Jesus “was born in Bethlehem” in fulfillment of Micah 5:2 and in accord with the signs in the heavens. Men from the east who were keen observers of the normal patterns of astronomy saw something that was remarkable enough to send them on the long trip to Jerusalem to inquire about an important birth. They may have had access to the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers 24:17 which announced many centuries earlier: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”
King Herod did not share their enthusiasm regarding the coming of a divine ruler, although he feigned approval saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.” The religious authorities directed the visitors to Bethlehem, where the foreign travelers “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” when they found Jesus. “Being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”
God used angels to direct Joseph for the protection of “the child and His mother” by first sending the family to Egypt and then leading them out of that same country after “the death of Herod.” This was in fulfillment of Hosea 11:1, which originally referred to the whole nation being rescued out of Egypt. Now the toddler who would be King of the Jews was brought out of that nation of ancient bondage and taken back to the Promised Land. “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
In the meantime Herod had murdered all the boys in the region around Bethlehem who were “two years old or under.” The sorrow of the grieving mothers was in accord with Jeremiah 31:15. Though the original passage had been about the loss of older sons who were soldiers, the power of God to raise the dead was the same in both cases. According to the next verse in Jeremiah, “They shall come back from the land of the enemy,” though their mothers had been wailing because their children “were no more.” Only Yahweh could bring hope to those in such great distress, because only God could conquer death and bring people back life.
Joseph, Mary, and Jesus settled in Nazareth, a town in Galilee that was not considered a location of high esteem (John 1:45). As the prophets had predicted so long ago, the chosen Servant of the Lord would be “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3). Nonetheless, the words of Isaiah 9:1 had signaled that Galilee, a place that had been the object of “contempt” in former days, would eventually be the part of Canaan where rays of heavenly glory would first shine. “In the latter time He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, why have men hated Your Son even before He was known by them? What kind of spirit causes a Herod to pretend to be a worshiper of the one that he seeks to destroy? Jesus was the hope of even Gentiles who were seeking the coming of the Holy One as they looked to the skies. You have protected Your Son from powerful and evil men who hated His coming, yet He was born to die according to Your own plan of salvation. Grant us more life in Christ even now, for though He died, He lives forever.