Why Bethlehem?

One of my first serious books about Scripture, particularly the Old Testament was The God Who Acts by G. Ernest Wright. Dr. Wright showed from Scripture how God is a working God. He works in history.

The events found in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 make up what we call the “Christmas Story.” These chapters show how God works in history and through history. These are not fairy tales about a sweet baby. They are events which match up with the known history, geography, character, and events of that time period.

Notice how God worked through Caesar Augustus to get Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. It was Augustus (Octavius) who began the system of censuses to consolidate Roman power and to exact taxes. Augustus was the first emperor (27 BC-AD 14) of the Roman Empire. His decree worked at just the right time to move Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.

They had to go to Bethlehem because Joseph was from line of David, and Bethlehem is known as the city of David.

Matthews’ gospel notes the prophecy of Micah the prophet that was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:6).

Micah’s words are amazing (Micah 5:2-5a). He is looking for a ruler who would shepherd the people of Israel. While he speaks and writes of a ruler, He is not a ruler like the others of Israel. He would shepherd His flock.

What a different ruler this One would be!

First, He would be from Bethlehem, a small village in Judah. Jerusalem with its palace and temple were right next door to Bethlehem, but the One to be born would be from the village not the capital.

Second, the One born would be from of old, even from “the days of eternity.” Obviously, the prophet was looking for a divine ruler who would reign beneficently.

Third, the prophet was looking for a birth, when “she who is in labor has borne a child.”

Finally, Micah spoke of the beneficence of this ruler. He would be more pastor (shepherd) than ruler. He would rule in the strength and name of the Lord. Obviously, this would not be the kind of ruler we are accustomed to seeing, even in the best of leaders and circumstances.

This King would be great, and He would be Israel’s peace.

While Micah did not name Jesus or give the details of His life, he pointed to a Savior who we know as Christ the Lord.

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About Waylon

I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. — 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)