“For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11,12)
WHY WAS THIS BABE EXPECTED?
“Unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given.” (Isa. 9:6) This is a subject which will never grow old - a subject which, on the contrary shall to all eternity be a theme of angels and of men. The birth of Jesus, to be rightly understood and esteemed, must be considered from the standpoint of a gift of Love Divine. Any other view of the matter is merely the casket without the jewel. The Scriptures give us the key to the thought: “God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The world was under sentence of death; mankind had been dying for more than four thousand years. God had pitied humanity from the first. Yes, before sin entered, Divine Wisdom saw the end, and would not have created man, or would not have permitted the condition which led to sin and the sentence of death, had Divine Wisdom not foreseen and arranged in advance for human redemption.
Why were all men in expectation of Him at the time of His birth? What was to be peculiar about Him to lead Israel to expect His birth? The answer to this question is that God had made a certain promise centuries before and the promise had not been fulfilled. This promise contained the thought that a holy child would be born, and that in some way, not explained in the promise, this child would bring the blessing the world needed. Therefore every mother amongst the Israelites was very solicitous that she might be the mother of a son rather than a daughter, that perchance she might be the mother of this promised child. Thus the matter went on for years until, finally, the child was born.
The promise back of the expectation was that which God made to Abraham, saying, “In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” From that time forward Abraham began to look for the promised Seed - the promised child. He looked first of all to his own children, and was finally informed that it would not be one of his children direct, but that through their children, at some remote date, this child should be born - the Seed of Abraham. From that time onward, all the Israelites were waiting for the birth of the child that should bring the blessing.
But why was a Messiah necessary? Why wait at all for the birth of the child? The answer to this question is that sin had come into the world; that God had placed our first parents, who were holy, pure and free from sin, in the glorious conditions of the Garden of Eden with every favorable prospect and everlasting life at their command if they continued in harmony with God. But by reason of their disobedience they came under Divine displeasure and sentence of death. This sentence of death has brought in its wake aches, pains, sorrows, tears, sighing, crying and death - all of these experiences as a result of sin.
Our heavenly Father said to our first parents - and this was the first intimation that he gave them of a deliverance - that “The Seed of the woman shall bruise the Serpent’s head.” (Gen. 3:15) The Serpent in this expression means Satan - all the powers of evil, everything adverse to humanity, everything adverse to the blessings which God had given them, and which they had lost by disobedience. But the promise was vague and they understood little about the “Seed of the woman” and “bruising the Serpents head.” It merely meant in an allegorical way a great victory over Sin and Satan, without explaining how it should come. The total victory over Satan was to come later. “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Rom. 16:20)
So humanity continued to die; they continued to have aches and pains and sorrows; they continued going down to the tomb. They realized that what they needed was some Savior to come and deliver them from the power of sin, to deliver them from the death penalty of sin - a Savior who would be, in other words, a Life-giver. They were dying and needed new life. This is the meaning of the word Savior in the language used by our Lord and the Apostles. They were hoping and expecting that God would send a Life-giver.
It was on this account that they were so greatly concerned regarding the promise made to Abraham: “In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14) - they shall be granted a release from sin and death. In no other way could mankind be blessed. It would be impossible to bless mankind except by releasing them from sin and death. Hence, the Scriptures tell us of God’s sympathy; that God looked down from His holy habitation, and beheld our sorrow, and heard, figuratively, “the groaning of the prisoners,” humanity - all groaning and travailing under this penalty of death -some with few aches and pains, and some with more aches and pains; some with few sorrows, and some with greater sorrows; but all groaning and travailing in pain.
But God’s sympathy was manifested. He looked down and beheld that there was no eye to pity and no arm to save and with His own Arm He brought salvation. This is what was promised to Abraham - that one should come from his posterity who would be the Savior of the world; and because this promise was made to Abraham and to his Seed, they were marked out as separate from all other nations and peoples. To the Jewish nation alone belonged this great honor - that through them should come this salvation. Hence from that time onward the Jews spoke of themselves as God’s people, the people whom God had promised to bless, and through whom he would bring a blessing to all others. Therefore, all other people were called heathen (or nations, which the word means). Israel was thus separated because God’s Covenant was with them, and not with the others. But God’s Covenant with Israel was for the blessing of all the others: “In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Now we have the “Why” of this wonderful babe’s being born.
HOW WAS THIS BABE PECULIAR - HOLY, HARMLESS, UNDEFILED?
How could He be a Savior? In what way could He be different from any other babe? Why not use some other babe as the one through whom salvation should come? The answer of the Bible is that salvation could not come to mankind unless there should be satisfaction of Justice on account of Original Sin. That must be the first consideration. The penalty, “Dying thou shalt die,” pronounced against the first man, must be met before the world could be blessed.
Why not let any man die? Because all were under the sentence of the original condemnation, and none could be a Ransom-price or a substitute. Hence the necessity for a specially born babe, different from any other babe. In what way was this One differently born? The Bible explains to us very distinctly that He was not begotten of an earthly father. Although Joseph was espoused to Mary, yet this child was not the child of Joseph. The Bible explains that this child was specially begotten by Divine Power, in the mother, though she was still a “virgin” when she brought forth the child.
A SAVIOR - CHRIST THE LORD
It was prophetically, of course, that the babe of Bethlehem was called a Savior - He was to be a Savior, The Christ, the Lord. But as the babe he was none of these. He became The Christ before becoming the Savior and Lord. The word Christ signifies anointed. In the Divine purpose it was arranged that Messiah should be anointed High Priest of Israel on a higher plane than Aaron - after the order of Melchisedec (Psa. 110:4). And every priest must be anointed to his office before he could fill it. Similarly, it was prophesied that Christ would be the great King, greater than David and Solomon, who were His types and foreshadows.
This is the Scriptural proposition; and while it may not seem clear to some, yet the Word of God stands sure. If the Redeemer was not perfect then he could not be the Savior of the world. The promised redemption implied that Jesus would be perfect; it implied that He would be as the first man was before he sinned. “For since by man came death, by man shall come also the resurrection of the dead”; “As all in Adam die, even so shall all in Christ be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:21,22)
So this one must be, as the Apostles declares, “holy harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners.” (Heb. 7:26) He must be entirely distinct and separate from humanity so far as sinful features were concerned. If we had time it would be interesting to go into the scientific features - how a perfect child could be from an imperfect mother. If we can have a perfect life germ we can have a perfect child from an imperfect mother. If a breeder of stock wishes to raise the standard of his stock, he selects a fine bull, a male goat, or a male ram, and thus he improves the entire herd. And so, if we had perfect fathers, we could soon have a perfect race. But there is no father who can produce a perfect child. Hence it was necessary in this case (and the Scriptures declare it was accomplished) that God should beget this Son by power from on high. Therefore, that which was born of the “virgin” was separate and distinct from all humanity. His life came not from an earthly father, but from His Heavenly Father.
WHO WAS HE THUS BORN?
It is written that before he became flesh Jesus had an existence; as He declared, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58) Again in one of His prayers He said, “Father, glorify thou me with the glory that I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5) The Revelator tells us that “He was the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14), and Paul says that “by him all things were made.” (John 1:3) And so our Lord Jesus was not only the beginning, but also the active agent of the Father in all the creative work in the angelic world and in the creation of humanity, and all things that were created.
The whole matter is summed up by the Apostle John. We will give a more literal translation of “In the beginning was the Word.” [This expression, Word, in the Greek is Logos. The thought behind the word Logos is that in olden times a king, instead of speaking his commands directly to his people, sat behind a lattice work, and his Logos, or messenger, or word, or representative, stood before the lattice work, and gave the message of the king to the people in a loud tone of voice. The king himself was not seen by the people - the Logos was the one seen. So this is the picture the Scriptures give us of how Jesus was the express representative of the Heavenly Father, the One through whom the Heavenly Father made Himself known - the Word, or the Logos. So we read in the first chapter of John], “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with the God, and the Logos was a god. The same was in the beginning with the God. By him were all things made, and without him was not anything made.” (John 1:1, Dia.)
In other words, Jesus was the direct Creator of all things. He was the Divine Power, Agent, Word, Messenger, the Logos of Jehovah. He did all the great work of creation; but He Himself was the first of God’s direct creation, the First-born of all creatures, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence - the first place.
When the time came that our Heavenly Father made known His great purpose that He would bless the world, He gave opportunity to this First-begotten One - this begotten of the Father - to be the servant in this great work He intended to accomplish for mankind. Consequently, the Scriptures state that “for the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Heb. 12:2) And now He has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He has this great reward because of His obedience even unto death, the death of the cross.
The Apostle speaks of Him as having been rich, but for our sakes becoming poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich. He tells us how He left the glory which He had with the Father and humbled Himself to the human nature. Why? Because, as already stated, it was necessary that some one should become man’s Redeemer; an angel could not redeem man, neither could an animal redeem man. The Divine law is “an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; a man’s life for a man’s life.” (Matt. 5:38) This was to teach us a great lesson; that perfect human life having been condemned to death, that it would require a perfect human life to redeem it. It was therefore necessary that Jesus should become the “Man Christ Jesus,” in order “that He by the grace of God shall taste death for every man.” (Heb. 2:9)
WHAT RESULTS HAVE FOLLOWED?
The results that have followed have been that He Himself proved His own faithfulness. “Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8) - the most ignominious form of death. It pleased the Father thus to prove Him, not only by death, but by the most ignominious form of death - dying as a culprit, being crucified between two thieves. What a terrible ignominy to die thus!
It would be ignominy enough for us in our imperfection, but for Him, perfect, “holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners,” it must have been a cause of deep and poignant sorrow. Having completed the laying down of His life, at the end of three and half years, He cried, “It is finished!” What? Not His work, for much of that lay before Him! He merely finished this part of the work, finished laying down His life a ransom-price.
What next? After His death came His resurrection, and we read that “God raised Him from the dead on the third day.” According to the Scriptures He was raised up from death a glorious being - “sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory, sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spirit body”; “Wherefore God hath highly exalted him and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, those in heaven, and those on the earth, and those under the earth; that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10)
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?
All the families of the earth are to be blessed, as originally promised in Eden: “The Seed [The Christ] of the woman shall bruise the Serpents head.” Also, as St. Paul states in the 16th chapter of Romans, “The very God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” So, then, the next thing in order in the outworking of God’s Plan will be to bruise Satan and destroy him.
When and how will this be done? Just as soon as this Age shall end; because this Age is merely for the development of the Bride class; then will come the promised Free Grace to all the families of the earth. Messiah’s Kingdom shall come. He has promised that when He shall reign, all His faithful shall reign with Him: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Rev. 3:21) All the Church will be associated with Him in His great Messianic Kingdom; and “He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth” (Psa. 72:8); and “Unto Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, to the glory of God the Father” (Rom. 14:11); “The knowledge of the glory of God shall fill the whole earth.” (Hab. 2:14) The whole earth will become as the Garden of Eden. Paradise Lost will be Paradise Restored. The Divine Image lost in Adam will be restored to man. Human nature will be brought to perfection. But the glorious reward to the Church will be the Divine nature, to be like her Lord, to sit at His right hand, and to bless the world of mankind. Man will become not only perfect, having all that Adam had, but will have additional knowledge and character; and there is every evidence that this shall be an eternal blessing.
SHALL NONE BE LOST?
Yes, the Scriptures tell us that some will be lost, and that the loss they shall sustain will be loss of life. “They shall be as though they had not been” (Obad. 1:16); “They shall be destroyed from amongst the people.” St. Peter says, “They shall be destroyed as brute beasts.” (Acts 3:23; 2 Peter 2:12)
When? When the eyes of their understanding shall have been opened to see the Lord and to understand His glorious character, and they shall have had opportunity to appreciate and enjoy His blessing. When such intentionally reject the grace of God, they shall die the Second Death, from which there is no resurrection, no hope of recovery. But thank God, there shall be no knowledge of suffering for them; they shall be destroyed as brute beasts.
In proportion as we believe in this Babe of Bethlehem shall we rejoice today. In proportion as we believe He was manifested on our behalf; in proportion as we believe He died for our sins; in proportion as we recognize Him as the glorified Savior; in proportion as we have surrendered our hearts to Him and seek to do the things well pleasing to Him shall we have the peace of God.
Our hope on behalf of mankind in general is that in God’s due time His blessing shall reach all - not the same as that for the Church, but as St. Peter tells us in Acts 3:19-21, “Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and he shall send Jesus Christ, who before was preached unto you, whom the heaven must retain until the times of restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets.”
(Based on Reprint 4963, January 15, 1912, by Pastor Charles T. Russell)
“ACADEMICS FIRED ‘FOR BEING ISRAELI’: British Professor Mona Baker, the director of the center for translation and intercultural studies at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), dismissed two Israeli academics from the boards of her two independently-owned journals after signing an academic boycott of Israeli institutions last week. The two Israelis were highly respected academicians, Gideon Toury from the Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Miriam Shlesinger, a respected American-born lecturer at the Bar-Ilan University. Prof. Baker, a native of Egypt who has lived in England for 20 years, told the Telegraph (London): ‘I deplore the Israeli state.’ And was quoted by the media as saying: ‘Israel has gone beyond just war crimes. Many of us would like to talk about it as some kind of holocaust which the world will eventually wake up to, much too late, of course, as they did with the last one.’
“Prof. Baker is one of the signatories of a British-led petition of more than 700 mainly European academics launched by Prof. Steven Rose of Britain’s Open University. Signatories include some of the most eminent Oxford professors, including Colin Blakemore and Richard Dawkins. This organized ‘academic boycott’ is part of a campaign to suspend European Union funding of Israeli universities (though not, of course, the EU’s generous financing of Yasser Arafat). Ten Israeli academics have also signed the petition.
Baker’s actions brought an avalanche of international condemnation. Several British media commentators, including those from newspapers traditionally hostile to Israel, have strongly criticized the sackings of the Israelis. If you believe that Prof. Baker’s actions against the Israelis was improper, you may write her at: email@example.com”
(By Rebecca Brimmer, July 19, 2002)
“NOT MADE IN ISRAEL: British supermarkets have been instructed not to label fruit, vegetables, flowers, wine and fruit as ‘Produce of Israel’ if they were grown and packed in Judea, Samaria, or the Gaza Strip.
“A government spokesman said the directive had been agreed to by the European Union and applied to all member states.
“As a result, Israeli produce from across the Green Line will no longer qualify for preferential EU import duties. The British directive, the first to differentiate between goods produced within and beyond the Green Line, is widely seen as a capitulation by the government to a campaign by pro-Palestinian activists to advance an openly anti-Israel agenda.”
(The Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2002)
WORDS OF WAR
President Bush, it turns out, is keeping score. Inside a drawer of his Oval Office desk sits a neat sheaf of classified documents containing the names and photographs of suspected terrorist thought to be responsible for the horrors of September 11, 2001. As each man is killed or captured, according to the president’s daily intelligence briefing, Bush hauls out the list and puts a big check mark across the appropriate picture to signify that one more “evildoer” has met his fate. Aids say the president takes considerable satisfaction in the private ritual.
Clearly, Bush’s war has gotten personal. This was illustrated once again by his tearful demeanor and emotional remarks at last week’s commemoration ceremonies marking the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “For all Americans, it has been a year of adjustment, of coming to terms with the difficult knowledge that our nation has determined enemies and that we are not invulnerable,” the president said in a seven-minute address to the nation from Ellis Island. “The attack on our nation was also an attack on the ideals that make us a nation. Our deepest national conviction is that every life is precious, because every life is the gift of a Creator who intended us to live in liberty and equality.”
Now Bush is applying that same sense of mission and resolve to what increasingly appears to be an inevitable war against Saddam Hussein. In his much-anticipated address to the United Nations, Bush asked the court of world opinion to rally around him. “Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave and gathering danger,” Bush said in arguing that Iraq continues to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, is a threat to peace, and is flouting the U.N. Allowing the regime to survive, the president argued, would be a “reckless gamble.”
All this means that Bush will need to add another role to his repertoire of consoler in chief and commander in chief. Now, he must act as salesman in chief - and it won’t be easy. As his first order of business, he will seek to impose an ultimatum with a tight deadline on Iraq in the form of a single sweeping U. N. Security Council resolution demanding compliance with stringent weapons inspections. While Russia or China most likely will balk at an explicit threat of force if Baghdad resists, the Bush administration will work to make the implicit threat as clear as possible. And it intends to act, with or without U.N. authorization. “Standing idly by is not acceptable, and it will not be on our conscience,” Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told U.S. News.
With his address, Bush fundamentally shifted the international debate onto more favorable ground by presenting the case as a fundamental test of U.N. credibility. Yet several key Security Council nations remain wary of the administration’s underlying goal of “regime change” (a phrase the president avoided using in his U.N. address). They appear to favor the approach used during the 1990s of forcing only weapons inspections, not Hussein’s removal. Ousting him, these countries argue, would set the ominous precedent of overturning a sovereign government.
Meanwhile, Bush will ask Congress to approve a war resolution before it adjourns next month. As with the United Nations, he has a way to go. “I don’t think that the case for a pre-emptive attack has been made conclusively yet,” says Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat. Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, argues that Bush has not adequately defined the Iraqi threat. “I am troubled that the administration has not made the most basic intelligence preparation for the debate on Capitol Hill,” Durbin says. “Until it’s done, Congress is in no position to vote on going to war. We should not make a rash or hasty decision.” All this will require a level of salesmanship from the White House that it has not yet displayed. In fact, a “white paper” released by the White House detailing Iraq’s history of flouting U.N. resolutions presented no new intelligence about its nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons capabilities.
War planning. Nor does the military appear ready to pull the trigger. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are still hashing out a war plan, although the chiefs did meet on September 10 to narrow down the options drawn up by Central Command, which would run any conflict.
But Pentagon planners say things might be quite a bit easier than they were in the first Persian Gulf War. For one thing, the Iraqi military was decimated the first time around, and the subsequent arms embargo made it very difficult for Baghdad to improve its conventional forces. In addition, any U.S. or allied buildup would not take nearly as long as the months of preparation needed 12 years ago. The U.S. military presence in the region already is being bolstered by additional deployments of military hardware and some U.S. troops. Pentagon officials think the military could be ready to strike by the end of November. Military planners don’t think it will require anything close to the half-million troops sent to the region last time; one estimate is that it would take 150,000 to rout the Iraqis.
And while worries persist that a desperate Saddam Hussein may use chemical or biological weapons against U.S. forces or Israel, there is growing confidence among at least some of Washington’s cognoscenti that the war would be short and decisive. Former President Bill Clinton, for example, predicts that Iraq could be defeated in a week.
At that point, though, things could get murky. “How do we get out?” asks a senior military official. “That’s the cause of the most concern. What is the exit strategy?” Yet a senior White House official says Bush is not worried about that prospect and would accept a U.S. commitment to occupy and rebuild Iraq for a period of years. “He believes that scenario is better than leaving Saddam in control,” says the official.
That is a turnabout for Bush, who argued in the 2000 campaign that America was stretched too thin around the world and should avoid “nation building.” Likewise, his decision to seek U.N. support represented another shift. Going it alone was his first instinct, reinforced by his hawkish advisers led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But in recent weeks, Bush has been persuaded to take a more multilateral approach, at least temporarily. One reason: the quiet diplomacy of Secretary of State Colin Powell, a pragmatic coalition builder.
Also playing a role in the shift were advisers to Bush’s father, including former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. Both have publicly advocated the more cautious, multilateral approach. And many people who know George Herbert Walker Bush have no doubt that he agrees with his former advisers, although he would never say so publicly because it would embarrass his son. Yet several of the elder Bush’s senior strategists warn that in some ways the current situation is much different, and more difficult, than the one the father faced. “In ’91, we had a defined threat - Iraq had crossed an international border by invading Kuwait,” says a former aide to the elder Bush. “This time, the threat is not well defined.” Further, the administration’s internal divisions have been on full public display, featuring leaks not only of the factions’ differing views but also of various military attack scenarios, apparently in an effort to discredit them.
Finish the job. Compounding President Bush’s current problem is that he lacks his father’s personal relationship with other world leaders, deepened by the elder Bush’s experiences as vice president and U.N. ambassador, making it more difficult for the president to rally international backing. Finally, the Republican Party’s conservative wing feels that the father botched the endgame of the Gulf War by failing to depose Saddam Hussein. These conservatives, some GOP insiders say, are pushing the son to finish the job.
To that end, Bush’s bill of particulars against Hussein is lengthy and growing. The president, like his father, believes Hussein is a barbarian. This was reinforced by Saudi sources, who told him the Iraqi dictator had sent Arab leaders a video in which he berates a group of political opponents who were brought in to see him - and shoots one in the head as a lesson to his adversaries.
In addition, Bush has concluded that Hussein is more dangerous to the United States than he was before the Gulf War because more terrorists are now willing to commit suicide. “This gives him willing mules” to carry out attacks, says a senior White House strategist. “The president feels that when all the variables are taken together, Saddam Hussein poses a unique threat to the world,” and he must be ousted, observes another top administration official. “When people say, ‘Why now?’ he says, ‘Why later?’”
Yet some Democrats find the timing suspect and argue that the administration is stirring up war fever to give Republican candidates an edge in the November midterm elections. “They’re using a fight they waited to have with Saddam Hussein directly for political advantage,” says Joe Lockhart, a Democratic strategist who was White House press secretary for Clinton. “They realized the midterms were slipping away on the basis of the economy, and now they’re using foreign policy. This is uncharted territory… but it’s a highly cynical and dangerous strategy. They’ve clearly set this thing up so that something dramatic has to happen or the policy will be seen as a failure.”
On the other side, many Republicans argue that it is the Democrats who are playing politics. “These guys are making the same mistakes the Republicans made in 1991 - they are too ideological, too political, too extreme,” says GOP pollster Frank Luntz. “The average American really hates Saddam Hussein,” Luntz adds. “The average American won’t spit at anything these days, but he will spit at a picture of Saddam Hussein.” Partly as a result, the public will give the president the benefit of the doubt if and when he uses military force to oust the Iraqi ruler, Luntz argues.
So far, the growing debate in Washington over Iraq has not yet dominated the political campaigns across the country. Overall, the midterms appear to turn on a variety of issues, including the economy, education, corporate reform, and many local and regional concerns. Ratcheting up war talk could yet change all that by sweeping nearly everything else off the radar screen. And whether by coincidence or calculation, that would be just fine with the political strategists at the White House.
(By Kenneth T. Walsh, U.S. News & World Report, September 23, 2002)