Most people don’t have a choice as to where they grow up, they have to rely on their parent’s decision where to live. The parents frequently have to follow wherever the job leads them, or they stay close to their family. God had the entire country of Israel to choose from as to where Jesus would grow up. So, why Nazareth?
Nazareth was a backwater town located just off the main East-West trade route that skirted north of the Sea of Galilee. A Roman military outpost was stationed nearby, making for an ideal place for the free spirits of young men to do as they pleased. The reputation of the town preceded its citizens, Remember in John 1:43-51 when Philip was inviting Nathanael to see the One written about in their Bible. Nathanael’s knee-jerk reaction was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
I can think of a few advantages Nazareth offered the Messiah as a child. First, it was a long way from the capital of Jerusalem. Believe it or not, there was corruption in the capital (you see, it isn’t just a current situation; power tends to lead people astray). Jesus wouldn’t be influenced in any way by the undercurrents of the culture in vogue at that time. Second, it would be an ideal place for Jesus to stay anonymous. If He felt the need to perform a miracle to help a playmate then word of the event could be kept quiet better in a town where nobody left. Third, according to Matthew 2:23 it was prophesied that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. Apparently that particular portion of scripture didn’t stay intact to be included in our current Bible, but if God said it, then who are we to question it?
And what’s so special about the little town of Bethlehem? The main importance of the village is that it was in Israel’s breadbasket (the name means ‘house of bread’). One of the Old Testament references to it is found in the book of Ruth. It’s where Naomi returned after her husband and both sons died when they retreated from the famine in the breadbasket. Ruth was first noticed by Boaz gleaning the fallen barley from his harvesters near here.
In 1 Samuel 16 Samuel is sent to anoint King Saul’s replacement. He is sent to the house of Jesse (the grandson of Boaz and Ruth) in Bethlehem to eventually find David, that is why it’s called the ‘city of David’ by the angels; and why everybody went there to get registered as a descendent of David. The youngest son was out caring for the family’s sheep. Samuel stubbornly waited until the lad was brought to him so he could finish the task God sent him to do. King David made Jerusalem the capital city once he saw the geographic advantage it held after he conquered it (that’s why it is also referred to as the ‘city of David’).
Located about five miles from Jerusalem’s temple, the lush fields made great pasture for the numerous sheep that were required for all the sacrifices. These shepherds were the ones chosen by God to be the first ones to tell the world about the newly born Messiah. The nearness to the capital was why a quick exit was necessary to avoid Herod’s infanticide. Micah 5:2 is the prophetic verse that foretold of Jesus’s birthplace.
I can think of a major advantage of having the shepherds tell the people in an overcrowded Bethlehem about the new-born Messiah in their midst. Bethlehem had swollen to perhaps thousands during the census. Once the Romans were finished counting them all of these people would be making their way back to their current homes. You could then remove the comma out of the number as it would go back to triple digits. That makes for a lot of voices carrying the news back to every part of the country. A sneaky little side-effect of the census (smart move, God!).
Of course thirty years would be a very long time for a rumor started by Shepherds to stand. Most of these people were probably dead by the time Jesus began his public ministry. Since Joseph is never mentioned after Jesus’ twelve-year-old-stay-behind-in-Jerusalem incident, it’s believed that even he didn’t live long enough to see how Jesus turned out.
If you’ve ever made any attempt at carefully reading your Bible you’ll notice that God has a tendency to choose the least likely people and places to accomplish His purposes. The Apostle Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31: God chooses the lowly, weak, small, common things of this world so we can’t boast about our own ability or take credit for it. It’s all from God! He wants there to be no doubt. Remember how God whittled Gideon’s army down so they couldn’t boast of winning on their own strength?
I take a lot of solace in this fact. My hometown is White Cloud, Michigan. The 1970 census listed the population at just over 1000 people on the official state maps back in the day that I lived near there. Actually I lived on a farm nine miles away from town. So I guess you could say I lived beyond the backwash of that backwater town. I never finished a Bachelor’s Degree. I never took any writing courses at any time in my life. I did feel a definite call from God to write at the age of 47, so here I am. Giving all the glory to God for everything I peck out on my keyboard.
I want to give my best to my Savior to help further His Kingdom, so I do all I can to improve what I have been given by reading and talking to other writers about the craft. I’ve seen my manuscripts improve tremendously by the changes I’ve made recently from what I’ve learned.
So, how about you? Will you now look past your past to make yourself available to follow God’s leading in you life?
I”ll see you later. Wade