Messianic Prophecies of Bethlehem, Part 2
Last week we learned that Jesus’ birthplace of Bethlehem was no ordinary little town. It was the subject of a prophecy from Micah 5:2 revealing the birthplace of the Messiah, which the Jewish people knew well. But beyond this, Micah gave another detail of the Messiah’s origin a chapter earlier. It specified the exact place and people in Bethlehem that would first greet Jesus.
Jesus’ role as the Lamb of God takes center stage in Chris’s teaching this week in the second half of our series on Bethlehem and the Messianic prophecies. While Jesus made many references to this identity of His throughout His ministry, these truths were prophesied hundreds of years earlier in Scripture. This look into Israel’s historical culture and geography will enrich your understanding of Jesus’ mission on Earth found in the Christmas story. Be encouraged, friends: A deep study of God’s Word is a breath of fresh air because it’s in the little details that we learn more about our Lord!
If you missed last week’s show, you can catch up here.
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. This is the last time we'll remind you about what we think is a perfect gift idea for you, our Christmas gift boxes. Each festive gift box is packed full of authentic Israeli flavors like honey, chocolate, tahini, salt, spices, and more. Celebrate the birth of Jesus this season with the tastes of the Holy Land. Order yours today at foi.org/giftbox. You have until December 13th.
Chris Katulka: Steve, not only is it a great way to get a taste of Israel, it's also a great way to support Israel as well because you're buying products that are from Israel. So be sure to get your Christmas gift box. Thinking of the Holy Land, I want to focus in for a moment on Bethlehem. We're actually continuing our study on the significance of Bethlehem with its Messianic promise that comes out from Micah 5:2 where the prophet Micah gives us a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Last week, we looked at the royalty of who Jesus is coming out of Bethlehem. We saw the divinity of Jesus coming out of Bethlehem. Today, we're going to look at the mission of Jesus from Bethlehem.
Steve Conover: In the news, The Times of Israel is reporting that remains of a building from the time of the Sanhedrin has been uncovered in Yavne for the first time. Yavne, in the central plain, is the ancient city where the supreme Jewish legislative assembly relocated to escape the destruction of the capital, Jerusalem, and the second temple in 70 AD. Inside the find, archeologists uncovered chalkstone cups that the Israeli Antiquities said were “clear evidence that its occupants were observing Jewish laws of ritual purity.”
Chris Katulka: Steve, this is such an important find and I think it can often be overlooked, but this is a big find because Yavne actually is a major transition moment in Jewish history. After the destruction of the temple, the leaders in Israel, the religious leaders of Israel needed to figure out how to be Jewish without a temple and yet still obey the law. Much of modern Judaism actually that's practiced in synagogues around the world have their roots in this major transition moment that happened when the Jewish leaders moved from Jerusalem to Yavne.
Chris Katulka: Greetings and Merry Christmas to you and your family. I hope that, in the midst of all the shopping and party planning that you're doing with your family, you're able to stop for a moment and reflect on the joyous moments surrounding the birth of Christ, that you're able to stop for a moment and reflect on God's grace as He sent his Son, Jesus, to us. Emmanuel, God with us. That's what Emmanuel means in Hebrew, “God with us.” I know that, at the Katulka house, we're very excited about giving gifts and I know there are a lot of people at our house that are excited about getting gifts, but we're constantly reminding ourselves and we're constantly reminding the kids to focus on the true reason for Christmas and that's the coming of our Savior, the greatest gift ever given.
Now, last week we started a series on Micah's prophecy that's found in Micah 5:2 where Micah's prophecy vividly paints the place where the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would be born in the city of Bethlehem. It says this in Micah 5:2: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." Now last week, we looked at how Bethlehem, though very small, was considered a royal city in the eyes of 1st century Jewish people that were living during the dates of Jesus. One of the reasons it was considered a royal city was because it was the place where King David was born, where King David grew up and was chosen by God to be Israel's king. This becomes important because oftentimes I hear that Bethlehem meant nothing to the Jewish people during the days of Jesus. It was merely a pit stop on the way to Jerusalem. Nothing to see here. Well that's just not true. Bethlehem was always a city associated with Jewish royalty because it's the town where King David comes from. That's why in Luke 2:8 Luke calls Bethlehem the “City of David.”
We also looked at how Micah alludes to the idea that the Messiah would be more than just a mere man. Micah says that the coming king would come from the ancient of days or eternity past, everlasting. Essentially, Micah summarizes the birth of Jesus from the gospels in Matthew and Luke that talk about his birth in Bethlehem all while at the same time showing his deity which is the way that the apostle John wishes to illustrate Jesus' birth in John 1. This is what makes Christmas such a joyous time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus the Messiah. His arrival marks a moment in human history when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Holy God humbled himself and became human so that He could be present, that He could dwell with his creation. God's desire to be present with his people is found all throughout the scriptures. You could see it in Exodus 40, in 1 Kings 8, in John 1:14, in Revelations 21.
Really this theme of God's presence with his people is found all throughout the scriptures, that God ... Think about this. God is fighting to be with you, to be with his creation, to reestablish that unhindered relationship the way that it was in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1-2. Now, if you missed last week's message, you can go to foiradio.org and there, you can listen to last week's message on Bethlehem to get all caught up. Again, that's foiradio.org, but today, I want to focus on one more thing when it comes to Micah's prophecy of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. We often marvel at Micah's specificity in naming the exact city Mary was to give birth, but it's hardly ever mentioned that Micah names the precise location around Jerusalem where Jesus would be born. In an earlier chapter in Micah's prophecy, Micah in Chapter 4, Verse 8, prophecies exactly where within the city of Bethlehem Jesus would be born. Just listen to this. This comes from Micah 4:8. It says, "And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come. Even the former dominion shall come."
Now, let me try to bring this verse to life. It's an amazing verse. It mentions the tower of the flock. In Hebrew, that word is Migdal Eder which would have been located on the outskirts of Bethlehem. The tower of the flock is full of rugged hills where, during the days of Jesus, shepherds would have kept watch over the flocks of sheep that they were shepherding. Now when you get to Luke's account of Jesus' birth, Luke actually says in Luke 2:8, "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night." Luke also notes that Jesus was laid in a manger. A manger in Greek could be interpreted as a box where animals feed like a trough. So Micah mentions that Jesus would have been born in the outskirts of Bethlehem. So it was according to Luke that Jesus was born in an area where shepherds were keeping their flocks. So all the pieces are fitting together.
The accounts of Jesus' birth fit together with Luke perfectly. With Micah's prediction in Micah 5:2, He'd be born in Bethlehem specifically at the tower of the flock in Bethlehem, Micah 4:8. Now, here's what's fascinating. The flocks of sheep that were being watched in Bethlehem that night when Jesus was born, these weren't your average sheep raised for domestic reasons for things like wool and meat. These sheep that surrounded Jesus at his birth, they weren't regular. These sheep actually had a particular mission. They had a purpose designated that set them apart by Jewish law actually. These sheep were being watched and shepherded for temple sacrifice according to the ancient Jewish source of the law which is the Mishnah. Alfred Edersheim writes in his work, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, he writes this, “that Migdal Eder, the tower of the flock, was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheep ground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town on the road to Jerusalem.
A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion that the flocks which pastured there were destined for temple sacrifices and accordingly that the shepherds who watched them were not your ordinary shepherds.” These sheep, my friends, the sheep that surrounded Jesus at his birth were set aside and had a mission that defined them. They were purposed for sacrifice. To think that Jesus, the lamb of God, was born in a field of sheep that were already purposed for sacrifice seems to set in place the mission of our Messiah even at his birth. Now when we return, I want to show you how Jesus all throughout his ministry had in his mind that He was the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. He saw himself as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 to fulfill this mission. So be sure to stick around.
Christmas is right around the corner and if you need a fun, festive, and delicious gift idea for your loved ones, hey, I've got a perfect one for you. Our festive Christmas gift boxes are loaded with the most delicious tastes of the Holy Land. Each box is beautifully arranged with honey, chocolate, tahini, salt, spices, recipes, and more. Give the gift of Israeli flavors this Christmas and ship a festive gift box directly to the front door of your family, your friends, maybe your school teachers, to your neighbors, or even, hey, to yourself. Steve, how can our listeners get their hands on a Christmas gift box?
Steve Conover: Yeah, Chris. The deadline to order for an on-time delivery is December 13th. That's this Monday. Order yours today at foi.org/giftbox. Again that's foi.org/giftbox.
Chris Katulka: So we're wrapping up our two-part series on Bethlehem. I hope that it's preparing you for Christmas. I know it's preparing me for Christmas. It's preparing my heart to worship the Lord more, especially as we go through these prophetic texts from Micah 5:2 and Micah 4:8 and we see the mission of Jesus. Really I think Jesus knew his mission very clearly right away from even the moment of his birth. In fact, Jesus would regularly identify himself as the suffering servant who, like a sacrificial lamb, became our substitute for sin. Isaiah 53:5 says, "He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his wounds, we are healed."
Scholars debate, but there can be anywhere from 15 to 26 allusions of Isaiah 53 found in the four gospels alone. I believe Jesus identified himself as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. He said things regularly to his disciples like, "So also the son of man will certainly suffer at their hands." Now, listen. You might not think anything of that statement, but this is actually an oxymoron in the minds of a Jewish person. The son of man is a Jewish title that goes back to Daniel 7:13-14. The son of man is given dominion and power to reign over the whole world by God, the Father, himself. The son of man doesn't suffer. The son of man rules. So if the son of man is going to suffer as Jesus says, He's suffering ... Think about this. He's suffering because he's going to allow himself to suffer. It's a part of his mission and He knows it as the son of man.
Here's another one. It says, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer on the third day and rise from the dead." Again, an allusion to suffering that goes back to Isaiah 53, but this time with the idea of rising from the dead, resurrection. Isaiah 53:5, "Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace." We see Jesus in the gospels being whipped and marred and spit upon constantly at the end during the passion and you can see this in Matthew 26:67. John the Baptist sees Jesus in light of Isaiah 53. In John 1:29, John the Baptist says, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Even Jesus says, "Even as the son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many." Again, the picture here is that Jesus was willing to be the suffering servant to give his own life over for many.
Jesus and those who knew him were well aware of his mission from the very beginning as He was born among the sheep destined for sacrifice like a lamb who would take away the sins of the world. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus were no mistake. They were put in place by the Lord to show us who Jesus is and to define his mission. The prophecies in Micah show us that Jesus was born in a small town, but this small town was full of royal history which makes Jesus royal, connecting Jesus to his distant human father, King David. Like King David, Jesus would become Israel's greatest king. Micah 5:2 says that the one who would be born a ruler in Israel, his comings forth would be from of old, from everlasting, from ancient days. Again, Micah saw that the coming ruler of Israel was more than just a mere man like the kings before him. Micah saw Jesus coming the way the apostle John describes him as the Word who became flesh, the Word that became flesh so that we might fully know the Father.
If you want to see the nature and character of God, the Father, then look no further than studying and knowing the life and ministry of Jesus, his Son. Finally, Jesus' birth in Bethlehem among the sheep destined for sacrifice for the sins of Israel reveal that He came to die so that we could experience the Father's presence in our lives today, even more tangibly in the future as well. So this Christmas as you gather with your family and friends to celebrate the humble birth of our Messiah and King, don't forget the reason Christ came. He came to give himself as a sacrifice that those who believe in him, his birth, his life, his death, his burial, his resurrection, would have a reconciled life with the Father and as a result, an abundant life both today and when we see our risen Lord face-to-face.
I want to leave you with a little homework. I want to encourage you this Christmas season as a family. Stop for a moment, get together, open the Scriptures, and read the story of the birth of Christ from Luke 2. When we stop and together when we remember the birth of Christ, it centers us and draws us into the worship of our Savior.
Steve Conover: Israel on the verge of becoming a state, a teenaged Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: We are approaching Christmas. During this time of year, some ultra orthodox men like to mock me. They do not like Jewish people who have placed their faith in Christ. One morning, they greeted me sarcastically. "Congratulations to you, Zvi." I already knew what they would reply when I asked, "Why are you congratulating me?" "Oh, you do not know?" one mocked. "Your God is born." "You're going against yourselves." "What do you mean?" "You call yourselves the chosen people of God, but you do not obey God. Isaiah 2:3 says, 'For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.' But look what is going out of Zion. You are not spreading the truth about God because you do not understand it even though you read it every day in your synagogues." Now, they wanted to know what I meant because they realized I was not speaking about the New Testament.
So I gave them my Bible and said, "Please read Deuteronomy 6:13. There it is written you shall fear the Lord, your God, and serve him lest the anger of the Lord, your God, be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth." They were surprised. "Show us where it is written in the Bible about your God." So I opened the Bible to Isaiah 53 and then read, "He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and hidden were our faces from him. He was despised and we did not esteem him, but he was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon him and by his stripes, we are healed." They all looked at one another. One asked, "About whom is this written?" The older men tried to persuade the younger ones to leave, but the younger ones persisted to know about whom this passage was written.
So I showed them Zachariah 9 and Isaiah 9. The students turned to their teachers and asked, "Why have we never heard about this? Why have you never taught us what is in our Bible?" The older teachers were extremely unhappy and tried to find a way to discredit me. One demanded, "Zvi, show us where it is written that the messiah was born in Bethlehem." I replied, "Read Micah 5:2, but read aloud so your young pupils will know the truth." The young men now had more questions for their teachers who were not happy. The students thanked me for speaking with them. "We will come again and ask you more questions," one said. I pray they will believe according to the Bible so they will know the Lord personally. Then they too will appreciate the wonderful time of year and celebrate the birth of Jewish messiah who came to redeem us from sin as prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures.
Chris Katulka: The impact of Zvi's life and ministry in Israel, it didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord. In fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel Ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel, and really all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine, and clothing and we even promote the safety and security of the state of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. So when you give to The Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the gospel of our Messiah, Jesus. You can give online by visiting foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us today. This is the last time we'll remind you that you can order Christmas gift boxes at foi.org/giftbox. You have until Monday to do so. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katulka: So we were studying Bethlehem, the Messianic prophecy of where Jesus was born, but now we want to look at something that's the most important part of what Christmas is all about. It's the incarnation of when God became flesh, the Word became flesh, John 1:14, and we're going to unpack that over the next two weeks.
Steve Conover: We hope you join us then. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. One last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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Christmas was approaching, and during this time of year, many ultra-Orthodox men liked to make fun of Zvi for placing his faith in Christ. During one particular encounter, the men mocked him, saying, “Your God is born!” But Zvi took the opportunity to share the truth with them. When they challenged him to prove that Jesus was the Son of God from the Old Testament, Zvi came prepared and opened the eyes of some of the young students in the group.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.