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“The Ruler who Submits and Sacrifices”

Dec.23/12 Micah 5:2-5a; Heb.10:5-10


“Out of you,” tells Israel through the prophet Micah, “will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel...” How’s a ruler to rule? The “Royal Psalm” 72 says of the godly king, “He will rule your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.” We understand we need to elect leaders and give them real power, but we hope they will use their power and privilege justly.

    History abounds with examples of leaders who may have started out well enough, but the power seemed to go to their heads, and they began taking advantage of their position unfairly. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been a lightning rod attracting criticism. In August Mr.Ford was photographed reading while driving on the Gardiner Expressway. The police pleaded with him to “please get a driver.” Then in September he came under scrutiny again for involving his office staff and resources in his volunteer activity of coaching young people’s football teams.

    At the federal level, Minister of National Defence Peter McKay faced criticism a year ago for arranging a Search-and-Rescue helicopter to pick him up from a remote fishing camp in Newfoundland so he could attend a government announcement in London Ontario in July 2011. That way he didn’t have to endure a 90-minute boat ride and half-hour drive to get to a regular airport. At the time arrangements were being made, one Air Force colonel expressed some reservations in an email: “When the guy who’s fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cellphone to video the minister getting on board and post it on YouTube...who will be answering the mail [on] that one?”

    But for the ultimate in despotic dictatorship, our current winner is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is persisting in a civil war that is tearing his country apart. This week NATO’s top official confirmed reports that NATO had detected Syrian forces launching short-range missiles at opposition forces within Syria; the official commented that this illustrated Assad’s ‘utter disregard’ for the lives of the Syrian people. In the United States, Roger Wicker, a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, expressed that Assad must go, adding: “At this point, it's sort of like getting rid of Hitler.He’s got to go.He’s killing his own people.He’s on the verge of really pulling the trigger on some nasty, nasty stuff.”

    But not all officials (elected or otherwise) run roughshod over the population’s interests. The Saskatoon city council stood by their practice of having “Merry Christmas” appear on city buses as they’ve been doing since 2006, despite a complaint by one citizen who threatens to take it to the province’s Human Rights Commission. Councillors took all of about five minutes to decide they disagreed with the activist’s stance that the words constitute “a forcible attempt at Christian indoctrination.” Now, perhaps they may have to eventually include some other greetings that reflect other sectors of the population, but I’m glad they’ve kept “Merry Christmas”!

    Lord Acton is quoted as saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” As a follow-up to that, John Adams noted, “Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” So, what would we want in one who had ultimate power? Absolute holiness, perfect character and “moral authority”.


Micah 5 presents an inspiring picture of such a mighty and virtuous leader. V4,  “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God...his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” The Jews hoped for a mighty Messiah, an anointed Ruler who would be their righteous and just king similar to famous David. Psalm 72:4,  “He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.” Zechariah 9(10),  “He will proclaim peace to the nations.His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

    Yet Micah’s prophetic words here hint that this Messiah figure would be no ordinary human. 5:2 “One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Or (see NIV text footnote) “from days of eternity.” This isn’t simply any mortal king; this would be a King of kings! (Rev 17:14) But how could someone who already existed “from ancient times” come and be born?

    And while this Messiah-King is described as standing “in the strength of the Lord”, in majesty and greatness, the prophecy points to humble beginnings. V2 The town of Bethlehem is “small among the clans of Judah” – not even mentioned in two lists of the cities of Judah in Joshua 15(21) and Nehemiah 11(25). True, Bethlehem was known as “the city of David” – but remember how David got selected? He was the youngest of 8 boys, and didn’t even make it to the first look-over because he’d been left out in the back 40, relegated to watching the sheep! As the Lord reminded David after he’d sinned with Bathsheba,  “I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel.” (2Sa 7:8) In other words, “I took you when you were nothing, a nobody, and established you in the most powerful position in the land.”

    Jesus was born in Bethlehem - a small town overshadowed by other more important centres like Jerusalem. He grew up in Nazareth, a despised place of which others like his future disciple Nathanael would say, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (Jn 1:46)

    Do you see a pattern here? Part of the beauty and wonder of God’s ways is that He does great things with those whom we might overlook from an earthly viewpoint. He used Gideon, the “least” in his family, and a force of a mere 300 men to defeat the Midianites (Judges 6:15). He called Moses, a murderer, at the age of 80. He used Rahab, a harlot, to save the spies and play a key role in the victory over Jericho.

    Do you ever feel small and insignificant, that you’re not a key player, maybe you even feel you’re a failure? As the years go by, do you start to feel you’re too old, you’re “past it”? God can use you! In fact, He specializes in using the lowly and unexpected to accomplish His tasks – that way it becomes obvious it’s a God-thing, not something we’ve done in our own strength. Jesus’ mother Mary sang,  “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Lk 1:52) Paul the apostle reminded the church at Corinth,  “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.”

    So, if you’re feeling small and overlooked, be encouraged! God has great possibilities for you if you commit yourself to Him. On the other hand, if you’re feeling smug and puffed-up, a “self-made man”, take warning: there’s no excuse for pride, boasting, belittling, looking down your nose on someone in poorer circumstances. God may have a marvelous plan for those this world writes off as “insignificant”.


Note the language in Micah 5 isn’t that of “bossing around”, coercing, “throwing one’s weight around” even though the most powerful person in the universe is being described. Look closely at the terms in vv4-5 to see how He operates: “He will shepherd His flock...they will live securely...He will be their peace.” A cow-herd may drive the animals, steering them and pressing them from behind; but a shepherd goes ahead of the flock, and the sheep follow, it’s a very different style. Our New Testament reading provides some insight into this Great Leader’s inner attitude.

    Hebrews 10:5,  “...when Christ came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me...’” The Hebrew behind this rendering of the Greek Septuagint from Psalm 40(6) has, “my ears you have pierced.” What’s that about? Making some kind of fashion statement? No, as Exodus 21(6) explains back in the times when slavery was customary, if a slave to be freed in the sabbath year opted to stay and serve his master on a permanent basis, “then his master...shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl.Then he will be his servant for life.”

    So the author of Hebrews may be suggesting Jesus’ attitude was one of total submission and servanthood to God. He relinquished His own will in order to please the Father, to carry out God’s will. This is reinforced in the verses in context. V7 Jesus accepted the role prophesied beforehand for Him: “Here I am – it is written about Me in the scroll...” The promises about the God-man Messiah had become increasingly specific over the centuries. Genesis 3:15 predicted one who would crush the serpent’s head. Genesis 12:3 identified Messiah’s race and nationality - a descendant of Abraham. In Genesis 49:10, Jacob foretold the ruler of the nations would come from the tribe of Judah. Psalm 89(29) foretells that He would come from the family of David. Then Micah 5 pinpoints the place of His birth several centuries ahead of time: Bethlehem. Do you sense everything lining up, possibilities narrowing in? So when Herod got nervous due to the wise men’s visit, the religious teachers could supply him with a pretty good “artist’s sketch” – ‘this is who we’re looking for!’

    Jesus saw all these prophecies in the scrolls and embraced the role scripted for Him. In fact, as the author of Hebrews goes to some length to explain, the entire Jewish sacrificial system with its rituals and altar and “Holy of Holies” pointed ahead to its ultimate fulfilment in a PERFECT sacrifice - one that could truly expiate guilt, unlike the blood of bulls and goats. It would take a perfect PERSON to obtain forgiveness for people’s sins; all the rest of the laws and sacrificial requirements were simply pointers, foreshadowings of the ‘real McCoy’. Their endless repetition showed they were not sufficient or effective in themselves.

    But Jesus steps onto the scene in v7 saying, “I have come to do Your will, O God.” That’s what always DROVE Jesus - what the Father wanted. Jn 4:34,  “"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” 6:38,  “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” And what were His famous words while praying under extreme duress in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing the hours of excruciating torture ahead? “Not MY will but YOURS be done.” Jesus was all about doing His Father’s will, carrying out the divine plan set down for centuries.

    V10, the final verse in today’s reading, summarizes exactly what that will was all about:  “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” That’s the plan, folks! That’s what God was aiming for ever since Adam and Eve “blew it” back in the Garden of Eden and the cosmos was corrupted by transgression, shot through to its core with disease, death, and decay - and, spiritually, DISTANCING of creatures from their Creator. “Once for all” Jesus’ sacrifice has made holy those who believe. This is the seventh time in the space of 2 chapters the author has used this phrase “once for all”, singling out the uniqueness of what Jesus did in contrast to the endlessly repeated ritual animal sacrifices. Unlike those, Jesus’ sacrifice is definitive, completing, sufficient, efficacious. It “gets the job done” where the others couldn’t. So (as v9 says) Jesus “sets aside” the first covenant with its ceremonial and dietary obligations, to establish a second, the “New Covenant”.

    By that will, “through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”, WE HAVE BEEN MADE HOLY. Sanctified. Holy-fied, separated from what is common, unclean, anti-God. The Life Application Commentary notes, “God wants his people to be made holy.The God of Israel and of the Christian church is holy – he sets the standard for morality.Holiness means being totally devoted or dedicated to God, set aside for his special use, and set apart from sin and its influence.Holiness comes from a sincere desire to obey God and from wholehearted devotion to him.God’s qualities make us different.A follower of Christ becomes “holy” (sanctified) by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ.We cannot become holy on our own, but God gives us his Holy Spirit to help us obey him and to give us power to overcome sin.”

    John MacArthur adds, “When Christ fulfilled the will of God, he provided for the believer a continuing, permanent condition of holiness (Eph 4:24; 1thess 3:13).This is the believer’s POSITIONAL sanctification as opposed to the PROGRESSIVE sanctification that results from daily walking by the will of God.”

    In 1Cor 6(11), Paul lists some of the blatant sins of early church members before they believed – sexually immoral in even the most perverse ways, greedy, drunkards, thieves, swindlers, then adds: “And that is what some of you were.But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    There is a story that one night Martin Luther went to sleep troubled about his sin. In a dream he saw an angel standing by a blackboard, and at the top of the board was Luther’s name. The angel, chalk in hand, was listing all of Luther’s sins, and the list filled the blackboard. Luther shuddered in despair, feeling that his sins were so many that he could never be forgiven. But suddenly in his dream he saw a pierced hand writing above the list these words: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” As Luther gazed in amazement, the blood flowed from the wounded hand and washed the record clean.

    Christ did that for you! In response to such grace, can you affirm and accept the pattern of submissive servanthood along with Jesus? Would you say for you there is “buy-in” to God’s will for your life? Following Jesus, moved by His Spirit, we no longer live just for “me, me!” but find satisfaction and fulfilment in loving others, pouring out our life in love for them, offering shepherding / security / peace. Who do I know in my circle that lacks these? Who needs shepherding right now? Who’s feeling insecure, who’s short on peace? How might God be drawing you to share Jesus’ grace with them through simple actions?


Jesus our Chief Shepherd who rules in the strength and majesty of the Lord God Almighty, stoops to serve us at our level of keenest need – forgiveness of sin and being saved from death and judgment to eternal life. How can we in turn steward our strength, our resources, to show God’s goodness to others?

    This past week many volunteers from our area helped out with the local Salvation Army Christmas hamper distribution. Perhaps you took a plate of goodies from last Sunday’s “fellowship of cookies” to a senior citizen or someone else who could use an expression of caring.

    This past Wednesday, a student from our area who’s enrolled at Georgian Collegiate in the Junior Chef program took part with other volunteers in preparing a full turkey dinner for some 220 people at the local drop-in centre. I’m told they cooked about 17 turkeys! The menu included carrots, squash, green beans, mashed potatoes, buns, and for dessert there were gingerbread cookies, lemon cookies, and sheet cakes. It’s an annual event the college has been doing for 8 years; even some graduates of the program come back to take part. The students spent 2 days getting ready for it. For the clients of the centre, who are mostly homeless or at risk of homelessness, this must be a highlight of the season. Officials say that for many, the centre is the only family they have, so the luncheon is something they look forward to.

    Isn’t that a little bit what heaven and salvation are like? A banquet prepared for those who didn’t merit it. Evangelism has been described as “one beggar telling another where to find food.” How might the Lord Jesus be prompting you to share His saving love with others? Let’s pray.