Grace Baptist Church Decatur, IL

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Christmas, B.C. – The Time & Place

Micah 5:2; Daniel 9:25

The kids are going caroling now, which reminds me of something I wanted to tell you...

This is how some of our Christmas songs sound to kids:
Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly
We three kings of porridge and tar
Later on we’ll perspire, as we dream by the fire
He’s making a list, chicken and rice
Olive, the other reindeer
Oh, what fun it is to ride with one horse, soap and hay
Good tidings we bring to you and your kid
Sleep in heavenly peas
You’ll go down in Listerine

Or my favorite, "Chipmunks roasting in a forest fire..."

Some of you are laughing, but now it’s your turn. Let’s see how well you do on this Christmas Carol Quiz. It’s a brainteaser so you’re going to have to listen carefully. Here’s the first one:

Give Attention to the Melodious Celestial Beings ­ “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”
Embellish the Entryways ­ “Deck the Halls”
Nocturnal Noiselessness ­ “Silent Night”
Leave and Broadcast From a High Elevation -- “Go Tell it On the Mountain”
Jubilation to the Entire Terrestrial Orb ­ “Joy to the World”
Alas, Diminutive Settlement in Israel ­ “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem”
The Duplex of Two Psychiatrists ­ “Nutcracker Suite”

Tonite we’re going to focus on that little town of Bethlehem as the place of Jesus’ birth, then see if Dec. 25th is really His birthday.


Micah’s Messiah
As we’ve discovered, the Old Testament is replete with pictures and predictions of Christ. These prophecies are so precise that you and I can have great confidence that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be. It also gives us the assurance that the Word of God can be fully trusted. Because these Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled so completely in Christ, the Bible must be divinely inspired and therefore authoritative for our lives today.

The prophet Micah recorded an astonishing predictive prophecy 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Turn in your Bibles to the Book of Micah. You’ll find it near the end of the Old Testament. If you find the book of Matthew, go back 7 books.

Things are starting to fall apart in Israel. V. 1


Now v. 2...I’m going to divide verse 2 into three parts to help us understand what is written here. The first part is a Prophetic Preview.

A Prophetic Preview
Micah ministered during the reigns of four kings in Israel and three kings in Judah. He probably wondered, as he watched the parade of monarchs pass by during his lifetime, whether any administration would last. It was to this humble prophet that God sent a prophecy of the birthplace of a Ruler whose kingdom would never disappear. Look now at verse 2:

Micah 5:2
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

“Ephratah” is the ancient name of Bethlehem and was used to distinguish it from other towns of the same name. There are at least five parallels between this little town and the baby who was born within its environs.

1. Rachel gave birth to Benjamin in Bethlehem (Genesis 35:18). Before she died, she called the name of her infant son “Benoni,” which means “the son of sorrow.” But his father, Jacob, called him “Benjamin,” which means “the son of the right hand.” Jesus Christ was truly the man of “sorrows” and the Son of the Father’s right hand.

2. Boaz redeemed Ruth from her poverty in Bethlehem (Ruth 2:4). Jesus, our redeemer, came to earth at Bethlehem to redeem us from the ravages of sin.

3. King David was born in Bethlehem (1 Samuel 17:58). Our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who counted David in his genealogy, was born in Bethlehem’s barn.

4. “Bethlehem” means “house of bread” and “Ephrathah” means “fruitfulness.” The slopes surrounding it were filled with figs, almonds, grapes and olives. What a fitting name for the One who is the “Bread of Life,” who came so that we might bear spiritual fruit.

5. Bethlehem is small among the clans of Judah. Each tribe was divided into its thousands but those places that were too small to get a thousand people together were put into other tribes. Bethlehem was so lowly that it was not even counted among the possessions of Judah. In fact, in the division under Joshua, it was omitted altogether (Joshua 15:1-63). It was a village that was despised because it was small. Jesus spent time with those the world considered small and insignificant.

John Chrysostom, one of the early church fathers, said this about Jesus: “The whole world came together to see Bethlehem, where, being born, Jesus was laid, on no other ground than this only. O Bethlehem, little, but now made great by the Lord, He hath made thee great, who, being great, was in thee made little.” (Chrysostom, Quod Christus sit Deus Section 3, 561).


prophetic preview...

A Promised Program
The next element that stands out is a Promised Program:

“out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel”

The herald angel announced declared in

Luke 1:32
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

A Profound Person
Micah the prophet concludes his majestic prediction of the birthplace by focusing on a third element: A Profound Person. We see this in the last part of verse 2:

“whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

The word translated “from of old” is used elsewhere to describe the eternity of God. In fact, this expression in Hebrew is used only to describe God. [one example is Habakkuk 1:12]

There is no doubt that the coming Ruler who will be born in Bethlehem is no ordinary individual. He will be human, yet He is fully divine. He is everlasting.

Before we “fast forward” 700 years to the miraculous events surrounding the birth of Christ, I want to point out something from Micah 5:3-4:

• There’s a reference to the birth of Jesus in verse 3.

Micah 5:3
Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.

When Jesus was born, He began gathering those who are Abraham’s true children, which are those who put their faith in Him for salvation as Galatians 3:7 makes clear.

• He will be a shepherd to His flock in verse 4.

Micah 5:4
And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.

As we pointed out last week, the Lamb of God is also the Good Shepherd who tenderly cares for sheep who often go astray. In John 10:11, Jesus refers to Himself this way: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd layeth down his life for his sheep.”

Turn over to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2.

vv. 1-3 tell us about a taxation, and how each one had to return to their hometown to pay. 

This is remarkable to me. An almost forgotten man named Micah was moved by the Holy Spirit to record a predictive prophecy which stated that the Messiah had to be birthed in Bethlehem. 700 years go by until one day God explodes into human history by sending His Son to be carried in the womb of a woman named Mary. God then moves in the heart of a pagan Roman emperor, who lived 1500 miles from Israel, to declare that a census had to be taken of the entire world. Oh, and not just any census. People had to travel back to their family’s hometown in order to be counted. It just so happened that Joseph was from the family of David and that meant he had to go to Bethlehem.

I want you to notice how precisely God orchestrated everything that first Christmas. Mary was close to her delivery date and so Joseph decided to bring her along on the 80-mile journey to the city of Bread. Technically, he could have gone by himself. When they finally arrive, Mary is ready to give birth and Jesus is born in the place that Micah foretold. What would have happened if their journey had taken place 4 weeks earlier? 3 weeks earlier? 2 weeks later? It wouldn’t have worked, would it? In his sovereignty, God made sure that they were in the right place at just the right time.

Speaking of the right time, the Bible also predicts almost down to the very day that Jesus would die, thus showing us He would be alive at that time, giving a rough idea of when he would live.  It’s not likely his birth was Dec. 25, by the way!

Daniel 9:25
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

69 weeks of years or 483 years.  The edict to rebuild Jerusalem was given on Nisan 1, or March 21 on our calendar, 444 B.C.  Jesus was crucified on what we would call April 3, A.D. 30, we believe.  That’s only 476 years.  [no year 0 between 1 BC and 1 AD]  But they operated on a 360 day year back then.  This makes up the difference!  But what about the exact day he would die?  Well, not quite, but it brings us to within 4 days, putting us in the right week.  It’s actually 4 days before His death, which is the day of the triumphal entry, Palm Sunday!  This is what the Jews were looking for anyway, not a King coming to die, but to reign!

Micah writes about a place. Daniel tells the time.  I’m a firm believer that God puts each of us in just the right place at just the right time so that we’ll come face-to-face with the explosion of the incarnation.

Friend, it’s no accident that you’re here this evening. God has put you in this place at this time so that you can hear the message and believe in the Baby born in Bethlehem.

[based on idea by Brian Bill]

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