The Swaddled King

You are about to read a version of the Nativity that is not traditionally known and told each year at Christmas.  Keep in mind that Jesus Christ followed Hebrew tradition as he was born a Jew. This version is supported with prophetic Scripture and the shadow and type of distinct details God provides for his faithful to discover in the midst of mystery.  May God bless you with spiritual insight as you read.  Rita Foster

“And you, O tower of the flock, hill of daughter Zion, to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come, the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem. . . But you, O Bethlehem of  Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me, one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.” Micah 4:8 & 5:2-5 ESV

Bethlehem – the birthplace of the shepherd boy David, the king David, was the place of lineage for Joseph, David’s descendant, and he was required to return there to register for the Census along with hundreds of thousands of others traversing the Roman system of roads in order  to keep the family lands that he was inheriting. 

1,300,000 men above the age of 20 were registered in this infamous census giving us an idea that there were around 5 million living in the Roman world at that time as only the men were counted. It was no coincidence that Mary’s due date was around the same time.  The prophecies would be fulfilled, the babe would be born and laid in a manger at Migdal Eder, Hebrew for Tower of the Flock where the sacrificial lambs were born and swaddled to keep them free from blemish – two lambs a day would be sacrificed at the Temple to keep the law. During Passover there would be a need for thousands of lambs. Lodging was going to be a problem for various reasons. The greek word used in Luke was kataluma, there was no room in the kataluma.  The interpretation for kataluma may not be “inn” but could be “guest chamber” in a family home. There was no spare guest chamber for Joseph and Mary.  With Mary’s time nearing, there would be a blood issue. According to the Torah, this birth in the house would defile the whole household making them ceremonially unclean. During the time that Mary would be ritually unclean she had to live separately from the rest of the family until the eight days after the baby was born and then she would go through a mikvah or water immersion at the temple for purification.  

The Tower of the Flock on the King’s Highway, 1000 paces outside of Bethlehem, would be the perfect solution. It was the prophetic solution.

Migdal Eder was just ahead, standing tall and ominous as the weary travelers trudged the final steps from Bethlehem to its door.  As night had begun to fall, it was a black silhouette against the sky.  These descendants of Jacob were now fulfilling the prophetic words of Micah to bring forth the One who is to rule in Israel, feed his flock in the strength of the Lord in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. The time at last had arrived with the pains of labor already coming one after another.  Mary groped her way into the room where Joseph had lit the oil lamp and was pleased to see how clean it was for what lie ahead.  This One of peace could be held back no longer, His time had come.  Her labor contractions would bring this child through the birth canal thrashing and crying into the world.  She distracted herself from the misery of each painful wave by remembering the precious words of Gabriel, visualizing him once more in her mind:

“When the angel entered her home, he greeted her and said, “You are favored by the Lord! The Lord is with you.” She was startled by what the angel said and tried to figure out what this greeting meant. The angel told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. You will become pregnant, give birth to a son, and name him Jesus. He will be a great manand will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give himthe throne of his ancestor David. Your son will be king of Jacob’s people forever, and his kingdom will never end.” Mary asked the angel, “How can this be? I’m a virgin.”The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy child developing inside you will be called the Son of God.  “Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age. People said she couldn’t have a child. But nothing is impossible for God.” Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.” Then the angel left her.” 

Luke 1:27-38

Everything he said was happening to her. Nothing would stop this now. There was no turning back. “Nothing is impossible for God.”

Joseph held her hands reassuringly, prepared to do everything his mother had given him instructions to do. At long last, the baby lay in Mary’s arms.  The wonder and relief that washed over them both was beyond description. Joseph opened the powdered salt he had brought to rub the baby down after washing him. This act was also ceremonially the act of the legitimate father who compassionately accepted this child as his own.   God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel to upbraid Israel for its sinful living with idols as a rejection of him, their father, as a child born with no father to care for them: “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations…’As for your nativity [birth], on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor swathed in swaddling cloths…No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.” Ezekiel 16:2, 4, 5

This is the world, His own creation, that Jesus came to save.

Joseph, shaking slightly, handed Mary the package her cousin Elizabeth had given her. Wrapped inside were sacred strips of the temple priest’s worn-out robes used to swaddle baby lambs being prepared for sacrifice or wicks for the candlesticks that gave light or wrapping a Torah when it was retired – something as sacred as a Torah that had been used in the presence of Yahweh could not be destroyed, but buried. Her cousin Zachariah the priest, had seen to it that this royal baby would be wrapped and swaddled in cloths that were worn in Jehovah’s service in the daily routines of candle lighting and sacramental ritual.  As Mary wrapped each cloth around his tiny frame she sang: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.  He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thronesbut has lifted up the humble.He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be mercifulto Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Luke 1:46-55

The last cloth wrapped perfectly around his head supporting his neck and framing his angelic face: “. . . she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger . . .” Luke 2:7.

Bethlehem was known for the breeding stock that were tended in its surrounding hills for the purpose of providing hundreds of sacrificial lambs for the Temple altar twice a day.  Tending them were a special group of shepherds. They were the rabbinical shepherds.  Another name was priest shepherds. 900 years earlier, David tended sheep in these same hills.  One day David would become king of Israel, but as a young man, he was a priest shepherd. He knew the scriptures and states in Psalm 1:2 that “his delight was in the law of the Lord; and in his law he meditated day and night.” “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night”. Psalm 63:6  This was referred to in the research as “shepherd consciousness”.  The shepherd is shut off from the world as he tends the sheep. It is a contemplative life of silence and solitude.  “In order to cultivate one’s own greatness, it is necessary to develop a deep soul-awareness. This is best accomplished through silence and isolation. The silence of the shepherd is not just the absence of speech.  It is a sublime language of silence, flowing from an outpouring of the soul, a vehicle of ruah hakodesh (divine inspiration). The depths of the soul demand silence.  Silence is full of life, revealing treasures from the beauty of wisdom. Yet today’s hi-tech, DSL-connected world does not leave enough space for an individual to hear silence.  Even with wireless access, are we able to access the inner recesses of our own being?  In this sacred time we can come to taste the Divine encounter that our forefathers taught us through their example as shepherds.” Taken from Orot Hakodesh by Rabbi Kook

As an adult, Jesus as the Good Shepherd, chose seclusion from time to time showing us that we need to be in a quiet place sometimes where we can pray and meditate. “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15 

It was to this group of rabbinical shepherds on a hillside around Bethlehem that the angels brought the most dramatic announcement recorded in all of the Scriptures: 

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”  Luke 2:8-20

There were no directions or address given.  The shepherds knew where to go.  They had memorized the Scriptures as all Jewish men were required to do. They knew the Prophet Micah’s prophecy of where the Messiah would be born – Migdal Eder- The Tower of the Flock, a brick watchtower for rabbinical shepherds with a ceremonially clean lambing station on the ground floor, a building that even some rendition of it stood nearly 2000 years earlier when Jacob passed by after burying his wife Rachel who had just died in giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son. History’s golden thread of this family descending from Abraham and Sarah, was chosen and blessed to bring forth this anointed child thousands of years later to bring salvation to every soul. “I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants. At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!” Gen 17:2-4    Our Forever God is faithful to keep his word for as long as it takes.

The sign of Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger couldn’t be more resounding in its message of clarity – that this is the Savior God had promised, God in flesh to be born and walk among us and to be the sacrifice for us, forever opening the way back to the eternal God.

“When the shepherds had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.’“1 Peter 1:18-20

“Before Jesus had taken his first breath God had decided that his life was to be given as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins.  God testified to his intent by having Jesus be born in the manner and location of the sacrificial lambs of the temple just as the prophet Micah proclaimed.” Pastor Bruce Werson.

 “But thanks be to God, who made us his captives and leads us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Good News like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God.” 2.Cor 2:14,15

Epilogue

There was a room for lodging in the Tower of the Flock, perhaps that is where the Wise Men found the newborn King. Everything was about to change as Jesus carried out His successful mission.  Nothing would ever be the same again.  

He came, not only to pay the price required to redeem us, but to give us assurance through His words that He had overcome the world and now we could live peaceful lives of faith.  All my life, God has proven his promises to me that there would be a way through as long as I was serving him and putting his Kingdom first.  I’m so thankful that I have trusted him those moments when I was wondering “What am I doing here?” Even when I didn’t feel I was qualified to do what he was calling me to do, I kept putting one foot in front of the other on a dimly lit path at times, answering his call.  Jesus Christ assures us that through faith with His help, we will be up to the challenge of the unknowns that are coming in our lives.  His love for us is beyond anything we can imagine.  He is our King who provides the perfect “I never would have imagined that it would turn out that way” rainbow in the sky every time. Sometimes you just have to wait around for it but it comes, it always does.

In Micah’s words “And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the One of peace.”

Our Savior has come! Glory to God in the highest

and on earth Peace good will to All!!!

Merry Christmas!

Online Research: 

Lamb of God-The Manger in Migdal Eder by Clay Mize

Shepherd Consiousness by Fivel Y. Glasser

Orot Hakodesh by Rabbi Kook

The Birth – Revisited by HaRold Smith

Swaddling Clothes and The Virgin Birth by John D. Keyser

Pastor Bruce Werson quote

Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

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