The Greatest Love Stories of Bethlehem Part 2
The significance of Bethlehem Ephrata is epitomized in the love story that took place there. I say love story because even though there were four major love stories that happened there, they are all one story. The first love story is the death and burial of Rachel, the matriarch of Israel. The second is the story of the redemption of Ruth the Moabitess. The third is the love story of the humility of Nitzevet.
This story is found in Jewish history. The details of some of the events of David’s life verify the accuracy of this story as well. Jesse lived in the prestigious city of Bethlehem with his wife, Nitzevet, and his seven sons. In his latter years Jesse became very concerned about his lineage. He feared the Moabite curse might fall on his family so he sent his wife, Nitzevet, away in an effort to prevent the curse. Sending his wife away was a form of legal separation. He sent her to live at the Tower of the Flock down the hill in the farm village of Bethlehem known as Bethlehem Ephrata.
Jesse never remarried. One day he became very lonely so he sent word to the Tower of the Flock to Nitzevet’s handmaid. He told her to be ready because he was coming to visit her that night. Being very loyal to Nitzevet, her handmaid told her of the message she received from Jesse. The two women decided to trade places so that Jesse would sleep with his wife instead of the handmaid.
Jesse visited the Tower of the Flock that night. It was dark. Jesse thought he was with his wife’s handmaid but he was with his wife instead. Nitzevet became pregnant with David the future King of Israel. Since Nitzevet had been put away from her husband, everyone assumed she had played the harlot. David was thought to be an illegitimate child.
David was born and raised at the Tower of the Flock in Bethlehem Ephrata. Rather than enjoying the luxuries and prestige of living in the city, he grew up tending to the sheep and goats as a lowly farmer in the fields of Bethlehem. Furthermore, he carried the reputation as being an illegitimate child born out of an adulterous relationship. This was not the case but this is the reputation he bore.
God took the lowly humble David from the farm fields of Bethlehem Ephrata and made him the greatest human king in history. God called him a man after His own heart. The man the world considered an outcast, God lifted up and made the greatest.
The love stories of Rachel, Ruth, and Nitzevet foretold the greatest love story, which occurred in Bethlehem Ephrata. The love stories of death, redemption, and shame foreshadowed the greatest love story ever: the birth of Jesus Christ the Messiah. Like Rachel’s love story of death, Jesus’ birth is a tragic love story of death. Jesus was born to die for our sins. He was born in the stable where the sacrificial lambs were raised. The fact Mary laid Him in the manger is not an incidental detail. Luke records this fact because it is important. Jesus was laid in the manger in the stable in Bethlehem because He was born to be the sustenance of God’s people. He is the source of all spiritual food for us. He was born to die for us so that we might have eternal life.
Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem Ephrata is a love story of redemption. Like Boaz loved and redeemed Ruth, so Jesus loves and redeems us. Although Ruth was a Moabitess and carried the Moabite curse, Boaz loved her and redeemed her from a life of poverty and shame. He took a person who was not fit to be part of God’s family and made her a matriarch of the King of Israel. Jesus has redeemed His children from a life a sin and shame and made us part of His royal family.
Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem Ephrata is a love story of humility. David was the greatest King Israel has ever known, yet he came from a humble and humiliating childhood. He was considered an outcast by his brothers and peers. Although Jesus is the King of Kings, He was born in a lowly stable in Bethlehem Ephrata. He was born to Joseph and Mary who were not married. The world considered Him an outcast, yet He is God of all creation. Jesus’ birth is the culmination of the greatest love stories ever told.
Bethlehem Ephrata is a village of holiness, fruitfulness, and provision. More importantly it is a place of love. It portrays the greatest love story ever told. Yes, there are four love stories that took place there but they are all one story. They are the story of God’s love for us. All the events and details of Bethlehem Ephrata proclaim Jesus the Messiah. He is the one true God who came to earth in a stable in Bethlehem to live and die for us so we can be part of His family and live forever.
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” Philippians 2:6-11
© Dr. Steven L Smith