Day 8 The Wonder Of Bethlehem
So, Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David — Luke 2:4
By Pastor David Daniels
Every Christian would benefit from taking a tour of Israel and walking where Jesus walked. One of the highlights of every trip is crossing the border into Bethlehem. Today, it’s a bustling city on the West Bank with its centerpiece situated on the town square: The Church of the Nativity. The 4th century basilica is co- managed by the Greek Orthodox, Catholic, and Armenian denominations and sits over the supposed site of Jesus’ birth.
Bethlehem is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. It was the burial place of Jacob’s wife, Rachel, and the hometown of Ruth and Naomi where they returned as widows. Like Jerusalem, the location is sometimes referred to as the City of David. But, by the time of Jesus, Bethlehem wasn’t really regarded as one of the more notable cities in Israel. With no more than 300 residents, it might be too much to call Bethlehem a “city” at all. Still, God could not have chosen a better place for His Son to step into the world. The wonder of Bethlehem is that the place prepares us for the person of Jesus.
BREAD OF LIFE
Travel to almost any country in the world and you’ll find bread as the most common food staple. Pan in Mexico, naan in India, chapati in Rwanda, baguette in France, dim sum in China. We might wish for salmon or lasagna, but if we just have some bread, that will feed our hunger. When Jesus urged people to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” He was meaning life’s necessities, not luxuries. Bread is basic to life.
In the Old Testament, as the Israelites crossed the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan, God met their need with bread from heaven. Manna (literally, “What is it?”) mysteriously appeared like dew on the ground for six days of the week. God’s people could gather as much as they needed, but no more. If they gathered extra, not trusting God for tomorrow’s provision, what remained would be spoiled by morning. Alternatively, on the sixth day, they were commanded to gather enough for the day and an extra portion for the seventh-day Sabbath. Those who neglected to prepare for the day of rest found themselves empty-handed. This rhythm of need-provision-faith-rest continued for 40 years (see Exodus 16).
You might wonder what all of this has to do with Christmas and the little town of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is a combination of two Hebrew words: beth (“house”) and lehem (“bread”). Bethlehem is literally the “house of bread.” And this is significant be- cause Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). Out of the House of Bread came the Bread of Life. Jesus was born to meet our most essential need.
But, unlike God’s people in the wilderness, our most important need isn’t physical, but spiritual. After Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes for the crowd of 5000, His disciples asked Him for miracles to prove that He was, indeed, the promised Messiah. They suggested that, just as Moses called down bread from heaven to feed their forefathers, per- haps Jesus could produce a similar spectacle. Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33-34). Notice the shift. Moses didn’t fill their empty stomachs; only God can meet human needs. The truest and best bread from heaven isn’t mysterious flakes on the ground, but the One whom God has sent to earth—Jesus. This “Bread of Life” isn’t for the The truest and best bread from heaven isn’t mysterious flakes on the ground, but the One whom God has sent to earth--Jesus. Jews only, but for the whole world. In the verses that follow, we learn that if a person trusts Jesus to meet their spiritual need, they will find Him satisfying and suff icient. And, if they have Jesus, they will have enough for sabbath rest in the presence of God forever. Bethlehem was simply getting us ready for our deepest hunger to be met in Jesus.
COME TO THE TABLE
Journey to the last week of Jesus’ life and peer into the Upper Room in Jerusalem at a group of friends reclining at a table, celebrating the Passover meal together. Jesus took the unleavened bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it. This is my body.” In that sacred moment, He memorialized His life and His death. Born in the House of Bread, the Bread of Life would be broken to feed a starving world. The Last Supper was an invitation to feast wholly on Jesus.
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah: Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest fare. (Isaiah 55:2) What are you filling your life with today? What is feeding your starving soul? We dine at the table of media, politics, material success, business, body image, sports, technology, travel, the stock market and more. But most of the food at our feast has empty calories, insufficient for true life.
Such things can make you fat but can never make you full. Jesus is the true Manna from heaven, sent to satisfy us with the richest of fare. We discover how satisfying Jesus is by first trusting Him for our salvation. When Jesus held out the bread and said, “Take this,” His followers reached out to receive what He offered. Today, Jesus off ers eternal life and we “reach out” to receive Him through faith. Trust Jesus alone for eternal life and He will give you rest.
We also discover how satisfying Jesus is by trusting Him as our daily bread. The Israelites had to collect just enough bread for the day. And so, we must return to Jesus every morning, trusting Him for everything we need. He is our comfort, our joy, our hope. He gives life meaning. He is our security, our energy, our identity. He nourishes our soul. Seek Jesus again today. Find Him to be enough. Taste and see that the Lord is good...and good to you (Psalm 34:8).
“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” —Albert Einstein
“The Wonder Of the Star” is an excerpt from Wonder: Advent Meditations On The Miracle of Christmas–a 31-day devotional released this month by David Daniels. David is Lead Pastor of Central Bible Church in Fort Worth. He can be reached at wearecentral.org Wonder is available on Amazon.com
I am honored and excited to feature my brother-in-law’s new Devotional just in time for the Christmas season! David Daniels, you are loved and we appreciate your service to our Lord Jesus. – Publisher Living Magazine Misty Daniels