Week of Monday December 21 – Saturday, December 26
O Little Town of Bethlehem – Man as an Instructor

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” - Micah 5:2 ESV

At Christmastime, I am reminded of just how remarkable the Bible is when it comes to its predictions. Unlike any other book ever written, the Bible contains incredibly specific prophecies that were literally fulfilled in history. For example, there are prophecies about the fates of ancient cities and nations which were fulfilled in amazing detail, as we have been discovering in our journey through the prophets. But above all, there are 333 specific prophecies containing 456 specific details about the Messiah which were fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus Christ alone.

For example, Genesis 3:15 tells us that the Messiah would be born of the “seed of the woman” and Isaiah 7:14 tells us that he would be born of a virgin. Genesis 9:18 lets us know he would be a descendant of Shem, son of Noah. Looking back, Genesis 12:3, 18:18, and 22:18 tell us that He would be the descendant of Abraham. Narrowing the pool further, Genesis 49:9-10 tells us that He will be born of the tribe of Judah. Then 2 Samuel 7:14 and other prophecies tell us that He will be born of the house of King David. And Micah 5:2 tells us the specific city in which He would be born—Bethlehem Ephrathah.

The “little town of Bethlehem” Ephrathah was located in the fertile hill country six miles southwest of Jerusalem. Yet when Mary was expecting and close to giving birth, she and Joseph were living in Nazareth some 90 miles to the north. So how did the birth of Messiah happen to take place in Bethlehem so far away? Think about it. Why would this couple expecting a baby soon feel compelled to make this difficult journey south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem? Luke 2:1-3 reminds us that a Roman official had commanded for a census to be taken, which required the couple to return to their ancestral city of Bethlehem, and in the perfect plan of God, that is where the Messiah was born. In fact, when the Magi (Wise Men) came looking for the young Messiah, Matthew 2 tells us King Herod was troubled and inquired of the religious leaders as to where He would be born, and they pointed to Micah 5:2 (see Matt. 2:5-6). God providentially orchestrated the birth of Jesus to take place in Bethlehem in fulfilment of Micah’s prophecy.

Digging deeper, the place name “Bethlehem Ephrathah” also proclaims the purpose of His coming. The name Bethlehem comes from two Hebrew words: beit which means “house” and lechem which means “bread.” So Bethlehem literally means the “House of Bread.” Is it any coincidence that Jesus proclaims that He was the “Bread of Life” in John 6:35? The name Ephrathah means “fruitful.” Specifically, this fruitfulness pointed to the abundant grapes that were grown in the region that were used to produce a special wine. It was likely the same wine that was used by Jesus at the last Passover Supper. There Jesus broke the bread and blessed it, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then He took a cup of wine, and when He had given thanks He gave it to the disciples, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:26-29 ESV). The prophecy in Micah about a Messianic Ruler descending from David being born in Bethlehem Ephrathah also reminds us of the purpose of His first coming ... to offer His body and blood as a sacrifice on the cross to make it possible for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be reconciled to God.

But don’t miss the original point here. The prophet Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, and both these prophets served over 700 years before Christ. Let that sink in. Micah predicted the actual place where Joseph and Mary would travel, and she would give birth to the Messiah, over seven centuries before it literally took place. That is an amazing reminder that the Bible is unlike any other book, that its claims are true, and that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah, the Savior and the Lord. And that is definitely worth talking about when your family gathers to celebrate Christmas.

  • In your role as Instructor, be purposeful in gathering your family to focus on the Scriptures about the birth of Jesus. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just read from the Christmas story in Luke 2 or maybe from Matthew 1 and 2. Talk to your family about how the miraculous birth of Jesus was predicted long ago and remind them of the ultimate purpose of His coming.
  • If God providentially arranged details such as the time and place of the Messiah’s birth, is it possible that He has arranged details in your life? Can you look back and see God’s hand in your own history? Communicate that with your family.
  • Take a moment to give praise to God for His word, especially for these incredible prophecies that were fulfilled in the first coming of Christ. Be sure and remind your family that there are additional prophecies about His second coming that are also true. In fact, Micah’s prophecy goes on to speak of the Messiah’s future reign (5:4-5a). Talk about how that ought to give us hope as well as impact the way we live today.