Formations Lesson for December 6- O Little Town of Bethlehem
November 18 2009 by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin

Focal Passage: Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 2:1-7

The second advent lesson focuses on the prophetic and New Testament fulfillment of the small town of Bethlehem (Heb. “house of bread”).

Modern-day Bethlehem is constantly in the news as the capital of a section within the future Palestinian state of the West Bank.

Since December 1995 when the Israelis withdrew from Bethlehem, it has been part of the framework of the peace process that began partial Palestinian self-rule there. For Muslims, Bethlehem is called Bayt Lahm (Arabic “house of meat”). Today 30,000 people live in Bethlehem. In 1948, its population was majority Christian (80 percent).

Today less than 15 percent claim to be Christians.

The Middle East has experienced a shrinking Christian population since 1948. Jerusalem boasted 20 percent Christians but today has less than 2 percent Christian. 

The greater Middle East has seen a decrease from a high of 20 percent to presently 5 percent.

Historically, Bethlehem is the burial place of Rachel and the setting for the book of Ruth.

At Bethlehem, David — Ruth’s great grandson — would be born and then anointed as Israel’s second king by the prophet Samuel.

Elmo Scoggin suggests that at the time of the prophet Micah, Bethlehem was considered small because “it had not grown large enough to be able to send 1,000 men to battle or to some other national duty.”

Towns and cities were known for the numbers of men they could muster. It was unthinkable that a small village that could not even raise a thousand men could produce a new and greater David” (“Micah,” Hosea-Malachi, BBC, Vol. 7, 1972, 214).  Francis Anderson and David Freedman speak of possible meanings in which Bethlehem has “junior rank” or is “ineligible for privileges of authority or inheritance enjoyed by the elder sibling” or is “small, poor, or weak” (Micah: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor, Vol. 24E, 2000, 464-465.)

Is the preceding passage of Micah 4:9-5:1 with its cry of “Is there no king in you?” related to today’s passage?

While some scholars reject any correlation, the absence of a leader in 4:9-5:1 and the resulting destruction of Zion only highlight the need of a Messiah. Scoggin declares that “little” Bethlehem “is going to produce a great ruler for all of the reunited and restored Israel” and that Jerusalem “is to be denied the honor of producing the future Messiah” (213).

Bethlehem’s singular moment would occur with the birth of Jesus.

Through word and deed, God would shout that insignificant families and small towns are a part of His divine plan.

While cities like Jerusalem and Rome have a role to play in God’s plan, so do small towns like Bethlehem and Nazareth.

11/18/2009 9:43:00 AM by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin | with 0 comments

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