January 3, 2021
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
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.”
3 Therefore 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.
4 He 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.
One of the many words that can be used to describe 2020 is insecurity. Since the birth of the virus and its spread throughout the world, whether you lived with a general sense of calm and wellbeing at the beginning of 2020 or barely made it to the beginning of 2020, now at the beginning of 2021 there is an almost universal sense of insecurity. There is at least some part of your life that has been negatively affected by all that happened last year, and the hope of most is that the feelings of insecurity will go away in the New Year.
With all the insecurities in life, many do their best to bring security to their lives. One example of the ways we bring security into our lives is cybersecurity, protecting our identities and all the personal files we have stored online or in a cloud somewhere, which was a $123 billion dollar industry last year. Then, as a country last year, the United States Department of Defense spent 690 billion, not counting a few billion spent in other narrower areas of defense at home and abroad. And the average American now spends $15 to $35 a month for basic home security monitoring but goes up from there for more complex systems.
Lots of money is spent on security, and if we are going to spend that much money to feel secure, we want to feel secure with the security we are paying for so that we can have security. So, we do research into the best companies for cybersecurity and home monitoring before we sign any contracts, and the government does the same regarding its equipment and training for defense. If we find something is wrong with a person or company that promises security, we abandon them for another that stands the test of time. You have all had one of those moments when a suspicious email comes to your phone or computer posing as a security company or notification that your personal information has been stolen, but from the email address you can plainly see that it is spam.
You know how to spot a false security claim, and so did the people living at the time of Jesus. In John 7, we read that some recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah and Savior, but 41 … “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?” The people knew Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, but they knew the Savior would come from Bethlehem according to what was said by the prophet Micah. Now, if you are trying to picture how far apart Nazareth and Bethlehem were, just think Plano to Waxahachie. The people were looking for the security the Savior was going to bring, so they wanted to make sure they put their hope in the right person.
It was the rejection of God by his people that brought about the Savior being born in Bethlehem. The prophet Micah lived 700 years before Jesus and was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah. He lived during the time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell at the hands of the Assyrian army, and God spoke through him to warn of the later destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah by Babylon. God’s people had abandoned him to chase after sin as evidenced by Micah 2, 1 “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it… 3 Therefore, the Lord says: ‘I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity.’” Israel’s sin meant punishment from God. Yet, God is the God of forgiveness, and so he promised his people would be saved and restored. However, the Savior would not come from the capital city of Jerusalem, which they would have expected as the place a King of Israel would come from. Instead, Micah told the people, 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.” The ruler who would govern Israel into a new era would be born in Bethlehem. He would also be more than a man with an origin story going back to the beginning whose kingdom and saving power would stretch beyond this world and into the next.
Your insecurities are the result of sin. Sin has thoroughly corrupted your entire life. It is a virus that affects your body, mind and soul. It has isolated you from God because he cannot stand to be in the presence of sin for its rebellious, wicked and backwards nature. It has also isolated you from God because your sinful heart rejects living as God desires and instead, we read in Matthew 15, 19 … “out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Sin makes us insecure because we are no longer safe with God but fighting against him. We are alone fighting selfishly for what we want turning from God and hurting one another. We are guilty of sin and often feel like God has abandoned us when life is hard from our own doing and others abuses against us.
The payment made for our security from the punishment of sin and security with God came from the one born in Bethlehem. God spoke these words through Micah 700 years before Jesus’ birth, 3 “Therefore 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.” The physical nation of Israel was left a mess for centuries as the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans ruled over them, but when Mary gave birth to Jesus, he gathered his people together again to give them hope in a kingdom without temporary borders and constant security threats inside and outside, but an eternal kingdom. And although you have insecurities in your life and though your sins are many, you have not been abandoned by your God, but gathered to him.
The good news of Christmas is that in Bethlehem a ruler was born. This ruler would be no mere man but also God himself. Jesus came to do what need to be done to give you eternal security as we hear in Hebrews 2, 14 “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” You are insecure because the devil constantly lies and tricks you into doing what is wrong, then quickly turns around to accuse you of going against God, and finally the devil works so that you face death without hope in your Savior. This battle was too much for you, so Jesus became just like you, a human being with flesh and blood, as the author to the Hebrews continued to write, 17 “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” God’s mercy or his love for you when you had nothing to make him love you, and his faithfulness to go to any length to save you came to life in Jesus. Jesus gave up his innocent life on the cross to save you from death and the devil. His atonement or payment with his life has now made peace between you and God by taking away your sins. You are no longer God’s enemy, but his own dear child. You are forgiven for all of your sins. You are under the rule of the King of heaven and earth.
You will always have security with Jesus. The Word of God came to God’s people through the prophets before the Savior was born to give them faith in the Savior and hope in the Savior gave them eternal security in heaven. The Word of God stood with God’s people as Jesus stood in front of them so that they could see God’s eternal security plan take action to save them. The Word of God still stands today to point you back to the one who was born in Bethlehem, your Savior Jesus. And this is the promise God made to you about your Savior Jesus, 4 “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” There are times when sheep feel insecure during a storm, from drought, sickness or a predator, but the shepherd stands guard and will not abandon them. Not one of the insecurities in your life will be left when you enter heaven. There you will have true peace and security. And when you feel abandoned or that no one, not even God understands the deep insecurities of your heart, these words were written for you from Hebrews 2, 18 “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Jesus knows all you suffer; he knows the temptations you face and the sins on your record; he knows all that makes you insecure. He is the hope you have, not in the clichés of a New Year, but real hope for life. These words about your Savior and Shepherd were written for you, “And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.”
One of the many words that can be used to describe your life in Jesus is security. Since the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, his rule has spread to the ends of the earth. From the short-lived safety of the manger on the night he was born to the suffering he endured on his path to and hanging on the cross, Jesus knew a life of insecurity. Temptation, hardship and adversity characterized Jesus’ life, but when he was never overcome, not even by death. Jesus’ resurrection left all negativity, sin and death in the grave. All of your insecurities will not last, they will be left behind when you are taken from this world to live with your King in heaven. He is the one “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times,” born of a woman, Jesus, the Lord, the strong Shepherd of his flock, and you will live securely under him, the Ruler from Bethlehem. Amen.