Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church: White Christmas series #2: Peace On Whom? To hear this message and others download our free app @ the App Store by searching The Gathering Connect.
Bethlehem Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2, John 6:29-35, 48-51, 53-58
In celebration of Advent—Last week we lit the Prophecy Candle and reflected on the Hope that the coming Messiah would bring to those who would believe on faith in the promises of God. The candle lit today is called The Bethlehem Candle and we focus on the intricate preparations that God made in this little city to bring His promise of Peace to a weary and sinful world. The Prophet Isaiah foretold of a “child being born”, “a son given” whom would one day govern the earth (referring to the millennial reign of Christ after He returns: Matthew 19:28, Revelation 20:2-6) and be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The prophet Micah foretold that Bethlehem is where this “ruler over Israel” would come from”. His origins would be from ancient times (referring to the linage of Christ descending from the line of king David: Micah 5:2). It is clear that the prophecy stated that Bethlehem would be the Messiah’s (Lit. anointed one of God/ Savior) birth place and upon further study we can clearly see why God carefully chose this place:
- Rachel, Jacob’s (renamed Israel by God) beloved wife and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, was buried in Bethlehem (then called Ephratah) after dying in child birth (Genesis 35:16-20). She was comforted by her midwife with the knowledge that although she would die her son would be born. “Hope for her people.” Through Benjamin’s line came, among others: King Saul (the first king of Israel: 1 Samuel 9:15-21), Mordecai and Esther used by God to deliver the Jews from extinction: Esther 2:5-7) and the Apostle Paul (who brought the gospel of Christ to both the Jews and Gentiles: Romans 11:1). Rachel’s tomb is still visited in Bethlehem today.
- Bethlehem (AKA “City Of David”) is the Birth place of both King David ( 1 Sam uel 16:1-13/ Israel’s greatest earthly king) and King Jesus (Luke 2:11/ Her eternal king and Savior). King David’s son, Solomon, built the first temple to sacrifice to the Lord. God’s Son, Jesus, became the final sacrifice for sin… “Once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).
- Bethlehem translated means “House of Bread”. Jesus is called Himself “The Bread Of Life” (John 6:29-35, 48-51).
- Bethlehem was the well known site where lambs for the Passover temple sacrifice were birthed and shepherded. It makes perfect sense that this be the place where “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” , as John the Baptizer proclaimed (John 1:29), should also be born.
- Bethlehem was the place that God directed Mary and Joseph to at just the right time of Mary’s pregnancy so that Jesus would be born there. Caesar Augustus called for a census to be taken at just the right time. Joseph had to report to the place where his family originated (Bethlehem) so he journeyed there with his pregnant wife. There was no room for them at the inn because God prepared it that way. God wanted the Savior to be born among the lambs prepared for temple sacrifice because that is why He was born…to be the “food and drink” of our communion with God (John 6:53-58, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
“Peace to Those on Whom His Favor Rests” Luke 2:11-14, John 14:15-27
When the birth of Jesus was triumphantly announced to shepherds by angels in Bethlehem (“the town of David”) they proclaimed “peace”, but not peace to everyone— but “to those on whom His favor rests.”
The proclamation is very specific in most all translations of the Bible with the exception of King James versions which simply say “good will toward men”. Universalists, liberal theologians and greeting card companies like this translation for obvious reasons, but one simply needs to read the gospels and Jesus’ own words to know with clarity that God’s peace only comes to those who receive Him as Lord (master). We know according to Jesus’ own words that His “favor” only rests upon those who “eat His flesh and drink His blood” so to speak. He said clearly: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 The Apostle Paul said: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 “In” Christ Jesus is the key phrase. We must be “in” Christ. When Jesus promised “Peace” to His disciples in John 14:15-27 He made it clear that His “peace” comes from the Holy Spirit. He also made it clear that the Holy Spirit only comes to those who love Jesus and keep His commands. Jesus went on to say “The world can not accept Him.” Judas (not the betrayer) asked: “why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus essentially responded by saying “Judas, home is where the heart is!” If our heart belongs to God then we are “at home” in His peace.
“Peace, Peace” Jeremiah 6:12-16a
The world is in desperate search of peace, but there is no peace to be found except in Christ who came to fill us up with real “food and drink.” He came to settle the matter: “Though our sins are like scarlet, they can be as white as snow” Isaiah 1:18
Jeremiah was named the weeping prophet because in the 40 years that he prophesied to his rebellious people, he never had any good news for them. He was God’s messenger in a time where Judah claimed to be righteous but had really turned far from God. In chapter six he spoke harshly to the defiant Jews and their so called prophets and priests who had become totally worldly. His words are timeless and might just as well be spoken to our present day “Christian Nation” who says “In God We Trust”. “Stand at the crossroads and look…” The Good news of Christ coming is for everyone, but His Peace, salvation and rest is only for those who receive Him into their lives. “Those on whom His favor rests.” Those who make their heart His home…come home!