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The Bethlehem Prophecy

The prophet Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, therefore Micah’s prophecy predated the Babylonian captivity. His prophecy that the Messiah was to be born in the town of Bethlehem, held the promise that the Jews would someday be returned to their homeland after that captivity.

The Jews were returned to the land which was made possible through the Gentile ruler, Cyrus, who granted the Jews permission to return and build their temple. But as the Bethlehem prophecy indicates, the Jews would experience yet another devastation in the wake of the Messiah’s arrival. The Bethlehem prophecy is found in Micah chapter five, verse two. –

But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth to Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Not only will the Messiah be born as a man, but we are also told that He preexisted “from everlasting,” an indication of His divinity.

The Messiah is born, then the prophecy skips forward to the Messiah’s adulthood, where we are shown that He “gives them up.” –

Therefore will He give them up, until the time that she which travails has brought forth: …

As history attests, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and He was subsequently rejected by His own people. He gives them up; allows them to continue without Him. During the forty years prior to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70AD, the Jews had the opportunity to hear the Gospel preached on their own soil. Then Jerusalem was destroyed as the prophet Daniel predicted after the Anointed One (Messiah) is killed (Daniel 9:26).

Jesus declared that the city was destroyed because they “did not know the time of their visitation” (Luke 19:44). They did not recognize that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. This time is the travailing in Micah’s prophecy which encompasses her expulsion from the land from 70AD to her return again many centuries later to what is now modern day Israel.

The phrase “She which travails has brought forth,” seems to indicate that the restoration of the Jews to the Promised Land was through human effort; Zionism, and God’s permissive will for His purposes. Modern Israel was ordained to be the sign, the “Budding of the fig tree,” (Matthew 24:32), that was given to tell us that we have entered into the last generation, a distinct period of time leading up to the great tribulation and Jesus’ second coming. The fig tree was always seen as representing Israel in early Christian writings.

It’s interesting to note that when God returned His people to the land after the Babylonian captivity, He established a religious nation. Then again when He restores the Jews to their land after the second captivity prophesied in Zechariah 14, He again establishes a religious nation. This is in contrast to modern Israel which is a secular nation, a nation birthed through travailing, or human effort.

After Israel was established as a nation in 1948, …then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel (Micah 5:3).

Here we are being shown a remarkable picture of the Messiah’s brethren returning to the land of Israel. The Messiah’s brethren would be those who have been birthed into the family of God through faith in the Messiah Jesus, which would include Gentiles as well as believing Jews.

The following verse of Micah’s prophecy shows us the purpose of Jesus’ return to the land by His Spirit in His brethren; (“I will come to you,” John 14:18, Rev. 3:20) to “feed” those to whom He had previously “given up” to their own ways.

And He shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD (God the Father), in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; and they shall abide: for now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth (verse 4).

This indicates that there is a time of evangelism in Israel and the world that will continue until the final tribulation and Israel’s second captivity prophesied in Zechariah 14, verses one and two, which precedes Jesus’ second coming.

During the time of Israel’s second captivity, which occurs during the tribulation, and most likely instigates it, we are shown in verse 5 that…this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our palaces, then we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principle men.

Those who have received the Messiah Jesus have the peace that passes all understanding. Fear of death is removed through faith in Jesus’ atonement, and these ones are living in the promise of God’s gift to them of eternal life.
    The seven shepherds and eight principle men, are the symbolic numbers of a remnant that has received Jesus and are ministering during the tribulation. This period of time correlates with Daniel 12:1, when the remnant that remains in the land is resisting the invaders by sharing the gospel. This would occur toward the end of the captivity where the Jews will be reaping what they had sown upon the Palestinians, among other sins (Rev. 11:8).

While God had promised the Holy Land to Abraham’s seed, it came with the Lord’s commandment to love the strangers in the land as themselves (Leviticus 19:33,34). This commandment was never heeded, and because Israel was established by man as a secular nation, God’s moral laws were ignored, resulting in the nation’s acceptance of sin that God has labeled as abomination (Leviticus 18:22), and has been flaunted in the streets of Jerusalem with a yearly parade.

The pattern has always been in God’s word, that when His people sinned, the Lord would allow them to be chastened by their enemies. Then the Lord punishes their enemies. We see this same pattern repeating here in the remaining portion of Micah’s prophecy. Israel is given the final victory over her invaders after she has received God’s correction and she repents. So according to God’s word, the budding of the fig tree indicates that at some point the nation of Israel will endure a second captivity after which she is rescued and restored when Jesus returns. This is when He gathers her the second time, (Isaiah 11:11 - the first was after the Babylonian captivity), and the prophesied era of peace under Jesus’ authority will commence. This time is prophesied to last one thousand years (Rev. 20:6).

It is at this time when God’s will to have one fold, and one shepherd consisting of Jews and Gentiles as one people under one shepherd, the Messiah Jesus, will be gloriously fulfilled.

Copyright 2023 by H.D. Shively

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