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The Promised King

Date: Oct. 4, 2015

Author: Bob Henkins

Matthew 2:1-23

Key Verse: Matthew 2:2

“and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’”

Did anyone here get a chance to see the blood moon last week? A blood moon is a total lunar eclipse, which means that the earth casts its shadow on a full moon and the moon glows red because of the light wave lengths. [I did - explain] Did you know that it was the fourth one to occur since April 15th last year? A series of 4 total lunar eclipses is called a “Lunar Tetrad.” Full lunar eclipses are rare events, having four of them so close together is even rarer (there have been only 8 of them in the last two thousand years) and the last one, which happened last week, was called a supermoon because the moon was at its closest point to the earth. Now as you can imagine this can get some people all worked up just like Y2K, the end of the millennium, the first war in Iraq and 2012 did. Because of these rare events some People start trying to predict the end of the world (Blood moon prophecy book – best seller, movie), but before Jesus came, there were people who were trying to predict who the Messiah was and when he would come. However it’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen in the future even in something relatively simple like football where you have limited choices of only 32 teams. Last year Seattle was the heavy favorite to win it all and yet the New England Patriots did it. It’s even hard to predict the outcome of a single game let alone a whole season. [two years ago, when Denver played Seattle in the Super bowl, Denver was favored to win 2.5 -1 however they were blown out. At the start of this year’s NFL season, the Green Bay Packers were the team with the best odds to win the Super bowl. Green Bay are 6-1 favorites, while Seattle is right behind them at 13-2. The Chicago Bears were in the bottom third at 50-1 while the Jaguars & Titans were at the bottom at 200-1. (6-1 means they have a 1 in 6 chance of winning, 13-2 means they have a chance of 1 in 6.5 chance of winning, and 50-1 means they have a 1 in 50 chance of winning.)] It’s very difficult to predict outcomes. Now imagine trying to predict who the Messiah is out of all the people in Israel scattered over hundreds of years. In today’s passage we’ll see four prophecies about the Messiah and how Jesus fulfills each one. Was this random chance or was it part of an orchestrated plan, you make the choice.

Verse 1 says, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem” Before we get into the passage let’s first get a little background. Who was king Herod? The man in this passage was the first of a few named Herod. He called himself Herod the Great. He was half-Jew, half-Idumean, who, through the help of the Roman Senate, rose to power as a puppet king of Israel in 37 B.C. He was known as a great builder and a shrewd diplomat in his dealings with both Romans and Jews. However to fund his building he laid oppressive taxes on and conscripted labor from the Israelites. (May 2014 archeologists found a big square stone blocks buried that had his name inscribed on them) As he grew older, he became increasingly paranoid about threats against him and his position. He murdered one of his wives, 3 of his sons, his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle and many others close to him because he feared plots to overthrow him. After frequent disputes with Caesar Augustus, the emperor uttered a comment that would become famous, “I would rather be Herod’s pig than his son.” [it was called a pun because son & pig sound similar]

And who were the Magi? Few biblical stories are as well known, and yet so clouded by myth and tradition, as that of the magi, or otherwise known as wise men. The magi first appear in history in the seventh century B.C. as a tribe within the Median nation in eastern Mesopotamia (Iraq). The name magi soon came to be associated with the hereditary priesthood within that tribe. The magi became skilled in astronomy and astrology (which, in that day, were closely associated) and had a sacrificial system that somewhat resembled the one God gave to Israel through Moses. Speaking of Moses, scholars say the magi were the ones who tried to reproduce the plagues in the Exodus. They were involved in various occult practices, including sorcery, and were especially noted for their ability to interpret dreams. It is from their name that our words magic and magician are derived. Because of their knowledge of science, agriculture, mathematics, history, and the occult, their religious and political influence continued to grow until they even transcended nations, they became the most prominent and powerful group of advisors in the Medo-Persian empire and even the Babylonian empire. It is not strange, therefore, that they often were referred to as “wise men.” It may be that “the law of the Medes and Persians” (Da 6:8, 12; Ester 1:19) was founded on the teachings of these magi. Historians tell us that no Persian was ever able to become king without mastering the scientific and religious disciplines of the magi and then being approved and crowned by them, and that this group also largely controlled judicial appointments (Ester 1:13).

From the book of Daniel we learn that the magi were among the highest-ranking officials in Babylon. [The chief of the Babylonian magi (Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag,) was with Nebuchadnezzar when he attacked and conquered Judah. (Jer 39:3)] Daniel was appointed as “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Da 2:48) because the Lord gave Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream when no one else could do it. As a result of his great wisdom Daniel was highly respected among the magi and also because he had successfully pleaded for the lives of the wise men who had failed to interpret the king’s dream. (Da 2:24) It seems that because of Daniel’s high position and respect, the magi learned about the one true God, the God of Israel, and about His will and plans for His people through the coming glorious King. And since many Jews remained in Babylon after the Exile and intermarried with the people of the east, it’s likely that Jewish influence remained strong in that region even up to Jesus’ times. (Do you remember our study of Acts, Simon in Ch 8 who tried to buy the Holy Spirit – he was a magi. Also Paul met Bar-Jesus who was a sorcerer and magician )

So what did they learn from Daniel, most likely it came from Numbers 24:17-19  I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth. 18 Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. 19 A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.” These magi had seen some kind of great star and began their research and found their answer in the scriptures from Daniel. Then they planned their trip and all of that took about 2 years. They were truth seekers and came to see the ruler that would come out of Jacob otherwise known as Israel. During that time period there was widespread expectation of the coming of a great king, a great deliverer. The Roman historian Suetonius, speaking of the time around the birth of Christ, wrote, “There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world.” Another Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote that “there was a firm persuasion that at this very time the east was to grow powerful and rulers coming from Judea were to acquire a universal empire.” The Jewish historian Josephus reports in his Jewish Wars that at about the time of Christ’s birth the Jews believed that one from their country would soon become ruler of the habitable earth.

When the magi reached Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod heard the magi he was freaked out. There were several reason he was disturbed. First he was paranoid and had a general fear of losing his position (one of the downfalls of successful people is that they fear losing what they have) killed so many people because of it. When a group of foreign “king makers” comes looking for a new born king, which wasn’t him because he had to fight to become king, he was worried they would depose him. Not only that, all this talk of a new king could also cause problems with Rome who might think they were challenging their rule. So naturally if Herod was disturbed, so would all the people around him.

So what does Herod do? He does his research about who this king is supposed to be. Take a look at verses 4-5. “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:” So he finds out place to be born – Bethlehem and this fulfills the prophecy about where the Messiah was to be born. Actually Matthew quotes the prophet Micah but the real quote gives us a little more insight. Micah 5:2,4 – “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” Not only do we find the Messiah’s place of birth, but that his origins are ancient, Israel will be broken and reunited and he would be a shepherd of his people. If Herod were a truth seeker and sincere like the magi, he should have rejoiced greatly, but he doesn’t, instead, he views the new child as a threat and starts to make plans to eliminate him. From verses 7 & 8 we see how he manipulates the magi to find out how old the baby is and he tries to locate his position from them. He lies to them saying that he wants to worship too.

As a side note, I find it interesting that the Gentles are the ones who make a big deal about the Messiah, the religious leaders didn’t connect the star to the Messiah. The magi continue their search for the Messiah. They were full of joy to find his house. They bowed down and worshipped. They didn’t have ulterior motives – were sincere – worship and leave. They offered gifts – expensive ones, Gold the gift for a king, Frankincense the gift for a priest, and Myrrh the gift for a prophet. These were appropriate gifts because only Jesus was each of these for he was a prophet, priest and king. Then God warned the magi and had them leave by a different route. This shows how God cares for and protects his people.

Why did they need protection, take a look at verses 13-16. “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” Herod was an unpredictable man. That’s why the Lord sent an angel wo warn them not to trust Herod, go to Egypt. God tells him to stay indefinitely, until God tells him otherwise. Joseph follows God’s instruction by responding immediately, like Abraham, with no delay. He leaves in the middle of the night under the protection of the dark.

Matthew notes that even this fulfills the Lord’s prophecy found in Hosea 11:1 - “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Joseph leaves just in time because Herod reacts badly when he finds out that he was outwitted by the magi. He was unpredictable and orders all the babies 2 years old and younger, the time he learned from the magi, to be killed. This fulfills yet another prophecy made by Jeremiah. Ramah was considered to be the border between Israel and Judah. It was where the people were gathered to be transported into captivity. So it wept when the northern kingdom went and it wept when the southern kingdom went. It was a heartbreaking situation. It was the place where the conquerors ordered the defeated multitude to be assembled and deported.

So Rama represents both kingdoms. Rama represents the weeping and the sadness that Jeremiah says is going to come when you're taken captive for your sins. How is Rachel involved? Because it says here Rachel weeping for her children. Why Rachel? Well Rachel was the mother in one sense of both kingdoms. You remember Rachel back in Genesis 30 and verse 1 said, "Give me children or I die." She thought she would die without having children. God gave her children and children who broke her heart. Assyria and Babylon had taken her children away. Jeremiah sees this in his prophesy but he sees more than that. Here is an illustration of another kind of prophesy. One of her sons, Joseph, brought forth two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh and Ephraim was always the most often identified with the northern kingdom. In fact the norther kingdom is called Israel and Ephraim. But Rachel also was the mother of Benjamin who was part of the southern kingdom. So Rachel weeps when Israel goes and Rachel weeps when Juda goes because she has progeny in both. Though Rachel is long gone the picture here is of the weeping of Israel and its children are gone. Rachel is sort of the personification of Israel's weeping as she loses both lines that have come through her children. She's watching sort of figuratively or symbolically the multitudes gathered in Rama to be taken away. She listens to their weeping and she begins to weep as well.

When Herod died, an angel appeared to him and tells him the coast is clear. Again Joseph gets up right away and takes his family back to Israel. But he hears that Archelaus is not in power and he was worse than his father, so this causes him to go to Nazareth instead of Bethlehem. This also fulfills yet another prophecy that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene.

So what does all this mean and how does it apply to us? We like to control the things around us, but in reality, we don’t have that much control. Now while we don’t have control God does. God is clearly in control of history. The events in this chapter may look like they are random but they’re not, God is in control. God created the world for us and gave us the opportunity to cultivate and build it up. However we screwed it up. And because of our sin, God came up with a plan to redeem the world through his son. Jesus was God’s son whom he ordained to be the King of kings. And since it was God’s plan, he protected his son by moving him around. And so that we would know that this was from God, he gave us clues for us to follow. These clues could be found by those who were sincerely seeking him. 1 Chronicles 28:9 says, “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” Also Deut 4:29 says, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Just like the magi, who were truth seekers and sincerely seeking the baby Jesus, anyone who sincerely seeks the Lord will find him. The magi, who were not even Jews, called Jesus king, and worshipped him. Jesus is our king, our God and we should we should worship him for he is our shepherd, Savior, redeemer, deliverer, etc

If God is working out his plan of salvation, and he clearly is, then we should evaluate our life choices. Are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing? God’s judgment is coming, are you ready? If we don't trust in God we will find ourselves “kicking against the goads” on the wrong side like Herod. Will you be on the wrong side of history? This is not a doomsday message but actually one of hope because God is working out his plan for those who love and seek him.

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From This Day on I Will Bless You

Haggai 2:1-23

Key Verse: 2:19b

Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

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