Going to BethlehemBy Dan Vis
December 13, 2021
Given the holiday season, I thought it might be nice to repost this article from a couple years back. It actually raises a pretty profound question every believer should spend at least a few moments contemplating...
Some time back, I heard an excellent sermon worth passing on to our FAST community. Not only was it appropriate for the Christmas season, but it touched on one of the most curious incidents recorded in the Bible related to the birth of Jesus. I've contemplated the story many times myself. Here's the key passage:
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 Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
If you read the story carefully, you will notice there are three main nationalities represented.
First, you have the Wise Men from the East. Most likely they were from the region of Babylon, who were famous in the ancient world for their study of the stars. It's not clear exactly what they observed, or how they knew it foretold the birth of a Jewish King. But most likely they saw some evidence of the angelic choir that came to herald the birth of Jesus. And quite likely they were familiar with Balaam's prophecy of Numbers 24:17I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.. Connecting the two things prompted them to make their long Journey.
Second, you have the Romans, far to the West. Herod was a puppet king installed by the government of Rome, who with his legions of Roman soldiers, had been tasked with governing the province. This cruel and despotic king may not have been a stargazer, but he was alert to political whisperings about a potential rival to the throne, and quickly gathered information and implemented a plan to safeguard his throne. That plan ultimately involved sending Roman soldiers to Bethlehem to kill every male child under the age of two.
And last, you have the Jews themselves. This included both the common people who witnessed the arrival of those curious Wise Men, and the priests who were invited to come answer Herod's questions. The priests, in particular, knew the Scriptures well, and had spent their whole lives preparing for the coming of the Messiah. For centuries the Jewish nation had eagerly anticipated the event, and it had finally come.
Now here is the point that has always caught my attention: The Babylonians went to Bethlehem. And the Romans went to Bethlehem. But the Jewish priests stayed home.
“The Babylonians went to Bethlehem. And the Romans went to Bethlehem. But the Jewish priests stayed home.”
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The Babylonians had little more to go on than some strange sighting in the stars, an arcane prophecy, and a bit of speculation--but it was enough to get them there.
The Romans had little more then political whisperings and an old cryptic scroll, plus a bit of personal ambition--but it was enough to get them there too.
But the Jewish leaders? The ones with the deepest insights into the Scriptures? The ones who had been looking forward to this event their whole lives? The ones with the most to gain? They seemed to have no interest in checking things out for themselves.
According to Google, it is only six miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. You could walk that distance in a couple hours, and if you were in decent shape, could make it back home in a single day. It would be easy on a horse, or chariot. The greatest event in the history of the world had happened just six miles down the road--and they had no desire to learn more.
It was the exact event the Jewish nation had been raised up to proclaim--and they couldn't be bothered to check it out for themselves.
The Bible doesn't give us the exact reason. But it's quite possible they had become comfortable in their knowledge of the Scriptures. Their religious identity. Their spiritual status. They had become complacent. And as a result, they missed out on an amazing opportunity to welcome Jesus into the world.
As we head into the New Year, we need to be careful to not make the same mistake. To be comfortable. To be complacent. To miss out on opportunities to find Jesus. Or find Him more fully. Rather, we should determine to press forward in our walk with God. We should determine to climb higher! To do all we can to live our lives for God!
CommentsWhy do you think the Jewish leaders failed to go to Bethlehem, when the Babylonians and Romans both went? What keeps us from seeking Jesus today? Share your thoughts in the comments below...
|Posted by Dan Vis on 12/15/21|
|That's very possible. :) So important to try and remain teachable ourself, isn't it Cindy?|
|Posted by Cynthia Angell on 12/15/21|
|maybe they were know-it-alls. Know-it-alls are not humble (teachable). they are not willing to listen to anything that is not their own idea.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 12/14/21|
|That's a great goal Marion! I'm scheduled to preach on Sabbath. Praying about what to share. A special opportunity!|
|Posted by Marion Coppock on 12/14/21|
|I don’t want to get to busy during this holiday season so I don’t have time to seek Jesus every day.
Christmas Day is on Sabbath this year what a wonderful day to spend time contemplating the birth of Jesus
|Posted by Dan Vis on 01/31/20|
|Yep! No reason they couldn't have made it Tabitha. Six miles is a good morning jog. Of course then you have to spend another hour jogging back--which is different from using a treadmill!|
|Posted by Tabitha Phiri on 01/30/20|
|Six miles for sure is daily trips for many people around the world by foot. Kids walk the distance to school every day.|
|Posted by Carla Phillips on 12/27/19|
|Love these good christian reads like going to Bethlehem and others you posted . A great way to share with others too. Count down to 2020.|
|Posted by Carole Bliss on 12/17/19|
|I am thinking the Jewish leaders were too content with their knowledge, they may not feel they needed any more evidence. It's about relationship not knowledge,that we need more of.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 12/16/19|
|We do live in exciting times, though we don't always seem to realize it. I'm praying for a great revival among God's people Bartholomew. Let's pray for it together!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 12/16/19|
|Yes Valerie, that's the question we all need to face! But praise God, heaven is indeed happy and even eager to help!|
|Posted by Keith on 12/25/18|
|Could the Wise Men also have had a copy of Daniel, and were looking at Daniel 9, and the timeline, since they knew by association with the Jews who remained in Babylon, and heard of the seventy-year Prophecy of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, and had figured out the 490-year or Seventy-week Prophecy that the Birth of the Messiah was imminent? Complacency, can be similar to standing to close to a painting and missing the overall perspective.
Also, after hearing for ages of a coming Messiah, and after being under the thumbs of: the Babylonians, the Medes & Persians, the Greeks, and now the Romans; could they have begun looking at the promise of a deliverer become a myth? The Bible states that there is an apathy concerning the Second Coming,:
II Peter 3:3-43 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. KJV
 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,  And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
Hearing about and seeing so many false messiahs come and go, has the same affect as "Peter and the Wolf;" hope wanes. But, since tomorrow is NOT promised, we should live everyday, as if it was the day of His Second Advent. For we have more than ample evidence of the faithful of Scripture, by looking historically at the accuracy of the prophetic timelines, that we are without excuse. We have the fulfillment of the 2300-hundred days, and the Second Beast of Revelation 13, "Speaking like a dragon" as never before. We know about the missed opportunity that occurred in 1888; and here we are again, displaying the same hatred regarding "Women's Ordination," as they displayed regarding "Righteousness by Faith." Unity? The perfecting of the Saints prior to probation closing on us? Are we going to allow Satan to sift us over such dribble, by becoming self-righteous against those who do not interpret Scripture according to MY VIEW? How does that stop me from hating, lusting, and worse yet, "DEMANDING MY OWN WAY" (seeks not her own)? Fighting over "RULES," while losing out on Agape Love and "The Sealing" appears to be choosing remedial behavior (Satan's Sandbox) over "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Exposing our still needing milk, over spiritual meat; and proving we are still carnal, rather than truly converted and spiritually mature. Just my humble observation...looking at the Star in the East, or is that a cloud like a man's hand?
|Posted by Dan Vis on 12/25/18|
|You are very welcome Denice! So true about truth needing to sink down into our hearts.
Great post David and welcome back! :) I esp appreciated your comments about the need for periodic self-assessment, and your whole paragraph about Galatians 4:19My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,. A very powerful verse.
I'm sure you are right Samuel. We do need to keep our minds open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We can trust Him to lead His people... I didn't mention in, but I find it interesting that while the Jewish priests never went, the Jewish shepherds beat both the Babylonians and the Romans. :)
|Posted by David Jeffrey Grabe on 12/24/18|
|Greetings all FAST Friends, in the Lovely Saviour's Holy Name!
My computer has been down for the past 2 days and I've missed the fellowship!
Hope and pray all are well! Thank you Pastor Dan, for this post "Going to Bethlehem" It does seem so strange that, as you said, "The ones with the deepest insights into the Scriptures? The ones who had been looking forward to this event their whole lives? The ones with the most to gain? They seemed to have no interest in checking things out for themselves."
And it is so true of God's people today, how we could fall into the same trap of missing out on God's greatest blessings & opportunities that are yet before us! It is like you stated, "we need to be careful to not make the same mistake. To be comfortable. To be complacent. To miss out on opportunities to find Jesus. Or find Him more fully. Rather, we should determine to press forward in our walk with God. We should determine to climb higher!"
It would be wise for us to cultivate an attitude of daily self-examination:
"Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?(an immoral or unprincipled person) II Corinthians 13:5Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
Since "the hour of His judgment has come" according to God's Angel(Revelation 14:6,7And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, . . . Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.), let us each one perform some self-assessment and invite Him to "shew us"..."what is good, and what does the LORD require of us..."(Micah 6:8He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?)
I think about what Paul said to the Galatians, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth AGAIN until Christ be formed in you."Galatians 4:19My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,(Paul had said previously, "For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." I Corinthians 4:15For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.) is not the LORD, in some way, shape, or fashion, "experiencing birth pangs, for us, "until He is formed(His lovely character being reproduced in us!?! Something to ponder...
O, may His word like Jeremiah,"be as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not refrain." Jeremiah 20:9Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
O, may His Spirit be granted full access to our being, that, "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" Ephesians 4:15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.
"If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory." Colossians 3:1-41 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
"...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith;..." Hebrews 12:2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.;Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
A blessed Christmas to you all, in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord & Saviour!
|Posted by Dan Vis on 12/24/18|
|Your comment reminds me of our natural resistance to divine invitations discussed in the Hero's Journey. This memo does fit right in with that, doesn't it John?
And good connection Hazel Brereton with the Laodicean message in Revelation 3:14-1614 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.. We do need a humble and teachable spirit, don't we? Glad you enjoyed this post!
|Posted by Carole Bliss on 12/24/18|
|Is it possible they were too content with knowledge and not in having the relationship.
Knowing the truth won't save us, knowing Jesus will.
|Posted by John Gilmore on 12/24/18|
|Thanks for re-posting, Dan, and for stimulating us to check our own hearts for any reluctance to seek Him. Whatever keeps us from seeking Him, may God help us to see it as the evil it is.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 01/01/18|
|Thanks James for the comment! Too often we go to church for what we can get out of it, rather than what we can contribute. That little adjustment makes such a huge difference!|
|Posted by James on 12/31/17|
|Yes very true, we can be very comfortable just going to fellowship and receiving and not giving to other seekers our love and understanding of the three angels message and going into the whole world . God bless . James|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 12/28/17|
|Great point Janice! So important to realize human nature hasn't really changed and we tend towards the same mistakes of others. But by God's grace we can learn and do things differently!|
|Posted by Janice Hill on 12/28/17|
|If we do not study and remember the past, we are condemned to repeat it.|
|Posted by Zewdi Isaac Enbom on 12/27/17|
|Thank you Pr. Dan and great comments everyone. Every time I read Matthew 2:1-61 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 Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel., I have always wondered why the Jews never went to check out for themselves even thou they gave the exact location to King Herod, they never bothered to check it out.
Many Christians including myself have taken our salvation for granted for many years. Until I started reading the Bible for myself later on in life (I grew up hearing sermons no Bible Study) I never questioning what was being preached, nor was curious enough to study the Word of God for myself. I Thank God for drawing me closer to Him.
May God help us to prepare for His second coming and for us to boldly share the last day events with others so that they will also be ready to meet the Lord.
|Posted by Diane Castanon on 12/26/17|
|Loved this article, Dan! I am determine to press forward in my walk with God, and to climb higher.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 12/26/17|
|So many great comments everyone! I especially love your comment, Elisabeth. Amazing! If I ever repost this again, I need to work this theme into the article. You hit the nail on the head exactly. Hot, cold, lukewarm... Laodicean.
Let's all determine to make sure we have the right temperature!
I'm definitely hoping everyone will take Rocket 2018. I think it is one way to make sure we are hot on the trail of God's will for our life...
|Posted by Deanna Dekle on 12/26/17|
|Thank you all for the great comments. May the Holy Spirit helps us seek in Spirit and in truth!|
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