Day 6

The Glory of Little Bethlehem

from the Advent 2017: Joy to the World reading plan


Micah 5:2-6, Numbers 24:17-18, Luke 2:4, John 7:40-44, John 10:11-18

Location, location, and location. These are the three most important things to consider in a real estate deal. You can change just about anything about a home or building you buy—except what? Its location. In both writing and reading, how the details fit together in relation to one another prove that “context is king.” And when it comes to the King who would come to rule our hearts in peace (Micah 5:5), the setting of His birth really does matter.

For some reason, though, we often miss these details when we read Scripture. In even the most familiar stories, names and places fly by us as we read. The Christmas story is no exception. We sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and of shepherds and mangers and stars, but it’s easy to miss the context of the location. And in God’s plan for redeeming the world, the place is vital.

Hundreds of years before the hymn “Silent Night” was written, the prophet Micah pointed to a little town just south of Jerusalem as the place from which One would come to be the ruler of Israel. This one, this ancient king, would one day come to shepherd God’s people. It’s such an appropriate image for a king coming from a land of shepherds and in the line of David—the same David who was a young, overlooked shepherd before God made him king, and the same David who first made Bethlehem famous.

Bethlehem was “small among the clans of Judah” as a city of shepherds (Micah 5:2). It then went on to become the city of David, and eventually, the city of the Savior. It was the birthplace of men who cared for sheep: David, the shepherd boy who would become king and rule over the people of Israel; and Jesus, the God-man, Good Shepherd, and our eternal King. He cares for His people, gathering them from the ends of the earth into one flock, and ultimately, laying down His life for any who would repent and believe the good news of His coming (Mark 1:15).

When we read of Joseph and Mary going “up from Nazareth to the City of David” we see a 70-mile fulfillment of God’s prophecy of place. We see a trudging, dusty fulfillment of God’s plan of context—both historical and geographical. We see the setting shifting as characters moving from one little town to another, and Bethlehem as the birthplace of shepherds, kings, and now the Savior. And with Him, came everlasting hope and peace.

“And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:4).

Written by Barnabas Piper

Post Comments (4)

4 thoughts on "The Glory of Little Bethlehem"

  1. Andrew says:

    Context matters!

  2. Jeff M. says:

    It’s beautiful to see how Gods plan for the Savior unfolded. Absolutely flipping expectations (many) on their head. Our Savior, our Shepherd, our King born in the humble town of Bethlehem! I think in this season of rushed-ness, how sweet Micah 5:5 sits with me – “And he will be their peace.” I think so often I can imagine the peace to come AFTER something is done. After time in the Word, after cleaning the house, getting lots of work done for the Church, or just shutting it all off and spending 3 hours watching a movie…but still, in those moments, when I forget where my peace and security lies, the rattling unsettled soul within me is shaking. It brings me so much JOY that I can rest knowing King Jesus IS my peace. He alone is my peace and security! How American of me to believe the peace will come when _______ gets done.

    Jesus, rescue us from the false sense of self-sufficiency and help us to see You – our Savior and King. May we worship you this season in light of the pursuing love story of Christmas!

  3. Colt Duppen says:

    In today’s devotional it speaks about the importance of the birth of Christ’s location. It was especially important because the town of Bethlehem draws very strong parallels with Jesus. Like Jesus’ origin and beginning, Bethlehem was a small city of shepherds. It is very appropriate to make his birthplace a small, shepherd city because it’s not supposed to be the most lavish. It also compares to David because like David, Bethlehem was often overlooked.

    In the first verse it talks about the promise of Jesus coming from Bethlehem and eventually being he ruler of Israel. It is important to remember that god sees the good in areas that we may not see it in and he has fulfilled the prophecies that he has made.
    The second verse talks about the falling of many empires to Israel after the “Star” comes from Jacob. The star in this metaphor is Jesus and this connects back to earlier when the prophecy is first understood. To me this is just more proof that God is always able to keep the promises that he makes with people. This helps me realize that although something may not seem tangible at the moment or things seem far away, there should always be trust that God’s plan will manifest itself in some way, if you are open to it.
    The next verse talks about Jacob going to Bethlehem because he was a descendant of David. I thought that this was really cool because it shows the effect of letting a plan that God has made come together and trusting that things will work out.
    The next verse was a little bit tougher for me to understand. After reading more about it, it seems like the presence of Jesus caused division among all religious people. In this division there were typically three different groups of thought. 1.) a correct, but inadequate view of Christ, comparing him to a prophet, which are two separate things. 2.) a correct, but uncommitted view because they recognized who he was but did not defend him or show him devotion. 3.) others just rejected him because they felt his reasoning was flimsy, showing they would reject him for other excuses that they made.
    The last verse is especially strong because Jesus talks about laying down his life as a choice for the people because he truly cares for them, as a good Shepard his sheep. He also talks about uniting all of his followers, not only the Jews, but the people that follow him that are Gentiles “not from his sheep pen” this is important because it shows that Jesus wanted to unite and willingly sacrifice his life for the sins of his followers.
    I love this quote from Jesus, so I will leave today with it. “Then there will be one flock, one shepherd”

  4. Adam says:

    Thankful for the teaching and spirit in those verses in John explaining to us a very simple picture of what the Good Shepherd means, and what the Good Shepherd isn’t. How often I’m that “hired hand” – where my faith isn’t in Christ but in myself or another misplaced source – afraid and selfish. Then to see Jesus standing firm with his flock and pursuing other flocks with no disdain or disgust, no segregation or hesitating to act. He isn’t us – he’s the only Good one, but he became us, didn’t he? He became all worst parts of us and sacrificed that great weight to His father.

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