Christmas letters bring us news from friends and relatives we haven’t heard from in a while. Sometimes they contain more information than we want to know about the sender’s activities during the previous year. Other letters are spare, not saying enough, prompting curious phone calls to ask for more detail.
That is what happened to me a few years ago when a friend’s holiday letter hinted, barely hinted, that she might have cancer. This got my attention. It turned out to be true. Her letter came at the beginning of a protracted battle with the disease.
Micah the prophet was a straight-talking country preacher, a contemporary of Isaiah. He was called by the Lord to prophesy bad news for the people of Judah. This was because false beliefs and immoral lifestyles had corrupted the nation, and Yahweh was ready to respond in judgment for their sins.
Embedded in this bad news were some hints of good news which make this letter so relevant for the Advent season. Micah’s prophesy is a call to “Listen!” to “Pay attention!” and to “Hear the word of the Lord!” We hear this call to snap to attention in each of the three divisions of the book.
Advent is an invitation to wake up and get ready for the coming of the Lord. It moves us from our sleepy drifting through life to an outward-focused expectation.
Mica h wrote about a place. It was a small town in the territory of Judah. As a prophet who spoke bluntly against corruption, Micah was not popular with the convention and visitors’ bureau of Jerusalem. Right from the beginning of his prophecy, he exposed the hypocrisy and idolatry of the people. He followed up with a long poetic dirge predicting God’s judgment on Jerusalem and the outlying towns and villages of Judah.
Amid the prophesies of doom (it’s no fun being a prophet of doom), Micah deflects our attention to another town in Judah which would become famous as the birthplace of Messiah, Jesus Christ.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephratha, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).
This prophecy was fulfilled when, in obedience to a governmental edict, Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem. It was while they were there that she gave birth to Jesus (Luke 2:1-7).
Micah wrote about a person. Mary’s baby will be the ruler in Israel, according to the prophet. Micah had been meditating on the future of his nation. God revealed to him that there would be severe judgment against Judah and Jerusalem. But he was strangely comforted by this word of the unexpected arrival of this very special person who would be coming from heaven to earth. His coming will be from eternity into time.
He will come to rule Israel (5:2), and rule the world (5:4). He will deliver his people and bring peace to the earth. This, of course looks forward to the second advent of Christ. Micah says, “He will stand and shepherd his his flock in the strength of the Lord” (5:4).
At our Lord’s first coming he went to Calvary as the Great Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. At his second coming he will reign as the true Shepherd-king, as did David his ancestor(Ezekiel 34:23-24).
Micah wrote about a promise. The book closes with a magnificent hymn of praise. In soaring poetry Micah captures the truth of God’s merciful intentions toward his people. Micah’s name means “Who is like the Lord?” He answers the question with the following description in Micah 7:18-19. It is promise of comfort for any who want a proper understanding of the nature of God.
“Who is a God like you who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
This is a promise for us today too, because of that baby who was born in Bethlehem.
Pastor Randy Faulkner