From Judah to Jesus

From Judah to Jesus

In considering the book of Ruth these past few weeks, we noted that Mahlon, Ruth’s first husband, was an Ephrathite, Ephrathah being the name of an area around Bethlehem in Judah. And we also noted that part of the significance of this was that these are the same clan, city, and tribal territory not only of Israel’s future and most important King, David, but also of the promised Messiah,[1] “Messiah” being the Hebrew form of the Greek word for “Christ.” Well this morning we’re going to spend a few moments highlighting some of the prophecies about Messiah, the Christ who was to come, along with how those prophecies were fulfilled in the coming of Christ Jesus, God’s one and only Son who entered human history in the flesh for us and for our salvation.

So let’s begin our journey from “Judah to Jesus” with the prophecy given by Micah, a prophet who lived in the 8th century BC. As read for us earlier verse 2 of Micah 5 states, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Now as we noted last week, the city of Judah took its name from one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham from whom God promised to make for himself a chosen nation. Jacob’s name was later changed to Israel and from him the twelve tribes of Israel did indeed descend and form. At the end of the book of Genesis when he blessed each of his sons, here’s part of what he told Judah, his son: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”[2] The scepter, or staff, was a sign of sovereignty. It’s amazing to think that this promise of a ruler to come, “to whom [the scepter and staff] belong” and whom the nations would obey was given when Judah was but a person, a son of Israel, and not yet a nation. Yet from its inception the promise of Messiah coming through the line of Judah is prophesied throughout the Old Testament.

So, too, the New Testament authors, whose only Scripture was our Old Testament, understood this prophecy as being fulfilled not only in King David, but also in the birth of Jesus. Hence Matthew, who was writing to a Jewish audience, began his gospel by stating, “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.”[3] So Matthew is connecting Jesus with Abraham, Israel’s ancestor and Judah’s great-grandfather, and with David, Israel’s greatest king. But in the second chapter of his gospel Matthew goes on to link Jesus with the specific prophecy we’re considering from Micah. In that chapter he writes about King Herod, who was disturbed that the Magi were looking for Jesus, “the one who [had] been born king of the Jews.” Therefore Herod “called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law” and “asked them where the Messiah was to be born.” Their answer? “In Bethlehem in Judea…for this is what the prophet has written” and they then went on to quote this passage from Micah.[4] The earliest Jewish scholars understood Micah to be prophesying about God’s promised Messiah. And the Magi, the earliest Gentile believers, sought to find him that they might bring him gifts worthy of the king he was, and worship him as God.

In the book of Isaiah, who also prophesied in the 8th century BC,[5] we’re again told that the Messiah would come by way of Jesse, the father of David and son of Obed who, as the son of Boaz and Ruth, also descended from the clan of Ephrathah in the city of Bethlehem in Judah. Isaiah prophesied about “a shoot [who would] come up from the stump of Jesse”[6] who “with righteousness…[would] judge the needy” and “with justice [would] give decisions for the poor of the earth.”[7] When this Root of Jesse came, Isaiah stated, he would “stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.”[8] The eleventh chapter of Isaiah in which this prophecy is found is also the one that paints the beautiful vision of peace that would result when Messiah came in which, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”[9] So we begin to appreciate how these many threads of the promised Messiah—threads that ultimately lead to Jesus Christ—are inextricably tied to Judah and those who descended from him, especially David and his father, Jesse.[10]

But I want to return to Micah and again read the description of the ruler to come stated in 2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Do you see how unusual this prophecy is? The prophecy part makes sense and is typical: “out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.” That predictive, foretelling aspect is what we expect from a prophecy. But isn’t is odd that Micah goes on to state that this ruler is one “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”? It seems odd to refer to “the point or place where some[one] begins” as being ancient. Now this may be a reference to ancient ancestry but according to the dictionary, only something “belonging to the very distant past” should be properly described as “ancient.” So if this lineage is referring only to David, then that ancestry would date back only around 300 years or so—300 years is hardly worthy of being referred to as “ancient.”

So I think that that using the language of one “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” hearkens back further, to actual ancient times, namely all the way back to God’s original creation.[11] And part of the reason I think this is because in his Revelation, the apostle John twice uses similar phrasing in referring to the final destruction of Satan, the serpent in the Garden whom he refers to as the ancient serpent. John tells how in the end “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray….”[12] So, too, John again later speaks of one who “… seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”[13] So it makes sense that the ruler Micah refers to “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” also existed from the time of the world’s creation. For indeed Christ, God’s promised Messiah, God who came in the flesh, as God has ever existed. Christ had no beginning. He has no end. He has existed even from ancient times. In his Revelation, John also records Jesus as proclaiming, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”[14]

Recall, too, how when Jesus declared to the Jews surrounding him, “56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad,” they understandably replied, “57 You are not yet fifty years old…and you have seen Abraham!” And then Jesus said these startling words to them, “58 “Very truly I tell you,…before Abraham was born, I am!” Therefore we can understand their immediate response to Jesus: “59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him.”[15] Picking up stones to stone someone was a way of dealing with a heretic. The Jews understood that in declaring these things about himself, Jesus was equating himself with God which, if it weren’t true, would indeed have been heresy. But it was true. As God, Jesus the Christ existed even before Abraham.

And Scripture further teaches that as God, Christ actually took part in creating the world. The apostle Paul makes this very point in stating, “15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”[16] Christ created the world; Christ sustains the world he’s created. Paul isn’t mincing words here. His point is clear. And it’s such an important point that he teaches it again elsewhere stating “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”[17] Christ Jesus, Messiah, God, has not only existed from ancient times but has also brought the world into being. The author of Hebrews teaches the same: “1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”[18] To believe that Messiah has come, that Christ has come, is to believe that as God he was present at the creation of this world and he continues to sustain and care for the world he has made.

Well next the prophet Micah tells in verse 3 how “…Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” “She” who labors may be a personified reference to the faithful Jewish remnant but may also refer to Mary, Jesus’ mother.[19] So, too, the “rest of his brothers” may have a double referent as the Jewish remnant and as Jews living after Messiah’s incarnation for after Christ Jesus arose from death and had ascended to heaven, thousands of Jews were converted when he sent his Holy Spirit after Pentecost.[20] Again, we’re so used to thinking of Jesus with the Greek form of his title, Christ, and therefore as the One from whom Christianity arose that we sometimes forget that Jesus was Jewish, he was the Messiah, the Jewish form of his title. As such, he first went to the Jews and, as we noted earlier, from the time he was born, Jesus was King of the Jews.[21] But though God’s promise by his prophets that one day Messiah would come was initially given to Israel, the nation God created for himself from Abraham, this promise from its inception also included Gentiles, or non-Jews.[22] Therefore all who recognize and accept Messiah Jesus as their Savior are embraced into his Kingdom.

That Jesus from his birth was God is also affirmed in the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel when, after noting the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, Matthew concludes, “22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”[23] The prophet that Matthew is referring to is, again, the prophet Isaiah.[24]  So, again, at the time of his birth, Jesus was not only fully human, but this eternal Christ, this eternal Messiah who was one with God, was himself also God. He was and is Immanuel, God who is with us. Isn’t it amazing to consider that the very God who made the heavens and the earth, who made everything that exists, and who sustains and governs that creation by his presence and his power chose to take on human flesh that we might know and embrace him as the God he is? Isn’t it amazing that God who is Spirit and who asks us to worship him in spirit and truth,[25] nonetheless chose to take on human flesh that in beholding Jesus, we might see God?[26] That Jesus to whom the virgin Mary gave birth is indeed God with us!

Well, the prophet Micah next states, starting in verse 4, about this promised leader “…will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” Now what immediately comes to mind upon hearing this verse is, of course, Psalm 23 in which David speaks of the LORD being his Shepherd. The psalm begins by declaring, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” And it ends with the confident assertion, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”[27] And we know that Jesus the LORD who is Immanuel, God with us, similarly identified himself as being a shepherd in declaring, “4 I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”[28] Though a sermon for another day, knowing that the whole purpose of Immanuel’s coming was that he might lay down his life for us that we might know, love, and embrace him and never be separated from him, should be cause of great awe and celebration. He came that we might “live securely” with him now and forever.

And I want to go just a little beyond our Scripture reading in Micah to the beginning of verse 5 which states about this future leader, “And he will be our peace.” Verse 5 then goes on to state how this leader will be their peace when the Assyrians invaded. Again, as we’ve noted about other parts of these prophecies addressing the coming of God’s Messiah, there was a provisional fulfillment that had to do with the immediate historical context but also a final fulfillment that was found in the coming of Christ. But that Messiah will be our peace is similarly upheld throughout God’s Scripture. God’s peace, his shalom, is the restoration of all creation to how God intended things to be. And the passage that instantly comes to mind—no doubt due to its being popularized by Handel’s Messiah—again comes from Isaiah:

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.[29]

Again, it’s impossible to miss how Jesus similarly identified himself as the source of all peace. In the context of telling his disciples his own prophecy that he would be leaving them and going to the Father, he promised them the following: “25 All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”[30] Christ came to give us his peace. And he kept that promise by sending his Spirit to all who acknowledge him as God’s Messiah and Son and Savior. The apostle Paul, one of the early recipients of Christ’s peace, therefore proclaimed, “5 … since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”[31] God in Christ is our peace. He is the means of removing our warring hearts against God and thereby declaring us to be righteous and holy before God who made us for himself.

And the triune God offers us our heavenly Father’s peace not only through his Son but also by the Holy Spirit Jesus promised to send to all who are his. John records another instance in which Jesus made this promise:

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.[32]

Well we who are fortunate enough to live after the time of Christ’s coming don’t need to be divided because of Jesus for God has disclosed to us by his prophets and apostles that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Christ:

He is the Messiah who would descend from the clan of Ephrathah, in the city of Bethlehem, from the tribe of Judah;

He is the descendant of Boaz and Ruth, parents of Obed, who was the father of Jesse, the father of David;

He is the One who has existed of old, from ancient times, the Alpha and Omega, who testified that even before Abraham was, he was;

He is God who took part in creating the universe, the world, the heavens and the earth;

He is the Good Shepherd who lays his life down for his sheep, for all who turn to him;

Even at his birth, he was Immanuel, God with us, and so was worshipped by Jews and Gentiles alike;

By sending his Spirit to those who know and love and follow and serve him, he now indwells and so unites us not only with himself and our loving Father and Holy Spirit, but he also unites us with each other;

He is our peace. He is our shalom. He is the one by whose presence we are enabled to live as he intended.

This is what the prophets foretold; this is what Messiah Jesus himself proclaimed; this is what the apostles teach.

O, come, let us adore him, Christ our LORD!

Let us pray.

[1] Sermon preached on 11/18/2018, We Belong to God—and Each Other, on November 18, 2018.

[2] Genesis 49:10.

[3] Matthew 1:1.

[4] Matthew 2:13–18: 13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

[5] According to the ESV Study Bible (in its Introduction to Micah, Date), “Micah prophesied during the reigns of the Judean kings Jotham (750–735 B.C.), Ahaz (735–715), and Hezekiah (715–687). The time span roughly parallels those of other eight-century prophets like Hosea (Hos. 1:1) and Isaiah (Isa. 1:1), though Micah 1:1’s omission of the name of King Uzziah (767–739 B.C.) may place Micah somewhat later.”

[6] Isaiah 11:1.

[7] Isaiah 11:4.

[8] Isaiah 11:10.

[9] Isaiah 11:6.

[10] Not only does Ruth mention this but so does Matthew in his genealogy, see Matthew 1:5–6a:Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” So, too, does Luke in his genealogy in Luke 3:31–32: the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,….

[11] Crossway ESV Study Bible acknowledges the possibility I’m suggesting but concludes that this is most likely referring to a lineage “ancient historical times” and therefore “the Messiah’s ancient Davidic lineage, confirming that the ancient covenantal promises made to David still stand” in its note on Micah 5:2. The Zondervan NIV Study Bible agrees with the position I’m taking. Its note on Micah 5:2 states, in part, “His beginnings were much earlier than his human birth (see Jn 8:58). from ancient times. Within history (see 2Sa 7:12–16; Isa 9:6–7)…; Am 9:11), and even from eternity.”

[12] Revelation 12:9.

[13] Revelation 20:2.

[14] Revelation 22:13.

[15] John 8:56–59a.

[16] Colossians 1:15–17.

[17] 1 Corinthians 8:6.

[18] Hebrews 1:1–2.

[19] Reformation ESV Study Bible.

[20] Also noted by the Reformation ESV Study Bible. See Acts 2:41, 47b: 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day…. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

[21] Matthew 2:1–2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’” See also when Pontius Pilate famously asked Jesus after he was taken into custody, Mark 15:2: “Are you the king of the Jews?”

[22] Genesis 12:1–3: 12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

[23] Matthew 1:22–23.

[24] Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

[25] John 4:24: God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

[26] John 14:8–10a: 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?

[27] Psalm 23:1, 6, respectively.

[28] John 10:14–15.

[29] Isaiah 9:6–7.

[30] John 14:25–27.

[31] Romans 5:1–2. See also Romans 14:17–19: 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

[32] John 7:37–43.