“Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem”
- Luke 2:1…And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
- “a decree” means… an official order or decision made by the church, government, or court that is given to the people of that land. In this case… “…all the world.”
- This order/decree was from Caesar Augustus (Caius Octavius) which was the grand nephew of Julius Caesar.
- Before and after the death of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. , the Roman government was constantly torn by power struggles. (Every king, ruler or emperor wanted to control the world)
- This sentence says it all of Caesar Augustus, He wanted “all the world” to be taxed.
- The Roman senate declared Octavius as their first Emperor of Rome in 29 B.C.
- Two years later the Roman government honored him with the title “Augustus,” which the name means “exalted one.” This new name signifies a religious love and deep respect for.
- Under Augustus rule, the Roman Empire dominated the Mediterranean region which led to great prosperity and somewhat peaceful country.
- This census was not a onetime census but rather was to take place every 14 years.
- Palestine (Country of the Jews), was previously excluded from Roman census because Jews were exempt from serving in the Roman army.
- The census was primarily designed to register young men for military service (and account for all Roman citizens).
- The Jews came to regard this census as a distasteful symbol of Roman oppression.
I. About Bethlehem of Judea
A) The journey to Bethlehem
- Regardless of all this (which was history that Joseph and Mary were involved with at the time)
- They had to obey the law and go to Bethlehem because Joseph and Mary were Judean and descendants of David who also was born in this city.
- Note verse 4…And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
- This journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was 70 miles long through mountains and rough terrain.
B) The Prophecy Fulfilled In Bethlehem
- Joseph and Mary more than likely knew the prophecy spoken of the coming “Messiah.”
- The prophecy we are talking about is found in Micah 5:2…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 forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
C) In The House Of Bread
- The first part name “Bethlehem” means… “The house of bread.”
- Why was it called “the house of bread?” Because the area was a grain producing region in O.T. times.
- The name “Ephratah” means “fruitful.”
- To me, this terminology of the name Bethlehem is quite striking.
D) Producing The Living Bread
- Bethlehem’s meaning “the house of bread,” reminds me of Jesus Christ and what He said in John 6:51…I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
- What better place for the LORD God to choose for His Son to be born… Bethlehem, the house of bread and birthplace to the “living bread.”
- Of course the bread that Bethlehem represents is “physical bread.”
- Jesus represents the “living bread.”
- Note that Jesus said… “if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: “ He did not mean to literally eat Him. He means any one that follows Him, any man that believes in Him, and any man that lives by the Word of God, which is Jesus Christ (John 1:1).
- If you follow, believe and live in Jesus Christ you will live forever.
- Some people may be grossed out when Jesus said… “and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
- The bread Jesus is talking about in John 6:51, is the bread of salvation through His sacrificial death on the cross.
- This “bread” Jesus gives is for “all” both Jew and Gentile. God’s sacrifices established in the O.T., was for the Jews to “cover” their sins. Then Jesus was sent to “remove” not just the Jews sins but all who believe in His Son Jesus Christ.
E) Which produces Fruit
- Remember we said that the second part of the name Bethlehem was “Ephratah” and it means “fruitful.”
- May I remind you what the Elizabeth told Mary in Luke 1:42… And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
- “the fruit” meaning the seed, the child to be born.
- This also reminds me of what Christ came to us for.
- Jesus tells his disciples (You and I also as what? Followers of Jesus Christ) in John 15:16…Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
- Jesus chose us to be His followers. We did not choose Him.
- Jesus always spoke of “fruit.” In relation to being a true believer.
- Good fruit and Bad fruit – Matthew 7:17…Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18) A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
- We that have accepted Christ as our Lord go through a pruning process – John 15:1…I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2) Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth (prunes, chastens, spanks, disciplines) it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
- God’s judgment upon us as Christians while on this earth is the “peaceable fruit” of righteousness – Hebrews 12:11…Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
- Fruit bearing is a way to glorify God – John 15:8…Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
- So as you see, Bethlehem in Judea is really pretty important.
II. Bethlehem of Galilee
A) Known for vineyards and orchards
- There is another town called Bethlehem but it is located farther north in Galilee. This Bethlehem is known for its vineyards and olive orchards.
- Although Jesus was not born there, nor did anything biblical occur there (At least to my knowledge) this also has Messianic characteristics.
- Its vineyards – Jesus said in John 15:1…I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
verse 5…I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
- It’s olive orchards – One of Jesus favorite places to pray and teach His disciples was in the Mount of Olives. Luke 21:37…And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.
Many verses talk of Jesus going to the Mount of Olives as in John 8:1 … Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.