THE PROMISED RULER
By Missionary Mark Moon
Key verse 5:2
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea. He was a prophet from Moresheth. This village was located about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem in the tribe of the Judah. He worked during the reigns of Jotham (750-732 B.C.), Ahaz (735-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.) who were kings of Judah.
Early in Micah’s time, the kingdom of Judah under Jotham was strong, but there were signs of a need for religious reforms, a need that became more evident during the reign of Jotham’s son Ahaz. Conditions in Judah deteriorated considerably during Ahaz’s reign, both spiritually and politically. Ahaz “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He walked in the ways of the idolatrous kings; he made cast idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and even sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations God had driven out before Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree. (2Ch 28:1-4). He “had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the Lord,” says 2Ch 28:19.
As you know, Hezekiah was the son of King Ahaz. But, unlike his father Ahaz, Hezekiah walked in the ways of David. He turned the broken nation back to serving the Lord. He tore down the high places and other symbols of idolatry. He purified the Temple and reestablished the service of the Temple. While celebrating the Passover with the whole assembly of his people, there was such a great spiritual revival that even the Israelites who attended the Passover went out to the towns of Judah, smashed their sacred stones, and cut down their Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and altars throughout Judah. However, unfortunately, this religious reformation did not reach deeply into the hearts of the people, and Hezekiah’s own son, Manasseh, quickly reversed all the good his father had done. While the kingdom Judah went through its inner challenges, Assyria was rising to power and eventually destroyed Samaria during the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign, 721 B.C.
The book of Micah is described as “the word of the Lord that came to Micah,” during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. It is a record of a vision he saw regarding Samaria and Jerusalem. (Micah 1:1) In Micah’s time, Samaria and Jerusalem were very corrupt. Injustice prevailed throughout both societies. The leaders and rulers of the country hated good and loved evil; in Michah chapter 3, it says that the people “tore the skin from their people and the flesh from their bones (3:2).” Even the prophets led the people astray. Religious leaders blessed people only in exchange for a compensation. The judges abandoned justice by receiving bribes. In the market place, dishonesty and lies were common. Justice and mercy, which God required of His people, were not found. There was much religious ritual, but little repentance. (6:8) The whole society was provoking God’s anger. Micah prophesied of a coming judgment over such a corrupt society. However, he was, above all, a prophet of hope for the future. He prophesied that God would bring a ruler who would allow the people to live in peace and security, which we will see here shortly. The prophet also gave many details about the coming kingdom of God and its blessings for the entire world. In the final chapter of his book, Micah expressed trust that the Lord will accomplish his purposes in the world even when society is filled with corruption and violence.
Read verses 5:1-2. “Marshal your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. “But you, Bethlehem Ephathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”” Due to their transgressions, Israel became so weak that invaders would insult its ruler. But the Lord would give them another ruler who would be born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was David’s hometown, and therefore Micah spoke of a coming ruler who would be in David’s line. This ruler’s origins “are from of old, from ancient times”, which means “from eternity.” The coming ruler is an extraordinary figure who has a divine nature, succeeding David’s throne. This clearly states that this ruler is none other than God who had come to be with his people. He would deliver his people from their enemies and miseries. The Lord did not abandon his people, although they were corrupt from top to bottom. The Lord’s deliverance had been promised!
The ruler was a specific figure that had been foretold in the Scriptures since the fall of mankind. The deliverer was initially introduced in Genesis 3:15 as the woman’s offspring. Then, he was specified as a descendent of Abraham later on. Then, he was described as a descendant of David. The deliverer is a ruler, a king. Then, why did the Lord have to send the Savior as a King? Why must the savior be a king? The savior must have the power to break the chain of sin and death. He must have the power to lift his people up from the darkness. When a man, woman or a nation tries to live their lives in their own strength, outwardly they may appear to succeed. He or she may become a great political figure, become rich, or become the envy of those struggling to get ahead in an economic race. Perhaps these things are good, in measure, but if they take the place of the original plan for our lives, and become the focal point, they can lead to utter disaster. We were not made to be the masters of our own destiny. Life is too big to live by ourselves. Our heart is too deep and wide to fill only with the things of the world. Our soul can never find peace and find purpose in a world of tangible things. We were made to be much greater than the things around us and God is waiting patiently for us to open the door of our hearts. He is waiting for us to ask him for help. In him we have peace with God, purpose for our lives here on earth, and ultimately, hope in the kingdom of God.
Israel had plans for itself, but they were destined to fail since they did not fit in with the meaning and purpose of its very existence, established by God from the beginning. They needed a ruler who could lead them in a much different way. They needed a shepherd who could tenderly point the way to a desperately needed salvation.
Not only did he have power, he rules over his people, and his people must surrender to him, accepting his reign over their lives. When the divine king rules over the hearts of his people, the kingdom of God is there. The Messiah is a king who rules over his people. The hearts of his people must be ruled to become the kingdom of God. Some able and self-controlled people may reject God’s ruling over their lives, proclaiming that they are the rulers of their hearts. It may sound reasonable on a human level, but in realty, no human being can control his or her defiled heart. As the Scriptures points out, “[the] heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (Jeremiah 17:9) AND “[Out] of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” (Mark 7:21-22) This reality is one of the reasons that we need a king who rules over our corrupt hearts so that the kingdom of God remains within us. May the Messiah rule over our hearts!
Look at verse 2 again. “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, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” We see the town of Bethlehem mentioned. Bethlehem was a small town and not considered significant among the towns of Israel. It was a humble town, yet God saw it as very useful in fulfilling the work of God. The fact that God chose this town reveals the character of God. The character of God is to work through small things and to work mightily through them. This is the precious character of our God who began a small work in the small town of Bethlehem.
In verse 2 it goes on to say, “…out of you will come for me…” This is another small thing that will come out of Bethlehem. This is very interesting; for, it reveals that God does everything for his own glory. From the beginning God had a plan of how he would do the work of God. He was very careful to mention that “…out of Judah one will come for me…” Why was God so careful to mention this? It is because God does the work of God for himself. He chose not to work through the talents and abilities of men, but rather “…out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.” In other words, God did not want to depend on the capability of men to do this work, if he did, then it would not be the work of God. But God rather chose one who would act out the work of God on his behalf, because God himself wants to do it out of his own love for us.
Read verse 3. “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” The promised ruler would not come over a short period. He would come in God’s time. Therefore, they would be abandoned. Suffering of his people would be inevitable. They would have to wait patiently until the coming of the promised ruler, until the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
Read verses 4-5. “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.” For his suffering people, the rule will stand and shepherd them in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. The shepherd needs strength because the flock of God is so wretched, so difficult to put up with. Serving the ever-demanding flock of God drains strength; it cannot be done by limited human strength. The ruler will stand and shepherd his people in the strength of the Lord.
In a similar way, God has chosen us to shepherd the flock of God. Although it is very difficult and even seems impossible to do, we can do it when we clothe the strength of God. We can shepherd the flock of God in the strength that God gives us. May God use us as his shepherds who can stand in his strength and shepherd the flock of God.
Read verse 4a. “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord…” The ruler comes to shepherd his people. Under his shepherding, his people would be prosperous. In Psalm 23, David confessed how shepherding by the Lord had blessed him:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
The ruler comes to shepherd his people. The ruler provides for us, protects us and leads us to spiritual rest. He restores our souls. In the time of turmoil, he guides and comforts us. “Surely goodness and love will follow” us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the kingdom of God forever. May the ruler shepherd us!
Read verse 4b. “And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” As a result of his shepherding, his people will find a security. They no longer need to fear. They will enjoy prolonged peace under his reign. Above all, his greatness will extend to the ends of the earth.
This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as recorded in Mathew chapter 2. Jesus is the promised ruler who would be the shepherd of his people. Jesus does not exercise his authority or power for himself; he shepherds his people. So they can live in security and peace. Although the most wonderful time of year has passed a while ago, Jesus is with us, shepherding us to the kingdom of God. May Jesus, the ruler, shepherd us this New Year!