In both Exodus 23:24 and Leviticus 20:23 the Lord was emphatic…Don’t bow down to foreign gods, and you must not follow their customs and practices…and this included their response and rituals towards signs in the sky. The world has always reacted to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes with alarm…for there is nothing humanly possible we can do to control them. But as Believers, we know these types of signs are finger-marks of God…indicating His spiritual purpose…signs of the End of the Age. We only have to read the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:6-8 for clarification, ” You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
Jesus was back in His hometown of Nazareth…the place where He had been brought up, and where everyone knew Him and His family. We find Him on the Sabbath in the Synagogue where someone handed Him the scroll of Isaiah to read from. He read from Isaiah 61:1-2 …( Which was Jesus’ exact job description here on earth) and then sat down. Everyone spoke well of Him until He uttered 8 words, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” No wonder the people were furious! All they could see was Mary and Joseph’s little boy…and now He’s daring to claim to be the Messiah! Their minds refused to believe…their hearts were hardened by pride…their eyes were blinded to His Deity. Their long-awaited Messiah had come and was in their midst…yet they rejected Him.
His time on earth was getting short and Jesus wanted His disciples to understand their mission. Everyday He had guided, demonstrated, and shown them what to do…to think outside the box of human nature. For this wasn’t the first time Jesus had fed a crowd with only a few loaves and fish…but the disciples still didn’t get it. The disciples had witnessed and actually helped distribute the food to that crowd…but when challenged to come up with a plan for this hungry group, they quickly reverted back to their humanness. How many times have you sold yourself short by your limited vision of what God could do? We need to be asking for God’s vision in our life, not ours…and we need to be thinking outside our “human” box and seeking God’s unlimited and miraculous vision instead.
This prophecy of the coming Messiah was quoted 700 years later by the Chief Priests and Scribes when King Herod asked where the Christ was to be born. In John 7: 25-44 we see Jesus at the Feast of the Tabernacles proclaiming that He was indeed the Messiah, only to see the skeptics quoting this Scripture again…but then mistakenly assuming He had been born in His home town of Galilee rather than Bethlehem. But God never makes mistakes…His timing is always perfect…His promises always fulfilled. This long-awaited Savior of the world had indeed been born in Bethlehem for us all.
Why did God choose to proclaim the coming Messiah to the shepherds? They were far from the politically elite…and at the other end of the spectrum from the powerful religious circle. So what did God see in that rag-tag group of blue-collar workers in that field outside of Bethlehem to warrant such a grand and glorious display to announce the coming of His Son? In a word, He saw us. He didn’t wish to address the political or religious bigwigs…He chose rather to tell the working class…people like you and me the good news of Jesus Christ. And this holds true today…the Lord Jesus Christ has come for you and me… common, ordinary people who need a Savior.
For Mary, this was her first baby…and for the world, it was likewise a new beginning. For Mary, it was her first labor and delivery in rather dismal conditions.. for us, it was the gift of a new start. It tells us in Colossians 1:15 that, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation.” When that tiny baby was born, the manifestation of God the Father came to earth to dwell among us. And when Mary laid baby Jesus in that manger, surrounded by livestock and hay, the preeminence over all creation arrived to light the way for sinners.