3 Unexpected Circumstances: A Story of Bethlehem

by Jacob Dowdy

Ruth –
“Then all the people who were at the gate and 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 act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem.’” (Ruth 4:11)
Ruth is one of our best examples of someone who had faith her circumstances would get better, even though her story begins when everything is wrong. Ironically, the word Bethlehem literally means “house of bread,” but when we begin reading in chapter 1, Elimelech is having to leave Bethlehem to find food in Moab because of a famine. Ruth’s story begins backwards, but by chapter 4, God has flipped the story around and Ruth lives the life God purposed her for.
The most interesting part of this story to me is the meaning behind Elimelech’s name. It means “God is my king.” I think that is important—even in Elimelech’s death—because throughout Ruth’s story God reveals one of the most important ways he is King of our lives: kingship over our circumstances.
God used the hard circumstances of a Moabite widow to continue the lineage of his own Son. If that doesn’t prove that God is faithful to us, I don’t know what does. As we travel to Bethlehem this week, I want us to see how God is constantly turning seemingly terrible circumstances into life-changing experiences. I hope this will motivate you to stay faithful to your King. A passage that can be helpful is 2 Timothy 3:11-13.

David –
“The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’” (1 Samuel 16:1)Have you ever been through a fast food drive-thru and thought to yourself, “Man, I sure am glad I don’t have to work that job?” Often, we have the mindset that just because we might come from or are headed towards a higher socioeconomic status than someone else, we are better than that person—whether we mean to or not. But this is not the attitude Christians are expected to have.
Instead of seeing people as just people, we should see them as souls. Paul gives us a perfect example of this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Christ died for the poor, downtrodden criminal the same as he died for me and Danny. If we are to be about the mission of Jesus, then we must realize that God is not concerned with where people start, but where they are headed. To Him, we all have the potential to be kings (2 Tim. 4:8).
David’s father didn’t even consider him when bringing his sons to Samuel. But in 1 Samuel 16:10-13, Samuel anoints David as God’s chosen one to rule Israel; he was just a shepherd from Bethlehem! If the creator of the universe can see shepherds as kings, then why can’t we (1 Sam. 16:7)? Let’s be faithful to our King’s call to make more kings. Sometimes, it is through our hardships that he is looking to crown us (Jas. 1:12).

Jesus –
“Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’” (Matthew 1:23) “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:10-12)
Some call the life of the Jesus the greatest story ever told, but it’s more than just a story. Christ’s whole life is the culmination of God’s plan to redeem humankind from their sins, beginning on this very night in Matthew 1. The Creator of the universe (John 1:1-3), our Living Hope (Col. 1:27), the One who Isaiah prophesied about (Isa. 9:6) … born in a barn. Wow. God repeatedly uses Bethlehem to show us His sovereignty, regardless of what people may think. He uses unlikely individuals, in unlikely places, during unlikely times to progress His plan. The same is true for us today; if we will allow Christ to be King of our lives, and remain faithful to Him, He will use us to reveal His glory to the world.
I hope we can all reflect on these thoughts and use them to see past the circumstances we currently find ourselves in. Don’t let the Enemy use this time to sever you from our purpose. Let’s use this time as a point in our lives that we can look inwardly and see what is blooming within us: a Bethlehem waiting to burst.
No matter what situation we find ourselves in, God can always use us to further His kingdom. Don’t be drawn into Satan’s lie that you are too good or not good enough. God loves all of us (Rom. 2:11), and He can’t wait to see if you are willing to be a Bethlehem; if you are willing to be His unlikely means to change the world for the better.

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