A Location

Micah 5:2-5a 2 “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.” 3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. 4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. 5 And he will be our peace when the Assyrians invade our land and march through our fortresses.

Luke 2:4-5 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

“Grace to you and peace from him who is, who was, and who is coming,” (Revelation 1:4)

The mantra of any real estate agent is “Location, location, location.” This is the number one rule in real estate. Homes increase or decrease in value based on location. You can change the structure of the house, remodel or alter the home’s layout, but what makes a home the most desirable is its location. Is it in a top school district? Is it close to a lake or a park? Is there is scenic view or entertainment and shopping nearby?

God knew that location, location, location was all important to the advent of His Son into humanity. God had picked out the location of Jesus’ birth from eternity. He promised the location 700 years before it happened. The prophet Micah prophesied: “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).

God set everything in motion for the location of His Son’s human birth around 1300 B.C. God used a famine to move Elimelech and Naomi and their two sons from Bethlehem in Judah to the country of Moab (Ruth 1:1). Their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, married two Moabite women – Orpah and Ruth. While in Moab, Elimelech died and then his two sons died. Now widowed, Orpah stayed in Moab to find another husband, while Naomi and Ruth moved to Bethlehem. Ruth supported herself and her mother-in-law by following the harvesters in the barley field of Naomi’s relative, Boaz. She picked up whatever grain was left laying after the harvest.

Ruth and Boaz were married and were blessed with a son, whom they named Obed. Obed eventually had a son whom he named Jesse. Jesse had eight sons; the youngest son’s name was David. David was anointed king of Israel and became Israel’s greatest king.

Bethlehem was the hometown of King David. God moved Elimelech and Naomi to Moab and then moved Naomi and Ruth to Bethlehem. God moved Ruth to work in Boaz’ field and moved them to fall in love and be married. God moved His people into location for Bethlehem to be the hometown of David.

1300 years later, God moved Joseph and Mary to that same little town of Bethlehem. We all memorized these verses from Luke 2: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child” (Luke 2:1-5).

Caesar Augustus, the mightiest man on earth, wanted a census to be taken of the entire Roman world so that he could have a registration list of all the subjects of his empire, so he could tax them fairly. Quirinius was the governor who was given authority to carry out the census.

Neither Caesar nor Quirinius knew that God was using them to move His holy family to the right location.

The prophet Micah announced that Jesus was to be born in the southern town of Bethlehem, not in Mary and Joseph’s hometown of Nazareth. To get them to the right location at the right time, God used the Roman Emperor and his governor to bring them 70 miles to Bethlehem to fulfill Micah’s prophecy.

One way or another, God saw to it that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem. God always keeps His promises, even if it means moving poor widows or influencing powerful emperors. Even if it means breaking the laws of nature so a virgin has a baby. It means that King David, Israel’s greatest king, would be followed by Jesus Christ, King David’s greater Son. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High: ‘The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end’” (Luke 1:32-33). Bethlehem means “house of bread.” That house of bread was the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

God had destined Bethlehem to be the location of the birthplace of His Son. Bethlehem was a little town, with its claim to fame being that King David had been a resident there.

Our birth destined us to a location, too – hell. Hell is horrific huge abyss. Its chief resident is Satan, the evil angel who had been cast out of heaven after leading a rebellion among the angels. Hell is the worst location in the entire spiritual realm. It is a location next to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Despite the flames, it is a place of outer darkness (Matthew 8:12). It certainly won’t be cold, but there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).

Hell is a place of living death. It is dying without ending. It is suffering without relief.

If you are afraid to go into the ghetto or any violent city or any war-torn area, that is nothing compared to the ultimate terror of hell. Jesus taught, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Hell is the place we deserve to go because of our sins. The sinful nature we inherited from our parents. The invisible sins of our potty mouth or lack of praise. The sin of our hands with our selfish grabbing or our apathetic giving.

These sins are crimes against our holy and just God. These crimes deserve punishment in the maximum prison of hell. Never-ending punishment. Punishment without reprieve is the fate that awaits those whose sins condemn them.

But hell doesn’t have to be our eternal destination. Though our birth into sin places us in hell, our rebirth through conversion and Baptism places us in heaven.

Location, location, location!

Heaven is a location that is filled with parks of green pastures and quiet waters (Psalm 23:2). Our inherited home is a mansion in the New Jerusalem, gleaming and glistening with gold, jasper and every precious stone (Revelation 21:19). Our home is overlooking the River of Life and the Tree of Life (Revelation 22:1-3).

Heaven will be the final destination of those who have faith in the Lord’s Child born in Bethlehem.

Just as God moved people in place so that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, so He allowed people to act upon their greed, cowardice, jealousy, fear and loathing, so that Jesus would be crucified in Jerusalem.

God allowed Judas in his greed to betray Jesus into the hands of armed guards. God permitted the cowardice of the disciples to run in fear and abandon their Master. God accepted the jealousy of the Sanhedrin in putting His innocent Son on trial for blasphemy. God used the loathing of the crowd shouting, “Crucify him!” to cause Jesus to carry His cross. God used another Roman governor to move His Son from the Praetorium to Golgotha to be crucified.

There on the cross, Jesus exchanged your invisible sins for His invisible righteousness. He paid for your visible sins with His visible wounds in His hands, feet, head and side. For all the sins of your mouth, Jesus opened His mouth to cry out, “It is finished!” For your inherited sin from Adam, Jesus became the second Adam to undo everything the first Adam had done. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit so He would be perfect in your place. Jesus endured the anguish of hell on the cross so that you could enjoy the glories of heaven.

It may seem like a little thing that Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem. But God moved everyone around so His Son could be born in Bethlehem so that you could be reborn through faith in that Babe of Bethlehem. Now through faith in Him, you are no longer destined for hell, but are predestined for heaven.

It is all about location, location, location. Amen.

“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)