Born In The Middle Of Nowhere

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Bethlehem wasn't well known until Jesus came.

Luke(6) (Part of the Advent(9) series)
by Stuart Johns(129) on December 6, 2020 (Sunday Morning(172))

Salvation(49), Sovereignty(12)

ADVENT - BETHLEHEM

Born In The Middle of Nowhere

(Luke 2:1-7)

 

INTRODUCTION

How many of you know where Florida, MO is? ​​ (show picture of MO with Florida marked on the map). ​​ Now you know where it is, but do you know why that place is significant? ​​ It was where Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born. ​​ Does that help at all? ​​ What if I told you that Samuel’s pen name was Mark Twain, would that help? ​​ Most people don’t know where Florida, MO is.

 

Most places where famous people were born were unknown prior to their rise to popularity. ​​ (Show picture of states where U.S. Presidents were born) The birthplaces of most of the Presidents of the United States are not familiar cities to us that we would be able to locate immediately without Googling it.

 

In the 1st Century there was a town that most people of the day cared little about. ​​ It was an insignificant place that would soon be well known. ​​ Its popularity was the result of it being the birthplace of someone very special.

 

Today we are going to learn about a well-known man that was “Born In The Middle of Nowhere.”

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Our families birthplaces

        • Florida

        • Indiana

        • Missouri

        • Ohio - 2

  • WE

    • Where were you born

        • Would most people know the place where you were born?

        • It may not be hard to know the place where you were born, especially if it was around this area

        • Would anyone like to share their birthplace with us to see if you can stump us? [If you’re joining us online, you can put your birthplace in the comments section of Facebook Live]

 

  • Facts about Bethlehem

    • Bethlehem means “house of bread.”

        • What an appropriate birthplace for someone who would later identify Himself as the Bread of Life

        • John 6:35, Then Jesus declared, “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.”

    • Historic heritage

        • It is where Rachel died after giving birth the Benjamin

          • Gen. 35:16-20, Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. ​​ And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you have another son.” ​​ As she breathed her last – for she was dying – she named her son Ben-Oni. ​​ But his father named him Benjamin. ​​ So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). ​​ Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

          • That’s a sad story related to Bethlehem

        • It was where Ruth was married to Boaz

          • Here is a happier story related to Bethlehem

          • Ruth 1:22, So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

          • Read Ruth 4:1-16

        • David had many exploits there – it was the city of David

          • 1 Samuel 16:1, The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? ​​ Fill you horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. ​​ I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

          • 1 Samuel 17:34-37a, But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. ​​ When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. ​​ When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. ​​ Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. ​​ The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

 

  • From Nazareth to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7)

    • Caesar Augustus

        • His birth name was Gauis Octavius

        • His grandmother was the sister of Julius Caesar

        • Julius Caesar adopted him and made him the official heir in 45 B.C.

        • After Julius Caesar’s death, he ruled with two others until 30 B.C. when he became the soul ruler

        • He assumed the title of Caesar from his great uncle

          • Caesar in Greek means “severed”

          • As the Roman Emperors rose to power, we realize that they were severed from friends and family.

          • They could not trust those around them.

        • Augustus was added after he rejected the Roman Senate's suggestions of “king of Rome” and “dictator of Rome

        • Augustus means “exalted” and “sacred” and has as its background, “though, of the gods

    • Decree

        • God had allowed Caesar Augustus to rise to power in order that His will and the prophecy of Micah could be fulfilled (Read Micah 5:1-5a)

          • NASB – “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, {Too} little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. ​​ His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” [Micah 5:2]

          • Ephrathah means “ash-heap: place of fruitfulness”

          • Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13)

          • Micah 5:3, Israel will be abandoned – there was 700 years from the time Micah spoke these words until Jesus came. ​​ We also know that there was a 400 year period where Israel had no prophet who spoke for God.

          • Micah 5:3, The returning of the brothers – part of this is fulfilled when the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon, but the remainder will be fulfilled when Christ returns.

          • Micah 5:4, Jesus’ rule and reign will reach to the ends of the earth

          • Micah 5:5, Jesus will not only bring peace, but He will be our peace. ​​ Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14 that, He is our peace

        • Poor Caesar Augustus had no idea that he wasn’t really in charge

        • We may not understand why certain things happen in politics, the medical community, or the financial world today, but we can rely on the fact that God is ultimately in control. ​​ We may not see the end result of what He is doing, but we know that all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign!

            • Perhaps we all feel apprehensive right now

            • Presidential election

              • Who should we believe concerning the Presidential election?

              • Did Joe Biden or Donald Trump win?

              • Was there widespread election fraud?

              • It all depends on who you get your news from

            • COVID-19

              • When should I go get tested for COVID-19?

              • Are the COVID-19 tests reliable and accurate?

              • Is COVID-19 really that serious, especially with a survival rate in the 99th percentile?

              • Will a mask and social distancing really keep me safe?

              • Should we shut down or remain open?

              • Again, it depends on who you talk to or listen to

            • Financial world

              • Will there be another financial stimulus package provided by our government?

              • Will the economy ever bounce back after COVID-19?

              • Will I lose my job?

              • If I lose my job, how will I survive?

            • We can take all of these concerns to a sovereign God who is ultimately in control

            • None of these concerns, or any other concerns we may have, come as a surprise to God

            • He knew about all of these things prior to them happening

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God’s sovereignty concerning my feelings about our nation’s physical, political, social, and financial struggles.

        • Caesar Augustus was the one who made the decree about the census, but it was by God’s sovereign plan and will – He is in control!

    • Census

        • This was a registration of everyone in the Roman world.

        • Each Jewish male had to return to the city where his father was born to record his name, occupation, property, and family

        • This was not for statistical purposes like we have today, but was designed to efficiently and effectively tax everyone in the Roman empire

        • Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, said that in his own day, more than a hundred years after the time of Jesus, you could look up the registers of the same census Luke mentions.

        • Chuck Smith states, “in Egypt there are records that they have discovered where it said that the people had to return to their family homes for the census to be taken, completely confirming this account in the scriptures.

    • Parenthetical note by Luke

        • This was the first census that was taken

        • From this point on there was a census every 14 years

        • Giving the name of the governor of Syria, Quirinius, is another historical “anchor” that confirms that this really happened and was not a fairy tale or something that Luke dreamt up after Jesus death in order to confirm His life.

    • Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem

        • They leave from Nazareth in the region of Galilee for Bethlehem in the region of Judea [show map with route]

        • It would have been approximately an 80-mile journey

          • Like walking from Sunbury, PA to Idaville, PA [show map].

          • It probably would have taken them 3 to 4 days if they traveled 8 hours a day.

        • Mary was not required to accompany him on the trip, but several factors probably led to her coming along

          • She was also of the line of David, so there was potential for seeing family while they were there

          • She was in the middle of a controversial pregnancy that was probably the talk of the town

          • Liefeld states, “It is possible that he used the emperor’s order as a means of removing Mary from possible gossip and emotional stress in her own village. ​​ He had already accepted her as his wife (Matthew 1:24), but apparently continued in betrothal (Luke 2:5), pledged to be married, till after the birth.

          • Wiersbe says that “Mary and Joseph were already husband and wife but since they did not consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born, she is called his ‘espoused wife’

    • Jesus is born!

        • We don’t know how long they were there, because it says “while they were there”

        • Mary gives birth to her firstborn, a son

          • It does not mention that anyone else was there to help Mary with the delivery

          • Usually there was a midwife to take the child and to wrap it in swaddling clothes and to take care of it

          • Mary was only 16 ½ to 17 years old giving birth for the first time on her own

          • Bruce says, “The narrative runs as if Mary did these things herself

          • We know from studying Acts that Jesus had other half-brothers, so this was Mary’s firstborn, Jesus.

        • Cloths/Swaddling Cloths

          • Mothers in that day wrapped their infants in long bands of cloth to give the limbs strength and protection

          • The fact that Mary wraps Jesus in cloths is another indicator that she probably went through deliver by herself

        • Placed Him in a manger

          • It can mean a feeding trough or an enclosure for animals

          • Most scholars believe that Jesus was born in a cave and not a wooden shed/shack as we see in modern manger scenes

        • No room in the inn

          • We realize that Jesus struggled to be accepted all of His life

          • His brothers thought He was crazy and didn’t believe in Him

          • The Pharisees thought He was a blasphemer

          • Isaiah 53:3, He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. ​​ Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

          • Many people have gotten so caught up in the materialism of Christmas that they have no room for Jesus either

          • We have time for everything else in our lives except for Jesus

 

  • YOU

    • Whether we’ve believed in Jesus for salvation or not we can all get caught up in the cultural pressures of the Christmas season

    • Perhaps as a follower of Jesus Christ you need to stop and reflect to see if you have made room for Jesus

        • If you recognize that He has been pushed to the side, what steps do you need to take in the coming weeks to make room for Him

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Evaluate whether or not I have made room for Jesus during this Christmas season and make the necessary changes.

    • Perhaps you’ve never made room in life for Jesus Christ before

        • Christmas is a celebration of the fact that Jesus came from heaven to earth

        • His purpose was to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10)

        • You may be thinking, “I’m not lost!”

        • Isaiah 53:6 – we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way (we are lost to God’s plan of redemption for mankind)

        • Romans 6:23 – wages of sin is death (separation from God for all eternity)

        • Luke 15:7, I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

        • Acts 16:31, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Make room in my life for Jesus and believe in Him so I can be saved.

CONCLUSION/ACTION

“The Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar [was] probably the most meaningful ‘crib’ I have ever seen. Three small wood-carved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand – nearly too small to attract attention at all.

 

But then – a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world. While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. ... Without the radiant beam of light shining into the darkness there is little to be seen. ... But everything changes with the light.”

 

Henri J. M. Nouwen in The Genesee Diary. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 14.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1997/october/3430.html]

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