The prophet Micah was the Lord’s spokesman during a time of national hypocrisy in Israel. The leaders of the nation claimed to know the Lord, but they oppressed the poor and grew rich from their heartless business deals (see 2:2). Having turned from God’s way and God’s Word, their morals were upside-down: “you hate the good and love the evil” (see 3:2). In Micah’s day it seemed that no one was motivated by justice or goodness, but greed was the driving force (see 3:11). Even some of his fellow prophets had turned away from the Lord. Instead of leading people to God they were leading people astray (see 3:5).
The people needed a wake-up call, and that call came through the preaching of Micah. He reminded the people that God hates sin, but loves sinners. He will punish sin, but He desires to save sinners if they repent and turn to Him in faith. Micah informed them that God had a plan: if the people would turn from their sin, He would save them; but if they would not repent, He would allow them to be conquered and taken captive.
Micah’s prophecy had both immediate and far-reaching meanings. In the immediate sense, God would save a remnant of Israel, raise up righteous leaders to shepherd them, and rule over them in a time of peace and holiness (5:7-15). That promise was fulfilled when the people were taken captive to Babylon for seventy years and then released to rebuild Jerusalem. But it is the futuristic aspect of our chapter today that is of particular interest.
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Micah accurately predicted the birthplace of the Messiah: the little town of Bethlehem (v.2). It is one of the clearest Old Testament prophecies of Christ’s coming, and it is confirmation of His true identity. When we read of its fulfillment in Luke 2:1-7, it is clear that God was deliberately arranging the circumstances so that His Son would make His entrance into humanity in Bethlehem, not Nazareth. But why Bethlehem? It was a very small town, the kind you would have to zoom in on the map to see. In my opinion, there are a few compelling reasons why God selected it as the site of the most important birth in history, a place that will be forever associated with His Son.
First, Bethlehem was the location of one of the greatest love stories ever told, the story of Boaz and Ruth (see Ruth 1:19). Boaz, a godly man, showed mercy and grace to Ruth, a pagan woman who was desperate and undeserving. Boaz loved her, redeemed her, and brought her into God’s family. That love story mirrors the mission of Jesus, who came from Bethlehem to save lost sinners and to bring us into His eternal family.
Second, Bethlehem was the hometown of David, Israel’s greatest king. David was a shepherd, a warrior, and a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22). Jesus, who (humanly speaking) was a descendant of David, came as the Great Shepherd of God’s people, the conqueror of sin and death, and the King of kings!
Third, the meaning of the Hebrew name “Bethlehem” is “house of bread”, a reference to the wheat that was raised there. From the “house of bread” came the Bread of Life, Jesus — the only one who can satisfy the hunger of our souls (see John 6:35). Micah said that the Shepherd-Ruler of Bethlehem would come to bring peace (v.5). In a world of confusion and chaos, I thank God today that I know His Son — and to know Him is to know true peace.