No, I'm not done with my "Big Picture" posts [that's the thing about the big picture... it's BIG... how's that for profound revelation! ;-)] Nor is this a belated Christmas post. But something I spotted in the word during my recent meditations in Genesis, that I feel stirred to share today.
Then they [Jacob and family] journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni [son of my sorrow]; but his father called him Benjamin [son of the right hand]. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel's tomb, which is there to this day. (Ge 35:16-20 ESV)
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. (Lk 2:4-6 ESV)
Have you ever tried to put yourself into the place of the characters in the Bible and tried to imagine what they were thinking? It's pure speculation of course, but it can be a very helpful technique when meditating on the word, to grasp the full significance of some of the events.
What was going through Mary's mind as she travelled along the road to Bethlehem? It's impossible to tell for sure, but it is inconceivable that she would have been unaware of the account of Rachel's journey to that same town. Like her, she was pregnant with a son. Like her, she was due to give birth. She may have even passed the pillar that marked Rachel's journey's end. She knew she was destined to produce a son for God, but what did she know about her own fate? Did she wonder as she followed the steps of her ancestor if she was destined to follow that path to the same conclusion for herself? Was she anxious, concerned, afraid? If so, it would have been totally understandable. Perhaps for Mary, this was her own journey through the valley of the shadow of death.
Perhaps you are embarking on a "Road to Bethlehem" in your life right now? It's a road that is laden with negative expectations because of what has happened in the past. It's a road that brings back memories of sorrow and pain. It's a road that you don't want to take for fear that it will end where it did before — yet it is a road that, through circumstances you cannot control, you are compelled to take. Take heart and do not fear. For God is with you to accomplish his purpose. This may be an old road, but the day is new, and so will be the outcome!
Rachel through her death brought forth Ben-oni, Benjamin: the son of sorrow, the son of the right hand. Mary lived and brought forth Jesus! The Son, the man of sorrows who carried all our pains, and through his death, was raised to the right hand of God in majesty. It is God's plan to produce his son in you that will prevail. It is a plan to prosper you and not to harm you.
Whatever you may be feeling about it, take heart! The Road to Bethlehem is a road that ends with joy.