O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM!
Abraham was looking for the birthplace of Jesus. You become that birthplace the day Christ is formed in you.
A messianic prophecy came from Micah: “Bethlehem Ephratah, 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). Who exactly, or what, is Bethlehem Ephratah?
Bethlehem Ephratah is first and foremost a reference to the descendants of a man called Bethlehem whose mother was called Ephratah: “These are the sons of Hur, the first-born of Ephratah, the father of Bethlehem.” (1 Chronicles 4:4). Later, it became the name used to distinguish between the town of Bethlehem Ephratah and that of Bethlehem Judah.
This means Micah’s prophecy has a double entendre. The Messiah who is from everlasting will come out of a person as well as a city. The birthplace of Jesus will be the person and the city of Bethlehem Ephratah.
Where is Bethlehem Ephratah? The wise men from the East asked: “Where is he who is born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). They did not ask: “Where is he who was born king of the Jews?” Jesus was not born: Jesus is born. God refers to himself as “I AM.” (Exodus 3:14). He who is from everlasting must always be seen in the present continuous. Accordingly, Jesus is: “the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8).
Jesus is born every day. He is birthed and born in those who believe in him and who put their trust in him. Thus, Paul tells the Colossians: “the mystery is that Christ lives in you.” (Colossians 1:27). Likewise, he admonished the Galatians: “My children, for whom I again travail until Christ should be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
If you believe in Jesus, you are impregnated with the word of God. Christ is formed in you, making you Bethlehem Ephratah. You become, in effect, the birthplace of Jesus. You become that little town of Bethlehem. He or she who carries Jesus in the womb must be mindful to carry the baby to full birth. “The LORD will record, when he registers the peoples: ‘This one was born there.’” (Psalm 87:6).
City of God
Hebrews says: “(Abraham) was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10). You, the believer, are that city. You are the Zion of God. You are the city Abraham was looking for. Abraham was looking for the birthplace of Jesus. You become that birthplace the day Christ is formed in you: “You are the temple of the living God, as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
Jesus confirms that: “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw and was glad.” (John 8:56). Abraham rejoices every Christmas day. He rejoices every day that Christ is born in somebody. Jesus says: “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10).
“Where is he who is born king of the Jews?” Christ is born in a little town of Bethlehem. He is born in a humble abode. He is born in a manger and not in a palace. He is born in a place of humility.
Gideon is a type of little Bethlehem Ephratah: a nobody divinely appointed to become somebody. God says to Gideon: “Go in this your might and you shall save Israel.” But Gideon protests: “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:14-15). However, God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.
Saul is another type of little Bethlehem Ephratah, divinely promoted to become the first king of Israel. Saul also protests: “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?” (1 Samuel 9:21). But that is precisely what makes him eminently qualified to be God’s choice. When he was overtaken by pride, the kingdom was taken away from him.
Last became first
Jesus says: “the last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16). Accordingly, God raised Joseph from prison to palace. He raised David from the sheepfold to the throne. He raised Daniel from slavery to prominence. He raised Jesus as a lowly carpenter from the little town of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem was the least: it became the most distinguished. David was the last-born: he became the firstborn. That is kingdom dynamics.
Therefore, child of God, never despise the little or small. Zechariah asks: “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10). Let it not be you. Nathanael asks in disbelief: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Just wait and see. The greatest things are appointed for those from Nazareth.
“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 27-29).
This is the sub-text of the birth of Jesus. The little man or woman in whom Christ is formed is appointed for greatness. “Write the vision, and make it plain on the tablets, that he who reads it may run. For the vision is still for an appointed time, but it speaks to the end, and it does not lie. Though it lingers, wait for it; because it will surely come. It will not tarry.” (Habakkuk 2:2-3).
Perfecting of the saints
God says: “A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time.” (Isaiah 60:22). Therefore, thank God for the little and the small. Thank him for the small ration currently placed before you. Jesus thanked God for five loaves and two fishes. He understood that a little shall become a thousand. Accordingly, with five loaves, he fed five thousand.
Jesus says: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). This makes you a work in progress. You are a city under construction. God is the alpha and the omega. The beginning and the ending. There are so many alphas without omegas. But if God begins something; he is duty-bound to complete it. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6).
You little town of Bethlehem, let your soul magnify the Lord. Let your spirit rejoice in God your Saviour. It is only a matter of time, but you will become righteous. It is only a matter of time, and you will stop sinning. Thus says the Lord: “Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:11).