Subject: Reason #2 for the Bible’s Intellectual Persuasiveness: Micah 4:8 and Bethlehem’s Location
Micah 4:8 “You, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, even the former dominion shall come.”
If someone told you well in advance exactly where in the world someone was going to be born, and it was proven in history to be true, would you be impressed? Would you consider that person who predicted that birth be to a prophet? What if you were told in advance to pay attention to that “prophet”, so you could have an “inside track” in what is to come? Our verse this week highlights such a person. His name was Micah.
Micah’s name means “Who is like the Lord?” He lived around 700BC, and he began his job assignment as a prophet of God around 740BC. We learn this from the opening verse of his Old Testament book named after him, which says “The word of the Lord came to Micah the Morashite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.”
Throughout Old Testament history, which records events beginning around 1450BC, God sent prophets to the nation of Israel to speak His message to them, from the time He delivered them out of slavery in Egypt to the time they are settled in the Promised Land. But being God’s prophet was a very dangerous line of work. When you proclaim future events, they better come true: “The prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak… that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
God tells us three reasons why it is crucial we study prophets like Micah. Reason #1: To confirm He is the real God (Isaiah 44:7-8 “Who can proclaim as I do? And the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? There is no other rock; I know not one.”). Reason #2: To strengthen the faith of believers (1Peter 1:19-21 “We have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts… prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”). Reason #3: To point people to Jesus Christ as God’s Messiah (Acts 10:43 “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”).
When we study Micah’s short book, the prophecy that usually grabs everyone’s attention is Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from old, from the days of eternity.”
Micah is proclaiming the future location of Messiah’s birth, the One with no beginning (“days of eternity”). Micah says it will not be in the capital city of Jerusalem, but the obscure, tiny village of Bethlehem. And even more precise, not Bethlehem in Judea, but the Bethlehem just outside Jerusalem, called ‘Ephrathah’.
But in our verse this week, Micah gives even more data on who this Messiah will be. Chris Katulka, writer for Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, explains how Micah 4:8 names the precise location around Bethlehem where Messiah will one day be born: “Tower of the flock” (Hebrew ‘migdal eder’), located on the outskirts of Bethlehem, is filled with rugged hills where shepherds would watch over their sheep. Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth says “There were in the same country shepherds living out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Luke also notes that Jesus was laid in a manger, which can mean an animal’s feed trough. So Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth fits perfectly with Micah’s prediction of the future King of Israel being born in the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), specifically in “Migdal Eder” (Micah 4:8).”
“The sheep being watched in Bethlehem that night Jesus was born weren’t your average sheep raised for wool and meat. They had a purpose designated by Jewish law. They were being shepherded for Temple sacrifice according to the ancient Jewish law, the Mishnah (Sheq. 7.4). To think that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was born in a field of sheep purposed for sacrifice seems to set in place the destiny of our Messiah.”
God provides prophecy so we can know Him. Jesus became flesh so that we might know God fully. But Jesus came to die so we could experience God’s presence in our life today. This is the Christmas Story.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.