From Nazareth to Bethlehem

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Pastor Robert Miller

There have been two defining occasions in my life as a believer. The first came in 1977 when, as a new Christian, I had difficulty understanding the Bible. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me by sending someone who could teach me how to think about scripture the right way. He answered my prayer and I obtained the bookTwenty-six Lessons in Faith by Kenneth E. Hagin. I consider Dad Hagin to be my father in the faith. The second defining occasion, some 25 years later, was my trip to the Holy Land from which I have just returned. The reality of the presence and peace of God in Israel was overwhelming. This trip brought clarity and perspective to the knowledge that I have gleaned from studying scripture. I believe the impact of this trip will be seen in every aspect of my ministry as Pastor of Montgomery Faith Fellowship.

When we left in the middle of November, Thanksgiving preparations were underway. When we returned to our gateway city, Newark, poinsettias and decorated trees greeted us. This signaled that Christmas is just around the corner. I realized the Christmas decorations and my trip to Israel had something in common, Jesus. Here we are preparing to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, and we just experienced time in the land where Jesus was born, where He lived and ministered and where He died and rose again. I have to tell you the experience of walking in the Promised Land far exceeds decorations, fables and traditions of Christmas.

Jesus was born a Jew in a land promised by God to His chosen people. After hearing the guides talk of the passion in the hearts of the Israeli people for their land, I just knew Jesus had that same passion. He had it from the moment of His birth. The story of Jesus birth is recorded most completely in Luke chapters one and two. However, the Jewish prophets, under God’s anointing, spoke of His coming thousands of years before His actual birth. He was the fulfillment of God’s plan of Redemption. Today, the nation of Israel is the key to final fulfillment of God’s plan in the earth. As important as Jesus was to our world, so Israel is to the end times.

Our trip began in the region known as Galilee. This area of Israel is simply beautiful with the Sea of Galilee as its focal point. No wonder Jesus spent almost three years of ministry in this region. Even in the winter the weather is sunny and inviting. Our first nights were spent in Tiberius, a town founded by the Romans and located on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee. Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, is located west of Tiberius in the mountains of Galilee. The scriptures reveal that Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, some 65-70 miles to the south. I can tell you the mountains are high and rugged and we saw the same path used by Jesus to travel to Jerusalem. It did not look easy. Just imagine the faith and trust Mary and Joseph had in God. I heard that same faith and trust in God from my friends in Israel as they described their encounters with terrorism. Like Mary and Joseph they know that God’s plan will be manifested in their lives. It must have been a hard trip with Mary ready to deliver Jesus and then to ride such a long way on the back of a donkey. They had no choice since Israel was occupied by Rome. Jesus did not preach in Tiberius because He was sent to the children of Israel. It was probable that the centurion, a Roman soldier, whose servant was healed by Jesus, resided in Tiberius.

The distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is 65-70 miles of mountains and valleys. All this land was promised to the children of Israel. Today, this stretch of land is mostly known as the West Bank, a land claimed by the Palestinians and in dispute. Jesus cried for Jerusalem just before His crucifixion. No wonder–I cry for Jerusalem too. I wonder if Jesus saw the pain that would take place in this city. While we were there, suicide bombers took the lives of 24 men, women and children. We could not go into Bethlehem where Jesus was born. At that time it was under Palestinian control. Now it is under Israeli control. I know that Mary and Joseph were determined to walk in the light of God’s will for them. This determination allowed the Lord to work supernaturally in their lives. We know that Joseph experienced several dreams that gave him direction and allowed them to escape the plans of Herod who wanted to annihilate any chance of Jesus becoming king. Divine intervention came in the form of visions, dreams and guidance from angels. Today, I see that same determination in the lives of Israeli citizens everywhere as they fulfill the prophecies spoken by the Prophets. I also know that God is with Israel today. Supernatural intervention has already occurred on their behalf. I learned of the miracles that occurred in the rebirth of Israel in 1948, the Six Days War in 1967 and in the Valley of Tears at the beginning of the Yom Kippur war. God’s hand is in that land and will continue to be. Jerusalem will once again be filled with the glory of God.

We are preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth and like the Wisemen who came bearing gifts to honor Jesus, there is something we can do to honor Him. Jerusalem is in the heart of God and He told us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Israel needs our prayers right now. We encourage you to pray continually for Jerusalem and Israel. I also encourage you to e-mail your Senators and Congressmen to encourage them to support Israel. Our support of Israel is a fitting birthday gift to the King of Kings, Jesus, who will one day rule from Jerusalem.