He Shall Be Their Peace
Topic: Advent Season Passage: Micah 5:2–5:5
When Jesus Christ was born, a host of angels appeared to some unassuming shepherds and after announcing the birth the long expected Messiah worshiped and sang the words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace..." Amazingly, an army of angels comes from heaven to this rebellious world and rather than declaring war, they declare peace. Advent is a time for adoring and embracing the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Advent is the time of year in which Christians have traditionally have given special attention to a twin focus - on the first “coming” (advent) and second coming of Christ. Looking back in adoring faith, forward in eager longing. But there is also the present in which we long for Christ to come and make his power known to us. These verses in Micah 5 will help.
Context of Micah:
The prophet Micah was given the unhappy assignment of pronouncing God’s judgment upon the Jewish people. Both the northern and southern kingdoms were living in gross idolatry and evil and were provoking God’s judgment. But despite the tone of looming judgment for their sin, Micah looks forward to future restoration and blessing as well. God had promised to raise up a King in the line of David who will sit on his throne forever, and God would indeed be faithful to keep his promise.
And so this prophecy of Micah is one of the most precious Christmas prophecies in the bible as it points to the coming of the Messiah, the son of David. We see familiar words and themes. In a small, insignificant town called Bethlehem, something big is going to happen. Bethlehem means “house of Bread” and Ephrathah means “fruitfulness”. So this was a fertile place for something significant. The song of O Little Town of Bethlehem gets it right when it says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” What was happening in Bethlehem 2000 years ago? Well, a great ruler was being born. When the wise men from the east (Magi perhaps from ancient Babylon) came to Jerusalem, they made it clear they were searching for “the king of the Jews”. Herod was deeply troubled and decided he needed to find this out, so he called the chief priests and scribes and they said, “Bethlehem” was the location of the Messiah’s birth, quoting this very prophecy in Micah 5. There’s more, this one born in Bethlehem is a divine Person (from ancient days), he was born of a woman, and he’s a Shepherd. This is a rich passage.
But I want to lean into the last phrase of our text today. I think it all leads to this. “And he shall be their peace.”
For the faithful among Micah’s audience, these words would have been received like the spring rains after a long drought. It was like the fresh wind of hope of a future Shepherd King of Peace - even hundreds of years before he would actually come. The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ meant peace on earth. So Advent is a time for us to enter into the peace of Jesus. And notice it doesn’t say that the Lord will give us peace, but Micah says, “He shall be their peace.” This peace is not something apart from him. Jesus gives us himself as our peace. In other words, if our peace is found in Christ, it is as durable, as strong, and as present as he himself is. He shall be our peace. The biblical idea of peace is much fuller than our typical idea of peace. The word translated peace in our text this morning is the Hebrew word “shalom”.
Shalom is a word pregnant with meaning. It means to be safe, sound, and healthy. It signifies a sense of well-being. It carries the meaning of rest, fullness, prosperity, and an absence of agitation. It can mean a state of calm without anxiety or stress. It sounds like the opposite of what the world and all its glittering distractions offers us, right? David Guzik says shalom is “the gift of precious well-being…” Of course, the biblical understanding of shalom is realistic as well, and therefore does not mean the complete absence of trouble. J. MacArthur says,
[Shalom is] not just a rest in one’s own heart away from troublesome circumstances. The biblical concept of peace does not focus on the absence of trouble. Biblical peace is unrelated to circumstances - it is a goodness of life that is not touched by what happens on the outside. You may be in the midst of great trials and still have biblical peace.
This sounds too good to be true. Even in this world? With never ending COVID variants and insane politics? Even while living in a country that is splitting apart? And even as you are going through your own private hell? YES! Our text teaches us to look to the past, the present, and the future for peace. He shall be our peace.
We look back to the past and the redemptive work of God through Christ (verse 2)
First we see that Jesus came according to the Father’s plan to carry out the Father’s mission of making peace. Verse 2 says,
From [Bethlehem] shall come forth for me, one who is to be ruler in Israel.
God the Father is speaking, and says this One born in Bethlehem, “shall come forth for me.” And when God says, “for me”, he means for his purpose and mission. Galatians 4:4 says, “In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son…” Jesus said many times in the gospels, “I have come to do the will of the Father, accomplish his work.” And the mission of the Father is that Christ might achieve reconciliation - peace with God. Do you know peace with God? Quite frankly, drop everything. Because if you don’t or you are not sure, nothing else even matters. You must have it. And you must not be a mere pretender of one who has it. Either you are at peace or war with God. Either you have accepted his terms of peace or you are still an enemy combatant.
Christ must be your peace. You will have no sustained peace based on your moral performance, your personal effort to be godly or a good Christian, your successes in life, and personal courage. You must lie down on the bed of peace that he has set for you, and it is Jesus Christ alone. Peace offered through Jesus Christ is something the world cannot give you. The world can offer a momentary respite from stress. It can give you amusement. But you cannot get the peace that matters most - peace with God - except through Jesus Christ. So this was the reason Jesus was sent into the world - the baby born in a manger came on a mission to win for us peace. The incarnation of Jesus Christ (putting on flesh) was a means to his work on the cross. Here’s what Paul says,
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace… (Ephesians 2:13-14)
[God] made peace by the blood of his [Christ’s] cross (Colossians 1:20)
Romans 5:1 makes it more explicit how this peace affects relations with God: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.”
God does not make peace by letting bygones be bygones. No! The phrases, “the blood of Christ”, “his cross”, and “through our Lord Jesus Christ” are massively important. It cost Jesus his life. Christ, though he never sinned, took our sin and guilt upon himself and thus was treated on the cross as though he were sin itself. In order that we, though full of sin, might be treated as though we had never sinned, ushering into perfect peace with God, removing the enmity between us and God. So this takes us back to the first coming of Jesus and his mission to go to the cross. But our text actually takes us even back further than that. Amazingly, Micah says this was part of an immutable plan in eternity past.
Verse 2 goes on to say, “Whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” What does this mean? Certainly that this ruler is a divine Person - of course. And we celebrate and sing about the fact that the eternal Son of God took on flesh, became man. But it says, “his coming forth is from of old.” He will come forth on a mission for the Father, and his coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Or literally, “before days were”. This plan for the Son to be sent into the world to make peace between God and sinners through his cross was in the heart of God before the world was made; before a thing called “days” even existed. Theologians have often described this as the covenant of redemption. R.C. Sproul describes it this way: “It is a covenant inasmuch as the plan involves two or more parties. This is not a covenant between God and humans. It is a covenant among the persons of the Godhead, specifically between the Father and the Son.” God the Father plans to send the Son to redeem. And the Son willingly comes. Listen to Charles Spurgeon on this verse,
The Lord Jesus had goings forth for His people, as their representative before the throne, long before they appeared upon the stage of time. It was “from everlasting” that he signed the compact with his Father, that he would pay blood for blood, suffering for suffering, agony for agony, and death for death, in behalf of his people; it was “from everlasting” that he gave himself up without a murmuring word. That from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot he might sweat great drops of blood, that he might be spit upon, pierced, mocked, rent asunder, and crushed beneath the pains of death. His goings forth as our Savior were from everlasting. Pause, my soul, and wonder!
Let us just pause and wonder at the eternal purpose of God, carried out by the Lord Jesus Christ to make peace through his cross. By looking back before time in eternity and then time at the first coming of Christ - his birth and cross, we see that He is our peace with God. But we also look to the present.
We look to the present care of our Shepherd to protect and keep us by his power (verse 4)
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure. (v. 4)
He is a shepherd who cares for his flock. Of course, the word shepherd here is a verb, but shepherding is the activity of a shepherd, right? A shepherd shepherds. He cares for, tends, feeds, keeps safe, and leads to pasture. That’s what a shepherd does for his flock, which is why, “they shall dwell secure” or safe.
Not safe in the way we may think, right? Jesus says, “I give you my peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” So how do we dwell secure? Two ways. One, his presence with us. Jesus is present with. Jesus loves his people and cares for them now. What does Psalm 23 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” Why? Because I’m so tough? Because I have learned to power of positivity? I will fear no evil “because you are with me.” So we can dwell secure now.
Here’s the deal. Our peace today is not the absence of conflict. Or the absence of pain or difficulty. Our peace is based on the presence of a Person, namely the Shepherd King of Peace. And there will never be a day in which we may say, “Surely he is not with me today,” because he has said, “Surely I will be with you always to the end of the age.” He’s with us in a different way now. But he is certainly with us. In fact, Jesus said the present arrangement is better for us because he is now with us by his indwelling Spirit. Jesus said,
I will not leave as orphans. I will come to you [by the Holy Spirit]. (John 14:18)
But there is a second way Jesus cares for us and causes us to dwell securely now. Jesus is powerful to keep us saved and safe to the very end, giving us an eternal security. He will shepherd his flock “in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.” Wow! Who can stop him? Who can stand against what he wants to do? We dwell secure now because of the eternal security we have from our good Shepherd Jesus. He is strong and powerful to save and to keep. Listen to our great Shepherd:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:27-30)
Jesus received a people from the Father - came and lived, died, and rose again to save them. And he will keep them safe forever. Now, perhaps you have heard someone say, “But people can jump out of his hand.” Really? The whole intent of Jesus in saying these words is to give his people an unbreakable confidence in him. He shall be our peace! Now let’s look to the future.
We look to the future when Christ will usher in perfect, undisturbed peace.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. (v. 4)
Of course, we understand that Christ is great now. And nothing adds to the greatness of Christ in his essential nature. How can you add to the greatness of One who is perfect in every way? I think what this is referring to is the manifestation of his greatness. We don’t see this yet. But we will. At Christ’s second coming, his greatness will know no bounds. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea… He came the first time in humility. He will come again in glory. He came the first time to offer the terms of peace. He will come again with a sword for all who have rejected his peace treaty. But for his people, Christ will come and usher in universal peace and then there will be the absence of all conflict and all causes of conflict and fighting. This is our great hope. He will set everything right. “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth and goodwill to men!” The images the scriptures give us are staggering. There are so many places we could go. Consider a couple. Isaiah 11:6-9: wolves and sheep frolicking, lions and calves napping together, bears and lions grazing in a field together. As much as I love this picture of peace in the animal kingdom, what I long for more is peace for two-legged image-bearers of God. And there will be for his people. Ps. 46:9-10 says,
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; he breaks to bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariot with fire. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
A president cannot usher in such peace (current or past or future). Only the true Shepherd King of Peace can. And the promise is “He will be great to the ends of the earth.” When Jesus comes again, he will punish the wicked and those who reject his reign and he will usher in unending peace for those who love his appearing. Isaiah 9 says, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end.” And so he will be your peace - perfect, undisturbed, without end.
Are you resting in this Shepherd King of Peace?
This Shepherd King of Peace will be yours… if you will have him. But you must have him on his terms… He is a Shepherd King who is to be submitted to and trusted implicitly. He is a Redeemer, who alone is worthy of our faith. He is great and will be great to the ends of the earth and is to be worshiped and lived for… And those who come to Christ on his terms - for them - he shall be their peace. Let’s pray. Benediction (Romans 16:20).