Links Daily Devotional

No Place Like It

“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.” (Micah 5:2, NIV)

I have never missed spending Christmas with my sister, and this year will be no different. We look forward to watching movies, baking, playing with the kids, and giving gifts. We have celebrated in Idaho, Vermont, and Maryland over the years, but being together is what makes it special, not the location.

One thing I like to do with everyone before opening gifts Christmas morning is read Luke 2. Mary, Joseph, the manger, swaddling clothes, shepherds, the Angel of the Lord, and baby Jesus are familiar, but in this Christmas story, the location, Bethlehem, is also important.

When Joseph traveled with Mary to pay the census tax, Bethlehem was an ordinary, unassuming village located five miles south of Jerusalem. In the shadows of King Herod’s fortress, the Herodium, Bethlehem’s hilly terrain was populated with caves that provided shelter for the shepherds and animals. It was here the shepherds raised the unblemished lambs for the Temple sacrifices.

Why Bethlehem?

Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Israel was worshipping idols and God was angry. The prophet Micah prophesied to the people of Israel that they would be sent into exile. However, God also promised deliverance and that out of Bethlehem Ephrathah a new ruler would come to Israel. In the middle of their despair, Bethlehem became a signpost of hope for Israel.

In choosing Bethlehem Ephrathah, God allows us to see how Jesus is woven into the fabric of His love story so intricately that no man could have written it. The Hebrew meaning of Bethlehem is house of bread…Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:48). The manger where Jesus was born was a shepherd’s nursery…Jesus is the good Shepherd (John 10:14). The lambs raised in the hills of Bethlehem are unblemished for the Passover sacrifice…Jesus is the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). The Herodium represented the power and rule of King Herod over the Jewish people…Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).

The Hebrew meaning for Ephrathah is place of fruitfulness. The house of bread bears God’s fruitfulness through Jesus, and it is only through Jesus that we are able to bear fruit in our lives: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

An extraordinary gift was given to us out of ordinary, unassuming Bethlehem Ephrathah—Emmanuel, God with us. God was intentional when He chose the location that first Christmas morning. Since our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I have confidence He is intentional about our lives as well.

Tracy Hanson

December 22, 2011

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The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday through Friday and is archived by passage and topic at www.linksplayers.com.