Christmas Meditation 2015
Terror in Bethlehem
In potent language, the Lord speaks through a mother of Israel from the vantage point of her grave near unto the little town of Bethlehem:
Jeremiah 31:15 “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children re fused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.”
Though long dead, this matriarch is raised in poetic language as a witness to the terrible desolation which has befallen her children. Israel, because of unbelief and gross idolatry, has fallen prey to the king of Babylon, the country has been laid waste and multitudes have been killed by a foreign invader. Those who survived are now being gathered near Rama to enter into bondage and captivity.
Centuries before this prophecy, poor Rachel the favorite barren wife of Jacob, wanted a child to the point of driving her husband crazy.
Genesis 30:1-2 1“And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 2 And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?”
The jealousy between sisters married to the same man, Jacob, could aptly be described as the ‘war of the wombs.’ It was from this contest of sisters and their handmaids Jacob sired the twelve tribes of Israel.
In the fullness of God’s timing, (not Rachel’s) …
“God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.” Genesis 30:22-24
Yes and the Lord shall add unto Rachel another son who will be called Benjamin which means ‘son of my right hand’ as named by Jacob. But as Rachel lay dying after giving birth to her second son, she calls him Ben-Oni or ‘son of my sorrow’. Is it not true children can be a tremendous joy and a bitter pill at the same time? Thankfully, for Ben’s sake, the name Benjamin stayed with him.
Genesis 35:19-20. 19“ And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.”
This brings us back to the graveside and the context of Jeremiah’s prophetic view through the eyes of mother Rachel who turning in her grave sees the desolation of her children killed or going into captivity. It is from this vantage point God inspires the Apostle Matthew to take a look at another terrible tragedy unfolding as the result of another mother and the miraculous birth of her child.
Matthew 2:16-20 16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men,was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.”
NEWS ALERT: “Terror in Bethlehem” Last night the tranquility of the little town of Bethlehem was shattered by anguished terrified screams of mothers as their boy infants from two years of age and under were ripped from their mother’s arms and put to the sword. Initial reports coming into Jerusalem via traders who were eyewitnesses of the carnage, estimate somewhere between twenty and forty infant children may have been murdered. Apparently King Herod’s spies had already marked the homes where the innocent babes lived in order to carry out this gruesome task so as to minimize any possible resistance. Soldiers in full battle armor invaded the city of David just before dawn. Teams of soldiers were strategically and quietly placed before unsuspecting homes. At the sound of the trumpet they simultaneously smashed their way into the homes pinning the fathers helpless to their beds and stealing from cribs and mother’s breast suckling infants to an insane slaughter. As quickly as they came, the soldiers left. Mingled with the hollow echo of receding marching feet was the unearthly sound of scores of families screaming, wailing, crying in uncontrollable anguish. Between the tortured gasps of grief, only one word could be heard. “Why?”
Again, poor Rachel looks from the vantage point of her grave upon the little town of Bethlehem to witness the slaughter of the innocents. But why this gruesome sight? Why this bloodletting? Why this attack upon innocent babies? Christmas!
God promised Adam and Eve a seed which would one day come and vanquish the Serpent.
Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between thee (Satan) and the woman,(Eve) and between thy seed (followers of Satan) and her seed;(the Biblical lineage which leads to the birth of Jesus) it (Jesus) shall bruise thy (Satan’s) head, and thou (Satan) shalt bruise his (Jesus at the cross) heel.”
Satan, since his rebellion and his deception resulting in the human race plunging into sin, has been fighting a running battle throughout time to destroy the promise of God which states the seed of the woman would one day crush the serpent’s head. There has been a struggle between satanically inspired men against the children who embrace their Creator since the Garden of Eden. The first terrorist was Cain who destroyed his brother over religious jealousy. Able sought to worship God according to the will of God. Cain sought to worship the Lord according to his own works and the dictates of his heart. Able was accepted. Cain was rejected and corrected by God but Cain refused to repent. In a jealous rage, he kills his brother over what is an appropriate sacrifice. He kills his brother over his man-made religion.
Wicked King Herod is of this satanically inspired seed which is jealous of the promised seed of the woman spoken to him by the Wise Men from the East.
Matthew 2:1-8 1“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.”
When Herod hears of where this competing king is to come from, he seeks aid from the wise men to locate this potential threat to his throne. God warns the Kings of the East not to report to Herod resulting in a two year delay. This is the reason why Herod kills all potential threats from two years old on down in Bethlehem to protect competition for his throne. The seed of the serpent is seeking to destroy the seed of the woman, the Christ child.
Paris, New York, Mali, Brussels and many other places know the terror of men warped by religion lit on the fire of man’s imagination. Some would say if we could just do away with all religion the world would be free. Really? How many millions have been killed by the failed State of the Soviet Union under Stalin, China under Moa, or other communist socialist states who have sought to erase God from their countries?
Even in the United States, terror reaches into a place which ought to be safe – the mother’s womb. 54,559,615 abortions have taken place since the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973 and counting. I agree with the critics when they say religion leads to death…whether that religion is secular humanism which teaches our children they are the result of the role of cosmic dice and mere animals, or the thirty years war in Europe (1618-48) where Catholics and Protestants fought each other, or the Crusades, or the Cults where people are led to drink poisoned Kool-Aid, or led to a fiery death with the wacko from Waco, or Heaven’s Gate 39 followers who committed suicide to hitch a ride on a spacecraft in the shadow of Halley’s comet. Unfortunately, the list can go on and on.
But Christmas is not about a religion warped and made by man. It is the revelation of the person of God wrapped in human flesh on a rescue mission to save fallen humanity. Do you want a litmus test to know the difference between the religion of man and the revelation of God? It is pretty simple. Religion kills, but Jesus saves. The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph,
Matthew 1:20-23 23“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
Jesus is not about our death and dying; He is all about our living. Christmas does involve a death, but it is His death, not yours or mine. God does not want us damned or lost.
John 3:17 “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
The terror spawned by the seed of the Serpent still rages in lost human hearts, but there is an answer and a power which transcends the poison of this warped fallen angel and those deceived to follow him. I would take you to Bethlehem to look upon a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, Emanuel – God with us. I would take you to the Scriptures to follow the young Rabbi Jesus as he faithfully executed His Father’s will as he rebuked the religion of His day and presented Himself as the messiah King the world needed. I would have you look upon the blood-stained cross where Jesus died for you and for me to pay the penalty for our sin. I would ask you to look beyond the stone rolled away to an empty tomb and the reality of a resurrected Christ. And then I would ask you to look within your heart and see if Jesus is there, because if Jesus resides in your heart, you are beyond the terror of Satan, death, hell and sin. Wrapped in the loving arms of Jesus is the best Christmas wrap I know. Jesus is the best gift I can share. Jesus saved me. Religion can never save, Baptist or otherwise. Has he saved you?
I wish and hope for you a Merry Christmas,
Pastor John Schofield
John 10:10 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”