O Little Town of Bethlehem is one of the most beloved carols of the Christmas season. However, it is much more than a sentimental story that took place in Bethlehem.
Bethlehem was a small quaint town, about 6 miles (10 kms) south of Jerusalem. Throughout its long and varied history, four memorable events took place in the “little town of Bethlehem.” These events shaped the program of God for this world and for your redemption and mine. Micah 5:2 states: “But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings going forth have been from old, from everlasting.” Bethlehem was therefore the natural place and therefore the only place where the Savior could be born. J. Vernon McGee wrote, “The launching pad was heaven: the landing field was the stable.”
There was a Death at Bethlehem, Genesis 35:16-21; Genesis 48:7
The Lord told Jacob to return to Bethel, and it is here that God appears once again to him and reminds him of his name change from Jacob to Israel (Prince with God; Gen. 32:22-32). Jacob, the natural man, was a changed man.
Jacob and his beloved wife, Rachel, journeyed a short distance to Ephratah, where Rachel struggled with hard labor in delivering her son. While dying and struggling for breath, she gasps out his name: “Ben-Oni, son of my sorrow,” (Gen. 35:18) but Jacob, standing by her side cries out, “No, his name shall be called, Benjamin, son of my right hand,” (Gen. 35:16) Did old Jacob see and know something prophetic? Benjamin was his only son born in Israel.
What a lovely type of the Lord Jesus! He was born to die: “The Man of Sorrows,” who was acquainted with grief, despised, rejected, and condemned to hang from the cross. As such we can say, “Ben Oni, Son of my sorrow.” We rejoice this Christmas season that the One condemned to death, rose victoriously the third day, and 40 days later He ascended to glory. Psalm 110, a great Messianic psalm and the most quoted psalm in the New Testament, states, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand,’ till I make Your enemies Your footstool” (Ps. 110:1).
There was a Marriage in Bethlehem, Ruth 4:10, 11, 12-17
It was to “Bethlehem, Judah…Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah”, (Ruth 1:1,2) that widowed Ruth, the Moabitess, and her widowed mother-in-law Naomi returned. While gleaning in the barley fields, Ruth met her future husband and redeemer. Boaz is a lovely picture of the Lord Jesus and of grace, who was able to buy back, or redeem Ruth and make her his bride. A nearer relative than Boaz could have married Ruth, however, he refused as he did not want to ruin his inheritance (Ruth 4:6). This relative is a picture of the law and what it could not do (Rom. 8:5).
Boaz gave Ruth Bethlehem Judah to live in all the days of her life. Soon, a marriage took place and Ruth became his bride. From this relationship there was a son born, Obed, whose name means “a servant.” Obed had a son, Jesse, and Jesse had a son, David, of whom the Lord Jesus is a direct descendant (Matt. 1:5, 6).
Out of Bethlehem Judah, the son of my right hand was born. Out of that same town came a redeemer, who redeems a poor, widowed Gentile and brings her into the place of blessing. She in turns bears him a son Obed, who reminds us of another Servant, the Lord Jesus: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights” (Isa. 42:1). The “son of my right hand” becomes “My servant” who delighted in doing the Father’s will (Ps. 40: 8).
There was a Well at Bethlehem, 2 Samuel 23:14-17
Many of us sang the children’s chorus, “Only a boy named David,” and it was this David who played in the streets of Bethlehem. He had a rightful heritage since his father was Jesse and his grandfather, Obed. Both Jesse and David were born there and it was here that Samuel came seeking the Lord’s anointed to become king. Jesse paraded his seven sons before Samuel, and to each of his sons, Samuel says: “the Lord has not chosen these.” Samuel then asks, “Are all the young men here?” Can you not hear Jesse’s disgruntled reply, “No, there’s the youngest one, but he’s out looking after a few silly sheep?” Jesse calls his ignored and rejected son from the pasture and Samuel says, “Arise, anoint him, for this is the one!” (1 Sam. 16:10-13). David the shepherd becomes king!
David, the rejected, fugitive king, longed for a drink from Bethlehem’s well (2 Sam. 23:14-15).
Three valiant men, hearing the plaintive cry of their rejected monarch, broke through enemy lines risking their lives and presented to their king precious water from Bethlehem’s well. David, realizing what these valiant men did, would not drink it, rather he poured it out as a drink offering to the Lord (2 Sam. 23:17). This precious water of Bethlehem poured out by David, reminds us of our heavenly David, the Lord Jesus who “poured out His soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12), so that we might have living water to satisfy the longings of our hearts and souls (John 7:37). This made it an imperative that Jesus should be born in Bethlehem!
There was a Birth at Bethlehem, Luke 2:8-12
“How silently, how silently the wondrous Gift is given” speaks volumes as to what happened on that night so long ago. Bethlehem is uniquely called, “the city of David” and it was in Bethlehem that David’s greater Son, Jesus, would be born.
Nazareth was a dirty, and despised town, but it was here where the angel spoke to Mary, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33). The One who was “despised and rejected by men” (Isa. 53:3), was born in lowly Bethlehem, and one day soon He will ultimately become the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Someone has expressed it so well, “The lowly One of Ephrathah is the Lofty One of eternity.”
As previously stated, “Bethlehem was therefore the natural place and therefore the only place where the Savior could be born.” History and destiny were made here.
Bethlehem is a challenge to every heart! What you do with this Savior—the Savior who was born in Bethlehem—will determine your eternity whether it will be heaven or hell! The God of eternity touched this world in the right place, at the right time, and strangely, it was in the little town of Bethlehem. He is the Son of God’s right hand, the Redeemer for Israel and for a lost world. He is the Satisfier for the thirsty soul and so rightly, “the Bread of Life” (John 6:35), was born in Bethlehem, “the house of Bread.”
During this Christmas season as believers in the Lord Jesus, let us join and sing, “O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord” and “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”