He is Our Peace

Title: He is Our Peace

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1p3AY6bZAFFbmNOJjJ2oNq0BjYDYsJzfm9sunCwOxQcnPirLtYAtJ06_7tceupjYMUgAcnZMyJ-lkYV9IxGoZJIA/12-21-08heisourpeace.mp3%5D

Text: Micah 5:2-5, Matthew 2:1-12

Date: December 21st, 2008

Recently I was reading along in the Old Testament, in the prophet Micah, from the famous verse that is mentioned also in the New Testament Christmas account of the baby Jesus found in Matthew, “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,” Micah 5:2. It’s a prophecy concerning the birth of the Messiah Jesus in Bethlehem. It’s embedded in the Christmas Nativity account we read in Matthew 2:1-12 (read). Now usually when I read this prophecy I stop at the end of Micah 5:2, but for some reason I kept reading on in the passage and found that the prophecy doesn’t stop at verse 2 but rather keeps on going; there’s more to the prophecy than only one verse! Listen to the next three verses, “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shephered 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. And he will be their peace.” There’s so much here that could be said, but I’d like to focus on a few points as it pertains to all of us living today in these modern times with all the economic, political and societal problems. Aside from the famous prophetic prediction of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the most interesting part of the verse is found in verse 5, “And he will be their peace.” When I hear the word “peace” mentioned around Christmas time I think immediately of the verse in Luke 2:13-14, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising god and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests,” or as the KJV reads, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” Peace on earth, Goodwill towards men. That’s a famous sentence, understood and recognized by millions and millions of people all over the world. It speaks of peace. And as we know elsewhere, Jesus is also called the Prince of Peace. Another reference to peace. So it’s interesting that we find a description of peace in the Micah 5 prophecy. What does it mean? I’d like to explain, because wouldn’t we all benefit from more peace? Isn’t peace of mind, peace of soul, marital peace, family peace, and peace among nations something everyone wants today? What is the most wished for request from the Miss America, Miss World and Miss Universe pageant contestants? World Peace, of course! But everyone, everywhere longs for peace, personal peace and peace in every other area of life also. According to the prophecy, it will only come through the Messiah Jesus. Let me say three things about the Micah prophecy.

First, the Messiah will be born and lead both Jews and Gentiles. Micah 5:2-3, “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. Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” Now the famous Micah 5:2 prophecy is always quoted at Christmas time because of its accurate pinpoint fulfillment in the birth of Jesus. It’s one of the most powerful prophecies in the entire Bible. But what’s exciting is that the prophecy doesn’t end with verse 2, but continues on with more detailed information. The next verse talks about how the Jews will be abandoned until the birth of the Messiah, and then from that time both Jew and Gentile will be together under the leadership of the Messiah. Now I’m aware that there can be different interpretations of verse 3, and I’m sure that Orthodox Jews would not agree with my above interpretation, but then again, they wouldn’t agree that verse 2 is a reference to the birth of Jesus either. But granted that Micah 5:2 is referring to the birth of Jesus, then verse 3 could mean that the apparent abandonment by God of the Jews ends with the birth of Jesus when both Jews and Gentiles receive a universal spiritual leader in Jesus Christ. To understand what the reference to abandonment means, we have to go back to the time prior to the birth of Jesus and to the four hundred or so years after the voice of the last Old Testament prophet had spoken. It was widely believed by the Jews at the time of Jesus that God had abandoned the Jews – that’s why the longing for the coming of the Messiah was so strong. It had been hundreds and hundreds of years since the last Old Testament prophet had spoken; many Jews considered that God had abandoned them. Also remember that the Romans had conquered and occupied the land of Israel, so the Jews were living under a foreign power. No prophetic voice had arisen and no Messiah had come. Yes, there had been false messiahs and false prophets, but nobody who the Jews could really trust as a message or messenger from God. It seemed as if the Jews had been abandoned by God; this is what the prophecy alludes to. But then Jesus the Messiah is born in Bethlehem. He is the Emmanuel or “God with us” who will lead the Jews, but not only them, but also the Gentiles as well. This is the prophecy’s reference to “the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” As a spiritual Savior and spiritual Shepherd, Jesus leads both the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers, not in political or economic conquest, but into spiritual victory over sin and death. The birth of Jesus the Messiah brings great unity into the world because it provides a common salvation for everyone. But there’s more.

Second, the Messiah will shepherd or lead the whole world of believers. Micah 5:4, “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.” Now this is where Orthodox Jews will definitely object to a Christian interpretation of this verse, because they will say, “But clearly the Messiah hasn’t come because clearly there is presently no world leader who is leading the Jews and Gentiles securely. There is no David-like ruler who is leading Israel and all the other nations presently, nor has there been such a great figure in the past 2000 years.” But this is because the Orthodox Jew today is making the same mistake as his Jewish brothers have made in the past – they assume that the Messiah will be a political leader, when in fact, the Messiah came as a spiritual Savior. Spiritually speaking, Jesus is the Messiah. The prophecy says that he will “shepherd his flock in strength,” and that is exactly what Jesus has done for the last 2000 years. Jesus has been exercising spiritual strength and power over his flock of spiritual believers ever since New Testament times. He has been saving all those who place their trust in him to forgive their sins and save their souls. He has been leading and guiding all those who turn to him for direction, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, rich or poor, men, women or children. How has Jesus been leading his flock for all these years? Through many means, but probably the most important way is through the Bible, the Word of God and it’s influence on the lives of believers. One of the most powerful ways today that Jesus continues to lead his flock is through God’s Word. Our lives our secure when they are grounded in the truth of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. But Jesus also leads his spiritual flock through the Holy Spirit and through the Christian church. The Spirit guides us in and through the Bible, but also leads us in ways that are in addition to the Bible. Since many of the decisions and choices we face in life are not strictly covered in the revelation of God in the Bible we need additional and more detailed and personal guidance to cover these other areas of life. So Jesus sends his Spirit to guide and direct us also. The true Spirit never contradicts God’s Word, but always confirms it. Of course, not everything we think is the Spirit leading us really is, but at least sometimes God does in fact lead us by the Spirit if we are sensitive enough to listen. Jesus also shepherds us through his church, the Christian church. While far from perfect, the church is an instrument in which God uses to lead and guide his people in life. We must pray for the church more and criticize it less. It is God’s will to use the church in the shepherding of his people. Finally, the passage talks about “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth,” which is a clear reference to the missionary work of the church that has almost reached every society and culture on planet earth with the gospel. Let us also pray for the completion of the Great Commission of discipling all nations, because when that happens, according to the Bible, the Lord will return. But there’s even more.

Third, the Messiah will be our Peace. Micah 5:5, “And he will be our peace.” The shortest and last of all the verses of the prophecy, but not at all the least. Here we return to the important topic of peace. What is peace? It’s a complicated thing because there are so many levels to talk about. There is political and economic peace. There is peace from war. There is mental and emotional peace of mind. There is marital and family peace. There is spiritual peace. And on and on. What the prophecy says is the Messiah will be our peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus is our peace if we’ve given our hearts to him by faith. But the Jews don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah because they point to the fact that the world is not at peace; there are many wars still raging at the present time. If Jesus is the Messiah why hasn’t he brought us the promised peace? The answer to that question is his primary purpose is not to bring about every kind of peace immediately – because there are endless levels of peace that can be counted – but to deliver to us the most important kind of peace, which is spiritual salvation. The problem with Jews, and for most people in the world today for that matter, is that they don’t get to the root problem – sin. We ultimately don’t have peace with God or ourselves because our sins keep us from it. We are at war with God primarily in sinful rebellion and disobedience. Consequently, we can’t experience true inner peace until we make our peace with God through repentance and faith in the Savior Jesus Christ. True and lasting peace comes first from within, then spreads outward. Not, as most people think, from outside coming in. Most people today look for inner peace from their outward circumstances. For example, today the economy is a major cause of anxiety and worry for many people in the world. They are hoping that the economy improves so they can have peace of heart and mind, but that’s the wrong approach to true and lasting peace. True and lasting peace comes as a gift from God to us through forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God through our relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ. Then, no matter what is taking place in the external world – wars, economic turmoil, social unrest, etc. – as long as we have the peace of God in our hearts, we will be able to live in true peace. That’s why the prophecy says, “And he will be our peace.” The Messiah Jesus, born in Bethlehem, through shepherding his spiritual flock by the Bible, by the Spirit, and by the church, is giving us true peace that the world can’t take away no matter what happens. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, as Romans 5:1. Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” John 14:27. Notice Jesus says that his peace is different than the world’s peace. The world’s peace is based on favorable circumstances – when the economy improves, then we’ll feel at peace; or when the war stops, then we’ll feel at peace, etc. But Jesus gives us a different peace that the world can’t give us, neither can the world take away. Wouldn’t you like to have lasting people that can’t be taken away no matter what events transpire on earth? Wouldn’t you like to have peace that isn’t conditioned on earthly circumstances? You can have that kind of lasting peace if you give your heart and soul to Christ. Simply repent of your sins, confess them and turn from them. Turn to God in humble faith and trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Fulfill this prophecy in your own life and experience lasting peace as a result. Let’s pray.

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