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Everybody likes surprises for Christmas. It seems like Christmas gifts hold the greatest excitement for children. They might have asked for a variety of toys – but their face as they unwrap each gift shows the delight in each surprising discovery. As we mature our joy shifts more to delight in giving rather than just receiving. In fact, the surprise factor dims as my wife Karen not only puts together her wish list but also makes certain purchases for me to wrap and give to her. I appreciate that help – but it definitely diminishes the surprise factor.

Our text this morning is a very specific prophecy of the ultimate Christmas Surprise that Surpasses All Expectations. But first we need a little background regarding the historical context.

Historical Context:

– Micah was a younger contemporary of Isaiah – prophesied during the reigns of a number of kings including Hezekiah (probably the greatest king of Judah after the division of the kingdom) – “The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” 8th century B.C.

– Big Idea of the book of Micah:


Immediate context – (the middle of Micah’s 3 messages — each beginning with the injunction, “Hear” — 1:2, 3:1, 6:1 — combining sense of impending doom with hope of deliverance; present trouble but future deliverance); “muster yourselves in troops” or “gash yourselves” in mourning over your desperate condition (debate over interpretation of this phrase)

[S. Lewis Johnson: But this word also is a word that in certain contexts means “to gash oneself, to cut oneself.” For example, it’s the word that was used of the prophets of Baal when Elijah was having his contest with them on Mount Carmel. Appealing to their deity.]

“They have laid siege against us; With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek.” The King of Israel referenced here in his role as judge; Abject humiliation – extreme low point for the nation

2 possibilities:

– the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib of Assyria – 2 Kings 18-19; looked like Jerusalem was going to fall for certain but the Lord intervened in providential way; remember it was Assyria that captured the northern 10 tribes and took them into captivity; Jerusalem was trembling in fear; certainly Assyria specifically referenced in later verses in this same chapter 5

– the siege by Nebuchadnezzar – 2 Kings 25 = lowest point in Israel’s history; taken into captivity to Babylonia – probably this is the ultimate reference



“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

too little to be among the clans of Judah,”

Phil Johnson: “but” – monumental conjunction – radical change of direction; introduces a new prophecy that is profound in its glory; Christmas represents turning point in human history;

Lord is the one speaking here – only one that can speak with authority about the subject of origins; the eternal one who has always existed

A. Surprising Origins in Terms of Expectations

Should have been the expected place of birth of the Messiah – Yet “He came unto His own and His own received Him not” – John 1:11; How could this be??

John 7:25-31 shows it was the expected birthplace of the Messiah – but the religious leaders mistakenly thought Jesus was born in Nazareth where He grew up – John 1:46 – Nathanael replied: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”; Jesus pointed out that ultimately He came from God – from heaven

Micah 5:2 = very specific prophecy:

S. Lewis Johnson: The promise of the Redeemer, for example, is a promise given in the Old Testament in many forms, and in each of these forms there is a narrowing down of the coming of the Redeemer. For example, in Genesis chapter 3, in verse 15 it was said by Moses, as he gave words that God gave after the sin of man that the Redeemer would come from mankind. Then later on in the 9th chapter it was further defined as the Redeemer will come from the Shemitic division of mankind. He will be of the division represented by Shem. And then in the 11th and 12th chapters when Abraham is called, we are told in the Scriptures that the Redeemer shall come in the line of Abraham. And then in the 49th chapter of the Book of Genesis we are told that the Redeemer will come from Judah’s tribe, and in fact from David’s family. Then we are told in Isaiah chapter 7 that this Redeemer who comes from mankind, from the Semitic division of mankind, from the line of Abraham, and from Judah’s tribe, and David’s family is going to be born of a virgin. And in the passage that we are looking at tonight, we read that he will also be born in the village of Bethlehem. So the Bible has carefully narrowed down its prophecies so that there would be no misunderstanding about the person to whom they referred.

What do we know about Bethlehem?

– Bethlehem was in the district of Ephratah — the Bethlehem in the south, the Bethlehem near Jerusalem – not the other Bethlehem in the northern part of the land — in the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15) – very specific reference; “fruitfulness”

– Gen. 35:19 – place of sorrow – burial of Rachel wife of Jacob – giving birth to Benjamin = “Son of my right hand” instead of “Son of Sorrow”; baby born in the manger was to become the Man of Sorrows

– setting for story of redemption revolving around Ruth and Boaz – the kinsman redeemer who was a huge type of Christ

– birthplace of David – 1 Sam. 17:12; the type of Christ who would come as the Son of David; called the city of David; man after God’s own heart; great shepherd/ruler; 1 Sam. 16:1

Spurgeon: It was at Bethlehem that Ruth went forth to glean in the fields of Boaz; it was there that Boaz looked upon her, and she bowed herself before her lord; it was there her marriage was celebrated; and in the streets of Bethlehem did Boaz and Ruth receive a blessing which made them fruitful so that Boaz became the father of Obed, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. That last fact gilds Bethlehem with glory—the fact that David was born there—the mighty hero who smote the Philistine giant, who led the discontented of his land away from the tyranny of their monarch, and who afterwards, by a full consent of a willing people, was crowned king of Israel and Judah. Bethlehem was a royal city, because the kings were there brought forth. Little as Bethlehem was, it was much to be esteemed

– means “house of bread” – Jesus came to be the Bread of Life – offer Himself as the provision for the needs of men; Hopefully we who know Him are feeding on Him daily – not just in this Christmas season, but every day; yet to those who reject Him, He responds with the other significance of the name Bethlehem = “house of war” – bringing a sword of division and the ultimate judgment of the wrath of God when He returns not as Savior but as Judge

We tend to put God into a box of our expectations – allow God to surprise you!

Remember Ephes. 3:20-21 “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

God can make a way where it seems there is no way ..

This Christmas, allow God to raise the level of your expectations concerning the Bread of Life and His provision for your every need

B. Surprising Origins in Terms of Significance

Martin: The Messiah-Ruler, who will deliver His people, was born in an insignificant, small town (not even mentioned in the list of towns in Josh. 15 or Neh. 11) where the clans of Judah lived.

S. Lewis Johnson: George L. Robinson, who has written a helpful little book on the prophets, he wrote it some years ago, said, “Isaiah had foretold a virgin birth, but Micah foretold a village birth.” . . .

Gideon is an illustration of this, too, because the very word that is used for little here is a word the Gideon used of himself. When God appeared to Gideon and said, “Gideon, I’m going to use you to deliver the children of Israel from the Mideonites.” He said, “I’m the least of the members of my family. I’m little.” But God likes to take the little things, the insignificant things, the things that don’t count in men’s eyes and make something great of them so that we will glorify God. That’s the way he does things. So not many mighty, not many noble, not many well-born are called. He does things in that way. That’s a principle, and that principle is found right here.

Now, one might say, does not Matthew 2 say something quite the opposite? Well actually, Matthew, when he cites this prophecy, does say something different. You may have remembered that when the question was asked, “Where is he that was born King of the Jews?” The scribe said, “Well, the prophecy of the Old Testament is the prophecy of Micah, and it says there that the Messiah, or the King of the Jews, is going to be born in Bethlehem.” “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people, Israel.” Now, the reason that Matthew has reversed that is that by the time Matthew writes his gospel, it has become evident that the Messianic King has now come from Bethlehem, and Bethlehem is now not the least among the thousands of Judah, because out of Bethlehem the Messiah has come. Bethlehem has a name now that millions and millions and millions of people revere, because of what happened there. But long before that happened, it was, as the prophet said, little among the thousands of Judah.

Goins: The birthplace of the King was not in the great city of Jerusalem, but in the little village of Bethlehem, nestled in the hills southwest of Jerusalem, a village too small to attract the attention of foreign conquerors. As we know from the gospel stories, his birth was in the barren simplicity of a stable.

A land that seem so insignificant producing a ruler who is supremely significant

1 Cor. 1:27-31 – this is how God chooses to operate; look at selection of David to be king

Psalms 118:22 “the stone which the builders refused”

Piper: God chose a stable so no innkeeper could boast, “He chose the comfort of my inn!” God chose a manger so that no wood worker could boast, “He chose the craftsmanship of my bed!” He chose Bethlehem so no one could boast, “The greatness of our city constrained the divine choice!” And he chose you and me, freely and unconditionally, to stop the mouth of all human boasting. . .

The deepest meaning of the littleness and insignificance of Bethlehem is that God does not bestow the blessings of the Messiah–the blessings of salvation–on the basis of our greatness or our merit or our achievement. He does not elect cities or people because of their prominence or grandeur or distinction. When he chooses he chooses freely, in order to magnify the glory of his own mercy, not the glory of our distinctions. So let us say with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest!” Not glory to us. We get the joy. He gets the glory.

Spurgeon: There is a passage in Zechariah which teaches us a lesson:—it is said that the man on the red horse stood among the myrtle-trees. Now the myrtle-trees grow at the bottom of the hill; and the man on the red horse always rides there. He does not ride on the mountain-top; he rides among the humble in heart. “With this man will I dwell, saith the Lord, with him who is of a humble and contrite spirit, and who trembleth at my word.”

Humility of the Messiah is Key – remember Philippians chapter 2 – humbled himself by taking on a human nature – did not ever lose the attributes of deity but “emptied Himself” in terms of voluntarily not exercising them independently of faith in the Father for a season; lived a humble life; submitted to the most humiliating type of death – the most humble man that ever lived – yet the most Significant!

Surprising Origins in terms of Expectations and in terms of Significance, and now thirdly:

C. Surprising Origins in terms of God’s Providence

even though Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth when the Holy Spirit came upon her and made her pregnant with the Christ child, God in His providence brought them to Bethlehem for the birth;

Caesar Augustus issues a decree that they are to be taxed. – God controls all things

There are no surprises with God – how comforting to us in this Christmas season – whatever our circumstances, the providence of God is working on our behalf –

Rom. 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” – Has that been your experience??

Moving now from the Surprising Origins of the Messiah to His Supreme Mission


“From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.”

A. Supreme Commission

Representing God Almighty – invested Him with Authority

Came from the Father and returned to the Father

Many verses in Gospel of John stating that He came from heaven; sent by the Father

Spurgeon: (Dec. 23, 1855 message on same text) — It is a sweet thought that Jesus Christ, did not come forth without his Father’s permission, authority, consent, and assistance. He was sent of the Father, that he might be the Saviour of men. . . Oh! methinks the angels must have wept when they lost the company of Jesus—when the Sun of Heaven bereaved them of all its light. But they went after him. They descended with him; and when his spirit entered into flesh and he became a babe, he was attended by that mighty host of angels, who after they had been with him to Bethlehem’s manger, and seen him safely, laid on his mother’s breast, in their journey upwards appeared to the shepherds and told them that he was born king of the Jews. The Father sent him! Contemplate that subject. Let your soul get hold of it, and in every period of his life think that he suffered what the Father willed;

Came to do the will of my Father – to perform His work; set His face to go to Jerusalem

Think of the “Great Commission” which Jesus left for His disciples – to evangelize and communicate His teachings so as to make disciples throughout the world – yet that commission pales in comparison to the Greater Commission that Jesus had received from the Father – truly a Supreme Commission – paying the penalty on the cross for our sins; dying so we might live

B. Supreme Mission = Ruler in Israel – the ONE

Gen. 49:10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until Shiloh come” = cryptic name for the Messiah =

“the lion from the tribe of Judah” – Rev. 5:5

Is. 9:6-7 “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”

Look at all the wicked kings that ruled over the northern kingdom – every single one was described as wicked; even in the south in Judah, they all had their failings

Look at all the wicked nations that oppressed Israel over various periods of her history; nations today still trying to stamp out of existence the Jewish people

– Desperate need for divine deliverance

– Desperate need for righteous rulership

The Messiah will reign in Millennial kingdom over all the earth

He Reigns right now over our hearts as we repent and trust Him – otherwise returns in judgment


“His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

A. Nature Consistent with Deity

Majestic Messiah King right from the outset – different than any other infant

Cf. Prov. 8:22-23 – same words used to denote the eternity before creation of this world

His goings forth reach back into eternity past; days of immeasurable time

No beginning and no end; the alpha and omega

McComiskey: “goings forth” – to conduct one’s activities; 2 Kings 19:27. Beyond that the phrase has a military connotation referring to the departure of an army for battle . . . and may speak of the kingly activities of the Messiah in terms of his might and power, a fitting contrast to the weakness and subjugation of the Israelite monarchy pictured in the preceding verse.

S. Lewis Johnson: [point made by Spurgeon] By the way, they asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” Do you know of anyone who was born king besides the Lord Jesus? Well, don’t wreck your brain trying to think of someone, because it will probably be impossible for you to do it . . . but he is one who is born King of the Jews, because he was a King long before he was born . . . We call all of these other persons princes, but he is really the King.

B. Appearances / Activities Consistent with Deity

His goings forth at the time of Creation – He already existed at that point of earthly beginnings:

John 1 – the Logos – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him”

Theophanies in the OT – appearances of Jesus Christ

– Gen. 18 – appeared to Abraham

– Gen. 32:24 – Jacob

– Joshua 5:13 — Joshua

– Daniel 3 — Daniel


Look at how different ones responded to the surprising birth of the promised Messiah in the little insignificant village of Bethlehem of Ephrathah:

– Response of King Herod – fear – wants to find him and kill him – fear of accountability

– Response of wise men and of angels – worship – want to find him and give him gifts and worship him

– What is your response this Christmas season?

– when we understand our lost condition in sin, we know we need divine deliverance

– we certainly need the shepherding and nurturing guidance of His righteous Rulership – the Lordship of the one born King of the Jews is something to welcome rather than to resist

This Christmas season:

– Live with sense of Expectation of what Christ can do

– Live with sense of Divine Mission and Commission

– Live with focus on Eternity