Summary: In the day of Jesus, Bethlehem wasn't very impressive. And yet God chose it as the birthplace of the King. Why?
I love to sing, and so I want to start out this sermon by having us all sing the first 2 verses of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.
“O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins and enter in, be born to us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell:
Oh, come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!”
You know, as great a song as that is, Bethlehem wasn't much to talk about in the days of Jesus. Back then it was a obscure village that would not have impressed us. One of my sources says: ''At the beginning of the first century AD, Bethlehem was a village with not more than a thousand inhabitants: a small set of houses scattered along the side of a ridge and protected by a wall that was in a bad state of repair…''
So, Bethlehem wasn't much to look at.
But it was the city God chose for the birthplace of Christ.
He could have chosen Jerusalem, or Hebron or an of a number of other impressive cities, but He didn't He chose Bethlehem. As it said in the prophecy of Micah 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Now notice the prophecy says “Bethlehem Ephrathah.”
Seriously? Do we sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem Ephrathah?”
Of course not. So why would Micah call it that?
Well, because there are 2 Bethlehems in Israel.
One is way up north just a few miles from Nazareth where Mary & Joseph lived.
And the 2nd one is about 75 miles south of Nazareth… and its proper name is “Bethlehem Ephrathah” (which is precisely what the Prophecy declared).
God was being VERY specific as to which Bethlehem was to fulfill the prophecy.
But what difference would it make?
Why would God even care which Bethlehem Jesus was born in?
Luke 2:11 gives us part of the answer. The angels declare to the shepherds:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
You see, Bethlehem was the city of David: it was where David had been BORN.
And it was in Bethlehem that David was ANOINTED the King of Israel by Samuel.
And therein lies the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah.
Jesus was the promised Messiah!
And many of the OT prophecies declared that the Messiah was to be of the line of David.
Isaiah 9:6-7, for example, says: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on DAVID’S THRONE and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever...”
The Messiah was to reign on David’s throne. And everybody in Israel knew it.
When the Angel appeared to Mary to tell her she would bear the Christ, he declared: “(Your child) will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him THE THRONE OF HIS FATHER DAVID.” Luke 1:32
The Messiah was to be the “Son Of David” sitting upon his throne.
In Luke 18:39 (A blind man) cried out “SON OF DAVID, have mercy on me!”
And when Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time (Palm Sunday) Matthew 21:9 tells us that “the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the SON OF DAVID! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’”
It was ingrained into the thinking of Israel that the Messiah (this promised King) would be of the line and of the Kingship of David. And God drove that truth home not only by prophecies that declared that He’d be of the line of David but also by His very choice of the birthplace of Jesus.
As the angels declared: This was Bethlehem, the city of David.
Now that alone should impress us.
To think that God would put that much forethought into choosing the birthplace of Jesus.
But as they say on TV…
“But wait… there’s more.”