Where Is Significance Found?
1Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.
2 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.
3Therefore 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.
4And 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.
5And he shall be their peace.
Three hundred years before Micah writes these words of prophetic warning and promise, a king is born in Bethlehem. That king was David, of the Tribe of Judah. David brought a short-lived time (80 years) of greatness to the nation of Israel which was quickly replaced with idolatry and turmoil after the death of David’s son, Solomon. Now Micah writes of his own time by hearkening both back to the time of David and forward to the time of the Messiah, 1,000 after David and 700 years after Micah. Bethlehem had a notable history. Benjamin, a son of Jacob, was born near the town; his mother, Rachel, was buried here. Ruth gleaned the fields of Boaz at Bethlehem; here King David was born. Yet Bethlehem had remained a small town, too small to be named among the more than one hundred cities belonging to the clans of Judah.
Bethlehem was a tiny little village that the text would indicate had fewer that 1,000 residents. Small and inconsequential would be an apt description. But God does not care about what we consider “great” and often chooses that which is tiny in our eyes to fulfill His magnificent plans. Bethlehem was just such a location – twice. First for King David, and then for Jesus Christ. But the area would undergo severe punishment from God in between David and Jesus.
Micah gives the setting for this remarkable messianic chapter in the opening verse. He calls upon his people to prepare for an attack and a siege, the impending siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701bc. The enemy would “strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek,” that is, humiliate him in his office. King Hezekiah was forced to pay tribute to the Assyrians. Other kings of Judah were humiliated by the enemy. Manasseh, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah were all hauled off to Babylon in shackles. The shameful and painful exile followed, a thousand miles away from home. Conditions did not improve much after the return from Babylon. The people of Judah had to submit to the power of Persia, then to Alexander and the Greeks, finally to Rome. The scepter of ruling power had departed from Judah. All that was left of a once great nation was a stump of Jesse, the royal family of King David.
Spaude, C. W. (1987). Obadiah, Jonah, Micah (p. 144). Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House.
Despite the insignificance of the village in which Jesus would be born, one cannot help but be moved by the description of His eternal reign. 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. That is the Infant born in Bethlehem, declared by the angels as He is glorified in His arrival upon the earth. He is the one who brought eternal peace into the lives of God’s people through His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. And He is the Gentle Shepherd who remains with us even now through His Holy Spirit. Micah cracks this prophecy open and sheer light pours out, into our lives.