Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Promise of the Birth in Bethlehem

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The Promise Fulfilled 

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2).

And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’” (Matt. 2:4-6).

A few years ago, I was intrigued by a Christmas gift from my sister. It was shaped like a box of chocolates, but when I shook it, it didn’t sound like a box of chocolates. What was it? On Christmas morning I discovered that it was, in fact, a box of chocolates. But why didn’t it sound like a box of chocolates? Apparently, before she gave it to me, it had been set on something warm, and the contents had melted together into one big blob of chocolate. Christmas morning is often full of surprises—sometimes good and sometimes bad. The biblical Christmas story is also full of surprises. One big surprise is that Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem.

What do we know about the ancient town of Bethlehem? (1) It was located in the hill country of Judah. (2) It was about 8 km south of Jerusalem. (3) It was the setting for the story of Ruth. Ruth was the great-grandmother of David (Matt. 1:5-6; cf. Ruth 4:21-22). And Jesus was a descendent of David. In the NT, He is called the “Son of David” (Matt. 1:1). The angel told Mary that God would give her Son “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). As a woman from Moab, Ruth was a surprising choice to be an ancestor of Jesus. (4) It was the birthplace of David. David was a surprising choice to be king (1 Sam. 16). The prophet Samuel assumed that one of David’s older brothers would be chosen by God to be the next king, but God told him, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (v. 7). Bethlehem was known as the “city of David” (Luke 2:4, 11). And Joseph went to Bethlehem to be registered “because he was of the house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:4; cf. 1:27; Matt. 1:20). (5) It was the birthplace of Jesus.


Born in Obscurity 

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:4-7).

Jesus was born in obscurity:

1. The baby Jesus was born in a little town. 

2. The baby Jesus slept in a feeding trough. 

3. The baby Jesus was visited by lowly shepherds. 

This was the promised Hero! This was the “woman’s seed” who would crush the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). This is Immanuel, “God with us” (Isa. 7:14). This is the one who was to be “ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2). This is the coming king (Zech. 9:9). This is the one who would be called “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). And yet He was born in obscurity. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).


Born for You 

And the angel said to [the shepherds], “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Throughout Scripture, we read that God shows His grace to unlikely people—people like Ruth, David, and the shepherds.

Though you might be insignificant to many, Jesus was born to be your Savior. 

Jesus was born for all people ("for all the people"), and he was born for you ("unto you").

This is “good news”!