“‘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.’ Therefore Israel
will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth
and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. 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. And he will
be their peace” (Mic. 5:2–5)
When we listen to many Christmas carols and look at most Christmas
cards, we find them filled with sentimental words such as tidings,
goodwill, noel, cheer, and merry. Scenes typically depict a newborn
two-year-old with radiant beams from His holy face, ox and ass bowing
before Him, and halos hovering above Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. We call
it a manger, not a feed trough; we call it a nativity, not a birth. We
do all we can to wipe away the ignobility the Bible explicitly
states—Christ’s birth represented humility in the truest sense of the
Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Micah prophesied that One
coming from eternity would bring the Jews back to their land and rule
Israel with worldwide fame in the strength of the Lord. And this mighty
Messiah would come from the ignoble little town of Bethlehem. Why such
humility? Micah blended both advents into one prophesy, as the author
of Hebrews summarized so well: “Christ was sacrificed once to take away
the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear
sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Heb.
We needed a Savior before a King. “If Jesus were born one thousand
times in Bethlehem and not in me, then I would still be lost,” Corrie
Ten Boom said. So appropriate remain the words Phillips Brooks
penned in 1868 after a Christmas Eve in Bethlehem: “In thy dark streets
shineth the everlasting Light: the hopes and fears of all the years are
met in thee tonight.”
Lord Jesus, the only way we could ever have peace on earth and goodwill
among us was for the sin among us to be removed. I worship You for the
indignity You embraced, from Your cradle
to Your cross, that we might receive forgiveness and live in glory.
A Refuge in the Loneliness
A psalm of David, when he was in the cave. A prayer.
“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I
pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my
spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path
where I walk men have hidden a snare for me. Look to my right and see;
no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.
I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land
of the living’” (Ps. 142:1–5).
While the holiday season provides many people with happiness and
special traditions, it also evokes painful memories—sore spots in
childhood or the loss of loved ones—for others. While many celebrate
the joys of life, many others suffer its loneliness.
During one of the most desperate times of his life, David, the anointed
and future king of Israel, found himself running from two separate
enemies. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east,
David sought refuge in the Cave of Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1). He felt
utterly alone. But in his prayer he confessed to God that only God knew
the way he should turn. In the Hebrew the word “you” stands emphatic.
Only God understood David’s troubles. And so from the depths of this
cave, David confessed, “You are my refuge.” David’s phrases illustrate
the tension between anguish of soul and dependence on God. A desperate
loneliness often feels like a prison as it did to David.
But when we feel overwhelmed and alone, we should remember the Lord
intimately knows us and concerns Himself with our lives. David teaches
us what we must hear: the lonely times are when we should seek refuge
in God through prayer instead of the world’s solutions. God wants to
teach us during these struggles what David affirmed: “You are all I
really want in life” (Ps. 142:5 nlt).
God, when I feel alone I cling to Your promises, “I will not abandon
you as orphans” (John 14:18) … “I will never leave you nor forsake you”
(Deut. 31:6). Help me see loneliness as Your call for me to come to
The End and the Beginning
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as
crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle
of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the
tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every
month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb
will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his
face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more
night. They will not need the light of the lamp or the light of the
sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for
ever and ever” (Rev. 22:1–5).
The Bible begins with the tree of life alongside the tree forbidden. So
the created earth became the arena in which man could fulfill his
purpose to rule under God for His glory. The fall of man into sin
cursed not only mankind but all creation. In Malachi’s final words the
Old Testament ends not far from its beginning, clutching a hope of
redemption from the curse: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah
before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes … or else I will
come and strike the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:5–6).
The coming of Christ provided the ultimate sanction of the earth He
created. And God revealed the dignity of humanity by becoming a man.
While on earth Jesus fulfilled humanity’s original purpose of
demonstrating God’s glory by living an obedient life—obedient even to
death on a cross. And through His atoning sacrifice Jesus removed the
curse, providing all mankind the opportunity to “eat the fruit from the
tree of life” (Rev. 22:17 nlt).
From the first chapter of the Bible to the last, God used the physical
earth as the stage to demonstrate man’s spiritual life. The new heaven
and earth reproduce the same intention as the originals in that they
provide a platform for man to rule under, and so glorify, God. Let us
live on the earth for the purpose for which God created us—His glory.
Oh, You, who are the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the
Beginning and the End, will cause the end of the earth—and the
beginning of a new one. I long to walk in such a place where I may
behold Your face, rule the earth under Your authority, and display Your
magnificent glory forever and ever—the purposes for which You created
me so long ago.