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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

Promises Made and Kept #3

Clue #1 = This small town is located at latitude 44° 21' 35.8236'' N, longitude 97° 31' 40.026'' W.

Clue #2 = Artist Harvey Dunn was born near there.

Clue #3 = A 1961 Dakota Territory Centennial Celebration drew 150,000 people to town.

Clue #4 = It is located west of Brookings.

Clue #5 = Since 1971 a local community theater group has put on an outdoor pageant highlighting the life of a celebrated local author.

Clue #6 = Laura Ingalls Wilder is the community’s most famous resident.

Have you guessed it? The answer is De Smet, SD. De Smet is home to just over a thousand souls and would be the South Dakota equivalent of biblical Bethlehem in the sense that it carries a great history, but not a lot going on otherwise. As we study Bethlehem this morning it might help you to picture it in a similar vein as De Smet.

The Messiah would be known by his birth in Bethlehem, which is where Jesus was born.

What did Micah 5:2-6 mean to Micah’s original recipients? We’d assume the phrase WHOSE ORIGINS ARE IN THE DISTANT PAST to be a reference to the Messiah’s ancestry in David. However, the noun ORIGINS literally means “the conduct of activities,” referring to an army going out to battle. This is a picture of the Messiah exercising his authority. DISTANT PAST may be translated as “eternity” and is used in Proverbs 8:22-23 to refer to the time before creation. This phrase can be a reference to the Messiah as God, an eternal being. (In Isaiah 9:6 the Messiah is referred to as a God, so the prophets anticipated a divine being.)

Verse three predicted a limited period of abandonment by God, symbolized by the duration of a mother’s LABOR at the end of her pregnancy. Just as the baby’s arrival is good news that comes at the end of a time of suffering, the good news for God’s people is their RETURN FROM EXILE, coming back to THEIR OWN LAND.

Verses 4-5a envision a time which this supernatural king will bring into being a golden age of security for God’s people. He will accomplish this historic feat WITH THE LORD’S STRENGTH, IN THE MAJESTY OF THE NAME OF THE LORD HIS GOD. In that world, God’s people will live UNDISTURBED, and they will highly honor their “kinsman-redeemer” as the source of world peace.

In the meantime, God’s people will experience what it means to be the object of the pagan nations’ violent ambitions (5b-6). The ASSYRIANS are a symbol of a cruel and oppressive empire; this is not a literal reference to the nation of Assyria. This is consistent with the prophet’s use of the name elsewhere. The Assyrian empire no longer existed in Micah’s lifetime, so this is obviously not meant to be taken literally. Until the Messiah establishes His eternal kingdom, the enemies of God’s people will INVADE and RULE over them, but God will also RESCUE them when this happens.

What’s so special about Bethlehem? The name means “house of bread” and was located five miles south of Jerusalem. The name EPHRATHAH is an ancient version of the name Bethlehem (Genesis 35:16, 19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11) and it is used here to distinguish this community from the other towns named Bethlehem.

Bethlehem’s location has given it a climate conducive to agriculture; the village was surrounded by fields, orchards, and vineyards. By the time Jesus was born, it was the major supplier of lambs for sacrifice in the temple. After the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, the village was only sparsely populated and remained unimportant until Jesus was born there.

Though the village was always SMALL, it figured prominently in Israel’s past. Here are some important Old Testament mentions:

Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel was buried there (Genesis 35:19).

It was there the love story of Ruth and Boaz took place (Ruth 4:11).

It was the town in which David was born (1 Samuel 17:12). As the Messiah was to be a son of David, it makes sense for him to be born there.

2. The fulfillment: Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Luke 2:1-7 places the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Does Augustus deserve some credit for the fulfillment of this prophecy? No. The reason for the census was taxation. It was also a political tool used to oppress conquered peoples. The Jews hated it. It does, however, serve us as it dates the birth of Jesus between 6 and 4 BC.

The census was clearly a major problem for Joseph & Mary who had to travel 70 miles over mountainous terrain, at a dangerous time in Mary’s pregnancy. The fact that there were no lodgings available in Bethlehem tells us many people had to make the trip. Joseph and Mary probably traveled with a group of people.

Theologically, the Bible makes it clear that God bends the will of kings and directs the affairs of nations to accomplish His will. As always, God gets all the credit; give Him the glory!

This passage proves the proves Jesus was born in Bethlehem and in a humble circumstance; their inability to find lodging may indicate their inability to pay for lodging. The passage also provides a connection between Joseph and Jesus - they had the same birthplace.

Matthew 2:1-12 verifies Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem using two independent sources, the first of which is the Jewish religious authorities. In verse four, King Herod called the LEADING PRIESTS AND TEACHERS OF RELIGIOUS LAW together to formulate an answer to the question of the WISE MEN where a KING OF THE JEWS was SUPPOSED TO BE BORN.

There are two things to note about these religious authorities. One, these were the experts. They were well-educated men, very familiar with the Scriptures, having committed all or most of it to memory. Two, these were very motivated men. You did not disappoint Herod often and survive. His was a violent rule. These men were highly motivated to get it right and they decided to quote Micah 5:2 and 2 Samuel 5:2, identifying Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah.

The second independent source was the WISE MEN. They were foreigners, following their curiosity about a star. They were people who had no reason to fabricate results or had any kind of ambition to create a new religion. They personally verified Jesus was born in Bethlehem by going there.

They also verified that He was the King of the Jews by worshiping Him and presenting Him with their gifts suitable for a king (Isaiah 60:6 mentions two of their three gifts having this function). Their gifts fulfill a prophecy made in Psalm 72:10.

The Messiah would be known by his birth in Bethlehem, which is where Jesus was born.

In his gospel, John referred to Jesus’ birth as the Word “becoming flesh.” This is the heart of the miracle of Jesus’ birth, the wonder of Christmas. John MacArthur described it this way: “This reality is the most profound ever because it indicates that the Infinite became finite; the Eternal was conformed to time; the Invisible became visible; the supernatural One reduced Himself to the natural. In the incarnation, however, the Word did not cease to be God but became God in human flesh, I.e., undiminished deity in human form as a man (1 Timothy 3:16).” (p. 54)

That’s a lot to take in, isn’t it? Perhaps we need to react to this great truth on an emotional level, be awed by the amazing thing God accomplished in the birth of Jesus.

We need to be quiet and sit still for a few minutes, to let this truth sink in. All of human existence was altered by the birth of Jesus. History centers on this event. It is not something we should take lightly. It’s easy to be dazzled and distracted by the celebrations and miss the reason we’re celebrating God became one of us so we could become one with Him! Give these truths time to soak into your heart and mind. Share your amazement with all who will listen to you.


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, Micah, Thomas Edward McCominskey

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, Bethlehem, K.G. Jung

One Perfect Life, John MacArthur

One Volume Illustrated Edition, The Zondervan Bible Commentary, Luke, Laurence E. Porter

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