Sermon Notes & References

Bethlehem’s Babe

Luke 2:1-20, Matthew 2:1-12 (Read earlier in service)

December 22, 2019

1.  Introduction

     a.  Intricacies of Nature

     b.  Bethlehem Ephrathah


2.  It Was a Revered Birth-Place

     a.  Because of the Patriarch Jacob

     b.  Because of Ruth Footnote


3.  It Was a Humble Birth-Place

     a.  In Importance

     b.  In Prophecy Footnote


4.  It Was an Appropriate Birth-Place

     a.  City of David Footnote

     b.  House of Bread Footnote

     c.  Slaughter of the Innocents Footnote


5.  What a Wonder Is God’s Salvation Plan!

Endnote  Luke 2:1-20, Matthew 2:1-12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Bethlehem’s Babe


1.  Introduction

     a.  Intricacies of Nature

          i.   about 40 years ago, Tim Halliday wrote and illustrated an article entitled ‘Intricacies of Nature’ in Nature magazine Endnote , showing how finely forms of life were constructed

          ii.  but this is only one of many articles, studies and pictures that have been written, taken and published on this subject.

          iii.  a little exploration of the web will bring you pictures of plants and animals that reveal the beautiful design at the microscopic level found in them

          iv. which is no surprise to those of us who believe in an infinitely wise and powerful Creator who fashioned all things according to His will

          v.  so it is also no surprise to us, as we study the Scriptures, to discover that there was an intricate path of preparation for the incarnation

          vi. and this can be found in every aspect of the Word’s becoming flesh and dwelling among us; Immanuel; God with us

          vii. even in the character and place of the birth of Jesus:


     b.  Bethlehem Ephrathah

          i.   it a small town – calling it a city is an overstatement – yet the site of other special historical events

          ii.  it lies about 5 miles or 8 kilometres south, and a little to the west, of the city of Jerusalem

          iii.  it lay in the hill country

                (1) a farming community where wheat and barley were harvested

                (2) but also a shepherding country; a place, it is said, that supplied to the temple in Jerusalem the sheep that were sacrificed there

          iv. as the birth-place of our Lord and Saviour, it was

                (1) revered

                (2) humble

                (3) appropriate


2.  It Was a Revered Birth-Place

     a.  Because of the Patriarch Jacob

          i.   who had four wives

                (1) Leah, Rachel, and their maids, Zilpah and Bilhah

                (2) a situation which the Bible does not condemn

                (3) but which Jesus’ teaching shows was not God’s plan for man

          ii.  and, it was while Jacob was travelling south from Bethel into the area known as Ephrathah (or, ‘fruitful’) in which Bethlehem lay

                (1) that Rachel died in the childbirth of her second son, Benjamin

                (2) and was buried there by her husband

                (3) with Jewish tradition being that the pillar he raised there for her lies at the very gates of that town


     b.  Because of Ruth

          i.   then there is the beautiful love story of Ruth

                (1) that was probably first recorded as part of the family history

                (2) in a culture and time when the land on which people lived and the family history were closely linked and very important

                (3) the story of Ruth took place only seven generations after the birth of Jacob’s son, Judah

                (4) Ruth 1:1-5, 1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4 And they took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.

                (5) so that Ruth marries Boaz, and four generations later, there is born David, the youngest of eight brothers, who one day became king

                (6) and thus family history became part of Israel’s royal history


3.  It Was a Humble Birth-Place

     a.  In Importance

          i.   this was a small town, centre of a farming community

                (1) we have already mentioned its principal employments

                     (a) there were the barley & wheat harvests in the spring

                     (b) there was the keeping of sheep

                (2) neither of these were highly sought after occupations

                     (a) harvesting was done by youths and young women

                     (b) caring for the sheep was not a respected job

                          (i)  even though it was an occupation of the patriarchs

                          (ii) so it was shoved down on David the youngest son

                          (iii)      almost forgotten in Samuel’s visit to Jesse’s family

                          (iv)     treated scornfully by David’s older brothers

          ii.  and mention of this town in the Bible is limited

                (1) outside of its association with David and his followers

                (2) in the OT principally to being listed in the division of the land

                (3) and in the NT to the account of Jesus’ birth

                (4) with one reference in John 7:42 as being the place of Christ’s birth – people mistakenly thinking Jesus had been born in Galilee


     b.  In Prophecy

          i.   Micah preached in the same period as Hosea and Isaiah

                (1) it is he who names Bethlehem as being Messiah’s place of Birth

                (2) “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)

                (3) that word ‘clans’ renders the Hebrew, ‘thousands’ – back in Exodus 18, verses 12 and 25, Moses divided the nations into units of 1,000's, of 100's and of 10's for the administration of justice

                (4) Bethlehem was too small to form itself one such unit of a 1,000

          ii.  yet from this little town Israel’s ruler was to come forth

                (1) Micah spoke centuries after King David of the greater Son of David

                (2) of the One who had proceeded forth from Heaven since the ancient times – and that, the pre-Incarnation appearances of God the Son is a wonderful truth and study – but also

                (3) that this baby in Bethlehem, was one whose existence was before time began, from times eternal

          iii.  so even in His birth-place, a manger in a cattle-shed attached to an inn in this little town, the Eternal Son empties Himself (Philippians 2:7) into a tiny baby, weak and helpless, as part of the humiliation that took Him to the cross for mankind’s sin


4.  It Was an Appropriate Birth-Place

     a.  City of David

          i.   yet, though it was small and otherwise unremarkable

                (1) many such little towns dotted the land of Canaan

                (2) it was whence Israel’s royal family headed by King David had come

                (3) and this baby was Born a King of that family

          ii.  the true heir of the Lord’s covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:8ff)

                (1) to do this, God moved Caesar Augustus, ruler of the Empire, for what he thought were his own reasons, to make a tax census

                (2) so Mary & Joseph, descendants of that David, had to travel down from Nazareth to their family town, though she was nearing the birth of her child

                (3) so in reality the census was to fulfill God’s purposes & promises


     b.  House of Bread

          i.   is the meaning of the name of the town

                (1) possibly because of its usual produce of grain

                (2) which had failed in the days of Elimelech (bringing the Moabitess, Ruth, into the ancestors of Jesus)

          ii.  but how suitable a place for Jesus’ birth, who said,

                   (1)  “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” (John 6:41)

                (2) and,”I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:51)

                (3) He is, as we recall in our communion service, Bread indeed.


     c.  Slaughter of the Innocents

          i.   which brings us to the sad part of this story

                (1) King Herod’s murder of the children of Bethlehem two and under

                (2) of which our hearts ask, why did God allow this?

                (3) to which we can only answer that ‘Shall not Judge of all the earth deal justly?” and that there is coming a day when Christ returns and justice will be carried out (Isaiah chapters 58 to 66).

          ii.  but this, Matthew 2:18, fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”

                (1) now, in that historical context, the prophecy was a reference to the exile already of the Northern Kingdom and the soon to be exile of the Southern Kingdom – Rachel, as it were, weeping for them

                     (a) Rachel’s son Joseph was represented by the two tribes of the Northern Kingdom already gone into captivity from Raman

                     (b) Rachel’s other son, Benjamin, was about to go into exile

                (2) so C.F. Keil says, “The destruction of the people of Israel by the Assyrians and Chaldeans is a type of the massacre of the infants at Bethlehem, in so far as the sin which brought the children of Israel into exile laid a foundation for the fact that Herod the Idumean became king over the Jews, and wished to destroy the true King and Saviour of Israel that he might strengthen his own dominion.” Endnote

                (3) thus, prophetically of Herod’s slaughter, Rachel represents the mothers of this little town of Bethlehem mourning their children

                     (a) so, the author of sin, Satan, begins the battle against the Christ-child at the start of His days on earth

                     (b) and this battle will continue

                     (c) until Jesus is apparently defeated on the cross

                     (d) when He shouts His victory cry, “It is finished’

                     (e) because the penalty of our sin was then paid in full

                (4) and Christ’s incarnate work is now complete


5.  What a Wonder Is God’s Plan of Salvation

     a.  Designed in Heaven in Eternity

     b.  Worked out on Earth in Time

     c.  Perfectly in the Incarnation!