Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

By Jeannette Haley

“For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge
of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
– Habakkuk 2:14

Once again we come to that time of the year when Christians pay special attention to the story of the birth of Jesus. And every year we are presented with new fictional twists and turns, suppositions and stories about this heavenly event. The historical and biblical account of the birth of the Lamb of God is “what it was, what it is, and what it forever will be.” The Words of God, as recorded and properly translated for us in the KJV of the Bible, are TRUTH. One reason we find ourselves living in perilous times is because “judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter” Isaiah 59:14.
Truth will always be truth no matter what Satan and all of his lying demons say, or do to pervert, alter, or silence it. Truth is truth, and truth will continue to stand regardless of humanity’s endless assaults against it. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” Matthew 24:35. How can His Word pass away when Jesus is the Word and He is, as Revelation 1:8 declares, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty”? Therefore, we can believe the truth of the Word when we read Luke 2 verse 6, which says, “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
When the Lamb of God came into the world as a baby He, was clothed by human hands with linen. The last “clothing” human hands wrapped the body of the crucified Lord with was fine linen, which represents righteousness. Thus, from birth to death the fine white linen was another representation of the holiness and purity of the Lord Jesus.
It is interesting to note that fine white linen curtains formed a barrier around the Tabernacle in the wilderness. (See Exodus 27:9-15.) According to the Bible History Web Site, “The outer court was enclosed by massive curtains which were 5 cubits (7 1/2 feet) high all around. 150 feet long on the north and south sides, and 75 feet long on the west, and 45 feet long on the east, leaving room for the gate. The curtains were woven from fine linen and suspended from the pillars, which were also 5 cubits apart.
“Five separate curtains were suspended round the courtyard. Two of them ran along the long side each being 100 cubits. The one at the west end was 50 cubits long while there were two short ones on either side of the front entrance each being 15 cubits in length.
“The plain white linen screen formed a barrier around the House of God. No Israelite could casually wander around the Holy building or stroll into the courtyard.
“The material that formed this barrier was fine white linen symbolizing righteousness. The symbolism is revealed in the Book of Revelation where, at the wedding of Christ with His bride (the church) who has made herself ready for the wedding. Her wedding dress will be made of fine linen: Rev 19:8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
“The wall of fine linen around the tabernacle presented a barrier to those whose acts were not ‘righteous before God’ making sure that they would not have access to the courtyard. And, symbolically, this would have excluded every person in Israel.”
So we see the Lamb of God, lovingly wrapped in grave cloths and laid in a lowly wooden manger and realize that this manger is a powerful identification with humanity, which is typified by the wood in the Tabernacle. Between the symbolism of the pure white linen, and the wood of the manger we have “Emmanuel,” God with us, God incarnate. 1 Timothy 3:16 says, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
A. W. Pink beautifully explains the powerful message of the manger. He said, “Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no room for Him. How solemnly this brings out the world’s estimate of the Christ of God. There was no appreciation of His amazing condescension. He was not wanted. It is so still. There is no room for Him in the schools, in society, in the business world, among the great throngs of pleasure seekers, in the political realm, in the newspapers, nor in many of the churches. It is only history repeating itself. All that the world gave the Savior was a manger, a cross on which to die, and a borrowed grave to receive His murdered body.
“He was laid in a manger to demonstrate the extent of His poverty. ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). How ‘poor’ He became, was thus manifested at the beginning. The One who, afterwards, had nowhere to lay His head, who had to ask for a penny when He would reply to His critics about the question of tribute, and who had to use another man’s house when instituting the Holy Supper, was, from the first, a homeless Stranger here. And the ‘manger’ was the earliest evidence.
“He was laid in a manger to show His contempt for worldly riches and pomp. We might think it more fitting for the Christ of God to be born in a palace and laid in a cradle of gold, lined with costly silks. But as He Himself reminds us in this same Gospel, ‘that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God’ (Luke 16:15). And what an exemplification of this truth was given when the infant Saviour was placed, not in a cradle of gold but, in an humble manger.
“He was laid in a manger to mark His identification with human suffering and wretchedness. The One born was ‘The Son of Man.’ He had left the heights of Heaven’s glory and had descended to our level, and here we behold Him entering the human condition at its lowest point. Thus did the Man of Sorrows identify Himself with human suffering.”
Luke 2:8 says, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night.” This verse is rich with spiritual applications. First, we see that the shepherds were “in the same country.” Of course this “same country” is Israel, the covenant nation that the LORD founded, led, taught, watched over, kept, fought for, protected, chastised, restored, scattered, gathered together and wept over. It is the nation wherein the Lion of the Tribe of Judah shall sit upon the throne of David and rule forever. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD” Isaiah 2:2-5.
In the fields outside of Bethlehem, the City of David, faithful shepherds were steadfastly keeping watch over their flock in the night. Just as these faithful shepherds were protecting the sheep given into their care through the night, so too will faithful shepherds watch over the souls entrusted to their care through the darkness of the latter days. There can be no doubt that we are living in the times of great spiritual darkness, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” 2 Timothy 4:3, 4.
It was to the faithful shepherds that “…the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid” Luke 2:9. Faithful shepherds are given heavenly insight from the Lord. Faithful shepherds are not seeking great things for themselves, but only care for the spiritual welfare of the Lord’s sheep. Faithful shepherds will be rewarded with true revelations in the Word of God by the Holy Spirit, faithful shepherds understand prophecies and the signs of the times, faithful shepherds are watchful and protective, and faithful shepherds are entrusted with the commission to spread the truth of the Good News to the world, and to faithfully teach (make disciples to Jesus.) “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” verses 10, 11.
What the shepherds were hearing had been prophesied 730 years previously by the prophet Micah: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth” Micah 2:2-4.
What greater news could heaven proclaim? What greater joy could there be than that of the birth of the Saviour, which is Christ the Lord? The source of all true joy comes from above, and is centered in Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, not an emotional high of the flesh. Joy remains, regardless of our trials and tribulations, because the joy of the Lord is established in eternity. Happiness in this world can be elusive, but the joy that comes from above remains as long as we believe Jesus who said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full, John 15:8-11.
Then the angel said to the shepherds, “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” Luke 2:12. The Bible tells us that the Jews “seek a sign.” Therefore, the Lord, who knows us intimately, and is so very personal with us, gave the shepherds a sign—the sign of the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. This “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” verses 13, 14.
How awesome to it is to meditate on this magnificent sight! How thrilling it is to read of this heavenly visitation, and how much more thrilling beyond the telling it must have been for those shepherds! Of all the people in all the land, heaven came down and glory filled the skies that night in the sight of a few faithful shepherds! Sore afraid at first, yes! But God’s angels always say, “Fear not.” Why was this great pronouncement made to lowly shepherds, and not to the great and mighty men of Bethlehem, or to the prominent religious leaders? We can find the answer in the inspired words of Mary: “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from h enceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; and he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever” Luke 1:49-55.
Mary praised the Lord, and rejoiced in God her Savior. Sinners need a savior in order to be saved, and Mary was very aware that she was no exception. She humbly acknowledged that God is mighty, and that he had done great things to her. She declared His name to be holy. “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable”, Psalm 145:3. Only from such a position of humility and praise can a person be entrusted with greater truths from above. Then she declared the wonderful truth that God is merciful to those that fear Him in each generation. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” Proverbs 9:10. She knew He had revealed not only His faithfulness, but also His might and power in fulfilling His promises to those who fear and love Him. “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22-23b. She understood that He scatters those whose prideful hearts are filled with imaginations against Him. “The ungodly…are like the chaff which the wind driveth away” Psalm 1:4.
Mary declared that He brings down the mighty from the lofty places to which they exalt themselves, and He lifts up and exalts those whom the world considers to be unimportant and worthless. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” Luke 4:18. When she said that He fills the hungry with good things, no doubt she spoke of the spiritually hungry, because that is the greatest hunger there is! If we hunger and thirst for God, He will fill us with the Bread of Life and the Living Water. But, those who think they are “spiritually rich,” who think that they have a corner on religion, and who think they know it all but do not know Jesus, they will go away empty into outer darkness. And, lastly, she praised the Lord for His mercy in remembering Israel, and for fulfilling His promises to Abraham and his seed forever.
Then, “…suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” Luke 2:13, 14. Peace on earth—lasting, glorious peace—is yet to come and fill the earth. In the meantime, God gives us peace in the midst of our trials and tribulations if we trust and obey. Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The Lord Jesus promised His disciples “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” John 14:27. Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
We can hold fast to the prophecy of the Lamb who has come, and the Lion who is coming in Isaiah 11:1-4, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.”
Continuing on with Luke’s account of events surrounding Christ’s nativity, we see that the shepherds have left us an example to follow. “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us. And they came with haste and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them” Luke 2:15-18, 20.
The shepherds were the first evangelists to go forth with the Good News of the Savior, Christ the Lord. The question is are we who have come to Jesus for forgiveness of sins, and have been cleansed and made whole by the precious blood of Jesus, and who have received the promise of the Holy Spirit, and who have tasted the goodness of the Lord, are we telling the Good News to others as did the shepherds? Not only that, are we also proclaiming the glorious coming of the Lord? His Word will be fulfilled to the letter: we see the signs of His coming everywhere. Revelation 19:11-16 says, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
As we look back two-thousand years to the incarnation of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and as we celebrate and rejoice in our salvation, let us also remember “that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof”. (See Revelation 5:5.) May our joy be full because the Lamb of God came, and may our joy be full because the Lion of the tribe of Judah is soon returning to rule and reign over all the earth. Are you ready?