Aloha Friday Message – January 5, 2018 – The Fruitful House of Bread

1801AFC010518 – The Fruitful House of Bread

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Matthew 2:5-6 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

¡Que la bendición esté siempre con ustedes y que Dios los bendiga, Amados! (May blessing always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd!)

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Welcome to another year of engaging with God’s Word. A year ago we looked into the idea of Showing Up. The importance of showing up cannot be overemphasized. If you’re not there, you can’t be part of what’s happening. In school, it means you are unavailable for instruction. At work it means you are unavailable for production. In church, it means you are unavailable for praise. In life, it means you’re not available for days, nights, or weekends. In that message from a year ago, we looked into the day the Magi showed up at the house of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. We don’t know if that house was in Bethlehem – the place where Jesus was born – but we should know a little more about that place – Bethlehem of Ephrathah. It is a very interesting name and an even more interesting place. Let’s start with the word, Bethlehem.

לֶ֣חֶם בֵּֽית־ Beit-Lechem or Beyth Lechem {bayth leh’-khem} means House (Beyth) of Bread (Lechem). What a perfect place for the birth of The Bread of Life! It is the place where Jacob buried Rachael. It is in the Tribal Possession of the Tribe of Judah. That area was very beautiful and fertile, abundant in figs, grapes, almonds, and olives. The country is what we’d call “hilly,” gently-rolling hills. It is just a bit uphill from Jerusalem and about 5.52 miles south of Jerusalem (straight line distance). Here’s a little table that will give you some idea about the elevations in that area. Mt. Hermon is the highest elevation in Israeli- controlled territories:

TABLE:

City Elevation (feet)*
Mount Moriah (Temple Mount) 2438 ASL
Jerusalem 2474 ASL
Bethlehem 2543 ASL
Mount Hermon 7,297 ASL
Sea of Galilee -695.8 BSL
Dead Sea -1,410.8 BSL
*ASL/BSL = Above/Below Sea Level

Bethlehem is connected with the story of Boaz and Ruth (and hence to the genealogy of Jesus) in Ruth 4:11-12 11 Then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; 12 and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

In this passage we also see the place-name Ephrathah; אֶפְרָ֗תָה {ef-raw’-thaw} or Ephraath {ef-rawth’}. It was considered a synonym for Bethlehem by even as far back as the book of Genesis. Ephrath is an older name. We see it in Genesis 35:19-20 19 So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20 and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. People from Ephrathah would be referred to as אפרתי (Ephrathites); for example Jesse of Bethlehem (the father of David) is called an Ephrathite (1 Samuel 17:12), and so are Elimelech (Naomi’s husband was Elimelech which means “my God is King”) and Naomi (whose name means “my delight”) and their sons Mahlon and Chilion died (Ruth 1:1-3). Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, went to live in Moab after Elimelech and his two sons died; Ruth’s name means “Friendship.”  The name Ephrath(ah) means “place of fruitfulness.” (It also ironically means “ash-heap!”) The most famous prophecy about “Bethlehem Ephrathah” is found in Micah 5:2-3 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. You can see that this is the Scripture cited in our Key Verse, Matthew 2:5-6. Let’s look back at Micah’s famous prophecy again:

It begins with But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah …. It helps to understand a little about that peculiar designation. It has an important meaning in societies that have a tribal-based administration. It works like this: Nation → Tribe → Clan → Family → Person. Bethlehem of Ephrathah is a small clan of the Tribe of Judah of the Nation Israel. King David was born there and his family is/was part of that clan. David is a son of Jesse (whose father was Obed, the son of Boaz and Ruth). Jesus, in turn, is also a descendent of Jesse (See Isaiah 11:1 and the First Chapter of Matthew.)

As we continue, we read from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Another way to display that last phrase is “Ancient of Days.” This is a synonym for God (See Daniel 7:9). It also occurs as from everlasting, or from antiquity, or from eternity. This ruler is and will be, of course, the Christ of God, the Son of David, the Word (Logos), the Light of the World, and the Messiah promised in Eden.

In verse 3 we see Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth. To whom does “she” refer? About 30 years before Micah recorded this amazing prophecy, Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman [virgin] is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. And what about give them up until the time? For the people in Micah’s vicinity, this also meant that “Daughter Zion” would be delivered from her enemies in the same way that the world is now being delivered from our Ancient Foe. (See Revelation 12:1-6)

And lastly, then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. Historically, the return of the Remnant of Israel freed by Cyrus (See 1742AFC102017 – Whaddya think of that, eh?). Biblically, it is all the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesse, and The Messiah (by adoption). It all starts in the Little Town of Bethlehem (↔ Music Link) a quiet little town in the hill-country from which came the greatest of earthly Kings and the King of Kings. God does stuff like that. He picks the second, or even eighth, son. He chose Jonah who was a reluctant, even rebellious, prophet. He chose a pagan (Gideon a.k.a. Jerubbaal) to rescue Israel from the Midianites. He chose Cyrus to deliver Israel from Babylon. Moses was 80 years old and a fugitive shepherd when he saw The Burning Bush. Abraham and Sarah were so old no one but God could see it was possible for them to have children. Elisha was out plowing a field when Elijah named him as his successor. The Apostle Paul was a zealous Pharisee viciously persecuting The Way when Jesus called him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. When God chooses, no one looses – as long as they obey God.

How about us, Belovéd? Are we small fish in a small pond in a small creek on a small hill? What shall we do if God asks us, or plans for us, to do the extraordinary? Is there a good way to handle a request like that? Consider the humongous request presented to Mary, the young woman who would bear the Son of God. Can we speak with confidence that same fiat? “Let it be done to me according to your word.”? God only knows what can happen if we just show up and say, “OK, Lord, what’s next?” Who but he knows how fruitful we can be in his House of Prayer?   בֵּית תְפִלָה (bayith tephillah) {bah’-yith tef-il-law’} (See Isaiah 56:7)

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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