The Coming Ruler
Mr. Leslie S. Rainey, the editor’s uncle, has most recently served the Lord in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa. He and Mrs. Rainey have now returned from the field to North America.
In the rich and revealing prophecy of Micah we have three glorious pictures of our Lord which interpret the meaning of the prophet’s name: “Who is like Jehovah?” (7:18). The book closes with a remarkable summery of His grace (7:18-20); the presentation of the essence of His teaching (6:18), and the prediction of the first Advent of Christ.
Micah and Isaiah unite to give us two of the clearest prophecies concerning the incarnation of the Saviour. Isaiah foretells His birth of the Virgin. Micah tells the place of His birth so plainly that when the Magi long after inquired where the King of the Jews would be born, the scribes answered without hesitation: “In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet” (Matt. 2:5). Micah not only spoke about the first Advent of Christ but also of His Second Advent. Note that between the first half of Micah 5:3, and the second, the present age, with its further scattering of the Jews intervenes, which Micah was not given to foresee. The rest of the chapter looks on to the Kingdom Age yet to be. In Micah 5:2 the theme of the prophecy is the first Coming of the Messiah. The prophecy presents the Person of Christ in three different aspects.
The prophet affirms: “He shall come forth” as the Ruler of Israel. He comes forth as “the Ancient of Days” in time, but He is not circumscribed by time. His going forth, His activities, have been from old, from everlasting to everlasting. These goings forth were before Creation, in Creation, in His appearances to the patriarchs, and during the whole panorama of redemption in the history of the chosen people. Today we stand between the two Advents, and we look back to His First Advent which is a matter of history, and forward to His Second Advent, which is still a matter of prophecy. Here we see the preexistence of the Messiah; His participation in the eternal purposes of God.
The prophet indicates the very place where He was to be born. It was Bethlehem (House of Bread) Ephratah, which was a short distance southwest of Jerusalem, and the birthplace of David. There were two towns by the name of Bethlehem, so this one in Judah is distinguished by the added name, from the Bethlehem which belonged to the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15).
Ephratah comes from a root meaning “fruitful,” and both place and person witness to the fulness and fruitfulness of His glorious name. The prophet not only speaks of the obscurity of His birthplace but also His majesty as the One “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” It was an announcement of His pre-eminence as well as of His co-existence with God. Micah is also pointing out the insignificant character of the village, for we know it is not mentioned among the cities of Judah in Joshua 15, nor is it in the list of cities in Nehemiah 11. Such was the humble condition of the David dynasty. From this small hidden-away place was to come forth God’s Governor, the Ruler of His people Israel. How blessed to see our Lord was not born in Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, Moscow, London or New York! His name is Emmanuel and His dwelling with the lowly (Isaiah 57:15).
Why did He humble Himself to be born of the Virgin Mary? Why did He travel such distance from the ivory palaces to a world sunk in sin? Why did the mighty God become the Babe of Bethlehem? There was a cause and Micah completes the portrait. The prophet says in verse 1: “They shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.” Here is the same truth as Simeon perceived (Luke 2:34, 35). He was born to die. He is God’s sacrifice, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). The Lord Jesus, who was the brightness of the Father’s glory, condescended to enter this world, not only to manifest the love of God, but also to identify Himself with us in our suffering, sinful need. Bethlehem was in order that Calvary might be.
How blessed to read about the Sin-Bearer, the Great Redeemer becoming our Saviour and bearing our sins in His own body on the Tree (1 Pet. 2:24)! Another reason why He came as a Babe is the fulfilling of the eternal purpose of God as the future Ruler over His people in peace in Jerusalem. Micah unmasks the false rulership of his time and goes on to unveil the true rulership coming in the Person of the Messiah. Christ is God’s ideal of sovereignty and rulership. Before that rule Micah shows His own brethren, the people of Israel (v. 3) must return to the land of their fathers, a joining together of all parts of the nation, a regathering from world-wide dispersion. Then the rejected One becomes the Shepherd of Israel. He will stand, that is, He will continue as He feeds His flock. He will have their needs at heart. As the Shepherd from the royal city of Bethlehem He will care for and protect His people in the capital of Jerusalem. During His reign in Jerusalem, Israel will abide; its people will dwell in peace and security (Micah 4:4). He will be great, for His rule and power will be worldwide. “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering: for My name shall be great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Malachi 1:11). As the Prince of Peace He will bestow it upon His people and the benevolence of His reign shall stretch from shore to shore and from pole to pole. O, to worship Him as our Redeemer and let Him take the rulership of our lives!
To me the strongest proof of the Deity of Jesus is to be found in the fact that, centuries before He appeared, it was all foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament.