Our Strategic God
Although this is about the birth of Jesus, it is relevant for His death and resurrection because as this account shows, He was born the spotless Lamb of God. later in His life to die on a cross and rise from the dead to pay the price to redeem humankind. Please feel free to leave your comments.
“…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, NIV)
It was not by accident that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. To gain insight, we must go back to the account of Jacob and Rachel in the Old Testament. Rachel was pregnant with her second child as she and Jacob journeyed from Bethel, where God had appeared to Jacob when he was fleeing from his brother, Esau. When they came near Ephrath, she went into hard labour and gave birth to a son, whom Jacob named Benjamin. The Scripture says that "..Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel's tomb. Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder" (Genesis 35: 19 - 21, NIV).
Migdal Eder, which means tower of the flock, was approximately one thousand paces from Bethlehem and a place of elevation. Shepherds would watch over their flocks which grazed in the valley below. Several generations after Jacob and Rachel, it became the place where the unblemished and unspotted firstborn lambs used for the yearly Passover feast as well as other Temple sacrifices were raised. It was not ordinary shepherds who watched over these sheep but priestly shepherds from the tribe of Levi.
Over six hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Micah, the prophet foretold that Jesus would be born there. "And you, O tower of the flock, the hill and stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto you the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the Daughter of Jerusalem" (Micah 4:8, AMPC).
Migdal Eder was a two-storey tower. At night, from the top, the shepherds would watch over their flock. The lower storey was a birthing centre where the shepherds brought the ewes to give birth. This was the specific tower to which Micah referred.
To prevent the lambs from thrashing around, hurting themselves and becoming blemished in some way, after the birth, the shepherds wrapped the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes and laid them in a stone that had been hewn out - the manger, which was kept ceremonially clean. Then the priest would come and inspect each lamb to ensure that they met the requirement of purity and spotlessness.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2: 8 – 12, NIV).
The shepherds knew the prophecy of Micah in Micah 4:8. They also knew that Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" (Micah 5: 2, NIV). The shepherds knew to search for the Messiah in the manger at the watchtower in Bethlehem.
I'm sure you're seeing the picture. Jesus was the final sacrificial lamb - the Passover lamb. Born in the fields of Bethlehem - a firstborn Son, watched over by Levitical shepherds, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a ceremonially clean manger. John the Baptist recognized Him when he saw Jesus walking toward him and said, “.Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29, NIV). Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God Who bore the punishment we should have and rose triumphantly on the third day, procuring forgiveness from sin for all who will accept Him.
I am personally amazed at how God arranged the details of His Son's birth. And my friend, the God Who made everything come together in the birth of His precious Son has your name written on the palm of His hand. "See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands..." Isaiah 49:16, MEV). He has planned our days before we were born. "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed" (Psalm 139:16, NLT). In these days of uncertainty and unrest, God is still in control. He has a plan for you and if you know Jesus as your Saviour, His plan for you is good. So today, enter His rest. He will get you where you need to go.
Tested by Fire
The account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found in the third chapter of the book
of Daniel in the Old Testament humbles me. These three young men and Daniel were some of the captives taken from Israel when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon besieged Jerusalem. They were without blemish and skillful in wisdom and were to be educated for three years in all the learning of the Babylonians so that they could serve in the king’s palace.
While the young men were in Babylon, king Nebuchadnezzar set up an image of gold and told the people that whenever they heard certain music playing, they were to fall down and worship the image. If anyone failed to do so, they would be thrown into a fiery furnace.
King Nebuchadnezzar had put Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in charge of the province of Babylon. Some astrologers, perhaps jealous because of the position the three young men had attained, went and informed on the Jews, reporting to the king that they did not fall down and worship the golden image.
The king flew into a rage and brought in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to appear before him and gave them an opportunity to mend their ways. It is the courage of their answer that humbles me. Daniel 3: 16-18 NLT says, “…we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power…But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (italics mine).
Even if God didn’t deliver them, they would not back down and worship foreign gods. This causes me to ask myself a serious question. If God doesn’t answer my prayers as I feel He should, do I abandon His Word and His promises? Do I step away and say, “This believing God’s Word doesn’t work?” The three young men didn’t. They were willing to believe God to the death.
You know the rest of the story. Although they were thrown into the fiery furnace, the Scripture says that the fire had no power over them. Their hair was not singed and their clothes did not even smell of smoke. And when king Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace, he said, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace? Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” (verses 24 and 25). I believe that the fourth was the pre-incarnate Son of God who came and delivered them, circumventing the laws of nature and supernaturally protecting them from certain death.
What does this account have to do with us today in 2021? It reminds us that God is faithful to His promises. Psalm 138: 2b says that God has exalted His word above His name. If He has said it in His Word, He will do it. His Word is established forever. So don’t back down on the promises God has given you for whatever situation you’re facing. Don’t look at the contrary circumstances. Don’t be tossed about by the wind and the waves. Stand! And like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, your deliverance will come.
A Set Time
God has a set time for your problem to turn around, a set time for your healing, a set time for your breakthrough. Habakkuk 2: 2-3 in The Message says the following: “…Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming – it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If is seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.”
You probably know the story in the Old Testament Book of Daniel, the tenth chapter. Daniel saw from the words of the prophet Jeremiah that the desolation of Jerusalem would last for seventy years. Seventy years had passed and the exiles in Babylon had not returned to Israel. Daniel fasted, prayed and confessed his sins and the sins of his people and asked the Lord to act and not delay regarding His chosen people.
God’s response to Daniel’s prayer took twenty-one days to arrive. In Daniel 10: 12-13 we read, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me…”
What delayed the answer? Spiritual warfare. Never forget, though that the battle is always the Lord’s. 1 Samuel 17: 47 says, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s…”
The verses in Habakkuk tell us that if the answer seems slow in coming, we are to wait. We don’t like to wait, do we? I know I don’t. But the spiritual force of patience gives faith endurance until the answer comes. Patience looks to the Word of God and stands on the promises of God. It does not look at what the five physical senses perceive.
Remember, the Lord has a set time. Your answer is on the way.
In this Blog, I want to share with you some of the things I've learned from many years of following Jesus.