Happenings around Antioch

Jesus Was Born in Bethlehem

Micah the prophet told the Old Testament folks about a New Testament truth hundreds of years in advance. I love what John Piper wrote about this: “Have you ever thought what an amazing thing it is that God ordained beforehand that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem, as Micah’s prophecy foretold, and that he so ordained things that when the time came, the Messiah’s mother and legal father were living not in Bethlehem but in Nazareth; and that in order to fulfill his word and bring two unheard-of, insignificant, little people to Bethlehem that first Christmas, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be enrolled each in his own town? A decree for the entire world in order to move two people seventy miles!”

Joseph must have understood something extraordinary was going on. I mean, an angel told him that Mary’s baby, which was not his, would save the people from their sins. But did Joseph understand that this meant he needed to make sure they were in Bethlehem for the birth? There’s no indication that he did, no record of him asking Mary to get packed and ready to go. We have to be in Bethlehem before this baby is born! No. God used Caesar to move them to Bethlehem. Solomon wrote, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” But some may ask, why did they need to have the baby in Bethlehem? Luke explains it in his gospel: “And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 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.”

Joseph may not have understood this, and the wise men did not know for sure either. They came from the east and into Jerusalem, asking everyone they saw, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” The “king” of the Jews, umm, Herod, heard this and he was troubled and so was everyone else in the city. Can you imagine something like that today? Wise men from the east walking through Washington D.C. asking everyone, “Where is he who has been born President of the United States?” Well, when Herod heard what the wise men were asking, he called for the chief priests and the scribes. He knew they would know. And they did. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,” and then quoted Micah’s prophecy to the king. I don’t want to get too far off the point here, but isn’t it mind-boggling that the chief priests and the scribes and Herod himself knew that there were magi in town looking for a baby that was going to be born in Bethlehem, (a king!), and not a single one of them went over there to find out if it were true? Not one. We talk every year about the very few people who showed up to see the Christ in Bethlehem. The shocking truth that God chose poor shepherds to be the first eyewitnesses to the greatest birth in history. But there’s also the shocking and sad truth that the powerful and the rich and the well-educated and the religious did not even bother to see what the fuss was about. And that’s still true for the most part, today. Ok, back to the story. Who else knew where Jesus was?

The angel of the Lord knew and showed up in the night sky on a Bethlehem hillside to proclaim the good news to shepherds and scared them to death. So he started his message to these guys with, “Fear not!” (Hey, guys, it’s ok, don’t be afraid…guys? Come out from behind the sheep for a sec..) “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.” The Christ, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, had to be born in the city of David, the shepherd of Israel.

God used prophets of old to tell the people of old the good news that they would never see come to pass. Abraham and Jacob never saw it. Isaiah never saw it. Nor did Micah. They could only imagine it, dream about it, and look forward to the time that they were with God and finally know and understand the perfect plan he put into place for our salvation. What a glorious gift we have been given, to know what was prophesied in the old and what was brought to pass in the new. What a Christmas gift!