My previous blog post revealed the true identities of the wise men that followed the star of Bethlehem to locate the child that was born, as the hope of the Gentiles. Both scriptural and historical records confirm that these wise men were astrologers that came from a different country and met the baby in a house by the time they reached Bethlehem but the shepherds that visited the baby in a manger were in the same country. It was also established that the emergency delivery of the baby in a manger was simply because there was no room for them in the maternity ward (Inn); so, the shepherds around Bethlehem had to go in haste immediately after they received the good news concerning the birth of the Saviour.
It is also evident from scriptural records that the shepherds that visited the baby in a manger were not astrologers and did not follow the star of Bethlehem but they followed the instructions given to them by an angel.
“And there were in the same countryshepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you;
You shall find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which the Lord has made known unto us. And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 8-16)
It was not recorded that the shepherds that visited the baby in a manger presented any gift to the baby except that they spread the good news concerning his birth in the same country. On the other hand, the wise men that followed the star of Bethlehem were strangers in Jerusalem because they travelled a long journey from a different country. By the time they reached Bethlehem, the baby was already a child and he was no longer in a manger but they found him in a house. They also presented three gifts to the child.
‘Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him…. and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before, them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him…And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” (Matthew 2: 1-2, 9-12)
Prior to their departure from Jerusalem, the wise men received divine instructions to return via a different route considering the envy and threat of Herod. Let us recall that Herod the king felt threatened about the news concerning the birth of a new King of the Jews and ordered the killing of all babies less than two years after he inquired about the time the star of Bethlehem appeared. This suggests that Jesus was probably less than two years old at the time the wise men reached Jerusalem and.
‘Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem , and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also….And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their country another way……Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men?’ (Matthew 2: 2-7, 12, 16)
The Power of Foreknowledge
The discussion above brings us to the main theme of this current blog post concerning how God through the power of his foreknowledge utilizes the opposition from the enemy to achieve his counsel regardless of circumstances. Astonishingly, everything that was supernaturally predicted before the birth of Jesus was fulfilled unknowingly by those connected with his natural circumstances.
In King Herod’s attempt to quickly track and eliminate the new born baby that the strangers that visited Jerusalem predicted would be the King of the Jews, he summoned the priests and scribes to inquire where Christ would be born according to prophecies? The reply to Herod’s questions indicated that the Jews already knew that Christ would be born in Bethlehem but they did not know how the mission was silently accomplished (Micah 5: 2).
‘When Herod the king heard these things; he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet, “And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” ’ (Matthew 2: 7)
Moreover, Joseph the earthly father of Jesus lived and worked in Nazareth of Galilee but the prediction that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem was fulfilled through the decree of the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, who ordered everyone to return to their home town for the purpose of tax registration. So, Joseph had to leave Nazareth and return to his home town in Bethlehem with his pregnant wife to register for taxes. It was due to this journey for tax registration that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecies.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Ceasar Augustus that all the world should be taxed….And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, unto the City of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David,). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the Inn.’ (Luke 2: 1, 3-6)
With reference to the information above, it is clear that the birth of the Saviour in Bethlehem according to prophetic prediction was indirectly accomplished by the decree of the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar. Although the delivery of the baby in a manger was due to the fact that there was no room for them in the maternity ward in Bethlehem but the emergency delivery in a manger also confirmed the prophecies that predicted the birth of the Saviour as the true Lamb of God that would save the world (Isaiah 53).
“…and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the Inn.’ (Luke 2:7)
“The next day John sees Jesus coming unto him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world! …And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1: 29, 36)
So, it was not just an accident that Jesus was born in a manger considering the predictions that he is the true Passover and sacrificial Lamb of God, whose resurrection victory over the power of death is now the cause of every Easter celebration.
From a glimpse of the historical background, it is also evident that the news of the wise men troubled Herod the King when they visited the town of Bethlehem in the city of Jerusalem in search of the new born King of the Jews. Due to Herod’s plot to kill the child, the parents of the newborn King escaped with their child to Egypt and later came back with the child after the death of Herod (Matthew 2:1-23). This fulfilled the prophecy that; “…Out of Egypt have I called my son.”
“And when they (wise men) were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.’ (Matthew 2: 13-15)
Consequently, it is time to ponder on how God uses our natural circumstances to work all things after His divine counsel and to fulfill prophetic predictions in spite of enemy opposition. In fact, it is often through enemy opposition that most of the predictions are fulfilled. Even though Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the prediction that Jesus would be called a Nazarene was also fulfilled through the anticipated opposition from Herod.
When Joseph came back from Egypt with the child and mother due to the news that Herod was dead, he would have gone back to Bethlehem. However, when he discovered that the successor of the late king was Archelaus the son of Herod, he refrained from going back to Bethlehem, which was under Archelaus’s jurisdiction. So, he decided to dwell in Nazareth of Galilee with his family. Unknowingly, he fulfilled the prophecy that the child would be called a Nazarene because Jesus spent the rest of his childhood in Nazareth.
“But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life….But when he (Joseph) heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2: 23)
In view of above, the baby born in Bethlehem grew up as the strong man of Nazareth where he became famous as “Jesus of Nazareth”. Christmas celebration is all about the baby Jesus that was born in Bethlehem while Easter is a celebration of the resurrection power of the man called “Jesus of Nazareth”.
“…We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ (John 1: 45)
Happy Easter in advance and stay tuned …..