FULFILLED: LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: There are towns in our United States with some really funny names! For e.g. Accident, Maryland; Chicken, Alaska; Cut and Shoot, Texas; Embarrass, Minnesota; Experiment, Georgia; Frankenstein, Missouri; Imalone, Wisconsin; Nothing; Arizona; Pie Town, New Mexico; Santa Claus, Arizona; Tightwad, Missouri; Two Egg, Florida; Uncertain, Texas; and Why Not, North Carolina. I actually looked this one up. It’s in Randolph County, South of Asheboro, where the NC Zoo is located. Story goes that when the first settlers were trying to decide on the name, they kept debating “Why not this” and “why not that,” until one man who had enough of it suggested, “Why not name the town Why Not and let’s go home?” This actually pleased everyone! In this message, we will be looking at another small town which compared to Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and Babylon was nothing but it was the place God chose for the birth of his son. Because, God loves to work through insignificant people and insignificant places. This is our 4th and final message in our series “FULFILLED: THE LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH.”
Matthew 2 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
Question: Do you ever feel insignificant? Do you ever feel unworthy? Do you ever feel that you are too little or unsuitable to be used by God? I have and I still do. Here’s the good news! God loves using the insignificant and the unworthy, the little and the unsuitable. Why? He specializes in using those through whom he can get the most glory. But, whether significant or not, you have to be saved? Are you saved?
Context: The passage we just read has so many things that we can focus on: the identity of the magi or the wise men (Who were these strange visitors from the East); the meaning of the star (Was it a comet? Was it a supernova?); the significance of the gifts (Gold, frankincense, and myrrh). For time’s sake, I would like to focus just on the significance of the little town of Bethlehem in Judea in the coming of Jesus. Listen again to Matthew 2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…” The reason Matthew specifies Bethlehem of Judea is because there was another Bethlehem in the North about 7 miles Northwest of Nazareth. For e.g. If I were to write something like “Wilbur Hardee, the founder of Hardees, was born in Greenville, North Carolina.” Why did I specify “North Carolina?” Because there’s a Greenville, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, California, and about 26 more in the United States! Why do I bring this up? When people claim that the Bible is just a fictitious book made up by the church to control the masses, they haven’t taken the time to carefully examine the historic details in it. Let me say it again: The Bible is unlike any book in the history of the world. It was written by men who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” You can trust it!
What happens next? Wise men (magi) from the East come to Jerusalem and their question is “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” That title “King of the Jews” is very important. It implies “Where is the descendant of King David?” The magi may not have understood what they said but the people of Jerusalem surely did. Listen to their reaction – 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’” It was no secret at the time of Jesus’ birth that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. In fact, listen to John 7 40 Therefore many from the crowd…said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” The reason they knew this is because 800 years earlier a prophet by the name of Micah had prophesied the location of the Messiah’s birth. Who was Micah? He was a younger contemporary of Isaiah the prophet who primarily preached to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Just like Isaiah he also warned the people of Judah that it was foolish for turning to the Assyrians for help because after they were done destroying Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, they would come for them in the South. Just as he had warned, it happened. The Assyrians destroyed the North and sent them into exile, never to return. Then they marched into the South. Listen to his words in Micah 3 9 Now hear this, You heads of the house of Jacob And rulers of the house of Israel, Who abhor justice and pervert all equity, 10 Who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity…12 Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.” Micah pronounces 3 sets of judgments against them but in the midst of declaring God’s wrath and discipline, he gives them some rays of hope. Listen to Micah 5 2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah (An ancient name for Bethlehem), Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” A better translation would be “whose origins are from of old.” In other words, although this ruler would be a descendant of King David, he will be unique in that he is eternal. He doesn’t have a descent. 3 Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel.” In the midst of sure judgment under the Assyrians, God promises his people that he will not abandon them. Just the way God promised, he miraculously saved his people from Sennacherib’s armies. Read 2 Kings 19 of how when the Assyrian army lay siege to Jerusalem that the angel of the Lord went through the Assyrian camp that night and killed 185,000 of them. God delivered.
Listen carefully: Even when we mess up, He is still merciful.
But that was just a down payment on a much bigger prophecy. One day the true deliverer would come to set his people free from the bondage of sin. He will actually come from the but from Bethlehem of Judea. Where were Joseph and Mary living when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit? In Nazareth of Galilee in the North. I preached on this couple of years ago. Until the 1800s, people denied that there was any such place called Nazareth in history but then through archaeology scholars found inscriptions about Nazareth. It was a tiny village of maybe 250-300 people who claimed to be descendants of King David. Some of them had priestly lineage. Where did they come up with the name “Nazareth?” It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” These people were probably from Bethlehem, the city of David, in Galilee in the South. Why did they move to the North? Maybe because of employment. Maybe because of the Herodians who were crazy to say the least. They had moved up and began this settlement of Nazareth, trying to preserve themselves for the coming of the Son of David, the King of the Jews, the Messiah.
Now we have a problem. It’s time for the Messiah to be born but he’s in the wrong location! I can imagine Mary and Joseph wondering something is not right. We should be in Bethlehem if all that angel has said is true. I can also imagine Gabriel going to God and saying – “Everything is ready for God the Son to land but he’s in the wrong location! Would you like me to take a couple of angels with me and just airdrop them into Bethlehem? We could do it so fast that they won’t even know what happened. Or maybe a strong wind could just blow the city of Nazareth to Bethlehem.” God the Father says, “Nope. I already put my plan into motion about 50 years ago. There’s a megalomaniac who goes by the name of Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome. He thinks he is a god and the savior of the world. He is building up his empire, rebuilding the temples and the public buildings. He is really popular with the masses. But, he’s running out of money because of his 28 legions, each with 5000 soldiers. So, he’s about to do something that will transport Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Listen to Luke 2 1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David. Don’t you love the way God solves problems. Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” How frustrating and uncomfortable for Joseph and Mary but there was no better way.
Don’t forget: “Man’s interruption is God’s providence; human disruption is divine arrangement.” There’s no reason to be frustrated and bitter in the Christian life. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Application: Are you struggling with some situation or some decision someone has made? Have you been handed a bad deal? Do you feel insignificant? Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit. God is still in charge.
God is a God of Mercy. He’s always been merciful to his people. Mercy has a name. JESUS. Have you received him?