Bethlehem: Home of the Beloved

Advent{ures}: Let’s Go to Bethlehem

 

Benjamin*: God’s beloved;
God’s permanent residence.
Encircled by God all day long,
within whom God is at home.


Deuteronomy 33:12 (The Message)

But you, Bethlehem, David’s country,
the runt of the litter—
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule Israel.
He’ll be no upstart, no pretender.
His family tree is ancient and distinguished.
Meanwhile, Israel will be in foster homes
until the birth pangs are over and the child is born,
And the scattered brothers come back
home to the family of Israel.
He will stand tall in his shepherd-rule by God’s strength,
centered in the majesty of God-Revealed.
And the people will have a good and safe home,
for the whole world will hold him in respect—
Peacemaker of the world!

Micah 5:2-4 (The Message)

*While Jesus was descended from Judah, the tribe of Benjamin is closely associated with Judah.  Bethlehem was part of Judah’s inheritance and Jerusalem was part of the territory that both tribes inherited. Yet, symbolically they both have rich connections with the Messiah.
 

No history of the town of Bethlehem would be complete without a mention of David, the most beloved king of Israel. His name literally means “beloved.”  He is the one remembered as the man after God’s own heart.

After the debacle of the period of the judges and the miracle of Ruth and Boaz becoming the great-grandparents of David, the descendants of Jacob/Israel continue to move steadily toward becoming a nation. And as a nation, they desire a king. Moses had warned them that if they chose to be ruled by an earthly king, life would be more difficult. But they insist on moving away from a theocracy to a monarchy.

For their first king, a tall, handsome lad from the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by God. Saul appeared to have a promising future, until he stepped over the line of his role as king. One day on the field of battle, he gave in to fear or pride or both, and made an offering to God outside of God’s prescribed way, after earlier disobeying God’s command to completely destroy the enemy, which was an edict for their protection.
 
Saul fell back into that pattern of “doing what was right in his own eyes” with the twist of justifying his actions by asserting that he was worshipping God. After his disobedience and lack of repentance, God chooses a new leader for his people.

God sends Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint God’s beloved, a young shepherd boy, a son of Jesse. Samuel assumes God is looking for another tall, handsome lad. But this time God lets Samuel know appearances don’t make a man, but the heart.

Samuel pours the anointing oil over David’s head and it drips down his ruddy face. That day he becomes a marked man, marked for both triumph and adversity. For a period of time, he hides out in caves to escape the wrath of Saul, who hasn’t accepted God’s new plan graciously.
 
In this time of exile, David gathers around himself valiant men, who would give their lives for their captain. One day, David longs for the well of his youth. He thirsts for home. Three of his valiant men overhear David’s lament for this water from Bethlehem. They leave their stronghold, sneak through the ranks of the Philistines who have occupied the town. They triumphantly bring back the water to their leader and he pours it out before their eyes. They must wonder at his lack of gratitude, but he explains that to drink it would be to disregard the risk they took to get it. They risked their very lives to ease his homesickness.

I cannot say that I totally understand David’s action, but I notice a greater picture of sacrifice foreshadowed by their valor. David and his valiant men risked all for a drink of water. Jesus poured out his very life to quench our thirst forever.

O Little town of Bethlehem, where bread and water satisfy, where tragedy and redemption intertwine, where kings and kingdoms arise and where longing for home stirs.

2 thoughts on “Bethlehem: Home of the Beloved

  1. Love this post for I have visited Bethlehem several times. There is a huge church built over the place where they say Jesus was born. You walk down a flight of stairs and come into an ornate room with a star in the floor to repersent the place. Far cry from the stable with hay he was born in. My heart wanted to ask "why" did you not leave it the same way as it was. Funny how religion wants to dress things up and take the reality out of everything. But since I worship Him from my heart where He now resides I can worship Him anywhere, church, field, home, it's not about the place but about Him. Good post.

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