BETHLEHEM

Lk.2:4-7 – And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

I love the evidence of the hand of God on everything that has to do with the birth of Jesus. The timing, location, and all the human interaction and decision making was all masterfully orchestrated. In the fullness of time God brought forth His Son, born of the Virgin Mary in the City of David, Bethlehem; just as the prophets had said. Everything unfolded perfectly according to the plan of God from eternity. The Lord even got the most powerful man on earth, Caesar Augustus, to make decisions that would bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem; in the fullness of time. The Lord actually orchestrates His world without a hitch, His predetermined plan of the ages is coming to fulfillment. At the perfect time Christ will come to this earth again. Here are some comments from Luther on Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.

“Beth means house; Lehem means bread, Bethlehem, a house of bread. The city had that name because it was situated in a good, fruitful country, rich in grain; so that it was the granary for the neighboring towns, or as we would call it, a fertile country. In olden times the name of the city was Ephrata, which means fruitful. Both names imply that the city was in a fruitful and rich lands. …There every one has enough in Christ, and overflows with thanksgiving for the divine grace. But while men are thankful for human teachings, they can not satisfy, but leave a barren land and a deadly hunger. No heart can ever be satisfied unless it hears Christ rightly proclaimed in the Gospel. In this a man comes to Bethlehem and finds him….and thanks his God eternally; here he is satisfied, here God receives his praise and confession, while outside of the Gospel there is nothing but thanklessness and starvation.”

The whole point of God’s plan? Mankind was hungry for the real bread that comes down from heaven. Of course the Lord would have His Son, the bread of life, born in a place called the House of Bread.

MORE FOOD FOR THE SOUL

John 6:35 ¶ And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”.

Food keeps us alive. Obviously, we eat for more than survival, pleasure also comes into play, but food is the very strength of our life. As the old adage goes, “you are what you eat”. That’s why what Jesus taught in today’s verse is so important, our spiritual food determines what and who we become. Jesus called this spiritual food our daily bread. Now here is where this parallel between natural food and spiritual food becomes interesting. Just as I said before, we eat physical food for pleasure’s sake, spiritual food begins to take on a spiritual attraction. The more we feast on the written word the more we acquire a taste for it. Reading the Bible can actually become the greatest pleasure of our lives. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on this spiritual food and spiritual nourishment.

“The grace of Christ Jesus, it nourishes the soul; it gives life and strength to it. Before the soul receives this grace, it is dead. In this it doth more than bread does to the body, that does but preserve the life of the body and revives it when weakened and languishing; but this heavenly food revives men when dead. And it also continues the life of the soul: the soul, after it is revived, would die again, were it not for the continuance of supply of grace and spiritual nourishment. It strengthens the soul as food does the body. The soul in its natural condition is a poor, feeble, languishing thing, having no strength; but the grace of Christ makes it strong and vigorous. And this spiritual nourishment makes the soul to grow, as food doth the body. The supplies of the Spirit of God increase the life and vigor of the soul, increases the understanding, increases holy inclinations and affections…”

Edwards describes how we are made alive by spiritual food, nourished and kept alive, strengthened by this food, and actually begin to have inclinations and affections for the Lord awakened by the bread from heaven. Why is this ? Because the very life of God pulsates in every word of God. Remember, Jesus Himself is the word of God. So go ahead and dig in, the table is spread and the meal is better than you can ever imagine.

HEAVENLY BREAD

HEAVENLY BREAD

He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3 NKJV).

God led the children of Israel into the wilderness, so they couldn’t survive on their own, and He humbled them so that they might exalt Him and call out to Him. God fed them with manna, so they wouldn’t be proud but would be totally dependent on Him.

Our unseen Friend sustained the Israelites in the form of manna. For us, He speaks to us in the bread of the Word of God. It’s interesting to note that God instructed Moses to tell the people to gather only enough manna for one day, no more (see Exod. 16:19-21). In the same way, we can’t live off of what we hear preached on Sunday. We have to live off of what we get for ourselves every day. You have to dig around in the Bible every day. You can’t depend on your pastor to feed you. Every morning you need to get up and search the Scriptures. We have to hunger for the Word of God, devour the Scriptures, and study to show ourselves approved. We are called to feast on the Word of God every day. This is the message of the manna: we must daily seek our unseen Friend in the Bible.

Have you seen Him in your Bible? The Bible is not a book of rules and regulations, a how to instruction manual, or a prosperity guide. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. John 1:14 says that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us….” Our unseen Friend lives in this holy book. The natural man doesn’t understand it, because the Bible is spiritually discerned (see 1 Cor. 2:14). You need a touch from God. He wants to open your eyes and feed you His manna, just as He daily fed the children of Israel in the wilderness. The people weren’t really happy about the manna every day, even though it was a miracle (see Num 11:4-6). Many people today don’t like to get up and read the Bible for themselves every day. However, if you do, you will have a daily miracle just like the Israelites. Your invisible Friend will meet with you. If the Israelites tried to get enough food for two days, the manna would begin to stink and be filled with worms (see Exod. 16:20). You can’t live on the revelation that you got yesterday. It doesn’t work that way. Our God is a now God. This unseen Friend wants to walk with you every step of every day. He is right here, nearer than you can imagine. He is closer than your skin. Go ahead, open up your Bible, you may be surprised at what you find.

BREAD AND FISH

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BREAD AND FISH

John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

Today’s verse is part of the Lord’s response to some of His followers who had experienced the miracle of the multiplication of the fish and the loaves just the day before. They reasoned that Moses had fed their fathers for forty years with the manna from heaven. They were challenging Jesus to do it again, feed us again today. The Lord took this opportunity to share with them one of the most profound truths in the Bible. He explained that Moses didn’t supply the manna that His Father in heaven had. He went on to say that they didn’t even understand the miracle of the manna. It was not about food, after all, man does not live by bread alone. He was saying that the manna was a picture of the true bread that came down from heaven which was actually Him. He then shared the most profound of all revelations, that the bread that He would give was His flesh offered as a sacrifice for sins. That is what the miracle of the fish and the loaves was about, it was about salvation for mankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Adam Clarke brings out this truth in these comments on this verse.

“Our Lord explains his meaning more fully, in these words, than he had done before. Having spoken so much of the bread which feeds and nourishes the soul, and preserves from death, the attention of his hearers was fixed upon his words, which to them appeared inexplicable; and they desired to know what their meaning was. He then told them that the bread meant his flesh, (his life,) which he was about to give up; to save the life of the world. Here our Lord plainly declares that his death was to be a vicarious sacrifice and atonement for the sin of the world; and that, as no human life could be preserved unless there was bread (proper nourishment) received, so no soul could be saved but by the merit of his death. Reader, remember this: it is one of the weightiest, and one of the truest and most important sayings in the book of God.”

Feed the Multitudes on the Fourth of July is about more than jambalaya and chicken, it is about more than watermelons and snowballs, it’s even about more than serving people who are needy. Feed the Multitudes is a picture of the Christian life. It is “God so loved the world” being expressed through our actions and our words. It is God’s love for lost sinners seen only in the death of His Son. This was the message Jesus gave to His questioners after they had eaten the bread and the fish, it is the same answer He gives to us today, He is the true bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

THE TABLE OF THE LORD

THE TABLE OF THE LORD

Psa. 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

David’s Psalm 23 is one of the best loved passages in the entire Bible. In it, we see the the tender love of Our Savior as He gently leads His sheep. One of the pictures David paints in this Psalm is The Lord graciously preparing a table for us in the presence of our enemies. David never sugar coated the message. How could he? His faith was forged in the fires of affliction. His God was the God who met him in the pit of despair. His songs were often written as prophetic words from The Lord to himself to comfort himself in the worst of times. That brings us back to the table of The Lord. This table is not in king’s palaces, this is a table found in the presence of enemies. David had learned to encourage himself in The Lord in the evil day. How did he do it? He comforted himself by coming to the table of The Lord. Here is what Charles Spurgeon says about this table.

“Behold the superlative liberality of the Lord Jesus, for he hath given us his all. Although a tithe of his possessions would have made a universe of angels rich beyond all thought, yet was he not content until he had given us all that he had. It would have been surprising grace if he had allowed us to eat the crumbs of his bounty beneath the table of his mercy; but he will do nothing by halves, he makes us sit with him and share the feast. Had he given us some small pension from his royal coffers, we should have had cause to love him eternally; but no, he will have his bride as rich as himself, and he will not have a glory or a grace in which she shall not share. He has not been content with less than making us joint-heirs with himself, so that we might have equal possessions.”

What exactly is on the menu at this table in the wilderness? First, we are feasting on the word of God. This word is soul food, it feeds and nourishes our soul on His words of faith. As David said “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!” As we delight ourselves in the goodness of God’s word, not only is it sweet to our taste, it also nourishes and feeds our souls. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” This bread that Jesus is speaking of is the word of God, the true bread that comes from heaven and gives life to the world.
The second fare on the menu is the new wine of the Holy Spirit. This new wine fills us with joy unspeakable and power to live and work for God in this world. Push up to the table, ignore your enemies, and delight yourself at the table of The Lord.