A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of Micah 4 &5 for Sunday, November 20, 2022, with the title: “Humble Beginnings.” (A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: Ask your group to share a dark, difficult time in their life that God brought them out of.
(EX: We had our first child just after I graduated from seminary, and we hadn’t been called to a church yet, and I only had a part-time job. It was an extremely difficult time. For years we called that our “Dark Year” — since then we’ve had some others! — but God eventually called us to our first church, and brought us out of that “Dark Year.”
You and your class members can share similar stories of difficult times for you/your family, but how God brought you out to better times.
OR you could use a historical illustration: In the early days of the American Revolution, things looked very bleak. The young American Army had been routed at Brooklyn Heights in the Battle for New York, and the British took the City. The rag tag American army basically had retreat after retreat from the British, and it was winter, and they had almost no covering, supplies, or ammunition. Many believed the young revolution was now hopeless. But God would use a very special man, George Washington, to pull off a surprise attack on the British at Trenton, and the tide of the Revolution had turned. God would use this very special man to bring brighter days in the future for this land.
Whichever way you choose to open your lesson, then I would say something like: Today we are going to look at a very bleak time in the history of Israel; but God promised to send them One who would bring brighter days ahead — not only for THEM, but also for us, and for all who would humble themselves and believe on Him.
CONTEXT: We are in our 2nd of 3 lessons in the Prophet Micah. We saw last week the judgment of God that was coming on the land of Israel & Judah, due in great part to the sins of the leaders (both political & spiritual) of the land.
NOW Chapter 4 opens with a word of HOPE, and Chapter 5 prophesies the coming Messiah who would bring that hope.
I might use an outline like this to share this lesson:
I. The Present Difficulty 5:1
II. The Messiah who was coming 5:2-5
A. His BIRTH,
B. His PERSON,
C. His WORK
III. The People who would receive Him 4:6-7
I. The Present Difficulty
5:1 continues the previous theme we’ve seen in Micah and other prophets, of the judgment that was coming on the land:
— “they have laid siege against us” This happened when the Babylonians came against Jerusalem and surrounded the city, and eventually captured and destroyed it. Thousands of Judeans were killed, leaders executed, Zedekiah the king had his sons slain before his eyes and was then blinded, and thousands of the people were carried into captivity into Babylon. These were perhaps THE darkest days ever in Israel’s history.
— “with a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek.” (The word “judge” in Hebrew often means “ruler,” not the kind of “judge” we often think of associated with that word. So it may mean the Kings of Israel whom they would blind and imprison.)
(Others do see in that phrase “the judge of Israel smitten on the cheek” a prophesy of Jesus, who would be smitten for us)
So 5:1 gives the current situation: dark, difficult days of judgment and misery.
We ALL have dark days like that. I shared about our “dark year.” We ALL have “dark years.” (If you didn’t use your personal examples of difficult times to open the lesson, you could talk about those here. And/or discuss some of the difficulties that you/your group members or loved ones are going through right now.)
And after you’ve talked about those, you could point out that our temporal and material “dark days” are a picture of the SPIRITUAL darkness that oppresses all of us. We were all in the “darkness of sin,” separated from God by our disobedience to Him, and headed for an eternity apart from Him.
All of us have had dark days, spiritually-speaking, because we have all rebelled against God, just like Israel did. And “the wages of our sin is death,” like Romans 6:23 says. Our outlook was bleak — just like Judah’s here.
But God gives HOPE in this passage, that despite these dark days, better things are coming:
II. The Coming Messiah
:2 “But as for YOU, Bethlehem Ephrathah … from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel …” (By the way, “Ephrathah” is the Hebrew word for “fruitfulness”, and it was either another name for Bethlehem, or maybe the region it was in. “Bethlehem” means “house of bread,” so they were in a fruitful region.)
But here God makes one of the greatest promises in His word: the prophecy of the coming Messiah, who would bring brighter days to His people.
??? You might ask your group to look at this verse and share: What does this tell us about the coming Messiah? (By the way, I think it is good for you to ask your group to look at the text each week and see what they find there, instead of you just telling them everything that’s there; it helps them develop the habit of looking at God’s word, and discovering what His word says)
This verse tells us several things about this Messiah:
— He will come from Bethlehem
— He’ll be “ruler” in Israel
— He’s somehow from “the days of eternity”!
A. His BIRTH
The first two made sense enough. The Messiah, leader, would come out of Bethlehem. They all knew that. Some New Testament passages show us this:
— If you remember from the Christmas story in Matt. 2, when the magi asked the scribes where the Christ was to be born, they didn’t bat an eye. They said: “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written in the prophet” — and they quoted this verse, Micah 5:2. So this was well-known and quoted. Everyone knew the Messiah would come from Bethlehem.
— Here at FBCA we read in our Bible readings this week, John 7:42, where some were saying that Jesus was the Messiah, but “Others were saying, “the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Has not the scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”
So they knew; they GOT this passage; that it was talking about the Coming Messiah, and that He would be born in Bethlehem.
ONE WAY you could illustrate this point would be to talk with your group about some “predictions” people have made recently that have gone awry.
— Many were predicting a big “Red Wave” in our 2022 elections, that didn’t quite come to pass.
— Every week on tv the football prognosticators predict the weekend’s games, but rarely are they consistently on target.
— Not even to mention the weather. (The other day one forecast here in Texas said there was 100 PERCENT chance of rain — ONE HUNDRED %! But it didn’t happen!
We can’t even predict what will happen next WEEK, in an election, or a football game, or the weather.
So don’t take for granted this is an amazing miracle that took place here with Micah 5:2. Micah was written about 700 years B.C. — 700 years before the birth of Christ — and yet he predicted that He was going to be born in Bethlehem — and He WAS! In just a few weeks we’ll celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. And it was predicted 700 years in advance, and everyone knew it. These fulfilled prophecies regarding Jesus are some of the strongest arguments for the truth of who He is. Be sure to emphasize the great miracle that took place in this prediction and its fulfillment.
B. His PERSON
But what about this last part: “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” What did THAT mean? This is referring to Jesus’ DEITY: that it was not merely a MAN who was born that day in Bethlehem, but it was GOD who came down to earth for us.
— John 1 tells us: “In the beginning was the Word … He was in the beginning with God … all things came into being by Him …”.
— We just read in our Bible reading John 8, where Jesus says, “Before Abraham came into being, I AM”! He pre-existed Abraham. His goings out were from eternity!
So Jesus fulfilled this Micah 5 passage about the Messiah being One who was from long ago, from eternity.
It is important from time to time to remind your class what the Bible teaches about the Person and Work of Christ. Most of the heresies from church history have involved some misunderstanding about the Person of Christ, either that He is not God, or not man, or some misunderstanding about His nature. This is a great passage to emphasize the right belief about Christ; that He is 100% God, and 100% Man. He had to be both, to bring about our salvation.
And this passage emphasizes that: “His goings forth … are from the days of eternity.” Jesus didn’t “come into being” in Bethlehem; no, “His goings forth are from eternity.” He is eternal God; God Himself; God the Son. I would re-emphasize this word about the PERSON of Christ to my group this week.
C. And then notice what it says about the WORK of Christ. :5 says“this One will be our peace.”
— Isaiah 9:6 (Isaiah preached at the same time as Micah) said that He would be called “The Prince of PEACE.”
— Ephesians 2:14 “For He Himself IS our PEACE …”
Jesus made peace for us with God by His death on the cross
— Romans 5:1 “therefore, having been justified by faith, we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ …”.
Jesus fulfilled this prophecy by making PEACE for us with God, though His death on the cross for us.
So this is a great passage on both the PERSON, and the WORK of the Messiah:
— He was a real, 100% Man, who was born in Bethlehem
— But He was also 100% God, who has been from eternity
— And His great work was His death on the cross for our sins, making peace for us with God.
But I think it’s also important for us to focus on:
III. The People who would receive Him (4:6-7)
:6-7 “In that day, … I will assemble the lame, and gather the outcasts, even those whom I have afflicted. I will make the lame a remnant and the outcasts a strong nation, and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion.”
This may seem like an odd verse, but it is very symbolic.
“The lame, the outcasts,” are SPIRITUALLY speaking. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT, for THEIRS is the kingdom of Heaven.” The “poor in spirit” are those who realize they are impoverished spiritually, that they have sinned against God, and have no hope of heaven without His mercy and grace, and call on Him to save them through Jesus.
Only the “poor in spirit” will have the Kingdom of Heaven. You MUST humble yourself and admit your sin, and ask Christ to save you.
I remember years ago reading the testimony of a Hollywood celebrity whose friends kept telling them that they needed to seek help for their drinking problem. They said they kept turning down assistance, until one day they “hit bottom” with their problem, and they said they uttered “the hardest three words I ever said: ‘I. Need. Help.’”
THAT is poverty in spirit: admitting that you need help. That is what you have to do in order to be saved. You have to admit that you are a sinner, and that you need help — the help of Jesus who died on the cross for you — to be saved. It is only the “poor in spirit” who will have the Kingdom of Heaven.”
You might ask your group:
— Have you personally ever humbled yourself and been “poor in spirit” and asked Jesus to save you? If not, you can do it today. And at some point you might lead in prayer of salvation they can pray if they need to.
— And you could ask: do you have a friend or loved one, that you need to pray for this morning, that THEY would be “poor in spirit” and admit their need for God? Then take some time to pray for them.
Many people’s lives are dark and desperate right now — your group may have just shared about some of them. But there is HOPE for them in Jesus, the God-Man who was born in Bethlehem. Everyone who will admit their spiritual poverty and ask the Lord to save them, will come into the Kingdom of Heaven!
There are some other things in this passage you might consider sharing; there’s more in Chapter 4, and 5:5-9 gives a picture of the blessings and victory the Messiah would give the when He comes, and so on. But I’d make the 3 points I shared with you my focus. You can add to it as God leads you, but I hope what I’ve shared here will help you some as you prepare.
God bless you as you share His word this week!
Per my licensing agreement with Lifeway:
– These weekly lessons are based on content from Explore the Bible Adult Resources. The presentation is my own and has not been reviewed by Lifeway.
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