How A Little Village Became Famous
It was not because Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, died and was buried there (Genesis 35:19) and (Genesis 48:7). It was not because, with eleven other cities, it fell to the lot of the tribe of Zebulun when Joshua divided the land of Canaan among the children of Israel (Joshua 19:15). It was not because of Ibzan, the tenth of the Judges of Israel hailed from this little town (Judges 12:8), and that later he was buried there (Judges 12:10). Nor was it because, in the book of Ruth, it was the town of Elimelech, to which Naomi and Ruth returned in their widowhood and in which we view the benefactions of Boaz, the Kinsman-Redeemer. Nor was it because Samuel went to the city of David to anoint him who was to become king over his people.
It was, however, because of what Micah, the prophet, foretold in the fifth chapter of the book that bears his name, verse two, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Bethlehem was to be the birthplace of the Messiah, the Saviour, whom God was to send into the world to redeem His people. It was in fulfillment of this prophecy that we read in Matthew 2:1–10, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, in Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
That the reference in Micah 5:2 refers to more than an ordinary king is proven by the statement that the One to whom the prophecy referred had his goings “from old, from everlasting.” Who among men could this describe but the One, who knew He had come from God and that He went to God—Immanuel, which by interpretation is “God with us”—even our Lord Jesus Christ, who combined in His own blessed person both deity and humanity. He was both God and man in one. “Now once in the end of the ages hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” John 7:42 bears confirmation of this fact, “Hath not the Scripture said that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?”
The birth of Jesus was foretold, not only as to the place of its occurrence, but as to its supernatural nature. The first Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15 said that “the seed of the woman” (not the seed of the man) should bruise the serpent’s (Satan’s) head.” Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) makes the virgin birth of the coming Messiah plain when he states, “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bare a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” In Isaiah 9:6–7 we read, “For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given.” The child is born as any child comes into this world. The son, however, is given. (John 3:16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The prophecy of Isaiah continues to state, “And the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” He who was once crucified and made to wear a crown of thorns will one day wear a diadem of glorious beauty as King of kings and Lord of lords.
No town on Earth has had the fame of the little village of Bethlehem in Judea. Millions have visited the birthplace of our Lord. The calendars of the civilized world have been set to commemorate the event of His birth. Other millions have been “born of God” because He was born of man. Poets and musicians of the centuries have vied to set forth the honor and glory of the little town of His nativity.
May we at this Christmas time yield allegiance anew to the One Who was born to die that through His death He might put away our sin and purchase for us that priceless gift of eternal life.
The gifts of the wise men of old, gold, frankincense and myrrh, bespeak the character and ministry of our blessed Lord. Gold tells us of his deity. Frankincense tell of his spotless humanity, the fragrance of which ascended into the nostrils of His heavenly Father so that three times He could open heaven and say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The myrrh, used in the burial of the dead, foretold the decease he should accomplish in Jerusalem where Christ died for our sins—where He, the just, died for us, the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
They gave gifts to Him but He has the greatest of all to give—eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. May each one of us receive Him and exclaim with the apostle of old, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!”