Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bethlehem: The Presence, the Provision, and the Pledge

Pictured: David's Well at Bethlehem (1 Samuel 23:13-17)

Opening thought:
You’ve seen the Lexus “December to Remember Sales Event” commercials. This Christmas someone may give you a new Lexus that parallel parks itself with a big red bow on top and the whole neighborhood clapping as they watch your reaction like on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

But if you want Jesus in your life, that’s something you’re going to have to respond to on your own. It’s not possible for anyone else to do it for you. Great news for you this Christmas. Jesus Christ offers his PRESENCE, his PROVISION, and his PLEDGE for you. Let’s look at the little town of Bethlehem from several passages today to see what I’m talking about.

Contextual Notes:
An Old Town
Bethlehem (beth´lē-hem בּית־לחם, “house of bread”) existed when Jacob returned to the Holy Land from Egypt; originally called Ephrath or Ephrath, i.e. fruitful (Genesis 35:16, 19; 48:7; Psalm 132:6).
[1] Five miles south of Jerusalem and 2,350 ft. above sea level, it is just off the main road to Hebron and the south, but upon the highroad to Tekoa and En-gedi.

A Farming Community
The position is one of natural strength; it was occupied by a garrison of the Philistines in the days of David (2 Samuel 23:14; 1Chronicles 11:16) and was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:6). The surrounding country is fertile, cornfields, fig and olive yards and vineyards abound.

The Jumping off point for Egypt
In Jeremiah's time (Jeremiah 41:17) the caravansary of Chimham near Bethlehem (2 Samuel 19:37-40) was the usual starting place for Egypt. The inn (kataluma) mentioned in Luke 2 was a similar one, and possibly the same. At the return from Babylon, 123 "children of Bethlehem" accompanied Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:21; Nehemiah 7:26). Bethlehem is called the "city of David" (Luke 2:4), and the "town (Greek: village) where David was" in John 7:42.

Now Beitlahm, "the house of flesh." Solomon's pools and "gardens" (Ecclesiastes 2:5) lay south of Bethlehem. Thekoa, built (fortified) by Rehoboam, lay southeast, the place of Amos' birth (Amos 1:1; 7:10-15). Southwest is the valley of Sennacherib's overthrow. Northeast is the traditional scene of the angels' vision to the shepherds; but the hills were more likely to have been the scene of the flocks being kept than the grain abounding valley.

Bethlehem - “House of Bread (lit. “meat”) connotation: Provision

Genesis 38:
: Judah while living in Adullam near Bethlehem (Genesis 38:1, 12, 20).

THE PROVISION: did not provide a husband for his daughter-in-law Tamar (probably a Canaanite) (Genesis 38:11, 14, 26), so she tricked him (Genesis 38:13-19, 24-25) and bore twin boys Perez and Zarah (Genesis 38:27-30).
THE PLEDGE: Tamar obtained Judah’s signet ring, cord (bracelets), and staff as a pledge (Genesis 38:18, 25).

: While in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:1, 19, 22; 4:11)
THE PROVISION: Boaz their descendant stepped up to provide for Ruth, a Moabite (Ruth 4:1-12).
THE PLEDGE: Boaz spread the “wings” of his garment over Ruth as a pledge (Ruth 2:12; 3:9; cf. Ezekiel 16:8).

2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19:
David’s HQ in caves of Adullam near Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23:13; 1 Chronicles 11:15).
THE PROVISION: David provides for relatives, friends, those in need (1 Samuel 22:1-2).
THE PLEDGE: Water from well in Bethlehem was a pledge of the sacrifice of his men’s blood (2 Samuel 23:15-17; 1 Chronicles 11:17-19).

Luke 2, et. al.:
: Jesus is born in a cave near Bethlehem (Luke 2:4, 11; Matthew 2:1; cf. Micah 1:15; 5:2)

THE PROVISION: to provide for the sin of the whole World (Gentile outsiders, family, down-and-out, undesirable, useless, successful, losers) (John 3:16-17; Acts 2:38-39; Romans 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:15; 2:4-6; Hebrews 1:1-3; 5:8; 8:6; 9:26b-28.

THE PLEDGE: We receive the Holy Spirit

  • as authority (Tamar) (Romans 8:15, 17; Galatians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 2:9-15; 2 Corinthians 3:17),
  • as protection (Ruth) (John 14:16-17; Romans 8:26; Ephesians 1:13-14),

as living water (David) (1 Corinthians 12:13; Isaiah 44:3; Zechariah 12:10; Joel 2:28) as a pledge.

The Word and works of God point us to Jesus Christ.

  • He promises to be PRESENT with you.
    (Immanuel – God with us – Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23); Matthew 28:20:
    In the classroom, in the cubicle, in the car wreck, in the board room, in the hospital room, in the warehouse, around the farm machinery, with screaming kids, in the line at Wal-Mart,
  • He promises to PROVIDE for you.
    Matthew 6:33. Provide your rent this month, for your children’s clothes and shoes, for Christmas expenses, for the mortgage payment, for the homeowner’s insurance, for the spouse you are looking for, for friend you need, the healing or remission you are praying for, the hope you need to make it through another year in your marriage or with that child of yours, the sales you need to make, for the rest you need, for the relief from a harassing person,
  • He has sent the Holy Spirit as a PLEDGE for your future.
    Ephesians 1:13-14

Do you have that PRESENCE in your life? Is Jesus Christ present in you? Have you trusted Him for your PROVISION? Would you receive Him and His Holy Spirit as a PLEDGE for your future redemption for eternity? Make this month a December to Remember and respond to Him.

[1][1] Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910), Fausset's Bible Dictionary, “Bethlehem,” e-sword.
[2] ISBE, “Bethlehem,”
[3] Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910), Fausset's Bible Dictionary, “Bethlehem,” e-sword.