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Why You Should Believe Your Bible: Prophecy!

The prophet Micah preached to the people of Judah during the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. He was a contemporary of Isaiah and addressed the same problems in the nation: idolatry, corruption, and immorality. And, like Isaiah, he looks by inspiration into the future. In fact, he delivered the same prophecy about the Messiah and the church that Isaiah wrote about. He wrote in chapter four, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Micah 4:1-3). This is a prophecy of spiritual peace, not physical peace. It is a prophecy of a spiritual kingdom, the church, not a political empire.

But there is one well-known prophecy in this book that is even more specific: Micah 5:2—“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” In the context of the book, the prophet is pronouncing God’s judgment people on His people in Judah especially but also in Samaria which was the capitol of Israel. Micah, writing in the mid-700s B.C., says that the Lord will use the Assyrians to punish Israel and the Babylonians to punish Judah. The Assyrians attacked the Northern tribes in Israel in 721 B.C. and the Babylonians attacked the Southern tribes in 606 B.C. and took thousands of Jews to Babylon. So those warnings were prophecies also. But the Jews were his chosen people who would bring the Savior into the world. So the prophet also talks about God's mercy. He says that God would deliver his people from their enemies. For instance, he says that the Jews in Babylonian captivity would be like a woman who is about to give birth to a child. The Jews were in Babylon for 70 years, but they would return to their land and be fruitful once more (Micah 4:10 and Micah 5:3). Since the Jews returned to Jerusalem in 536 B.C., the Holy Spirit is inspiring Micah to write about something that was 200 years in the future! But in Micah 5:2, he looks even further into the future.

This is one of the most specifically detailed one-verse prophecies in the Old Testament. Let’s consider what he says. First, this ruler would come out of Bethlehem. This Bethlehem is in Judah—it was “among the thousands of Judah.” Why is this important? There was another Bethlehem in the Old Testament, but it was in Zebulun (Josh. 19:15—the context is the tribe of Zebulun). Second, Bethlehem was a small, humble town. This fits perfectly with what Isaiah said about the Messiah in Isaiah 53—that He would have a humble beginning, like a root out of dry ground, and that He would not be surrounded by show and celebration like an earthly king. Third, this is a prophecy of a future Ruler in Israel. Some ancient commentators said Zerubbabel was this Ruler; more recent expositors have claimed it was Hezekiah. But these guesses are wrong. This ruler in Israel was to be One “whose goings forth are from of old,” that is, from old or ancient times. If Micah had stopped here, there might have been a question about how this Ruler was connected to the past. But he explains: the coming Ruler in Israel has been “from everlasting,” literally, from days of eternity. No human king has proceeded from eternity. This can only mean One who had no beginning because He is from eternity. That must be Jesus! Fourth, this is a prophecy of an individual person, not a prediction about the Jewish nation. Even the Jewish leaders in the first century understood this. When king Herod asked where the Christ would be born, the chief priests and the scribes quickly responded, “In Bethlehem of Judea” and then quoted Micah 5:2! This amazingly pointed prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus: “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child” (Luke 2:4-5).

How can we explain this amazing prediction? There is only one answer: The God who knows the future revealed a small part of that future to the prophet Micah. This is one of many prophecies in the Old Testament that prove the Bible is the Word of God.

Kerry

West End church of Christ bulletin article for September 17, 2023


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