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He Will Be Our Peace

Date: Dec. 13, 2020

Author: Michael Mark

Micah 5:1-6

Key Verse: Micah 5:5

And he will be our peace when the Assyrians invade our land and march through our fortresses.  We will raise against them seven shepherds, even eight commanders.

Merry Christmas everyone and welcome to our third week of Advent!  As many of you already know, advent means arrival, and throughout the advent season we meditate on the first arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time consider the anticipation of his second arrival.  Christmas is for many the most wonderful time of the year, it is a time of peace and joy, as Dan mentioned last week, and Christ is the reason for that.  This year our theme for Advent is “Tidings of Comfort and Joy,” with an emphasis on the topic of peace.  2020 started out with a lot of optimism and hope, but with the coming of the pandemic and civil unrest across the nation, it has turned into a difficult year for many, so we thought it might be a good time to think about and hopefully bring some comfort and peace through the themes and passages of this Advent season.  We actually started thinking about this right before Advent, when Jimmy gave his Thanksgiving message with the key verse that begins with “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” and we just continued to go with it.  Thank you Jimmy for the inspiration, and we pray that God may inspire all of our hearts with peace.

In the first week of Advent, Sh. Bob introduced us to coming of the Prince of Peace, as prophesied in Isaiah, who would come and establish a kingdom of which the greatness of his government and peace would have no end.  Last week, Dan taught us about the Birth of Peace, from the Gospel of Luke, where we saw the circumstances of the birth of Christ who literally changed the course of history.  His arrival was the arrival of peace, which a great chorus of angels sang after the announcement of his birth.  Today, we will go back into the Old Testament, to the book of Micah to learn that Jesus IS our peace, but also, in the spirit of Advent, consider there is a sense that even still, Jesus WILL BE our peace in his second advent.  The great minister of the late 17th century, Matthew Henry, called this particular prophecy in Micah (Chapter 5:1-6) “perhaps, the most important single prophecy in the Old Testament,” because it gives distinctive details about the personal characteristics of the Messiah, it talks about what will happen to the Israelites and Jews for a time, and also about their restoration and a peace that will come over the earth at the end of days.  Because it is a prophecy in the Old Testament, there was an anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, which makes it a great Advent passage.  As we look through this prophecy, we will consider how Christ’s first advent brings peace, second, what we should do between his first and second advent, and lastly, how Christ’s second advent will bring that final, triumphant peace that will prevail over the earth.  Through this I pray we may also get a sense of the importance of this prophecy.

So first, how does Christ’s first advent bring peace?  Look at v.1, “Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.  They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.”  We begin at a bleak point in this prophecy, and before we can know about peace, we should know about war.  Micah was a prophet to the kingdom of Judah, which was the southern split of the kingdom of Israel.  His ministered for about 25 years, some time between 735-710 BC.  He was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah, and served in a time when the wickedness of Judah was continuing to increase – so much so that one of the kings that he served, King Ahaz, sacrificed his own son in a fire.  In the book of Micah you can also see specifically what the people and rulers of Judah had done – they plot evil on their beds, they covet fields and seize them, and defraud people of their homes and inheritance.  False prophets abound and lie to the people.  Even the rulers and leaders despise justice and distort all that is right, judges take bribes, priests teach for a price and prophets tell fortunes for money – and they all think “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us,” despite the evil things they had done.  For these reasons, Micah prophesies judgment and doom, but immediately following comes hope and salvation – judgment for sin, but hope because of God’s faithfulness and promises to his covenants.

“A siege is laid against us,” Micah says.  There is a war that is going on, and a conflict in Judah.  Micah here is prophesying about the siege of Jerusalem, which would happen almost 140 years after he makes this prophecy.  The siege of Jerusalem signaled the fall of the kingdom of Judah.  He says “They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.”  This was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem for two years, and after that captured King Zedekiah, the last king in Judah.  When they captured him, they killed his sons and put out his eyes – striking Israel’s last ruler.  There was a war, there was a conflict between God’s people and Babylon, but the reason that Babylon was sent was to be used as an instrument of God’s judgment for the sins of Judah.  The real war, as the prophet Micah detailed, was a war between God and his own people.  It seemed Babylon had put an end to the kingdom of Judah and the line of kings who were descendants of David.

But, but!  God was not finished with his people.  What about his promise, the covenant he made with King David to put one of his sons on the throne forever?  What about that promise?  God did not forget – look at v.2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 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 of old, from ancient times.”  It would seem that God put an end to Israel when Jerusalem fell, but here, God says another ruler over Israel would come!  And this ruler would not come from the glorious, metropolitan city of Jerusalem, but from a tiny town about 6 miles from there, one of the smallest towns in Judah: Bethlehem Ephrathah, or simply, Bethlehem.  As many of you may know, Bethlehem was King David’s hometown, and part of God’s purpose of choosing Bethlehem was to ensure that a descendant of David would eventually come to reclaim the throne.  Remember this prophecy was given approximately around 735 BC, or more than 700 years before Christ.

Look at the end of v.2 again, about how Micah describes this ruler: his “origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  This sounds like stuff of legends – a legendary tale or some amazing epic story.  The one who was to come, had origins from of old, from ancient times.  The irony is that this is truth, and many of the stories and fictions we love are based on this truth.  Even the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia contain themes found in the Bible: but what makes the Bible the standalone book that has resonated for thousands upon thousands of years is this: it’s the fact that it is truth, and it is THE truth.  And so here, we get a description of the Messiah, prophesied 700 years before his arrival, detailing what type of person He is.  He is from ancient times: this refers to his existence before creation.  This is a revelation of His divinity.  Before the earth was created, before David was even born, He existed, He Was, and Is, and Is to Come.  He is the I AM.  He is, as he describes himself in the book of Revelation, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.

This is one of the reasons that this prophecy is so important.  It tells us that the Messiah, the One who is to come, is Deity, is Divine, is God himself.  This prophecy in Micah was universally accepted by the Jews as a prediction of the Messiah.  We see this in the Gospel of Matthew, Ch.2 and v5-6, all the chief priests and teachers of the law quoted this verse to identify where the Messiah was to be born.  In this verse we see where the Messiah would be located, and a glimpse into the type of person that he was.

This prophecy, as you may know, was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  He is the Messiah, he is the One who was to come.  He is the Son of God, and He has arrived.  He came over 2,000 years ago, born in a manger in Bethlehem.  This was the first advent.  Now how does this give us peace?  In the beginning of this prophecy, you saw essentially God at war with his people.  But in this part of the prophecy, you see God among his people.  You also see God fulfilling his covenant promise to King David by putting one of his descendants on the throne forever.  Jesus, who is from of old, from ancient times, is eternal, and He is the Eternal King descended from David.  Israel was not snuffed out, but was restored as a nation.  So we can have peace that God has made peace with us, since he made peace with Israel.  Actually this is what Dan’s message was all about last week: the birth of Christ and how that brought about peace.  At the core of it is this, which is the gospel, the good news, the glad tidings of comfort and joy: that through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and his blood shed for our sins, we have been reconciled to God.  I do recommend you check out last weeks message for more wonderful details about the circumstances of Christ’s amazing birth, and how that has brought peace into our world.

We live now in a time where this prophecy of Micah has been fulfilled, but we know that Christ will come again.  We know that we are living in an in-between time: between the first advent of Christ, and his second coming.  We know this because we see these things at the present time: we see the gospel advancing throughout the whole world, and lives being changed as people come to faith – but we also see sin in the world: we see corruption at all levels of society – just last month I was a victim of identify fraud when someone else filed successfully to receive unemployment benefits under my name, even though I was still employed.  They did not get any money, but I know of some people who were defrauded and their benefits taken from them.  We see corruption in big business and in some places in some governments.  But most of all, we see the evidence of sin in this: death.  In our hearts we know that Christ has come, and living in this present time, we know he will come again, whether in our lifetimes, or after – we know he will come.  Micah believed this 700 years before his first advent.  Abraham believed this 2000 years before Christ came.  So let’s look now, from the point of view of Micah’s audience, going back in time, when they were anticipating the first arrival of Christ, to see what we should do until his second advent.

Look at v.3, “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.”  I did get a little ahead of myself when I mentioned that Micah prophesied about HOW the Messiah would come.  Here we see that the Messiah does not just come down as an adult in a bolt of lightning, or rise up miraculously out of the dirt – but the Messiah would be born of a woman.  After the siege and exile, it appeared that Israel was abandoned by God.  Sh. Bob mentioned in his message that prophesies had ceased 400 years before Christ was born.  For a period of 400 years, God was silent and did not speak through any prophets.

400 years is longer than the existence of the United States of America.  What happened during this time?  Did Israel fall off the map?  Did the nation cease to exist?  Did the people assimilate into the other cultures they were exiled to?  Perhaps many did.  But God left a remnant.  There is always a remnant people of God, despite what it looks like.  When Ahab was King in the northern kingdom of Israel, he was one of the most wicked kings, and it looked like all of the true prophets and faithful people of God were executed.  The prophet Elijah was terrified, he thought he was the only one left, but God said to him, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him. (1 Kings 19:18)”  Romans 11:5 says, “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.”  What does that mean for us?  It means that even though God seems silent, even though you feel like you’re in the small minority of faithful in the city, God can and will preserve you and your faith, and he will not let you out of his sight.

Again, what does this mean?  It means that there will be times when we struggle.  There will be times when we feel the consequences of our own sins, or the sins of others.  We are not perfect, and sometimes we say or do things we wish we hadn’t, and sometimes the result makes us feel ashamed.  Sometimes we are the victim of other sinners, people who hurt others for their own selfish reasons.  Sometimes we will be persecuted because we believe in Christ, or we stand for truth, or when we affirm what is in accordance with the Bible.  It might even seem like the pressure and discrimination against Christians might grow more hostile.  This is the reality of the sinful world we live in.  It might seem as if we are abandoned by God.  Micah says Israel would feel that way, because of their sins.  But God never really abandoned them.  God was with them, and always had been.  God came back, and he came back in Christ.

If we do receive suffering, as children of God, it is for our good, our discipline and our purification.  It can humble us, and draw us closer to God.  If we suffer for righteousness, Peter says “you are blessed, (1 Pet 3:14), but if you suffer for evil, the only way that would benefit you is if you learn humility and repent.  Though God may discipline, he never abandons us.  His heart yearns for sinners to repent.  Listen to Hosea 11:8 (NASB): “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I treat you like Zeboiim?  My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled.”  God had disciplined Israel like Admah and Zeboiim, two cities that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah, but God says My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled.”  It breaks God’s heart to punish his people, and even when he does, he has deep compassions to bring them back and restore them.  This is the love of God.

It seems God is far away, that he may not come soon, but he will.  Israel was abandoned until the Messiah was born, but when the Messiah was born, it was glorious.  Between now and when Jesus returns, we are in a waiting period – but before he comes, there will be birth pains and groaning.  Jesus is not going to be born again from the womb, but Scripture tells us he will come again on the clouds with power and great glory.  It will not be a woman in birth pains, but the creation.  Jesus even said himself in Matt 24: “Nations will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  Paul tells us, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time,” and that “the creation has been waiting in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed (Rom 8:22).”  This is to say, when you see terrible things happening all around you, and at a faster rate the arrival of Jesus may be at hand – so do not fear, take heart and entrust yourself to God.  All the troubles in the world are like birth pains, but when Christ comes, the children of God will be revealed, and it will be glorious.

In the meantime, what should we do?  Paul summarizes it in Eph 4:1-3, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”  Put off your old self, the old way of life with its deceitful desires, and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:22-24).

And above all, trust in Christ Jesus, look to Christ, depend on him – because is able to keep you from falling and present you to God without fault and with great joy (Jude 1:24).  Look at v.4, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.  And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.”  Christ will shepherd us.  He will protect us, he will provide for us; as David wrote in Ps 23:1-3 “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quite waters, he refreshes my soul.”  And here is why you can trust in Jesus: because he will shepherd you in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.  This means Jesus has the strength of God.  How strong is that?  Strong enough to destroy armies of 200,000 people.  Strong enough to create the entire universe.  He does this in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; this means that He has the authority of God, and is equal in power to God the Father.  We can be secure, and live securely, because Jesus shepherds us in the power and name of God.

Now, let’s see how Jesus’ second advent will finally bring about real perfect and everlasting peace.  Look at our key verse v.5-6a, “And he will be our peace when the Assyrians invade our land and march through our fortresses.  We will raise against them seven shepherds, even eight commanders, who will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword”  Micah’s prophecies have been fulfilled, and Paul even says in Eph 2:14 that Jesus “himself is our peace.”  But again, let’s look at this from the point of view of Micah’s audience.  Jesus has not come yet – and he will be their peace.  They looked forward to the future.  In the same way, we focus on the will be, which means it will happen in the future.  Jesus will be our peace when he comes again.  How?  Notice first – when the Assyrians invade our land and invade our fortresses, seven shepherds and eight commanders will be raised against them.  If you look at this prophetically, Assyria is a type of enemy of God (the land of Nimrod is Babylon, which is also an enemy of God).  So Assyria and Babylon represent all the forces, be it groups, or nations, or governments, that are opposed to the kingdom of God.  They will invade and march – they will try to discredit, destroy or disrupt the church.  They will attack and persecute Christians, which is done in many nations today.

But who is ruling?  Who is conquering?  It’s shepherds and commanders.  Shepherds?  Yes, shepherds under the Good Shepherd Jesus.  Ministers and servants of God who feed, care for and protect the flock of God.  The number seven is not a literal number, but it’s a number used to represent totality or perfection.  So when Micah says seven shepherds, he means a sufficient number of shepherds to rule Assyria.  When he steps it up to eight commanders, he means that there are more than enough.  And in this way, he also equates shepherds to commanders, because they are the same people who rule Assyria and Babylon.  If you remember that Assyria and Babylon represent the forces opposed to God, you could say that this represents the world itself.  How can shepherds rule in this world with the sword?  Eph 6:17 tells us that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God, and in 2 Cor 10:4-5 it says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  We fight error with truth.  We preach the gospel, and teach others about Christ and what he has done through the word of God.  We preach Christ and him crucified.  It is also the Holy Spirit that empowers us, and teaches us, and gives us words to say when needed.  It was men like Martin Luther who gave the Bible back to the common people and brought about the great Reformation.  It was men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield that started the First Great Awakening in America.  It was the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ and Paul that established the foundation of the church.  Twelve ordinary men, mostly fisherman, established the Church and Christianity and today has around 2.1 billion followers, or around 30% of the world’s population.  His greatness has truly reached to the ends of the earth.  Jesus’ kingdom and glory is growing and expanding through his shepherds, and the truth, the knowledge of his peace continues to spread.

Now look at v.6b, “He will deliver us from the Assyrians when the invade our land and march across our borders.”  This actually happened in Jerusalem, when the Assyrians tried to lay siege to it 20 years after they had taken down Samaria.  They came to attack Jerusalem, but King Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, and that night an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians and delivered Jerusalem before they could even shoot an arrow or set up a siege.  This is a shadow and a picture of what is to come when Jesus comes again.  When Jesus comes again, he will destroy all of his enemies, and bring all those who belong to him, those who believe and trust in him, to the new and eternal kingdom of peace.  We see a vision of this in Rev 21, of the new heaven and new earth, and God, finally dwelling among his people, as he did in the Garden of Eden before the fall.  In this new earth, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  God said, “It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Rev 21:4,6,7)”  This is the eternal kingdom of peace.  It may seem like chaos and destruction at the end of time, but in that time, only Jesus can be our peace.  Only Jesus can deliver us from the evil that is in the world.  Jesus is the only way to peace with God.  If Jesus is our peace now, Jesus will be our peace when he comes again.

Thank God for Jesus’ first advent, who was born in Bethlehem to be ruler over Israel, and established peace with God by saving and redeeming us through his death on the cross.  Thank God for Jesus, who is our Good Shepherd who shepherds us in the strength and majesty of the Lord.  While we wait for his second coming, let us live a life worthy of our calling through loving and serving one another according to the gifts God has given us, building each other up in faith and growing in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ through His word.  Let us make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: Jesus our peace makes us all one body in Christ.  Through Him we become the children of God.  Thank God for Jesus, who will be our peace when he comes again in glory to reveal the children of God and establishes the eternal kingdom of peace.  Trust and believe in Jesus, and he will be your peace.

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The Greatest of These is Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Key Verse: 13:13b

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