“AND thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”
When the wise men from the east came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” Herod was troubled by this rumor of the advent of a new king, for he himself was ruler over Judea, and regarded with extreme jealousy the claims of any one else to the throne. Therefore Herod assembled the chief priests and scribes and demanded of them where Christ should be born. That is, not being himself familiar with the literature of the Jews, and knowing well that the scribes and priests were familiar with the Jewish law and prophecies, Herod demanded of these learned men to tell him where, according to prophecy, the King of the Jews was to be born. In answer to this demand of Herod the authorities told him that Bethlehem was the place named in prophecy as the location of this new king’s birth. Substantiating this, they referred to the prophecy of Micah, fifth chapter, second verse: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” So far as we know, Micah lived at the same time as Isaiah, about seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Thus, we see that at the distance of seven centuries Micah was inspired by the Holy Ghost to leave on record the name of the birthplace of the coming Messiah, one of the many biblical proofs of the inspiration of the Scriptures. None but a predestinating God could inspire his prophet with such exact information. It must needs be that a God able to make such declaration seven centuries before its fulfillment must be able to determine beforehand all events that should come to pass in that interval. Surely God, our God, does his will among the inhabitants of the earth as well as in the army of heaven. Our text says that Bethlehem was not the least among the princes of Juda, and then gives the reason why Bethlehem was not the least: “For out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” The Lord’s choice of Bethlehem as the place for Messiah to be born made Bethlehem great. Though not marked by any greatness within herself, the Lord’s attitude toward her made her great. David said, in the day that God delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” David owed all his greatness, not to himself, but to the anointing which he had received of God. Paul owed his greatness, not to himself, but, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Thus, with Bethlehem, she was by no means least in the estimation of Jehovah, “for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” One of the titles of Jesus is “Governor,” because he does govern spiritual Israel. Everything in the Israel of God is subject to the rule and direction of King Jesus. Jesus governs his people’s faith, hope and love. He governs their walk and conversation, their doctrine and practice. He adds to the visible organization of his church here in the world such as shall be saved from the untoward generation without, he calls and qualifies whom he will to feed the sheep of his pasture. The rule of Jesus over his Israel, while gentle and permeated with loving-kindness, is nevertheless stern and inflexible as iron, for where the Lord once begins his good work, there is no lull until he brings it to successful issue in the day of Jesus Christ. One whom he calls unto belief must believe; one called to preach must preach; one called unto membership in the visible church must be baptized. The Lord’s people are willing only as his power makes them willing. The work of grace brooks. no opposition, for while every child of God is at some time disobedient, even his disobedience is subject to the governance of the King in Zion, and cannot ever frustrate the purpose or will of God. Whatever Jesus by his Spirit moves one to do or say that must be done or said, though often to the humiliation of one’s carnal will and inclination. There is a crucifying of the flesh in every following of Jesus, a bearing of the cross in every following in his footsteps. Being crucified unto the world is no voluntary act of a spiritual Israelite, but an inevitable decree and manifestation of the iron rule of the Governor, Jesus Christ.
Written at the request of Mrs. M. I. Davie, of Fulton, Ky. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 23.
December 1, 1916