“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the ten 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.” – Micah v, 2.
It has been the good pleasure of Israel’s God to reveal His power, wisdom and preserving care over Israel from time to time, by reducing them in numbers, by bringing them to low and apparently impoverished conditions, from which no hand but His could deliver, and then to reveal His wisdom and power in gloriously delivering, sustaining, and manifesting them as His own peculiar treasure. We have continued evidence of this in prophecy and in type, under the Old dispensation and in plain testimony under the New; and our own experience confirms the same truth.
The text under consideration is of this character. It was a prophecy made in the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and at the same time when Israel had been reduced in outward appearance to a very small remnant and it spoke of a still further reduction, that Israel should be brought low in order that she might be uplifted by Almighty power and to the honour and glory of His great name.
“But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah.” In selecting the place that should mark the advent of the King of kings into the world, this small and apparently insignificant city is chosen out of one of the smallest tribes in Israel, emphasizing the fact that it should not be by worldly might, nor power that this kingdom should be established, but by the Spirit of God.
And as this should be the case with the manifestation in time of the King, so should it be the nature of the manifestation of His kingdom: as it is declared by the prophet: “A stone cut out of the mountain without hands” – Daniel ii, 45. A very small remnant, a “little flock,” and &c., are the figures used to designate the outward appearing of this kingdom whose God is the Lord. “This people,” He says, “have I formed for Myself; they shall shew forth My praise,” and all of His dealings with them reveal His wisdom, power and glorious way of life eternal.
“Yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel.” Wonderful prophecy! Manifesting the power and glory of the God of all time and eternity; His wise and mysterious manner of revealing His way in the development of His chosen people is crowned with glory.
The complete control and absolute predestination of Israel’s God over all the surroundings of Israel; over all things in time as well as all things in eternity, is here exhibited in His selection of the place and manner of the incarnation of the Son of God.
It is useless to talk of Predestination that fails to cover all, whether in time or in eternity, whether large or small events, whether righteous or unrighteous. That absolute decree that determines the coming of the Saviour must necessarily control all of the surroundings that pertain thereunto. And that predestination which decrees the development of the kingdom with each particular member thereof, must absolutely control all of the surroundings relating to that development. In order to do this He must control all events, circumstances, incidents and minutia; and to absolutely control them. He must predestinate them to come to pass exactly as He decreed it in His infinite wisdom. That
“Each opening leaf, and every stroke,
Shall fulfill some deep design.”
This is true of the dealings of God with Israel in whole and in part, individually and collectively. Then from the little town of Bethlehem there came the Ruler exactly as He predestinated and revealed Him. He spake as never man spake.
He is and forever shall be the Ruler in Israel. And of “the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end,” upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” – Isaiah ix, 7.
He rules in the hearts of His people, He governs in absolute control; and as surely as the kingdom shall not be left to other people (Daniel ii, 44,) so surely the princely power shall be ever held in the hands of this eternal and Divinely anointed King: “and He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.” – Revelation xix, 16.
“Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Daniel speaks of Him in somewhat similar strain: “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire.” – Daniel vii,9.
Ancient of Days! Wonderful name! Co-eval with and co-equal to all days. Truly the goings forth of such a Character must have been “from of old, from everlasting.” “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth, when there were no fountains abounding with water.” – Proverbs viii, 23, 24.
Every revelation of the wonders of His will, (His goings forth,) has assuredly been from everlasting. Yes, when there were no (earthly) depths, before the mortal hills were formed. The deep laid ways of truth eternal must necessarily have been from “of old from everlasting,” in order to outlive the transitory and fast-passing things of time.
It is said of the living creatures Ezekiel i, 18, that “their rings were full of eyes round about them four.” They could certainly see backward as well as forward; backward to the fountain source, and forward to the grand consummation: hence a man claiming to be a Gospel minister shows the absurdity of such a claim, when he fails to see backward, i.e, the eternal existence of the Church in Christ the chosen seed thereof.
But we pass to the application of our subject in the travel of Israel to-day; “for whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” – Romans xv, 4.
Multiplied types have clearly revealed the same truth presented in the prophecy under consideration. We might quote almost without limit from type and from prophecy:
Amos says; “O Lord God, cease, I beseech Thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? For he is small.” Amos vii, 5. Again; “Thus He shewed me, and behold the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in His hand.” “He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.” – Hebrews xi, 10.
The revelation of this heavenly building shall be to the honour, to the praise, and to the glory of God; to the debasing of every false way, to the setting aside of all earthly means, to the destruction of all mortal hope, and to the wreck and ruin of every vain mortal expectation. God alone shall be glorified. Hence He selected a time when Israel had been brought low, selecting a little city from among her larger ones, selecting a manger and not a palace, electing a carpenter, and not a worldly prince; that it might be by free and sovereign grace, and not by works; that it might be to the glory of God and not to the pride of man.
And as that King was thus made manifest so shall the subjects of His kingdom be made manifest. Hence from the lowest callings in life He selected His apostles, so it was said that “they were unlearned and ignorant men.” – Acts iv, 13.
And the same wondrous truth is shown in the calling of the subjects of this kingdom. “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom?” – James ii, 5. “But ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are.” – 1 Corinthians i, 26-28. How comforting is this to those who feelingly find themselves poor in spirit, foolish, not wise, but base and despised for their faith is the Truth which is hid from the world and its religions? These are such that are glad that “no flesh should glory in His presence.” Sweet in the contemplation of a “good hope through grace,” the world of the despised and unlearned, the ignorant and yet well taught by that anointing, being numbered among those with an unction and “needeth not to be taught” can rejoice in a free, full, and accomplished salvation.
In line with this wondrous and Divinely appointed way of developing His kingdom, it is His good pleasure to bring His people low, that He might manifest His saving power, and wondrous way without the help of flesh. “And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against Me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.” – Judges vii, 2. “I kill and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of Mine hand.” – Deuteronomy xxxii, 39.
Thus the children of grace are brought to praise the God of Israel, and look to His preserving care. It is written; “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.” – Isaiah lxii, 3. Again; “Thou shalt no more be termed ‘Forsaken;’ neither shall thy land be termed ‘Desolate;’ but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” Assuredly is the church a “crown of glory” in the Lord’s hand, for He keeps her in Gospel order and doctrinally purity. “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall shew forth My praise.” – Isaiah xliii, 21.
As brought down to the depths of spiritual poverty, despair, desolation, and death and raised to the heights of glory unfading; As a people exhibiting His unceasing preserving care, they are to His praise and glory and He has prepared them to sing the wonders of His grace. “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand.” – Psalm cxlix, 6.
“Filled with the delight of such rapture we view,
The sorrows, and trials, and cares of this world,
A very small atom; and simply to show,
His wonders of love, and God’s glory unfold.”
“Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.” – Psalms cxlix, 2.
William Middleton Smoot,
The Sectarian, March, 1907