76 Sermons On The Old Testament Given By Jesus
Sermon 37 - Micah and the prediction of Bethlehem.
July 29th, 1960
Received by Dr Samuels
I am here, Jesus.
There is one passage I wish to discuss in the Book of Micah; that is, Chapter 6, wherein God, through the prophet, pleads with Israel to return to Him in righteousness of conduct towards one’s fellowman. He reminds them of the hideous acts of abomination found in the pagan worship of the neighboring Kings Balak of Moab and Balaam, son of Boer. Thus Micah declares that sacrifices of any kind are futile; only righteousness of heart and love of mercy are God’s Will for mankind:
“Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, And bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or With ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? It has been told thee, O man, what is good, And what the Lord doth require of thee; Only to do justly, and to love mercy, And to walk humbly with thy God.”
(Micah 6: 6 - 8)
This passage, for beauty, power and excellence, has never been surpassed in the development of religious thought up to the time of the Divine Love, for what Micah gives here is nothing less than the essence of ethical religion, or the religion of human love. In fact, he teaches with the greatest simplicity what millions of people are seeking and have sought, throughout the ages, to discover - the meaning of religion. For, no, religion is not a matter of ritual and sacrifice for sin or for the appeasement of a deity; no, it is not the offerings of calves or rams or lambs, or oil, or the sacrifice of the firstborn, as early man thought it must be, and which is still being used in a metaphysical way by a modern church whose mistaken doctrine is that I, God’s first and only son, had to be sacrificed on a cross for the appeasement of His wrath for man’s sins.
No, God seeks not the sacrifice of animals, nor the fruit of the earth, nor of human beings, nor, indeed, any kind of sacrifice. No, He wants man to live with an abiding sense of, and the practice of, justice and mercy, and to know, humbly, that God is the Creator of your being, and holds you, so to speak, in the palm of His Hand.
As for the remainder of Micah’s little book, Chapter 5 is the most famous passage, because it deals with the prophecy that has been thought to refer to my coming. Actually it comes after Chapter 3, which states that Jerusalem shall fall and the Temple destroyed, if the rulers of the Houses of Judah and Israel continued to work evil, abhor justice and build Zion, the Temple, with blood. But, continues Micah, there will one day come, as ruler in Judah, he who will do God’s Will, bring justice and equity to all and rule with righteousness and mercy. This ruler, of course, would be, as had been then for centuries, of the House of David; so that Micah appeared to be simply awaiting a new king. I have already told you that Isaiah predicted a good king in Hezekiah, who was an improvement over his predecessors, but not to the degree that Isaiah’s words warranted. Now Micah used the same type of lyrical language, so that the king to come, and who did come, Hezekiah, is hardly recognizable by the prophecy of his coming. Here are Micah’s words:
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, Which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, Out of thee shall he come forth unto Me, That is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days. Therefore will he give them up, Until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth; Then the residue of his brethren shall return with the Children of Israel.”
(Micah 5: 2 - 3)
I shall continue with the remainder of this prophecy and explain its meanings, but I want to deal with the part first, as a full citation can and has led to confusion. In the first place Micah based his predictions on that part of Isaiah, let me quote: “Until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth,” which is suggested by Isaiah’s:
“Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name ‘Immanuel’.”
(Isaiah 7: 14)
You will notice that Micah also speaks of a son, rather than a child, a son who will be associated with the return of the Ten Tribes of Israel, or rather the return of a remnant from captivity in Assyria. Thus Micah predicting the ruler of the nation governing the survivors of the exiles as predicted long before; that is, the last passage attributed to Amos, this ruler (whose mother was pregnant with him at the time of Isaiah’s writings) was born at Bethlehem Ephratah, to distinguish this Judean from another in Galilee, and refers to the city in which David was born. This is unusual, for the royal house of Judah lived in Jerusalem and the children were born in the royal palace. Now Isaiah did not mention it, for he assumed the birth would take place in the palace as always, but Micah made a point of referring to it, as I said, because Hezekiah was born in Bethlehem, where his mother Abi, daughter of Zechariah, had been resting, and Micah wrote many years after the event. The Book of Second Kings relates how well he was regarded:
“And he did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord; According to all that David, his father, had done. He removed the high places, and broke the pillars, And cut down the Asherah, [Canaanite goddess of fertility]. He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; So that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, Nor among them that were before him.”
(2 Kings 18: 3 - 5)
If we are to credit these words unconditionally, then Hezekiah was greater than David. But to continue:
“For he clove to the Lord, he departed not from following Him, but kept His Commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him, whither he went forth he prospered. …”
(2 Kings 18: 6 - 7)
I have shown, however, that Hezekiah, in spite of warring successfully against the Philistines, was troubled with the coalition of Israel and Syria against Judah, and finally, with Assyria, and paid heavily in tribute to this nation, so that this chronicle, written by a religious priest, passes by in silence the king’s imperfections and political troubles, as well as his weaknesses of personality, and stresses his reform of the Hebrew ritual, and elimination of the evils of the pagan-type worship that existed. Micah, however, continues his prophecy of the ruler from Bethlehem in a way that reminds us of the praises in Second Kings:
“And he shall stand, and shall feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord, his God; and they shall abide, for then shall he be great, unto the ends of the earth.”
(Micah 5: 4)
Now it is hard for me to tell exactly when Hezekiah was born, for Hezekiah himself, and Ahaz, do not remember, for there was no such exact measuring of time or dates such as you have today. But Hezekiah, by rapid calculation, was born just about or after the time Isaiah is known to have begun his prophecies about 738 B.C., and he was not 25 years old when he began to reign, as Scriptures say, but 18 years old (according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, King of Judah, 720-692 B.C.). He reigned about 28 years until Manasseh became king at his death in 692 B.C. (According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, Manasseh succeeded his father, Hezekiah, at the age of 12, and ruled from 692 - 638 B.C.)
Now, in view of what has been written about Hezekiah, in the Second Book of Kings, you can readily understand the great expectations that both Isaiah and Micah had for the new King of Judah to be, and the fact is that for a time it did appear that the greatness of Hezekiah was to be fulfilled. That he was, with the years, a disappointment, is due to Hezekiah’s own personality, but these prophets did express their prophecy of a ruler of the Hebrew people who would do the things of righteousness and walk in God’s Path. And if Hezekiah did not live up to their prophecies, it did not mean that, in time to come, someone else born in Bethlehem of Judah could not make his appearance as ruler to bring justice and righteousness to the people.
From Bethlehem of Judah there could come unto the people, as Micah has said, a shepherd who would feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, and in the majesty of His Name, one who would bring to the people a true knowledge of God through the New Covenant preached by Jeremiah, wherein God’s Love would bring immortality to His people and to all peoples, and make them secure in God’s Land, His Celestial Heaven, to live there in peace and happiness and abundance of spiritual joys for all eternity.
So that while the prophecy of Micah referred, at first, to Hezekiah, the ideal nature of that prophecy was projected into time and across the centuries until the Christ should appear and bring through my coming the Father’s Love to all mankind.
Jesus of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens