Saturday, December 02, 2017

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Bethlehem City (Image: Pixabay)

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Micah 5:2-15

TO CHEW ON: “But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah
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.” Micah 5:2

Bethlehem first appears in the Bible as the spot Jacob buries his beloved Rachel when she dies suddenly on their trek through Canaan - Genesis 48:7.

Elimelek is from Bethlehem. When he takes his family to Moab to ride out a famine, he and his sons die. It is to Bethlehem that his widow Naomi returns with her daughter-in-law Ruth, also a widow, some years later - Ruth 1:19.

Boaz is from Bethlehem (Ruth 2:4). He declares his intentions to marry Ruth to the elders at the Bethlehem gate (Ruth 4:11) and their child Obed becomes the grandfather of David (Ruth 4:18-22).

David’s family lives in Bethlehem and he is anointed king there (1 Samuel 16:4, 12). He lives there, working as a shepherd while also employed at the palace (1 Samuel 17:15). He calls Bethlehem his hometown (1 Samuel 20:6) and longs for a drink from the well near the Bethlehem gate (2 Samuel 23:15).

Bethlehem becomes a town of defence under King Rehoboam (son of Solomon, grandson of David) - 2 Chronicles 11:6.

In Micah 5:2 (our passage) Bethlehem is the city out of which Micah prophesies “The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, / From everlasting (literally, “from eternity”) will come.

Jesus is born there - Matthew 2:1. Angels announce the location of His birth to shepherds and they find Him in Bethlehem (Luke 2:11, 15,16).

My study Bible says of the present city of Bethlehem:
“Bethlehem, the city of David, lies five miles south of Jerusalem.… The Church of the Nativity was built by Helena (the mother of Emperor Constantine) in A.D. 328-330, over a site then believed to be the place of Christ’s birth…. In 1934 William Harvey carried on limited excavations, and about 18 inches under the floor of the present church he discovered portions of the mosaic floor of the original church built by Helena… At the eastern end of the chapel is a small crypt. A simple Latin inscription announces the most stupendous event in all history: ‘Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary’” Thompson Chain Bible, p. 2194.

I love how Phillips Brooks brings this iconic city into our personal lives in the third and fourth stanzas of  his beautiful carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

3. How silently , how silently
The wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in.

4. O Holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray:
Cast out our sin, and enter in;
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.
(Emphases added)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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