There is Truth in all scripture that is somewhat hidden and never clearly seen until it’s revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. In recent years, God has opened my eyes to see some of that which is not so apparent in the gospels according to Luke and Matthew about the birth of Jesus. This understanding has done much to establish, strengthen, settle, and confirm me in the apostle’s doctrine as it fully bears witness with all the Holy Spirit has taught me about the operation of God in the soul of man. I hope you, too, will find this heavenly illumination very beneficial and with that, I pray God might use it to accomplish His holy purpose in you as He is using it to do so in me.
Adam’s choice to have his own knowledge of good and evil produced a death to the life of God in his soul, leaving man to a weak, elementary life empowered and governed solely by his own reason, intellect, emotions, and creaturely sensibilities. The fall also left man with an insatiable, restless desire, deep within his core; a desire for that which was lost. But, the fallen state keeps the carnal man enslaved to matter that only appeals to, can only be comprehended by, and can only be secured by the natural man. Therefore, his restless, insatiable desire produces a perpetual pursuit for anything and everything BUT that which can fulfill. Perpetual, insatiable desire, pursuit of that desire, and lack of fulfillment produces wrath in the soul — a wrath never really extinguished but only suppressed by temporal gratifications that can be known and felt through creaturely sensibilities. All physical, temporal gratifications act as drugs to numb the soul, keep it in a kind of dream-like stupor, and prevent man from having a true grasp of his grievous condition. This brief summary of our fall should provide a proper perspective with a true sense of man’s depravity and our one great need. Salvation can be nothing but a restoration of that which was lost — a rebirth of God and His life dwelling in the soul.
With these things in mind, look now at a small portion from the gospel according to Luke about the birth of Jesus, beginning with Joseph and Mary’s arrival in Bethlehem after traveling from Nazareth. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7). This account of the physical birth of Jesus gives us an outward representation, type, or picture of God’s plan to generate the birth and life of Jesus in the soul. Allow me to first share something about the last statement we see in the text. As God sent Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, He now sends people, who have the life of Jesus in them, so that His life may be deposited into the souls of others. But, as in the case with Joseph and Mary, there is often no room in the inn because the hearts of men are too full of self and the world. As a result, those with Jesus in them move on to find a heart where there is room for the birth of Jesus to take place. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The ‘poor in spirit’ are those who realize their own spiritual poverty, desperate situation, and great need. Their poverty makes room for the birth of Jesus in the soul.
Let me now turn your thoughts to the manger in which Jesus was laid. The manger in most nativity scenes consists of some structure fashioned with pieces of wood. However, in the Middle East, and in that time, mangers were rarely constructed of wood. The region in and around Israel is very rocky, so depressions or caves within rock walls were utilized to provide a safe haven for livestock. Mangers were most often made by chiseling and removing rock from a wall or pedestal to form a bowl within the stone in which food and water could be placed to meet the needs of the livestock. In Old Covenant days, God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel to tell His people of the New Covenant that was to come in the future; the Covenant we may partake of today. Among other things, he said, “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:24-27). Just as God called Joseph and Mary out of Nazareth, He calls our spirit and soul to come from among the heathen to a place He has prepared. Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’. Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:48). We’re all called out of the world and to that ‘house of bread’, or that place wherein the life of Jesus may be birthed in our soul. Then, from the prophesy of Ezekiel, we see that God takes the stony heart out of us, and gives us a new heart by putting His Spirit within it through which He causes us to walk in His statues and keep His judgments. The manger then, hewn out of the rock, signifies the love of God removing our stony heart to provide a dwelling place for Jesus.
The physical environment into which Jesus was born also speaks of the spiritual environment surrounding His birth and life in man’s soul. The recess or cave in the rock which housed the animals would have been a dark, musty, dirty place. The state of man’s soul is in this same condition until the light and love of God are introduced into it and accomplish their work in it. Livestock would have also been within the rock stable where Jesus was born. This is beyond noteworthy and becomes a substantial portion of this heavenly illumination when we see that God considers our fallen, carnal nature to be that of a beast. In Ecclesiastes 3:18 we read, “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts”. Again in Psalm 49:12,“Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain: he is like the beasts that perish”. And finally, in his warning about false teachers and describing them, Jude says, “But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves” (vs. 10). Two of the animals most common to that time and region were the ox and donkey. Although it is an assumption, it is most likely these animals were present in the place of our Savior’s birth. The Spirit of Jesus is generated or birthed within our souls among the ox of self-will and the donkey of stubbornness and ignorance. With the new birth, man has the selfless love, longsuffering, humility, and wisdom of Jesus now residing with the prideful self-will of the ox and the stubborn ignorance of the donkey. Nevertheless, Jesus is the strong man Who can cast out these beastly elements and purify the soul. Read Luke 11:17-26. Through this and many other scriptures, it’s very clear that the birth and life of Jesus in the soul, is the only possible thing that can restore all that was lost in the fall and provide the soul with the One Who can overcome and cast out all the elements of the beastly nature.
Lastly, from the account in the gospel according to Matthew, chapter 2, we see that King Herod, hearing of a newborn King, being moved by pride, fear, and jealousy, sought to kill Jesus. This, too, is a physical type, or picture. For as soon as the newborn Savior is laid in the depths of the opened heart, Satan, the king of pride, represented by Herod, seeks to kill the child who is born to rule in the New Jerusalem, which is the heavenly kingdom of God established in the soul of man. Read Luke 17:20-21, Ephesians 2:19-22, and Galatians 4:19-31. A word of caution. Satan, the king of pride, is an inward foe. He is already the resident power within the soul of fallen man and rules through his servants — the ox of self-will and the stubborn ignorance of the donkey. Never think that Satan will be overcome and cast out of your life until Jesus has place to accomplish the task in your heart.
May God grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your heart by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, length, depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).