Worth the Wait: Advent Scriptures and Devotion for December 22
Sat, 12/21/2013 - 4:31pm Dr. Carl Peters
Our Advent studies are moving toward their completion. Today we ponder a place ‚Äì the birthplace of the Messiah. ‚ÄúWhere were you born,‚Äùis an oft asked question when getting to know someone. Our hometowns say a lot about us. Our dialect, our cultural sensibilities, our traditions and traits are often shaped by the place of our birth. In today‚Äôs study we will see that the birthplace of the Messiah reveals a great deal about him. We will also see that, by extension, these same characteristics apply to us.
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 (Micah 5:2).
Micah‚Äôs words of prophecy, penned over seven centuries before Jesus‚Äô birth, designate humble little Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. Bethlehem was the ‚ÄúCity of David‚Äù - the place where the lowly shepherd David was anointed King of Israel (1 Sam. 16:1-13). Bethlehem, which means ‚Äúhouse of bread‚Äù (Beth= house, lehem = bread), was just five or six miles from Jerusalem in the hilly countryside of Judea.
Why would God choose Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Promised Messiah? Wouldn‚Äôt Jerusalem, the holy city, be more appropriate? Or, how about Rome, the center of political power in the world? What reasons could there be for such a choice?
There are great answers to this question. Indeed the Messiah, Jesus, was born in Bethlehem, and as we will see, Bethlehem was the perfect choice‚Ä¶
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration whenQuirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 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, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 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.
Why was Bethlehem the place chosen as the birthplace of the King of kings? And, how do the characteristics of this little town reveal the character of the Christ? Consider the following:
Bethlehem was a small and humble town
1. Jesus humbled Himself and became a man. Luke 2:6-7 tells us that while Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for the census, ‚Äú‚Ä¶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. Mary and Joseph found themselves in Bethlehem, Joseph‚Äôs ancestral home. But, there was no room for them in the inn. Imagine being ready to deliver a child but having no safe and clean place to give birth to him. What would they do? They were relegated to a cattle stall. If it were not enough that God would take on human flesh, His birth was amidst the filth of the farm animals! At His birth, Jesus was not wrapped in finery, but in swaddling clothes. His head did not rest on a satin pillow. Instead, he was nestled on a bed of straw in a cattle trough. These were the most humble accommodations for the birth of the King of kings!
Philippians 2:6-8 says that despite the fact that Jesus was God, He, ‚Äú‚Ä¶did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.‚Äù Jesus was not like most earthly kings‚Äîconcerned with prideful pomp and ostentatious displays of their royal prerogatives. To the contrary, He made Himself nothing and became a servant.
As a humble town, Bethlehem seems to fit perfectly the character of the greatest King.
Bethlehem was the City of David
2. Jesus fulfilled the promise made to David by God, that one of his descendants would always inhabit his throne (2 Sam. 7:16). Luke 2:4 tells us that Joseph went to Bethlehem precisely because he was in the family line of David. ‚ÄúJoseph 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.‚Äù Though Joseph was not Jesus‚Äô father, nonetheless, Joseph‚Äôs kinship to David rendered Jesus officially in the line of David. Matthew 1:1 gives testimony to Jesus‚Äô connection to David. ‚ÄúThe book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David‚Ä¶‚Äù What‚Äôs more, Mary may well have been in the line of David. While this is not explicit, Romans 1:3 and 2 Timothy 2:8 refer to Christ as being "of the seed of David," which strongly suggests a direct physical descent. This could only come through his mother, Mary. So, legally and physically, we may conclude that Jesus was in the royal line of David. Jesus‚Äô lineage and His birth in Bethlehem contribute to the fulfillment of God‚Äôs covenant promise to David.
Bethlehem was known as the City of Bread
3. Jesus said, ‚ÄúI am the bread of life‚Äù (John 6:48). In the upper room, Jesus took bread, offered thanks, broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‚ÄúThis is my Body, broken for you‚Äù(1 Corinthians 11:24). Cleopas, ‚Äúknew (Jesus) in the breaking of the bread‚Äù (Luke 24:30-31, 35). It is also interesting to note God‚Äôs instruction in Exodus 25:23-30. God required that a table be made upon which the ‚ÄúBread of the Presence‚Äù was to be placed continually. The Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was closely associated with God‚Äôs Presence with the people. The Bread of the Presence added to this reality. Jesus, claimed to be the Temple (John 2:19-21). He also claimed to be the ‚Äútrue bread sent down from heaven‚Äù (John 6:35). The ‚ÄúBread of the Presence‚Äù was no longer isolated to the Temple ‚Äì for Jesus was the embodiment of both! With so many associations with bread, it only makes sense that Jesus would be born in the ‚ÄúCity of Bread.‚Äù
Jesus was born in a humble town, to meek parents in the lowliest of surroundings‚Äîa cattle stall and a manger of hay. Consider for a moment that He has also been born into your heart and life. Paul spoke of, ‚ÄúChrist in you, the hope of glory.‚Äù Jesus has been born in us! The Word...dwells within all of us who are His true followers. It stands to reason that we would be called to humility‚Äîin keeping with Jesus‚Äô original birth place. Ephesians 4:2 says, ‚ÄúBe completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.‚Äù As it was in Bethlehem, so it should be with all of us as we welcome the Lord Jesus.
‚ÄúHow silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv‚Äôn! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav‚Äôn. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, where MEEK souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.‚Äù
The time is drawing nigh. Our celebration will soon begin. I pray that our hearts will be warmed and welcoming for the King‚Äôs arrival!