th century BC Israel, Tucson just to the north of us already set a record for the most homicides in a single year – as of December 6th. In an article I read on-line preparing for this message, a 21yr old woman was killed in a road rage incident. Someone on a motorcycle shot her for who knows why. She was a performer with a group called Kids Unlimited. There was no indication in her life as to why someone would want to shoot her. Unfortunately, it’s not just in Tucson violence leads to bloodshed following bloodshed.
- The prophet Micah provided some additional insight on how bad things were when the Lord sent four prophets to call people to repentance. In a bit of sarcasm, the Lord said to Micah - 11 If someone walking after wind and falsehood Had lied and said, ‘I will prophesy to you about wine and liquor,’ He would become a prophet to this people. In other words, there were no qualifications for prophets to have first learned the word of the Lord which provides faith; just sound convincingly. Additionally, we learn the word of the Lord to gain wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. We already learned good and evil from when our first parents ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, but that needs to be reinforced lest we forget. And yet, the true church at the time of these four prophets was laden with false prophets instead of discipling people to repent and follow the Lord’s precepts.
- Even to today, if not properly discipled, people will pay lip service to the Lord and then going off fulfilling their passions. The Lord complained about the church-goers of the 8th century BC to Isaiah - 13Then the Lord said, “…this people approaches Me with their words And honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of the commandment of men that is taught;”
- Apparently, people were coming to worship and honoring God, but when it came time to actually do what was said by the Lord, they wanted nothing to do with it. They in turn created demand for more “feel good” prophecies where a preacher would merely say great uplifting things. In the last of the letters written by inspiration from the Apostle Paul, he exhorted Timothy to stick to God’s truth when preaching, correcting, rebuking, and exhorting people to follow the Lord - 3 For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
- Paul wrote that to Timothy sometime in the middle 60’s AD, because in part of the experiences of the prophets of the OT. Everyone hearing from the false prophets and teachers back then wouldn’t learn a thing as far as the will of the Lord was concerned. Unfortunately, Paul’s exhortation to a young pastor named Timothy is ignored in many churches today. Who wants to hear about what a sinner they are? Who wants to be told about being wiped out in a violent overthrow if they don’t change their sinful ways – even if it is the truth? Why people might not come to church anymore if they’re told the truth that sin and rebellion against God kills – literally and eternally.
- Christus Rex will continue to preach Christ crucified, because ultimately that is the feel-good message. It is a feel-good message, because we will continually learn about a God who loves us so much, He sent His only Son to rescue penitent sinners from the midst of trouble our sin has caused. It might not sound so good now, but when you first set foot into heaven, it’ll really feel good!
- We’ll take the Gospel first. 😊 Let’s look at one prophesy of a redeemer during periods of siege threats.
- Analysis: The Lord Jesus came to rescue us in the midst of trouble. The Apostle Matthew wrote - 16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent men and killed all the boys who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more.” (quote of Jer 31:15) Herod the Great didn’t want to hear about a king other than himself. He was thinking like so many Christians even today about Jesus being a mere earthly king. He like many was not in touch with his own sinfulness and therefore the need to be saved from the consequences of that sinfulness.
Conclusion: Jesus came in the midst of trouble, and He will come again in the midst of wars and natural disasters. He said as much in Luke 21:10-12 - 10 Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, 11 and there will be massive earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrible sights and great signs from heaven. 12 “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, turning you over to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors on account of My name. It was mentioned toward the end of the message on last week that life might actually suck sometimes for a child of God. A child of God follows what the Good Shepherd has said. A child of God who goes after the feel-good messages of false prophets will *always* - not sometimes – have a life that sucks. They will never have peace. Please don’t fall for any of the feel-good garbage that passes for religion in the 21st century. It will not end well.
- We therefore need to prepare for His return. Recall from the first Sunday in Advent when Jesus provided four (4) admonitions on how to prepare our heart for his return. Let me repeat the third and fourth admonitions from Luke 21:34-36 - 34 “But be on your guard, so that your hearts will not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that this day will not come on you suddenly, like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who live on the face of all the earth. 36 But stay alert at all times, praying that you will have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” It’s really tough to be prepared if we’re not getting the real word of God in the midst of the troubles of this Age. Please don’t go after a theology of glory where everything is grand and all go to heaven. That is a deception that will lead people straight to hell.
- And finally, to remain prepared for Jesus return, we can learn from what was said to Joshua of the OT. He was commanded to bring God’s people into the promised land. There were six occasions when the Lord told Joshua to be strong and courageous (Deu 31:6,7,23; Jos 1:6,7,9). The Greek word rendered as courageous literally means to stand like a man [Greek:ἀνδρίζομαι (ăn-dríd-zŏ-mai)]. I have that word in the outline. We too should stand up like a man in the midst of trouble through the power of our Lord. The Apostle Paul is the only NT writer to use the Greek word, ἀνδρίζομαι, in this passage from 1Co 16:13-14 - 13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 *All* that you do must be done in love. There is no reason for a child of God to be wimpy. The Lord Jesus came in the midst of trouble so that we will never, ever be in the midst of trouble once we are ushered into heaven. That is truly Good News, written throughout the scriptures as a reminder of how big a deal it is that God came to us in the flesh to rescue us from this evil Age. Amen.
 Mic 5:2 (English Translation) from LXX 5:1 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mic/5/1/t_conc_898002
 Isa 7:1 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/7/1/s_686001
 Isa 7:14 from NASB20, ibid
 Hos 4:1-2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=hos+4&version=NASB
 Mic 2:11 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mic/2/1/s_895001
 Isa 29:13 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/29/1/s_708001
 2Ti 4:3-4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2Tim+4&version=NASB
 Mat 2:16-18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+2&version=NASB
 Luke 21:10-12 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+21&version=NASB
 “Recognize the Kingdom is Near (Luke 22:31) at https://www.christusrexlutheran.org/posts/sermons/recognize-the-kingdom-is-near-luke-22-31
 Luke 21:34-36 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+21&version=NASB
 1Co 16:13-14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+16&version=NASB