10 December 2010

The Gospel in Micah 5:2

by Phil Johnson

ne of the most famous and important Old Testament messianic prophecies is also a Christmas text. It foretold that Christ would be born in Bethlehem: "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days" (Micah 5:2).

That promise loomed large in the minds of expectant first-century Jewish leaders—so much so that many of them were prepared to reject Him because they did not know His birthplace and assumed, naturally, that he had been born in the region of his parents' home: "Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee" (John 7:52).

But I think the most amazing thing about Micah's prophecy is the way the deity of Christ is expressed in the verse's final phrase. Israel's Messiah would be One "whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days."

The clear implication of that expression is that the birth of Christ in Bethlehem was not the beginning of Christ as God's Son and our Sovereign. He is eternal. He "came forth" from Bethlehem, but He did not come from there in the first place. His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting"—to use the familiar phrasing from the King James Version.

Notice also that the words of this prophecy are spoken directly by God the Father. Some clear threads of Trinitarian doctrine are woven into the fabric of the text. God the Father is speaking, and in speaking about the One who would come forth out of Bethlehem, He says this: "from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel."

Don't miss the importance of those two words "for Me." God the father is sending this eternal Person to be born and to rule and to redeem His people, and to make righteousness reign over all the earth.

The language is of course reminiscent of John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son"—and a host of other similar New Testament expressions. John 10:36: "The Father consecrated [His Son] and sent [Him] into the world." Galatians 4:4: "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law." First John 4:9-10: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." And just a few verses later, 1 John 4:14: "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world."

That is the gospel, and it's imbedded in our text by implication. Christ—God the Son—came to this earth at the behest of God the Father, on a mission of mercy and redemption. He calls us to repent of our sins and believe in Him—and He does all the work of redemption Himself. It's not up to us to atone for our own sin—we simply lay hold of His grace by faith.

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DJP said...

Amen, thank you.

NoLongerBlind said...


Powerfully and succinctly stated.


Thanks, Phil.

Unknown said...

Thank you. That was wonderful!

Beyond Zaphon said...

I always get blessed when I hear a true angle of scripture that I have overlooked. Thanks

donsands said...

Excellente. Nice lesson for Advent.

Made me think of our Lord's final prayer to His Father, before He drank the cup of holy wrath set before Him.

"And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed."

NoLongerBlind said...

@ Dave W.

We're almost related!

(See my profile.)

Rob said...

A wonderful message.

Thomas Louw said...

‘for me’
I’m always scared to see something in the Bible that’s not there but, these two words has gotten me thinking. There is more truth in them than first meets the eye.
In a way Christ coming to earth, becoming human was more “for God” than for us.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying God needed nor needs anything. Christ came “for God” to show His glorious grace and unbending righteousness.
Christ supreme reason for coming is Gods glory, not our salvation. Our salvation and Christ actions to secure that salvation glorifies God and that why he came “for God”

Mike Riccardi said...

Amen, Thomas. And my thanks to Phil along with the rest of us. Seems the better exegetes we become the more God-centered our Gospel will be.

Mike the Bible Burgh Host said...

Praise God for His excellent grace and all important gift to mankind! Thank you, Phil, for laying this out for us, esp. the scriptures. You are a true blessing to us and to GTY. God's blessings upon you this Christmas season ... may MANY who do NOT know Christ see this ... and much of what GTY sends out.