Matt Hagee - The Buried Treasure of Bethlehem
We often sell ourselves short when we say to each other simple clichés, like, "Jesus is the reason for the season". Now, I'm not shaming anybody who's used it because it works at this time of year. But the reality of it is, is Jesus is not the reason for the season. Jesus is the reason. This morning we look at the Old Testament prophet Micah. Micah is not a place where you traditionally turn on Christmas Sunday. But the reason that I've chosen and feel led of God to speak to you from this prophet's perspective is because if you leave the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke, you do not recognize how long God was planning and preparing and moving all of the pieces of the world in order for us to receive the greatest gift that has ever been given to man, which is Jesus Christ, his Son.
You see, this entire book is about one thing. And that is God's desire to connect with you, and to connect you with him. And the only way that he could do that is through his only begotten son. You realize that all the way in the end of the New Testament, it connects us back to the beginning of the Old Testament, in Genesis 1:1, where it says, "God created the heavens and the earth". God being outside of time, being eternal, being in eternity past, he realized that if he created heaven, if he created Adam and Eve, if he brought mankind onto this creation, that we would need a redeemer: that we would need a Savior: that we would have to have someone to come and be our sacrifice. And knowing all of that, he did it anyway. What a mighty God we serve.
Today I give glory to God in the highest because he put a treasure in Bethlehem. Being a sovereign God, he preordained the place "Bethlehem". It's unassuming when Micah speaks of it. He says, "Though you be small among the thousands of Judah". You would think that if God was going to do something special, he would pick a more significant place. But from our perspective, his ways are not our ways. Why Bethlehem? Consider the name. English has butchered good Hebrew. "Bethlehem" is actually two words brought together. Anywhere you see "Bet," B-E-T, in the Bible, that means house. So you have Bethlehem, Bethesda, Bethany. Here, you have Bethlehem. This is "House of bread".
Now, for practical reasons it was called "The house of bread," because it was a city in the middle of wheat fields. And whenever the wheat was harvested, there was a threshing floor there. And this is where the grain was separated from the chaff, and it was ground into flour so that it could become life-giving bread. How fitting that it be called Bethlehem, the house of bread. In the natural, it made perfect sense. But in the supernatural, this is the house where God is going to bring you and I the bread of eternal life. This is the place where the one who is going to be sacrificed for us is going to begin his life. And his life is not something that is to be lived in luxury but his life is something to where he was sent into his own and they received him not, where he was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. He was chastised for our peace, and the punishment of our sin was upon him. He was ground from the seed that was sown into the flour that could be made into the bread of life that gives you and I the opportunity to become sons and daughters of the Most High God.
Today I thank God for Bethlehem, because though it was unassuming in the eyes of men, it was everything in the hand of God. And when something is in God's hands, he can use it to change your world forever. So often, I'm concerned about the treasure that God has given us, because we have forgotten the power that it has empowered us with. Today I want you to come with me to a place of God's grace, his mercy, the house of bread in Bethlehem, and recognize that it was an appointed place. God has an appointed place to pour out his blessings in your life. Nothing happens on accident. And oftentimes, we as Bible-believing Christians filled with faith, we want to put our faith in things like irony and luck.
How many times do you hear people say, "Well, I was fortunate". You're not fortunate. You're favored. And there's a God who has his hand of favor upon you. God chose Bethlehem. Why? Because it was in the ancient city of Bethlehem where the first person, who was outside of the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was grafted into the promises of God. We read in the Old Testament, in the book of Ruth, that a man from Bethlehem was in a famine and left Bethlehem for Moab. And there in Moab, his sons took Moabite wives, one, Ruth: and the other, Orpah. Those sons and Naomi's husband die. Naomi returns to Bethlehem. And this is where we get the Ruth statement, the loyalty oath, "Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to turn back from following after thee. For where you lodge, I will lodge. And your people shall be my people, and my God shall be your God, and where you die, I die".
I find it ironic that those words were spoken between a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law: and most of the times, we use them at weddings. And what happened in Ruth's life? She came to Bethlehem a nobody. No covenant, no place to sacrifice, no altar where she could pray, no voice to be heard in heavenly places, not represented because she had no priest that she could go to. But there on the threshing floor at Boaz's wheat fields, she encounters a kinsman redeemer. And in one act of grace, he grafts her into the covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In one act of grace, she goes from being an outsider to an insider, from being barren to being blessed, from being a woman without to being someone who is now in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Why did Micah say, "And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah"?
"Ephrathah" is a word that recognizes this is a place where outsiders become insiders. Why did God choose Bethlehem? Because his purpose was not to bless a group of people. His purpose was to bless all of the people in every nation on every place on the face of the earth. He wanted you, and he wanted you, and he wanted you. And he wanted you who are watching in Indonesia. He wanted you who are watching in Africa. He wanted you who are watching in Asia. He wanted you who are watching in Europe. He wanted you who are watching in South America.
In the 28 nations where they're joining this service right now, he not only wanted all of you, but he wanted each and every person in this room. He wanted you to be grafted into the promises of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He wanted you to become sons and daughters of the Most High God. He wanted you to have every promise and every covenant that is written in this book that is yes, and amen, through Jesus Christ our Lord. He wanted you to go from darkness into light. He wanted you to walk from shackles into liberty. He wanted you to know what it was like to be a son and a daughter of the Most High God! Thank God for Bethlehem! He chose Bethlehem before he made eden, because he knew exactly what you would need, exactly when you would need it.
And the message that brings us hope today is the same God who created heaven and earth is the same God who still knows exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. All he asks us to do is trust in him. He knows exactly where you are today, physically, financially, emotionally. He knows exactly where you need to be blessed today. And he has chosen the exact place and the exact time for you to receive exactly what your heart's desire is. Just as he waited for all things to come to pass in order for every detail to be placed before he put his son in Bethlehem's manger, he is patiently waiting for every detail in your life, for you to become who you need to be to receive the power of God that he has stored up for you.
Today, don't bury the promise of Christmas underneath the burdens of your situation, but let God arise and let his enemies be scattered. Because God has a place to pour out his miracle power in your life! Bethlehem is not just a place: it's the only place, because the place of God's purpose is the place of God's power. Say that with me. The place of God's purpose is the place of God's power. Men are fickle. We go someplace and we feel God's power, and then we want to pretend as if we get to decide where God's power goes. It's not our power: it's his. If my kids want to enjoy the food in my house, guess where they have to eat? My table. You don't get to come into my house where we've cooked the food, and say, "I'm going to take mine to go and eat over at Charlie's". No, no, no, no. You can bring Charlie to this table, but my food doesn't leave my table. In like fashion, God has a place where he's chosen to pour out his power in your life. Each and every Sunday, that's right here in the house of God.
This is what he told the children of Israel as they came out of Egypt, "Remember the sabbath and keep it holy". This is what the Psalmist David said when he wrote, "I was glad when they said unto me, 'let us go into the house of the Lord'". Why? Because he realized that in God's house was God's place of power, and that you could receive what you needed from God when you got into that place. In our modern world, we want to pretend like I can find God anywhere. "God and I have great conversations on the golf course". I've heard people say that. Most of what I've heard on the golf course you can't repeat in public. "Oh, I see God in nature. I find God all over the place". You may think you do, but God has a place of power, and his place is his house, and his house is on his day, and that's right where you should be.
Bethlehem was a threshing floor. What's the big deal about a threshing floor? Well, all of the equipment that you needed to thresh wheat was there. And if you didn't thresh wheat, you didn't get flour. If you didn't get flour, you didn't get bread. If you didn't get bread, you got dead. Now, how many of you realize that bread's important? So where does the process begin? On the threshing floor. Where's the threshing floor? At Bethlehem. Go ahead. Take the wheat home and thresh it there. You're not going to enjoy the bread. The point is, is that God has a way of doing things. And if they don't align with the way you do things, you adjust because he's God and we are the sheep of his pastures. Bethlehem is not just anyplace. Bethlehem is the only place.
Had Ruth gone to anyone else's fields, she would have not been redeemed. Had she gone back to anyone else's city, she would've been forgotten. But because she went to the place where she could be grafted in, 28 generations later on the threshing floors of Bethlehem, eternity would be shaken, as Jesus Christ, the bread of life, broke the silence of the night with an infant's cry. With the cry of an infant, God Almighty put hell on notice that they had been defeated. With the cry of an infant, God Almighty told sickness and death that they would be conquered. With the cry of an infant, God said to the generations of the world, "Though you were far from me, I've now reached out and brought you near to me. Though you were lost, I've made you found. Though you were dead, I've given you life. Though you were slaves, I've set you free". Child of God, you are an heir and a joint heir, a full recipient of God's great grace because of what he did at Bethlehem. Give him a handclap in this house today!
Bethlehem is not only an appointed place, but it's a place of purpose. And the purpose of Bethlehem is not to remind us that every 12 months, we come tickle baby Jesus under the chin. We like baby Jesus because we can control him. But you don't have to read too long in the gospels. In Luke 2:40, it says, "And the child grew". Say that with me. "And the child grew". What does that mean? He came as a baby. But he grew to be the King of kings and the Lord of lords: the conqueror of death, hell and the grave. Follow him from Bethlehem. The Bible says he grew in spirit and wisdom and grace. Follow him to the banks of the river Jordan. There, John the Baptist is baptizing people for the remission of sins.
Symbolically, with every human being that is put under the waters of the Jordan, the sin in their life is washed off of them, and it's floating around in this river as it runs downstream. And while John is baptizing, he looks up and he sees the only begotten Son of God coming, and he prophetically says, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world". He was letting everyone know who would ever hear those words, "This is no baby in a manger. This is the sacrificial lamb that paid the price for your sins". Into the waters of sin, a sinless son goes. And there he stands to be baptized, the sinless one in a sea of our transgressions. He parts the waters. It's a symbol of a grave. He comes out of that watery grave, and the voice from heaven says, "This is my beloved son, in whom I'm well pleased". It was God telling us, "I have paid the price for your sins".
Follow him from the river Jordan. And everywhere that he went, he crushed the head of the serpent. John, 1 John 3:8, "The Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil". Everywhere he saw the sick, he healed them. Everywhere he saw the blind, he touched them and they could see. When he encountered the deaf, he opened their ears and they could hear. When he saw those who were demon-possessed, he said, "Be free". When he saw those who were bound in grave clothes, he said, "Loose them and let them go". Why? Because he was the Son of God, manifested to destroy the works of the devil. When he saw those who were condemned under the law, he said, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more".
His grace was sufficient. Follow him from his ministry, back into the City of Jerusalem. There they take off the palm branches and they shout, "Hosanna," only a few days later to deny him and demand his crucifixion. Knowing that he was the Lamb of God from the foundations of the earth, slain for sinners, he kneels in the Garden of Gethsemane, and for the first time in his years of living, he asks something for himself. He says, "Father, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me". As the burdens of my transgressions and yours were placed upon his shoulders, he said, "God, if there's another way, let's go that direction". And when you read the account in the Bible, there's silence. And then Jesus answers his self, and says, "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done".
What do you do when you ask God to change his plan, and he's silent? If he doesn't respond, it means he hasn't changed his mind. Carry on. How often do we want to interpret God's silence with our will, rather than understanding if he had something else to say, he would? He said, "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done". And from there, he allowed them to arrest him. Don't ever confuse the fact that he was taken into custody with the fact that he was the lamb who laid down his life. No chain could hold him. He held the stars in the palm of his hand. He said, "No one takes my life. I lay it down". He let them arrest him. He let them try him. He let them mock him. He let them beat him. He let them scourge him with a cat-of-nine-tails until you couldn't recognize his physical body. Why? So you and I could become sons and daughters of the Most High God.
Follow him from his trial and his mocking and his beating to a place called Calvary. See what happens to the baby in Bethlehem as the treasure that God placed there is now stretched between heaven and earth, and there he cries these words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? He was forsaken so that you and I could be forgiven. He was rejected so that you and I could sit here today, accepted, not of anything that we've done, but because of what he has done for us. He bore our shame, that we could stand in this place and boldly go before God the Father into the throne room of grace. He gave us his name so that whenever we called upon Jesus Christ in the name of the Lord, we would receive an answer from heaven.
What was born in Bethlehem as a baby is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. And he has the name that is above every name, and that name is Jesus Christ. At the name of Jesus, every sickness is defeated. At the name of Jesus, mountains can be moved. At the name of Jesus, your life is filled with power. At the name of Jesus, you go from death unto life. At the name of Jesus, you receive victory and you have that victory today, in Jesus' name! God has given us a treasure at a place called Bethlehem. Don't bury that treasure: embrace it. Receive it for the gift that it truly is. And then share it with all who need to know. Don't let God's greatest gift in your life be lost in the distractions and the details of circumstances and situations that will not matter in days to come. But realize that what he gave to you in the form of his son Jesus Christ is life-giving bread. It's not a mystery. It's a miracle.
People say, "Well, I just don't understand". If we limited our lives to what you didn't understand, we would have a lot less. Don't try to make it confusing. Receive it and celebrate it as the gift that it is. Rejoice that the treasure of Bethlehem has defeated sin. Rejoice that the Son of God has paid for your forgiveness. Rejoice that the charges that were against you have been dropped, and you're now set free: for whom the son sets free is free indeed. Receive this treasure today, and let those who desperately need it, know that our Savior, Jesus Christ, was not only born in Bethlehem but he has risen, and he is King of kings and Lord of lords, to the glory of God the Father. Give the Lord a handclap of praise.
Would you stand in this place? With every head bowed and every eye closed, you're here today, and you say, pastor, I have yet to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior. I know who he is. I know what God has done. But I have never surrendered my heart, soul, mind and body to him. If that describes you and you're in this place today, I want you to raise your hand, in faith believing, to the Lord. And let him see it here, so that you can receive him before you leave this place. I want everyone in this room to repeat this prayer with me:
Lord Jesus Christ, today, in the authority of your name that is above every name, I receive the free gift of your salvation. And I ask for your power to be turned loose in my life. Lord, I need your touch.
Now, tell the Lord exactly where you need it.
I need it in my physical body. I need it in my heart. I need it in my mind. I need it in my spirit. Lord, I need you to show me the path that I should take. I need you to show me the answer that I'm searching for. I need the burden that I'm walking under to be lifted. I need the yoke to be destroyed.
Whatever it happens to be, I assure you, God already sees it, God already knows it, and God has already made a way for you to receive it.