Lesson 16: What Happened At Bethlehem?

Today we’re headed to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.  If you’d like to go with me into the Church of the Nativity and see for yourself the place underneath the altar of the church that has marked for centuries where they believe Jesus was born, take a look at this short video below. Then read on to learn why God might have chosen this place for the birth of His Son, and why having a heart like God’s can bear fruit even hundreds—if not thousands—of years later.

Watch “What Happened At Bethlehem?”

So what happened at Bethlehem? That’s where Jesus was born.

The Church of the Nativity has marked the spot ever since 327 A.D., when the church was built at the request of Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. Helena was shown this spot on her visit to the Holy Land as the birthplace of her Savior, and she had a church built there to commemorate it. The spot had already been noted as the birthplace of Jesus for hundreds of years before that time by locals and historians alike, such as Justin Martyr in the 2nd century, and Origen of Alexandria in the 3rd.

It’s amazing to think that Jesus was born on this spot, but it’s even more amazing to think that Jesus was ever born at all. To think that God, the Father, would love us so much that He would send His Son into the world to live among us, to tell us of His love, and to demonstrate that love by giving up His life for us so we could live with God forever, that’s what’s really amazing.

As Jesus said so succinctly:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

But why Bethlehem? Why did God want His Son to be born there? As with most things God does, God didn’t pick the city of Bethlehem out of a hat of possible locations at the last minute. He had foretold it, hundreds of years earlier, through the prophet Micah:

“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).

But why? What was it about Bethlehem that made it so special that God would honor it in this way? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that there was another man born in Bethlehem about a thousand years earlier about whom God had said:

“I have found David son of Jesse a man after My own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22b).

God honors those whose hearts are after His own heart:  people who love God so much that they will do whatever He wants them to do, whenever He wants them to do it and however God wants them to do it.

And look what God did for David as a result:

“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as He promised” (Acts 13:23).

I don’t think it was haphazard that God chose Bethlehem as the birthplace of His Son. It seems to me that because David had honored God with his life, God honored David with the life of His Son, even so many generations later.

Because of David’s love for God, God seemed to move heaven and earth, and even the Roman Emperor, to orchestrate things so that this descendant of David’s would be born back in David’s hometown. As Luke records:

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. …And everyone went to his 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. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:1,3-7).

Even the angels made the connection between Jesus’ birthplace and David’s, as one of them told the shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem that night:

“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” (Luke 2:10b-11).

David was a man after God’s own heart, and God honored his heart even a thousand years later. I pray you’ll commit today to being a man or woman after God’s own heart. You’ll be blessed—and so will future generations who will be blessed through your faith.

Let’s pray:

Father, thank You for sending Jesus to us here on earth, to live and die for us so that we could live with You forever. Help us commit to being men and women after Your own heart, so that we can bless Your heart, and the hearts of those in generations to come. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You're reading ISRAEL: LESSONS FROM THE HOLY LAND, by Eric Elder, featuring thirty inspiring devotionals based on the land where Jesus walked. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading ISRAEL: LESSONS FROM THE HOLY LAND, by Eric Elder, featuring thirty inspiring devotionals based on the land where Jesus walked. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

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