Born in Bethlehem: Hope for a Humble Leader - Micah 5:2-5a

On Sunday, Good Shepherd continued their study of Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, Jesus Christ by looking at Micah 5:2-5a. From Micah 5:2-5a we learned two things:

I. God uses the humility of Christ’s birth to shame the proud. (vv. 2-3)

II. God uses the humility of Christ’s birth to secure the weak. (vv. 4-5a)


You can listen to the sermon or read the sermon notes below.

If you want something done right… you’ve got to do it yourself.

I’m sure all of you’ve either heard someone say that or you’ve said it yourself.

It’s easy to have an inflated view of your capabilities and it’s easy to think that you’re the only person truly qualified for the job.

I recently read an article from the Pew Research Center about narcissism among…… yes you guessed it – presidents.

The article said that most presidents had grandiose narcissism. They defined grandiose narcissism as “a distinctive type of narcissism characterized by exhibitionism, attention-seeking, inflated demands of entitlement and denial of weaknesses.”

This is certainly true for our current President, but this is also true for every president.

Really, you have to have an ego in order to think… who’s the most qualified person to lead the Free World? Me.

Building yourself up and having a big ego is often taught and encouraged in our society.

That’s why what the Scriptures teach us is so counterintuitive. Jesus said in the beatitudes that the meek shall inherit the earth. It’s the opposite of what you would expect. You’d expect the strong and arrogant to inherit the earth, but that’s not what Jesus teaches.

Jesus literally embodied this contradiction when he was born in such a humble manner in Bethlehem.

Jesus is the humble leader you need whether or not you recognize it.  

Which is what we see in our text this morning.

The humility of Christ’s birth teaches us two things: First, God uses the humility of Christ’s birth to shame the proud, and second, God uses the humility of Christ’s birth to secure the weak.

This outline is on page six of your worship guide.

First, it’s important we understand how this Micah 5:2-5a fits into the book of Micah and how it relates to Jesus Christ.

Micah as a prophet from God prophesied the impending destruction of Israel but he balanced those threats of destruction with promises of a future — messianic hope. In fact, our text is a clear prophecy of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

This passage has long been associated with the messiah.

In the famous story of the wise men Micah 5 is quoted. It’s in Matthew 2:1-6, which I’ll read for you.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?

For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: [Here in verse 6 — they quote Micah 5] “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Interestingly, the scribes and the chief priests understood Micah 5 as a prophecy of the Messiah as well. They knew that if God promised it —it would be fulfilled.

But what exactly does Micah 5 tell us about Jesus Christ? Let’s look at our first point.

God uses the humility of Christ’s birth to shame the proud (vv. 2-3)

In verse 2, God speaks directly to Bethlehem Ephrathah through the prophet Micah. Bethlehem Ephrathah helped clarify Bethlehem’s district as a town south of Jerusalem.

Bethlehem was an insignificant town. Interestingly, Bethlehem literally means “house of bread.” So it makes sense that Jesus Christ, “the bread of life” would be born there.

Interestingly, Bethlehem was King David’s hometown.

Remember how David was the unlikely selection to be king in Israel? Samuel fully expected to anoint one of David’s older brothers, but God chose David instead.

It was an unlikely choice to say the least.

But what Micah is saying here, is that an even greater ruler, someone greater than David will be born in Bethlehem and it will be even more shocking!

The Messiah who will come from the kingly lineage of David, won’t be born in Jerusalem – the epicenter of Israel.

Often people derive their meaning through where they live. I know a girl that derives a lot of personal meaning and significance because she lives in New York City.

The same can certainly be true for folks that derive personal meaning from living in the country.

That’s why everyone should live in the suburbs. I’m kidding.

I don’t think it’s really that uncommon for people to get significance out of where they live.

Jesus completely flips this on its head. He derives no meaning from Bethlehem. But Bethlehem derives all of it’s meaning from Him.

Bethlehem is known for one thing: and that’s being the birthplace of Jesus.

Then he says that it’s “too little to be among the clans of Judah…” which is a reference to Bethlehem’s military strength.  

In other words, Micah is saying that Bethlehem is weak.

The one that will deliver the people of God, will be born in a weak, impoverished, insignificant town. But isn’t this how God operates?

God often uses the weak, the lowly, and the unexpected in order to shame the proud. He used the terrible speaker Moses, the Christian murderer Paul, and a meaningless town like Bethlehem.        

But look at the second part of verse 2.

v. 2b: 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.  

Micah says, “from you” pointing back to Bethlehem, and goes on to say “shall come forth for me.” Here, God says through Micah, that the Messiah will come forth for him.

The Messiah will reign at God’s command. And Micah’s language, “from of old, from ancient days” is a reference to God’s eternal plan of redemption.

That’s an interesting thought and it drives home a bigger point: it’s God’s plan of redemption. It’s not yours. Every single person fits into his plan which is to draw people to himself, is for HIS glory.

Jesus as the Savior of sinners wasn’t some half-baked idea God came up with on a whim.

He was prophesied of — beginning in Genesis. Stacey preached on the prophecy of Jesus in Genesis 3:15.

And as human history progressed through the Old Testament the desperate need for a Savior became more and more unmistakable.

It’s a helpful reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around you and me… it revolves around Him. This should come as a relief.

It’s not up to you to save yourself – because you can’t. No matter how hard you try to be a good person, you won’t be good enough. You cannot measure up to God’s perfect standard.

If you were good enough to stand before God on your own merit and works, you wouldn’t need Jesus.

But the truth is, no one is good enough and because of that, everyone needs Jesus.

Whether you recognize it or not, Jesus is in control and rules over all things.

Verse 2 says that the Messiah will rule in Israel, which draws your attention to the kingship of Christ and how he rules from his heavenly throne.

A common preaching lesson I’ve heard a lot is “don’t go crazy with the original biblical languages in your sermon.”

Well, I’m about to break that rule… but this one makes a huge difference.

A better way to read this is, “one who is to be ruler over Israel.” The point is simple.

Jesus Christ isn’t simply one of many rulers in Israel – he rules over it along with every other nation in the world.

But just because Jesus rules over all things doesn’t mean that our lives will be easy. In fact, verse 3 tells us to expect the opposite.

It says, “Therefore he [being God] shall give them up until the time…” meaning the Israelites would be given over to their enemies until the birth of the Lord’s ruler.

In order for the people of God to experience the excitement of the birth of Jesus Christ, they would first have to endure painful suffering.

Not exactly what you would want to hear.

But eventually, she [being Mary] who is in labor has given birth;

The time will come and they will have to wait no more because the Messiah, Jesus, will be born.

The last portion of verse 3 is pretty complex and I won’t bore you with the details.

It says, “then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.”

The main point that the prophet Micah makes is this: God is going to allow judgements to fall upon the nation of Israel until Mary delivers the Lord Jesus Christ.

When she gives birth to Christ and everything will change. Nothing will be the same because that little child will gather his brothers, that is, those who put their faith in Him from every tribe, tongue and nation. Christ will gather people together for himself and they will be like brothers and sisters.

Verse 3 really emphasizes suffering. We struggle to make sense of suffering. And that’s true for the Christian and the non-Christian alike. To varying degrees, we’ve all experienced suffering. Everyone has to deal with suffering, but the question you need to ask yourself is do you find purpose in suffering?

Suffering has the unique ability to strip away the things in life that don’t really matter. No one on their hospital bed said, “I wish I would have spent less time with my family.” They always wish they would’ve had more time with their family. There’s clarity in the midst of suffering that is entirely unique.

When Christians that get the dreaded cancer diagnosis – their faith becomes so much more real – because Jesus is their only hope.

You know, even when things are going perfectly and you get that promotion, you buy your dream house or you make that extra $10,000 – there’s still a nagging voice in the back of your head that says, “this can’t be as good as it gets.”

And deep down we know that voice is right.

We consciously, and more often subconsciously – long for heaven.

The suffering of the Israelites forced them to cry out to God, “come quickly Messiah!”

We now know his name is Jesus Christ, but we cry out in unison with them “come quickly Lord Jesus!”

Verse 2 is about a weak and meaningless town, Bethlehem. And out of this weak and insignificant town the hope of the world would be born – Jesus Christ. But before Christ will be born, they will have to endure suffering.

So, Jesus being born in Bethlehem is the opposite of what you’d expect.

You’d expect pomp and circumstance and a birth in the heart of Jewish civilization, Jerusalem. And you certainly wouldn’t expect Micah to tell the Israelites while they wait they’ll have to endure suffering.

1 Corinthians 1:27 says, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”

God chooses the weak over the strong and Jesus being born in Bethlehem is an example of God using the weak to shame the strong.

This has implications for us. The clearest and most obvious implication is that in order to be humbly used by God you must first submit yourself to him.

Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” Have you humbled yourself and admitted your need for Christ? Is it a daily admission?

Understanding who you are in light of who God is shapes everything. This is the foundation for true, authentic humility.

It’s the opposite of our natural inclination. Andrew Murray wrote a book called Humility and in it he says that every sin is rooted in pride.

Everyone wants to feel important. Everyone wants to craft their reputation. Even fake humility is pride – because your manipulating the way people perceive you.

But we should consistently reject our prideful inclinations and pray for humility. In Philippians 2, the passage we read from the worship guide, Paul encourages you and I to follow Christ’s example of humility.

Philippians 2 verse 6 speaks of Jesus’ position in heaven and says, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…”

A better translation says, He ”thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”

The Trinity is God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) and they’re all equal in power and glory.

But what Paul is saying in Philippians 2:6 is that when Jesus came to earth he was fully God and fully man – but didn’t consider his heavenly position as something he needed to aggressively retain through theft or deceit.

In fact, he willingly put aside his heavenly crown in order to humbly come to earth as a man born in Bethlehem. Motivated by love, Jesus humbly left his heavenly throne.

It’s the epitome of humility. And it’s the perfect example for you and I to emulate.   

Contrary to every bone in our body, Christians are called to follow the example of Christ in humility.

C.S. Lewis famously said, “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

It’s a great quote. And a great way to think of humility. Jesus humbly left heaven with you and me in mind.

I think the same is true for you and me. If you put others before yourself, humility will be the result. Paul said something similar when he said consider others more significant than yourself.

To be frank, humility is difficult. We’ve all thought to ourselves, am I doing this thing or acting this way because I’m humble or because it makes me look good?

Our motives are so murky. We’re conflicted.

But Jesus provided the connection between heaven and earth that you and I need. We need someone to live the perfect life we’re incapable of living. Because of our weakness, we can hope to be instrument in the hands of the Redeemer.

Most people are willing to admit they’re not perfect but they’re not always willing to admit their need for Jesus. Are you willing to admit your need for Jesus?

If you admit your need for Christ, you can be used by him.

Just as God uses the humility of Christ’s birth to shame the proud, he uses the humility of Christ’s birth to protect the weak.

God uses the humility of Christ’s birth to protect the weak (vv. 4-5a)

Let’s look at verse 4.

“And 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.”

Verse 4 is a picture of Jesus diligently watching over, protecting and shepherding his people.

It’s important to recognize that this comes after the promised persecution in verse 3. After enduring suffering there will be security.

The word “stand” in verse 4, suggests strength and power. The implication is that Jesus will act as a shepherd and those that are saved, are the sheep of his flock. If Jesus is the shepherd and that means you and I are sheep.

Ironically, sheep aren’t known as the most intelligent creatures. They’re constantly wandering off and getting themselves into trouble. A shepherd’s job is basically taking care of the sheep in every respect.

He’s supposed to make sure the sheep have food, water, and protection.

Jesus guards believers like a gentle, patient, shepherd guiding his sheep. You can’t help but think of Psalm 23 – it’s the classic example of the shepherd and sheep metaphor.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Jesus takes care of his his flock in every way. He leads them to food and water. He restores their soul and leads them in paths of righteousness.

Psalm 23 reminds us that Jesus doesn’t want to make you a better version of yourself, but for it’s all for his name’s sake.

But Jesus shepherds in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. Jesus will shepherd not as an ordinary man but as one with divine power.

The strength and majesty that he will lead with will make it crystal clear that the Lord has empowered him.

Isn’t that true of Jesus in the gospels? His teachings amaze people and they constantly question his authority – and what does he do?

He performs miracles only prove that he is the Son of God.

Why would you not follow someone that not only claims to be the Son of God, but consistently proves it through signs and miracles? Those that are in Christ are protected with that same power.

Which is why the second part of verse 4 says:

And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

If you’re believer, there is perfect protection. There is security. Why will there be security?

Because of the greatness and goodness of Christ.

And he shall be their peace.

If you look at the first part of verse 5 – notice that it says he shall be their peace.

Notice what it doesn’t say: verse 5 doesn’t say that he will create peace. He will be their peace.

It’s a statement on the sufficiency of Christ. Christ is enough.

Not only is there safety, protection and security in the flock of Christ, there’s also peace.

Micah is speaking of spiritual protection and peace. This is the peace that Paul spoke of when he said “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul had peace regardless of whether he lived or died. The same is true for every Christian. That no matter what happens in this life, you can have peace because of Jesus.

We see the flipping of expectations again in verses 4 and 5. If you’re born again, you’re the safest when you’re the weakest.

Recognizing your own insufficiency, inability, weakness, sinfulness, and brokenness along with your desperate need for Christ is when you’re the most protected.

Jesus protects, secures, and guides his flock. And it is only within his flock and under his protection will you experience true spiritual peace.

What’s so interesting about verses 4 and 5a is that they come after verses 1-3.

We saw the hopelessness in verse 1. Saw the hope of the Messiah in verse 2. Then the abandonment of the Lord until the birth of the Savior in verse 3.

And lastly the protection, security and peace of our Lord in verses 4 and 5. Those that don’t know the Lord are so restless and insecure even if they seem to have everything together.

Last year a documentary was released with an interesting topic. It was about wealthy lonely people. One of the folks that was interviewed said something really interesting. He said:

‘On the surface I have everything, and yet there’s this big hole that nothing can fill. And believe me I’ve tried.

It’s not as if I’m sitting here moping about. I go out lots. I love to keep busy by reading, studying. I have a great circle of friends.

I have lots of people I could phone up and say, “Let’s do such-and-such.” The problem is I don’t have anyone I can do nothing with.

I’m lonely… And I bet there are plenty of people like me out there.’

A guy that has everything money can buy said that he has a “big hole that nothing can fill.” He’s looking for something but he doesn’t know what.

On one level it’s shocking, but on another level it’s not surprising.

This man doesn’t know the protection, security, and peace of Jesus Christ.

The protection and peace that the Christian experiences is rare gift. Do you take the security and peace that you have in Jesus for granted?  

The prophecy of Jesus being born in Bethlehem teaches us a lot about how God operates . But one question we didn’t address is why?

Why does God use the weak to shame the proud? Why does he use the unexpected?

I think a lot could be said and frankly we don’t know the mind of God.

But if I was going to venture a guess it would be that using the humble over the proud and the weak over the strong to demonstrate his sovereignty and power. God showcases his control over all things by using the weak and needy to carry forth his gospel message.

Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The bottom line is that God uses sick, and sinful people like you and me.  

Presidents may deal with grandiose narcissism which is, “characterized by a denial of weaknesses.”

But Christians lift up their weaknesses and say it is Jesus who makes me strong.