Summary: This Christmas message explores the little town of Bethlehem ... how God had prepared Bethlehem for 1700 years for the birth of His Son, Jesus.
INTRODUCTION: We think of Bethlehem ONLY as the birthplace of Jesus. Some might even realize that King David was born there. BUT … Bethlehem is mentioned 53 times in Scripture.
There are actually 2 BETHLEHEM’s mentioned in the Bible:
o NORTH – in Galilee – only 7 miles from Nazareth, where Mary & Joseph grew up.
o SOUTH – in Judea – only 5 miles from Jerusalem, where Jesus was born.
The NORTHERN Bethlehem is mentioned only ONCE in Scripture – Joshua 19:15. It’s interesting, that Mary & Joseph traveled 75 miles to the Bethlehem in Judea, where Jesus was born. The Bible makes it clear WHICH Bethlehem would bring forth the Messiah – Micah 5:2.
Bethlehem-Judea wasn’t a large town … YET it was the CENTER of many historical events:
o 15 miles South, was Hebron, the home of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.
o 10 miles N.W. was Gibeon, where Joshua made the sun stand still.
o 12 miles West was Sucoh, where David slay Goliath.
o 5 miles North was Jerusalem, where Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek.
It was a little town, yet so important … as the birthplace of our Lord. YET, so many things happened there as a PREVIEW to the main event. God set the stage throughout 1700 years of history … to prepare the world for this great event in history.
I. RACHEL IS BURIED THERE – Genesis 35:16-19
This is the FIRST REFERENCE to Bethlehem. Rachel is the wife of Jacob, called Israel, She is the bride of Israel. Rachel is a picture of the JEWS.
Jesus came into the world at Bethlehem, as a child of Israel. He came to His own people, Israel, to redeem them from the curse of the Law. Matthew 15:24 – “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Rachel was Israel’s FIRST CHOICE as a wife. BUT … he had to settle for Leah, her sister, for 7 years. For 7 years Israel wasn’t allowed to go in unto Rachel. Leah is a picture of the CHURCH.
Jesus came to the lost house of Israel, but was rejected. John 1:11 – “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”
The CHURCH is the bride of Christ … like Leah, not His first choice. It was Leah that gave Israel his first-born sons. It is only be being in the true Church, that one can become the “Sons of God” … through re-birth.
Israel had to wait 7 years for Rachel. After the 7 years of Tribulation, Jesus will be crowned King of Kings, and will be accepted by His people Israel as He ushers them into the promised Millennium Kingdom.
Rachel died in childbirth in Bethlehem. Jesus, Who was born in Bethlehem 1700 years later, would die in child-birth … as He would give birth to the Church. DEATH is associated with Bethlehem … and Jesus was wrapped in “swaddling clothes” … grave clothes … and laid in the manger.
II. RUTH IS REDEEMED THERE – (Ruth 4:10-11)
Ruth’s Mother-in-Law, Naomi, was from Bethlehem … then moved to Moab. When Ruth’s husband and Father-in-Law died, they moved back to Bethlehem. There, Ruth met Boaz, and they fell in love. They couldn’t marry, because they weren’t the nearest of kin.
When the near-kinsman wouldn’t purchase her property, Boaz talked with him. Boaz was given permission to purchase Ruth, along with her property.