“During her difficult labor, the midwife said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid, for you have another son.” – Genesis 35:17 CSB
Bethlehem. It was not so many weeks ago all of us were regularly speaking of, thinking on, and singing about a little town by this name, and for good reason. Something happens in Genesis 35 that is easy to miss if we are not paying attention: the first mention of Bethlehem in Scripture.
The occasion is a sad one: the death of the wife of the patriarch Jacob, Rachel (whom he loved!). Let us draw two major connections with the narrative of Scripture: 1) the first mention of “Bethlehem” is in conjunction with childbirth. 2) The one having a child (dying from labor) is told, “Don’t be afraid.”
As we fold back the tragic and melancholy nature of the narrative, there is a hope that lies in these folds. Even in the moment of death, the dying one is given comfort by the truth that God has answered her prayers in giving her another son. In fields near this tragic event, a miraculous event will unfold generations later when a group of shepherds are told, “Do not be afraid” for God has a Son!
To truly experience the joy of what happens ultimately in Bethlehem, we must face the reality of sin, death, and grief. On the other side of that is the reality of salvation, life, and joy.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Son. Thank you that in the face of death you remind me to not be afraid, because even in the valley of its shadow, you are with me.”
John Blackmon serves as pastor of Meansville Baptist Church.