Christmas Predicted

Andy Woods
Christmas Predicted
12-24-15 Micah 5:2

Good evening everyone. I don’t know if you can see out there, but if you have a Bible nearby you might want to open it to the book of Micah, chapter 5 and verse 2. The title of our brief message this morning is Christmas Predicted. And as we all know, tomorrow we’re celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world. And most people are kind of astonished to learn, even some Christians are astonished to learn that the birth of Christ is something that is predicted in great detail centuries in advance. And that’s the kind of thing we have going on in the book of Micah, chapter 5, verse 2.

Let me read these verses to you quickly: “‘But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.’”

And I believe that what we just read there is nothing short of amazing and astounding, and I say that for a variety of reasons. Number 1, that prophecy was written 700 years in advance; 700 years is a long time, isn’t it. That’s a full seven centuries. You think of the origin of the United States of America, we’ve only been in existence as a nation 236 (somewhere in there) years and yet we look at America as having been here forever. And think of the United States of America multiplied a couple of times over and that’s basically what you have in this prophecy.

Isaiah was a contemporary of Micah; Isaiah, 700 years in advance, in Isaiah 7:14, gave this prophecy under the inspiration of the Spirit. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” So a full seven centuries in advance you have these two contemporaries, Micah and Isaiah, revealing the birth of Jesus Christ in great detail; Isaiah speaking of the virgin birth of Christ and Micah doing something else here, pinpointing the exact city where this Messiah would be born.

And when you look at Micah 5:2 it also says this: “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” And this One that’s coming is specifically said to be the ruler of Israel. Now there’s no mistake about this, this is none other than the Messiah that’s being predicted, the ruler of the nation of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ, coming into the world. The dead giveaway is at the end of Micah 5:2 when it says, “From the days of eternity.” In other words, there’s coming forth one who is eternal and that can only be God.

Psalm 90:2 says this: “Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” So everlasting or eternity, it’s actually the Hebrew word olam, can be none other than a dead ringer for God’s birth, if you will, into our world.

So this is given 700 years in advance, it’s a very clear prophecy about the Messiah’s birth. And one of the things that’s very interesting is Micah tells us that Jesus is not going to be born in Jerusalem; He’s going to be born in Bethlehem. Now you would think, given everything that we know about the city of Jerusalem and its significance in the Old Testament, that Micah would say Jesus is going to be born in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is very prominent. In fact, Jesus, one of these days is going to rule the world, not from Washington D.C. (we can all praise God for that), but from the city of Jerusalem. I mean, Jerusalem is the main act, really, in the Scripture. Isaiah 2:3 says, “For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” So given the prominence of Jerusalem in the Bible we would think that this Messiah that’s coming into our world will be born in Jerusalem. But Micah, 700 years in advance says no, He’s not going to be born in Jerusalem, He’s going to be born in a little city called Bethlehem.

In fact, when you look at that Micah 5:2 passage carefully it says, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah,” just this little tiny dinky out of the way place that the Messiah is going to be born into the world from.

Now the plot thickens a little bit when you understand that there are two Bethlehem’s in the land of Israel. You know, you take different cities names, for example, like Saint Paul. If you Google Saint Paul, you know, you’re thinking of one Saint Paul but there are actually different Saint Paul’s in the United States of America, if I’m not mistaken. And so it’s like that with this name “Bethlehem.” Bethlehem was not just one city but there’s actually two cities that we know about in the land of Israel called Bethlehem. One of them is up north in Galilee, but there’s a different one down south about five miles south of Jerusalem, a different Bethlehem.

So which Bethlehem is He coming from? Is He coming from the one up in Galilee or is He coming from the one near Jerusalem. And Micah, 700 years in advance, pinpoints that detail, as you look at it very carefully, Micah 5:2 says, “for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah.” Now when he says “Ephrathah” he’s saying it’s not going to be the Bethlehem in Galilee, it’s going to be the different Bethlehem down by Jerusalem.

And then Micah says “Too little to be among the clans of Judah,” now Judah is an important word because Judah is a tribal geographical region within the land of Israel and that’s where this second Bethlehem, not the Bethlehem in Galilee but this different Bethlehem that Messiah is going to be born in. So it’s astonishing the amount of detail and specificity and clarity that this prophet, writing 700 years in advance, is giving relating to the birth of Jesus Christ.

You know, if you ever read the prophecies of Jeane Dixon, for example, or Nostradamus, they are so ambiguous and they’re so lacking in clarity that it’s almost like they give you this very vague reference and almost anything could fill it. But that’s not what we have in the Bible; we don’t have vague generalities. We have very concrete specifics and you’re seeing those work out here in Micah 5:2.

Now it’s also interesting here in Micah 5:2, it says, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah,” now Judah is a big deal in the Old Testament. Why is that? Well, it goes all the way back to Jacob’s final blessings on his sons. Jacob had… we call them Jacob’s dozen, Jacob’s sons. From these sons came forth the twelve tribes of Israel. And just before Jacob died, in Genesis 49:10 this is what Jacob said: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

So all the way back in the book of Genesis we learn that the exact tribal identify of the twelve tribes that would bring forth the Messiah is none other than Judah. And this is why Micah, in chapter 5, verse 2, says it’s not going to be the Bethlehem in Galilee, it’s going to be the Bethlehem near Jerusalem in the tribal area of Judah. So the whole Bible is very specifically interlinked in this sense, and the specificity here is really mind-numbing in detail when you really start to think about it. And it’s interesting that the religious leaders of the day, when Christ was born into the world in the first century, all understood this prophecy; they understood its significance.

And over in Matthew 2:1-6 we learn how this very specific prophecy of Micah 5:2 was fulfilled. Matthew 2:1-6 says this: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, the Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, [2] ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ [3] When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. [4] Gathering together all of the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. [5] They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:” and here they quote Micah 5:2, which says, “And you,, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

So the chief priests and the religious leaders totally understood the prophetic significance of Micah 5:2 and when Herod didn’t like the competition about a new king in town, and as you know the Christmas story well, he wanted to exterminate that king and that’s why he began to execute all of those innocent children in Bethlehem. And he wanted to know where to start the murdering, or the killing and he asked his scribes and the religious leaders, well, where is the prophet going to come from, in other words, is this Messiah going to come from, and they all said Bethlehem because they all understood Micah 5:2.

Now keep in mind, this is just one Messianic prophecy that we could go into. If I had time we could go into hundreds of prophecies like this. And so what is happening in the Bible is history in advance is being revealed. And that’s what we call prophecy. And Micah 5:2, Christmas time really should be prominent in our thinking because it’s a reminder that God knows the end from the beginning in great detail.

Now you ask yourself well so what? What does it mean to me? It’s great information, what does this mean to me? What does this mean to you? What does this mean to all of us? And let me just leave you, this evening if I could, with just three simple points of application.

Number 1, what you have is proof of the Bible’s divine inspiration. There is no other book in the history of mankind that does this kind of thing, that reveals the end from the beginning. And it’s one of the great proofs that an omniscient God, who knows the end from the beginning, actually is the ultimate author of this book. When we study, for example, Islam and we look into the Quran we have no such teaching like this. We have no ironclad specific prophecies of this nature. And this is not just true with the Quran, it’s true with any other alleged holy book in the history of man. Only the Bible has this specific detail built into it and it’s one of the great proofs that God has given us that this book, the Bible, is different from all of the other books of known history.

This book is different because it predicts the future. God doesn’t just ask us to exercise blind faith in the Bible; He tells us that He has written the Bible but He gives us proof that the Bible is true. And one of these great proofs is Messianic prophecy, just one of which we’ve looked at tonight, Micah 5:2.

So the Bible is different, the Bible stands out separately than every other religious system or source of truth on planet earth. The second point of application is God is omniscient. What does omniscient mean? It means He knows everything. How do we know that God knows everything? We know that God knows everything because of this phenomena, or phenomenon called Messianic prophecy.

We have a tendency to think that we are somehow hiding from God, you know, that God kind of looks out at the six billion people (or more) on planet earth and our little sins He’s unaware of. But the fact of the matter, God knows every single sin I’ve ever committed and will ever commit. He knows every single sin you’ve committed, perhaps this afternoon, the sin you’re going to sin perhaps tomorrow, the impatience you’re going to have on the freeway on Monday morning, and God knows it all. And it’s so foolish for us to think that we can hide from God. How do you hide from someone that knows everything.

And because he is omniscient He is aware of our greatest problem as human beings. The specific problem that we all have is not that we don’t have enough money, although we would all like to have a little bit more… amen! It’s not that we don’t have enough friends. It’s not that our career aspirations and dreams aren’t being fulfilled. It’s not that I can’t pay my rent for next month. I mean, those are all problems but that’s not THE problem. THE problem that we all have is that we are sinners and we are separated from Him because of a conscious decision that we have all made to sin against God.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.” And that is our problem, that’s what the Bible tells us. And so we might as well just reveal it and be honest about it; we are all basically sinners by nature. My sin does not make me a sinner, rather I sin because I am a sinner. I have a nature that has a natural proclivity to sin. We didn’t have to sit our kids down and say okay, now, we’re going to teach you today how to throw a temper tantrum, you ready? We’re going to teach you today how to be selfish? Here’s how you horde your toys and don’t play nicely with your neighbor. NO! The obvious thing is people do that naturally, you don’t have to teach children that, they do that naturally, self-centeredness, it’s called sin.

But we have to teach them what our parents had to teach us is the opposite; here’s how you share, here’s how you be courteous, here’s how you keep your anger under control when things aren’t going your way. And we are all sinners by nature, the Bible tells us that and fortunately what we have in the Scripture is the answer to the problem. The answer to the problem is God’s Son, who we’re celebrating His birth as He was born into the world as we celebrate it tomorrow, and He lived the perfect life in our place. I no longer have to live the perfect life because He lived it in my place. I no longer am responsible for paying back my sin debt to God because He has paid it for me.

And this is what we call the gospel. In the gospel Jesus Christ died on the cross and in the process He absorbed in His body the wrath of a holy God against sin. There is nothing more for me to add to it; there is nothing more for me to contribute to it other than to accept what He has done for me by way of faith, which is the only way in God you can accept a gift. The Bible says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” [Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”]

God only deals with people on the basis of personal faith. And we have to reach a point where we acknowledge who we are in God, as rebels and sinners, and we actually (the only way we know how) reach out to Him for the cure. And God says the only way you can reach out for the cure is to receive it as a free gift; we call that faith. Faith is another way of saying rely upon, depend upon, have confidence in. The Spirit of God at some point comes into your life and convicts you of your condition in sin and then fortunately God doesn’t just convict us but He gives us the answer. And the answer is His Son, who died on the cross for us 2,000 years ago and who authenticated who He was through His bodily resurrection from the dead.

There is nothing else for us to do other than to receive it by faith. And really, there are only two kinds of people in this world—those who have received this gift, and those who have not. Those that have received this gift are destined for glory and an eternity with God. Those who have not received this gift are destined for the wrath of God. The Bible… one of the things I like about the Bible is it doesn’t mess around; it doesn’t give you a lot of wriggle room and gray area.

You know, in the Bible there’s a broad way that leads to destruction and a narrow road that leads to life. In the Bible there are angels and then there are demons. In the Bible there’s a heaven and in the Bible there’s a hell. And in the same way, the Bible says there are only two kinds of people, those that have received the gift of what Jesus has done and those that haven’t. And so you can become a Christian tonight if you want to, simply by in the quietness of your own thoughts and heart responding to the free gift that is available to you in Jesus Christ. It isn’t something you have to walk an aisle to do, raise a hand to do, join a church to do, it’s a moment of personal privacy between you and the Lord where the Spirit convicts you and you respond by faith to what Jesus has done. And it’s something you can do even as I am talking. And if it’s something you need more information on I’m available after the service to talk.

What a great way to launch out into 2016, having on Christmas Eve, the night before our celebration of Christ’s birth, having received His free gift. It is the most monumental decision you’ll ever make in your life because it really determines your eternal destiny.

So application number 1, the Bible is God’s Word. Application number 2, God, as all-knowing knows our greatest problem and He’s given us the solution in Jesus Christ. And then one more and we’re finished, application number 3 is hope… hope, because Micah 5:2, the prediction of Christ’s birth that we just looked at quickly gives way to Micah 5:4 and this is what Micah 5:4 says: “And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.”

So isn’t it interesting that Micah 5:2 starts off with this little tiny city, you know, Israel is just a little tiny strip of land on the Mediterranean coast there, and then Micah is just focused on this little tiny city. But ultimately what is going to happen is the worldwide reign of Jesus Christ, when all is said and done Jesus will bring His reign and authority, ultimately when all is said and done,
to the ends of the earth.

Now why should I believe Micah 5:4, I mean, why should I actually intellectually believe that He’s going to bring His reign to the ends of the earth? I believe that because of what Micah 5:2 says. See, God has been very faithful to fulfill the specific promises related to the first coming of Christ, in great detail. Why wouldn’t God be faithful to fulfill all of the prophecies in Micah. I mean, if Micah 5:2 was fulfilled literally and reliable and accurately (and it was), why wouldn’t Micah 5:4 be fulfilled in exactly the same manner? Why would the Holy Spirit switch horses in midstream and say okay, Micah 5:2 has been fulfilled but forget Micah 5:4. NO! Micah 5:2 is just sort of a preview, if you will, of things to come; the greater things that are on the horizon are spelled out in Micah 5:4 and many other prophecies that we can get into.

Now what does this mean for us? It gives us hope in an age where people are running out of hope. Have you noticed that? People are becoming hopeless in this world; they have no sense of hope or confidence for the future and how different it is for the Christian, who says yes, historically Micah 5:2 was fulfilled so Micah 5:4 and every other prophecy God has ever given will be fulfilled as well.

You say well, wait a minute, pastor, don’t you watch the news? Unfortunately I do. Haven’t you heard about ISIS? And haven’t you heard about terrorism. In fact, there’s one church in the Dallas area that I know of that even tonight is meeting in spite of bomb threats. We see these horrific things happening in our world. We saw what happened in San Bernardino, recently. We saw what happened in Paris, France recently. And you look at these kinds of things and people run out of hope. But not so the Christian because ISIS, according to the Scripture, is basically living on borrowed time.

The very fact that those people are even allowed to live and do their horrific acts is actually God just allowing it to happen for whatever reason, I don’t fully understand the mind of God and why He allows suffering in the world. I understand this much though, that the suffering that’s in the world through ISIS, terrorism, unemployment, cancer, suicide, alcoholism, rampant divorce, addiction to pornography, all of these things that human beings experience and go through, I know that all of those things that are happening in our world are limited; they’re living on borrowed time because the day is quickly coming where what is wrong is going to be set right.

How do I know that? Because Micah 5:2 was fulfilled so Micah 5:4 will be fulfilled as well. So this is more practical, far more practical than we might first think. Number 1, Micah 5:2 gives us proof of the Bible’s divine inspiration. Number 2, Micah 5:2 reminds us that God is omniscient, He knows our specific problems and our specific need and He’s made provision for our need in the person of Jesus Christ. And then finally number 3, Micah 5:2 is a great reminder of hope, that the exigencies and emergencies of the world are just temporary; there is coming a glorious reign of Jesus Christ and our great decision today is whose side do we want to be on.

Are we going to be on the world’s side that’s losing and drowning, or are we on Christ’s side, whose victory is inevitable. And as I mentioned before, you change your destiny simply by responding in faith to what Jesus has done. And that’s what Christmas is all about.

Now at the conclusion of the message, at this point what we’re going to do is we’re going to light the candles so we’re going to start the lighting up here and so what you’re going to do is once the folks on the edges of the chairs, once your candle is lit pass it backwards to the row behind you and then light the other candles in your row, and this is just a wonderful opportunity to praise the Lord and worship Him and a reminder that He is the light of the world.