Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 4
Thesis: The hope of joy that had its roots in Bethlehem was/is a great mystery.
Introduction: The focus in the record of the birth of Christ upon the town of Bethlehem had its roots in a very long standing effort on God's part to impart to men a fundamental nugget of truth that most men never "get". They just don't "get it". It's not a truth that isn't bandied about a great deal; it's just a truth that gets lost in the shuffle because of two things: one, its truthfulness is suspect; and, two, its primacy is denied. One of God's greatest tasks has to do with two very difficult issues: getting men to put the correct value upon those things that are valuable; and getting men to understand how the mechanisms of life are arranged. His approach has always been what I am, this morning, going to call "the leaven approach". The leaven approach is the early insertion of a singularly important truth into the hearts and minds of men coupled with the long-term follow-up in teaching and discipline so that those who embrace the inserted truth come to see it for what it is: a dominating truth. In that long-term follow-up, two things happen: the truth is repeatedly brought to man's attention; and man's choices are addressed with proper discipline -- the legitimate choices are reinforced with goodness and the poor choices are met with contradiction. The dangers are also two: if the goodness is experienced thoughtlessly, little is reinforced; and if the contradiction is met with willful refusal to turn loose, the experience of life continues to disintegrate under increasing contradiction.
This morning we are going to be looking at the question of what is valuable and what is true as Luke points it out in Luke 2:4.
January 9, 2005
- I. The Fundamental Thesis.
- A. Begins with Joseph.
- 1. The biblical record regarding Messiah's connection with Joseph is early and ancient.
- a. There can be little question that Jesus' birth in relation to Joseph is crucial.
- 1) Matthew deliberately inserts the mirror truth that Joseph's significance is completely wrapped around his identity as the son of Jacob [Matthew 1].
- 2) Luke deliberately makes Joseph a prominent part of our thinking about Jesus [he consistently puts him forward and drags Mary backward -- 1:27; 2:4; 2:16; 2:33; 3:23; and 4:22 (the exception being 2:16)].
- b. There can be little question that the "Joseph" connection is wrapped up in the ancient record of how, for life's sake in the face of famine, "Joseph" was exalted in Egypt.
- 1) The famine issue was "the point" of Joseph's experience, from his own words in Genesis 50:20.
- 2) The famine issue was (and has always been) an attempt on God's part to bring to light the answer to the question of the primary mechanism of life: what is fundamentally required for me to live?.
- a) The answer has always been, and never been, "bread".
- i. "Bread" has always been the answer to the body's need for life's continuance.
- ii. "Bread" has never been the answer to the soul's/spirit's need for life's continuance.
- iii. The determinant issue is the kind of life one is seeking.
- b) The answer has always been the true Bread of Life, and has never been "manna" [note this point of conflict in John 6].
- c) But, in spite of the consistency of the answer, men have persisted in the pursuit of manna and disregarded the Bread of Life.
- c. There can be little question that the "Joseph" connection was all about God's use of the desperate need of the body to compel the reconciliation of the soul.
- 1) The Joseph record was all about the enormous level of conflict within the household of God between the people of God.
- a) Joseph got his name from a woman who was in desperate competition with her sister over who would get to be the "beloved" in the family.
- b) Joseph's name was all about trying to get God to "get on my side here". [See Genesis 30].
- c) Joseph was all about the envy that existed in the household because of the desire to be the "beloved"...his brother's hated him for having that position.
- 2) The Joseph record was all about what it means to be "beloved".
- a) Joseph's experiences were all about being the "beloved" of God...and it took him a long time to "get it".
- b) Joseph's experiences were all about the true meaning of being "beloved": it means being privileged of God to be used by Him to reconcile others to Him; not being pampered by God at the expense of others.
- 3) But, in spite of this overwhelming truth, men have consistently rejected their value to God in favor of being valuable to some lesser being(s).
- 2. The biblical lesson regarding Joseph has to do with what men consider to be the true bread of life.
- a. This issue cannot be resolved until men decide what "life" means.
- b. If "life" has to do with harmony in the soul with God, then reconciliation with God through Jesus as the Bread of Life is true bread indeed.
- 3. The text tells us that "Joseph" was happily reconciled with God.
- a. He is without the pernicious attitude of rebellion against the ways of God in his life.
- b. He is actively engaged in taking all of the steps necessary to fulfill the plans of God.
- B. Ends with Bethlehem.
- 1. The point of the record is that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem.
- a. The record is of a nation that is so messed up because of its false definitions of both life and bread that the heir to the Davidic throne lives in a backwash in the regions of the Gentiles [Joseph was in the regnal lineage].
- b. The record is of the inexorable success of God in the face of the persistent failure of His people.
- 1) God always meets false choices with contradiction.
- 2) God never relinquishes His goals no matter what men choose and do.
- 3) As Micah said, Bethlehem was going to be the birthplace of Messiah: God's word given, will be fulfilled.
- 2. The point of "Bethlehem" is in its name: the House of Bread.
- a. This is the summation of the Joseph "famine" thesis.
- b. But, it is not without its "problems" if men refuse to turn loose.
- 1) As long as "Bethlehem" was the House of Bread only for the body, it was a burial place -- Joseph's mother was buried "on the way to Bethlehem".
- 2) Even the Messiah, Who was born in this Bethlehem, was destined to be the true "son" of Joseph -- i.e., He was going to be used of God, as His beloved, in order to bring the Reconciliation and He was not going to be the pampered son of this world who thinks that being "loved" means being free to use others.
- III. Conclusion.
- A. At the beginning, I said that God's method was "the leaven approach".
- B. The "leavening truth" is God's enormous love for us.
- C. The singular significance of His love for us is His transformation of us into the instruments of His love in the lives of others.
- D. If "servanthood for the lives of others" is not exalted in our hearts/minds, it will remain a "truth" glibly subscribed to as we go about our business of using others to get what we think we want.