Wednesday, December 21

For an audio version of this, click here.


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”  - Matthew 2:1-6

Isn’t it beautiful the way the Old Testament gives us the details of the coming of the king?  It begins in the broadest possible way by saying the Messiah shall come of the seed of the woman.  And then we have all types of limitations.  He is limited to a certain line.  He is limited to a certain kind of birth.  And finally, he is limited to a certain place:  the city of Bethlehem.  The prophecies of Scripture are not prophecies that are given in ambiguous, loose language so that they might be fulfilled in several ways.  The prophecies of Scripture are not like the Delphic Oracle, not like the words given to King Croesus when he asked if he should attack in order to win a victory.  And the reply comes back to him, if you cross the river, a great empire shall be destroyed.  Now the prophecy is so worded in ambiguity, that if he crossed and won, the prophecy would be right, and if he crossed and lost, the prophecy would still be right.  For in one case, it would be the empire that he attacked that fell, and in the other, it would be his own empire.  Scripture is no Delphic Oracle!

Scripture does not just say “in Bethlehem” but “in Bethlehem Ephrathah.”  Did you know that there were two Bethlehems in the Old Testament record.  There is one in Judea (that is Ephrathah), and there is one in Zebulon.  And so we read in the Old Testament book of Micah, “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.”

The mysterious Magi set out from some distant country in the east and they ended up in the city of Bethlehem.  Bethlehem means “the house of bread.”  It was an ancient city with a beautiful history.  I think one of the most striking things about Bethlehem is one that we rarely recognize - it was at Bethlehem that the first announcement of the Temple was made.  And it is at Bethlehem in the New Testament that we read of the birth of him who was the true Temple of God.  It was in the Bethlehem that Jacob buried Rachel.  It was at Bethlehem that Ruth and Boaz met, and above all, it was at Bethlehem that king David lived and reigned.  It is no coincidence that David’s greater son should be born in Bethlehem in accordance with the teaching of the word of God. 

There is tremendous significance in the name of this “little town of Bethlehem” – “House of Bread”.  First of all it is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about Christ’s birth.  Secondly, it is telling us that Jesus Christ is our source of life, that He is the food our souls need!  Throughout the Bible, bread is a symbol of life and of the favor of God.  Bread is associated with blessing, prosperity and peace.  In John 6:35 Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life, “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry.’”  In Matthew 4:4, Jesus says, “It is written:  ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 

Jeff Frazier 

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

I am amazed at the details of God's Story. "House of Bread," I never knew that. I feel my faith roots grow deeper. Word upon Word.