Tag Archives: Bethlehem

In our last study, I mentioned a common misconception many Christians have about the Virgin Birth. They think it was by being born of a Virgin that Jesus was kept from inheriting our sinful human nature.  If you haven’t read that lesson, please take a few moments to do so.  You can find it just below this one.  Now, in this short study, I want to explain the first reason Jesus had to be Virgin Born.

Reason #1: To Fulfill Old Testament Prophecy

According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of people born since the beginning of time is approximately 108 billion.  But God promised that one (and just one!) of those babies would become the Savior of the world.  Scholars call it the proto-evangel—the first preaching of the good news by God Himself.  When did He make this declaration?  From the very moment of man’s fall into sin! Wasn’t that gracious of God?  To turn man’s most evil deed into a promise of forgiveness and salvation! Speaking to the serpent (possessed by the devil) who had deceived Eve and led both her and Adam to sin, the Lord God said:

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 ESV

OXYGEN Volume 09Two facts are obvious.  A human Savior would crush the work of Satan while suffering in the process.  But the second fact is equally gracious.  Though it was the woman who first opened the door to the devil, it would be through the seed of the woman that mankind would one day be saved.  Notice! No mention of the man’s seed is made. This is the first hint in Scripture of the Savior’s Virgin Birth.

But that raises a question:  With so many people having been born into the world, how would we who need a Savior recognize Him if He came? Even if the estimate of the Population Reference Bureau is inflated, it is clear that billions of souls have been born into this world.  For example, today we are told that there are over 7 billion people living on earth.  And you can be sure the same serpent who deceived Eve would love to deceive us into believing in the wrong one.

To make it clear who the Savior is, God came up with a foolproof plan. He chose a man named Abraham and his family (called the Hebrews or Jews), gave them His moral law, entrusted His promises to them in a sacred book called the Bible, and after hundreds of years of using them to prepare the world for His coming, He sent us His Son, the long-awaited Savior through the womb of a Jewish virgin by the name of Mary.  Over 60 major prophecies were fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus, many of which were beyond His control. For example, Genesis 12:1-3, 2 Samuel 7:12-13, and Micah 5:2 said He would be a descendant of Abraham and David and be born in Bethlehem, a little town 6.2 miles south of Jerusalem.

But the clearest identifier and the most amazing prophecy is the one found in Isaiah 7:14, written 700 years before the birth of Christ.  In a time of war when the survival of the royal line of David was in question, God promised King Ahaz, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

This is a prophecy which has been continually attacked by critics of the Bible.  They argue that the Hebrew word for “virgin” (almah) can mean young woman instead of virgin.  But this is quickly corrected if you consult the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made 200 years before the birth of Christ. For the Greek word chosen by the Hebrew scholars to translate almah is parthenos which is only used to describe a virgin, that is, a young woman who has never had sexual relations with a man.

But what seals the deal and ends all argument is the fulfillment of this prophecy described by the Apostle Matthew.  Four times in five verses, he assures us that Mary was a virgin, that no man was involved in the birth of Jesus, but that He was conceived by a miracle of the Holy Spirit.  I have underlined the key phrases.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.  But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”  And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25

Luke’s account adds further support. He says it was to a “virgin” named Mary that Gabriel appeared and revealed that she would give birth to the Savior.  But Mary was confused, giving further proof of her virginity.  She humbly asked the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  The angel explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:26-35

Why, then, is the Virgin Birth important?  It proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the one and only Savior of the world is Jesus born, as the Bible promised, to a virgin named Mary two thousand years ago in the little town of Bethlehem.

Of course, deceivers abound.  Did you know, for example, that Jesus’ life both began with a lie and ended with a lie?  In order to explain away the miraculous birth of Jesus, His religious enemies spread the rumor that He was illegitimate, that Mary was impregnated by a Roman soldier passing through the village of Nazareth.  We see a hint of this in John 8:41 where His enemies scoff, “We were not born of fornication.” I have underlined the word “we,” which is an emphatic pronoun in the Greek language by which they compare themselves with Jesus.  In other words, they are saying, “We weren’t born of fornication like you were!”

What was the lie told following His resurrection?  Matthew 28:11-15 records it. In order to keep the people from believing in Jesus, the chief priests and elders bribed the Roman soldiers who guarded His tomb to say that His disciples came by night and stole His body while they slept.  How implausible!  Roman soldiers risking the death penalty by sleeping on guard duty?  And twelve cowardly disciples able to overpower a squad of seasoned soldiers?

But people believe what they want to believe.  If you are willing to accept the Virgin Birth of Christ, there is more than enough evidence to rely on.  But if you have made up your mind that you do not want to believe, the devil will be glad to plant enough doubts in your mind that you will find it difficult if not impossible to believe. Don’t let him do that to you!  After all, what is left to those who reject the Virgin Birth of Jesus?  Nothing! No forgiveness of sins and no assurance of salvation!  For if Jesus is not Messiah, no one is.  Only He has the credentials to be Savior of the world.  The Apostle Paul offers this assurance in Galatians 4:4.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Reread the passages I have cited and be fully assured.  Jesus is the one and only Savior to whom you can turn this very moment to forgive your sins, to comfort your heart, and to answer your prayers.  Bible prophecy assures us of it.  That is the first reason the Virgin Birth matters.  In our next study we’ll take a look at a second and even more important reason.

Blood Red at Christmas: A Lament for San Bernadino

New post on Chasing Ebenezer

Blood Red at Christmas: A Lament for San Bernardino

by Heidi Sadler – December 2, 2015

Blood Red at Christmas: A Lament San Bernardino

An optimistic van hosting a blood drive in a grocery store parking lot called out to me as I passed by in my Subaru; at the same time, I listened to the frantic voices of reporters on the radio as they provided moment-by-moment updates on the shooting in San Bernardino, California. Simultaneously, a call for the gift of blood mingles with cry of innocent bloodshed. Blood crying out for justice, blood crying out for answers. Blood in California, blood in Paris, blood in Charleston…Blood in every corner of the world.

We hear daily stories of violence, of hatred, of evil. While violence is not a new thing, each life is valuable, making every fresh loss feel as if we’ve heard about it for the first time.

Listening to the unfolding of this shooting in San Bernardino, a hollow pit burrowed its way deep into my stomach. When I think about all the evil in the world, the temptation is to slip into despair. For many of you who have experienced tragedy, you know that there often are no words to alleviate the pain. Advice-giving, telling you that we understand, offering up religious platitudes – this is not helpful. So how do we adequately express the grief, the agony, the horror?

What is the appropriate response to such pain?

Two thousand years ago, another major bloodbath against innocent babes occurred. The second chapter in the book of Matthew (found in the New Testament of the Bible) details the story of a king named Herod who ordered the slaughter of little boys in the region surrounding Bethlehem. Infants, toddlers – all boys – two years and younger – put to death by soldiers. Rightly so, a lament is lifted up. The record is as follows:

A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more. (ESV)

Rather than offer up plausible solutions, it seems that making room for grief is the most appropriate response that I can offer up on behalf of yesterday’s blood.

San Bernardino, I lament for the loss of life. For the terror. For the loss of innocence. As a member of the human race, I confess that I am prone to anger. I am prone to selfishness. I am prone to pride, to arrogance, to hatred in my heart. I cry out for justice on your behalf.

Today I make room for grief.

If I only make room for grief, then I will be consumed with despair. Along with lamenting, I must also choose to hope. Not hope in how good people are or hope that there will be no more killing. No, the only true words of hope I cling to were written a long time ago:

…Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

These words don’t mean that the tragic events we experience are any less tragic. On the contrary, the more we love, the more opportunity we have to be wounded. What these words do mean to me is that one day, there will be an end to the shedding of blood. No more bombings, no more shootings, no more abuse. No more evil.

Today as I make room for grief, I also make room for hope.

Thinking of San Bernardino today, rather than ramble on, I offer up a simple lament:

A Lament for San Bernardino

Red. Blood red. The crimson blood cries out. The blood screams for justice and asks, “Why?”

How long, O Lord? How long must we wait? How long?

I lift my voice, my one and only voice and say, “Return.”

You came long ago. You brought Light into the darkness, and now we wait again.

I wait in expectancy. Wait for the wrong to be made right.

Emmanuel, God with us. I cry out for the second coming. I cry out for justice. I cry out for mercy.

Written by Heidi Sadler. © 2015 Heidi Sadler. All Rights Reserved. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Please read more of Heidi Schwarz Sadler’s writing at http://www.chasingebenezer.com. It may change your heart!