God's Plan for Small Things

Steve Viars December 23, 2008 Micah 5:2-4

 

- Have you ever been tempted to think that you’re not big enough to make a difference for God?...

- over the years I’ve spoken to many people who seem to believe that…

- I’m not intelligent enough to have an impact for Him…

- I’m not athletic enough…I’m not pretty enough…I’m not old enough…I’m not young enough…I have skeletons in my closet…I don’t know the Bible enough….

- I’m not wealthy enough…I’m not well connected…

- I weigh too much…I’m in a dead end job…My past is a mess…

- the notion seems to be that God can only use people on the “A list”…

- friend, I’d like to suggest tonight that that’s not true…in fact, it’s not even close to being true…

- and the Lord orchestrated certain details surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ to be absolutely sure we understood that point…

- at our church this Christmas season we’ve been Seeking God’s Plan for the Messiah.

- we’ve been studying some of the OT prophecies concerning the birth of Christ…

- December 7 – Genesis 3 – God’s Plan for Redemption

- December 14 – Isaiah 7 – God’s Plan for Purity.

- tonight, we want to conclude this series by thinking about Micah 5 – which teaches us about God’s Plan for the Little Things.

- now, I know what you’re thinking on this Christmas Eve night…and that is…

- I sure hope Pastor Viars tells us a little bit about the historical context behind this OT prophecy because I want to be sure we interpret it properly…

- I would have trouble opening my Christmas presents or enjoying my holiday turkey unless I knew that…

- I appreciate your enthusiasm…but we really need to keep this brief…for the sake of the children…

- here’s the short version…

- Micah was a prophet of God who had been called to minister to the southern kingdom of Judah around 750 BC…

- he was from a rural part of the country…perhaps even a farmer…

- if you are familiar with Scripture…the prophet Amos was to the northern kingdom what Micah was to the southern…

- and even though he grew up in the country, God sent him to Jerusalem…

- to the capital to confront the disintegration of personal and social values of BOTH the leaders and the people who on the one hand said they knew God, but on the other hand long ago stopped acting like it…

- one commentator summarized the context like this…Micah had been castigating the leaders of the people for their failure to do what they had been commissioned to do.  Judges had failed to give justice.  Prophets had failed to speak a true word for God.  Rulers had ceased to rule.  As a result, the kingdom was in chaos, and an even greater judgment was coming.  But this was not the final word, and the section ended with the prophecy of a golden age to be marked by four freedoms: freedom from ignorance of God’s law, freedom from war, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  (James Montgomery Boice – The Minor Prophets).

- see, the people needed to know that someday God would provide a new leader, a Messiah who would be entirely different than what they’d ever experienced before…

- now, I realize that it’s too dark to read from your own Bible tonight, so we selected a passage that is short…and probably in some ways familiar to many…

- but please look for the characteristics of the promised Messiah in this great prophecy…

- Micah 5:2-4 - 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.Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

- from this passage, let’s think about 3 lessons from God’s plan that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.

I. God Delights in Using “Little” Things.

- of all that God could have emphasized in this prophecy written over 750 years before the birth of Christ, He made sure to point out that the significance of Jesus’ birthplace was in insignificance…

- …who are too little to be among the clans of Judah

A. So there would be no question about the Messiah’s character.

- all of the details surrounding Christmas night whisper the word “humility”…

- it’s not about being from a big place…

- it’s not about being surrounded by the beautiful people…

- it’s certainly not about popularity and public approval…

- God wanted His Son, to be born in a stable, in a manger, in a city that was very, very small…

- this kind of Savior could later teach - Matthew 11:29 - Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

- He could later explain that Matthew 18:4 - …whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

- and then when He faced the greatest test of all, He could…Philippians 2:8 - …He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

- a little town like Bethlehem was the perfect place for a Messiah to be born who would be clothed with humility…God delights in using “little things”…

B. So there would be no question about the Messiah’s mission.

- do you remember at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry when He stood up in the synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah…which passage did He choose to explain His mission?...

- Luke 4:18-19 - The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

- those were the kinds of individuals the Messiah was sent to redeem…

- and that news would have been so refreshing to the people of that day…because Micah had already denounced the kind of leaders they currently had…

- Micah 2:1-2 - Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand.They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.

- the Messiah’s mission was to serve and reach the very kind of person that many in that culture had discarded, or exploited, or abused…

- God delights in using small things…

- as we broaden that out to other places in Scripture we learn…

C. This is the way God often works.

- for everyone here who would say “I’m not ‘this’ enough” or I’m not ‘that’ enough”…the response would be – great, you’re a perfect candidate for the kingdom…those are exactly the kind of people God often uses…

- 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 - Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,so that no one may boast before him.It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

- see, this way, there is no question about where the glory belongs…

- when ordinary people are used to do extraordinary things, there’s no question that God is the One who deserves the praise…

- many of you participated in Christmas for Everyone…[describe the program briefly]…

- and I realize that was a stretch for many because of what is happening economically…

- and you may have wondered – does it really make a difference?...maybe you could only help one child this year…such a small thing…

- read the card from the CFE mom…

- now, what is the second lesson we can learn from this prophecy…

II. God’s Son is a Ruler Worth Following.

A. Because He is eternal.

- Micah 5:2 – His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.

B. That is one of the reasons God made prophecies like this.

- think about this, God knew 750 years before it occurred exactly where Jesus would be born…

- and the size of the town increases the amazing aspect of that prophecy…

- no one could say – well, God got lucky….He chose the largest city in the world and the odds were in His favor…

- nor could you say, well, He knew that Mary and Joseph were going to live there already…

- no they didn’t…if you’ve studied Scripture, you know that neither Mary nor Joseph were in Bethlehem when they learned that Mary would be the mother of Christ…

- God directed a secular ruler to call for a census where every man had to return to the city of his ancestors…and so not only did God call it 750 years in advance, He orchestrated the events in such a way that His words came perfectly true…

- you have to be eternal to pull that off…

- Let’s just put that in perspective for a moment…

- many of you have investments in your retirement programs, our college savings funds, or other forms of savings…

- and the value of some of that may have been tied to the stock market in some way…

- how have the last few months gone?...

- and I realize you might say, PV, I’m trying to forget about that…please don’t bring it up on Christmas Eve…

- bear with me for a minute – what if I had had come to you 7 months ago and said, the market is about to go down 40-50% -- it would be wise to convert those assets to cash and park them somewhere which is really safe for a while…

- would knowing the future 7 months in advance have come in handy this year?...and would you be pretty impressed with someone who could do that?...

- how about this – what about someone who could tell you the future 7 years in advance, or 70 years?...would that catch your attention?...

- of course that’s just child’s play – what about someone who could call out specific and unlikely details over 700 years before they occurred?...

- a person like that ought to be called…God…

C. You have to decide whether you will follow His Lordship.

- Romans 10:9-10 - That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

- the good news of Christmas is that the king has come…

- and it is true that one day He will come again and establish His kingdom on this earth where all the OT prophecies and promises to His people will be completely fulfilled…

- but God calls on people today to choose to follow Him as Lord…

-  often I’m asked by people about how they can know if they really have a relationship with God…

- one of the answers is…whether or not there’s any evidence…whether there’s been a change…John said it this way…

- 1 John 2:3 - Andby this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

- and we don’t do that in order to earn salvation in some way – that’s impossible…

- God’s too holy and we fall far too short on our own…

- but if we do have a true relationship with Him, one of the evidences will be that the eternal Lordship described in this passage will be one that we joyfully and submissively follow…

- now, you might say – why doesn’t everybody do that?...

- perhaps that question is best answered by thinking of who quoted this prophecy in the NT…

- do you remember that part of the story?...

- King Herod received a visit from the wise men months and perhaps even a year or so after Christ had been born…

- and they said words that would have frozen Herod’s blood…

- Matthew 2:1-2 - Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

- and the passage goes on to say that…

- Matthew 2:3-4 - When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

- now, the amazing thing is…these priests and scribes knew their Bibles so well that there is no indication that they even had to go look it up…from all appearances in the text, they nailed it, immediately, by quoting (want to guess…?)

- Matthew 2:5-6 - They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

- do you know what’s really amazing…while of course the wise men hurried off to worship the king…Herod started plotting how He could kill the baby Jesus, and the priests and the religious leaders were apparently too busy and self-absorbed to care…

- and the lesson is…

D. Even fulfilled prophecy from a God who is obviously eternal will not move the indifferent heart.

- I wonder how many people will hear this message tonight and walk out of this building and fail to respond to the obvious implication of a God who is so wise that He is able to name the exact place His Son will be born 750 years in advance…

- perhaps one of the reasons He did that was to get your attention…

- because if He knew the details of Christ’s birth, do you think it’s likely that He knows the details of your life?...

- and perhaps it’s time to say --- I’m tired of trying to be the king…

- I’m tired of trying to be in charge…I admit it…I’m not qualified…

- I need to put myself under the care of someone who is eternal…

- please put these two points together for a moment…the prophet Zechariah spoke of people who…

-  Zechariah 4:10 - …whoever has despised the day of small things…

- but do you realize that for a person who is joyfully following the leadership of Christ, there is no such thing as a “small thing”…

- for that stay at home mom who changes the same diapers day after day after day…with what appears to be very little thanks and very little appreciation…but who says, I’m going to fulfill this responsibility with joy because I realize that ultimately I’m serving my king by seeking to raise my child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…don’t ever minimize the significance of that in the eyes of God…

- or a senior citizen who says – my body is wearing down, and I can’t do everything I used to do…about all I can do is sit in my house and pray for others in my church and my community…please don’t ever despise what might appear to others to be a small thing…

- those who have chosen to submit themselves to the eternal Lordship of Christ have understood the central message of Christmas…the miraculous birth of the promised king…

- now, I realize you might say….but PV, I’ve tried to do the right thing…I’ve tried to live for God…but I fall short and here we are on another Christmas Eve and I haven’t gotten any further along…

- that’s where verse 4 of this prophecy fits in…

- we’re not talking tonight about people like you and me somehow finding a way to follow the Lordship of Christ on our own…

- because not only do we need a king, we also have to have…a shepherd…

- Micah 5:4 - And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

- there’s a lot we could say about that metaphor, but only the Grinch himself would go long on Christmas Eve…but here’s the point…

III. Not Only Does Jesus Christ Call Upon Us to Follow Him, He also Gives Us the Ability to Do So.

- in His public ministry, Jesus spoke often about His willingness to be our shepherd…

- John 10:11 - I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

- you can’t have the wisdom or the power to follow His leadership, until you have first accepted His gift of forgiveness for your sins…

- Micah’s name means “Who is like the Lord?”…

- and in a word play on his own name, Micah says at the end of this book…Micah 7:18- Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity ad passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.

- the take-aways from this passage depend on your spiritual condition this evening…

1. I wonder how many people will be here tonight who have been trying to live apart from a personal relationship with God…

- maybe you are like the priests and wise men of Matthew 2---who were too busy and self-occupied to be impressed with a God who makes and keeps His Word in ways that are clearly miraculous…

- or maybe you have fallen in the trap of thinking that because you’re a small thing, God isn’t interested in you and could never use you…

- or perhaps you’ve tried to do right but you keep falling woefully short…

- I would like to urge you tonight to think about the implications of this great prophecy…

- Jesus Christ the promised one stands ready to be your Savior and your Lord…your shepherd and your ruler…why not admit your need and trust Him tonight?...

2. Christian friend…

- you haven’t fallen into the “I’m not ______ enough” trap, have you…

- be encouraged by the Little town of Bethlehem…

- God delights in using small things…and for those who choose to joyfully follow Christ as shepherd and king, significant results can occur.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video