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After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.'
We learn from Luke's account of the birth of Christ, that Joseph and Mary were compelled to leave Nazareth by a decree of Caesar Augustus wherein all Jews were required to report to their home town of origin to register in Caesar's census. Joseph was of the line of David and Bethlehem was the city of David. That was why the Joseph family arrived in Bethlehem in Judea at the precise point in time when Mary went into labor and delivered her first born son, Jesus. This fulfilled Micah's prophecy of the coming Messiah...
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Micah 5:2 (NASV)I love this prophecy, by the way. Not only is it explicit as to where the Messiah was to be born but it is also explicit as to exactly who the Messiah was ... he would be none other than the everlasting and eternal God, himself ... come down to Earth in the flesh.
Matthew also reminds us that Bethlehem was in the territory of Judea. King David was of the tribe of Judah and, according to the Davidic Covenant, Messiah ... his descendant ... would be of that tribe as well (Genesis 49:8-12). Jesus completely fulfilled these prophetic requirements. He was both Messiah, the Savior of Israel, and well as its King, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. As you have it in Revelation 5:5-6,
Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.' Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Now, let's move on to this account of the wise men, or Magi...
Here in Matthew is the only place in the Bible where their story found. It is a fascinating account. Actually, the traditional Christmas pageant presenting 3 wise men ... accompanied by the hymn, We Three Kings of Orient Are, is inaccurate. Scholars estimate that what actually arrived in Jerusalem on that long ago momentous and starry night ... saerching for the new born king of the Jews ... was actually a large caravan of a hundred or more Magi from the east. And, the star they had been following, was an amazing accompanying phenomena. The Magi were astute astrologers and when this new and amazingly unique star appeared in the heavens, it could not be ignored. Soon, the Magi discovered it was far from a normal star indeed. Its brilliance and mobility didn't behave like anything they had ever seen before. And, it actually moved in such a way that it clearly indicated that it was to be followed. And, follow it they did. In addition, the Magi came to the unamious conclusion that this amazing new light in the heavens corresponded directly to a new birth of a new king on Earth. And, as it led them into Israel and then stopped there ... they concluded the new king was, in fact, the king of the Jews. The awesome brightness of the heavenly phenomena, in my opinion, was also indicative that the newly born one they were seeking was even more than the king of the Jews ... but, in fact, was the light of the world. As Jesus later put it in John 8:12b,
...'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'.
Upon the star's arrival above the city of Jerusalem, the Magi correctly concluded that the new king that had been born was a king of the Jews. Now, I have a question. Why do you suppose the star went to Jerusalem first and not directly to Bethlehem? Answer: Jerusalem was the ancient God-appointed capital of Israel and was the city from which the Davidic kings of Israel had reigned. It also was the religious center of the Jewish people where their temple was located. The star brought the Magi to Jerusalem first in order to notify the political and ecclesiastical leaders of Israel that their long anticipated Messiah had come. One can only imagine the stir that was created as these wise men from the east spread out across the city asking their question and declaring their mission, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 'In Bethlehem in Judea,'
they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written: 'But you,
Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers
of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of
my people Israel.' Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and make a careful search for
the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go
and worship him.'
Make no mistake about it, when the news of the arrival of the Magi with their question and declaration reached the ears of King Herod, he was not pleased. Right out of the blue, a direct threat to his throne and to the throne of his line had come. His counter-attack was instant and threefold...
First, he called in the chief priests and teachers of the law to find out precicely where, according to the prophets, the Messiah, King of Jews, was to be born. The answer he received was clear and biblical. The leaders of the Jews knew exactly where Messiah was to be born. Bethlehem, they said, and proceeded to quote Micah 5:2,
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
Second, he called in the Magi secretly and inquired of them as to the exact time when the star they followed had first appeared. He needed that information in order to determine the exact age of the new king that had been born. Herod, you see, was already formulating a plan to murder the Jew's messiah and king and, with the information supplied by the Magi, he would be able to determine who and who not to kill. As we will see when we get to verse 16, Herod took no chances and gave himself plenty of leeway when he ordered the death of all infant males ... 2 years and younger ... who lived in Bethlehem.
There is a graphic picture of this Satan inspired plot that is set found in the vision that John saw of the past history of Israel in Revelation 12. Here is what he saw...
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman (Israel) clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having
seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail
drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born (Herod's plot).
She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.
And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Revelation 12:1-5
Third, he craftily enlisted the help of the Magi in finding the newborn king. Purporting that he too wanted to find and worship the new king, Herod instructed them to proceed to Bethlehem, locate the child, and report back to him so that he might go and worship him as well. To this, the grateful but unsuspecting Magi, readily agreed.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
As the Magi began to depart, the star moved out before them heading straight for that ancient city where king David had been born and where David's descendant, the ultimate Ruler of Israel, was to be born as well. The star went before them to the town of Bethlehem and then stopped above a specific house there. Upon entering the house, the Magi's eyes were met with a woman and her child ... not a man and his son. In Galations 4:4-5, we read,
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Wish we could have been there to see it. Inside that house, what an occasion
for rejoicing and worship was laid before them. At long last,
there he was ... the Jew's Messiah ... the King. God in the flesh ... as the prophet
Micah had put it, whose goings forth have been from old, from
everlasting! Shiloh (Rest) had at long last come (Gen. 49:10).
Jesus Christ had come into the world ... from eternity to time ... from spirit
to flesh ... from God to Man ... born of a woman
... from glory to peasantry ... from pure deity to taking on humanity ... from
Law Giver to Law obeyer. Incredibe! The One who had given the Law had placed
himself under the Law that he might redeem those who were under the
Luke's account tells us that it was Jewish shepherds who, being directed by angels as to where to find this child, were the first to see the Messiah ... but it doesn't say that they worshipped him. Rather, they saw ... and then they departed and went everywhere talking about their experience. But here, we find it was a host of Gentiles who first worshipped Jesus the Christ and presented him with kingly gifts. How appropriate. For, it was God's plan from the beginning, you see, that this child would also be the Savior of the world! As you have it in Isaiah 42:1, 6-7,
"Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles."
gI, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your
hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house."
The Magi from the east were the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy. As we have it in First John 2:2,
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, 'Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.' When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 'Out of Egypt I called My Son.'
As soon as the Magi had departed, the Lord took control of the Herod situation. Preserving the Magi as well as the young child, Jesus, he told them not to report to Herod but to simply go home by a different route. Then, knowing Herod's bloody and vicious plan to exterminate the child, Jesus, he warned Joseph to pack up and go to Egypt. In the for what it's worth department, the costly gifts that the Magi had given to Christ was God's way of financing the trip and the years of the Joseph family's stay in Egypt. Our God doesn't miss any details when it come to taking care of his own. We see here that was certainly true of his Son, and it is also true of you and I, as well, and all the rest of his sons and daughters. As you have it in Philippians 4:19,
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Our passage says, this portion of the life of Christ fulfilled the scripture, Out of Egypt I called My Son. This refers to Hosea 11:1. At first glance, this scripture is clearly refering to when God called his people, Israel, (my son) out of slavery in Egypt. However, the Spirit of God, here in Matthew, informs us that when he directed Hosea to speak those words, he primarily had in mind when he would call his own Son out of Egypt yet in the future. This is a instance of the double fulfillment of prophecy in Scripture. It is fascinating when the Lord interprets his own Word for us, is it not?
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.'
This was a horrendous event in
lives of the inhabitants of Bethlehem on that tragic day when Herod's
soldiers entered the city and carried out their gorry job. It would be
hard to imagine a more horrifying, callous and evil thing than what all
the parents of those young male children two years and under
experienced that day. Jeremiah the prophet predicted this future
atrocity. His reference to Rachel weeping for her children
refers to Joseph's mother and is pointing to her future descendants in their territories of Ephriam
and Manasseh, named after Joseph's two sons.
Clearly, a great deal more was involved at Bethlehem that day than merely Herod's part in the death of all of those young males. Make no mistake about it, Satan was the instigator of this atrocity, just as he is behind all the atrocities against God's people today. The many little Christian children who were recently slaughtered in front of their parents by the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) comes to mind. Truly, as we have it in Proverbs 12:10b,
...the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
when these thing occur, we must keep in mind that these things are
sourced in the spirit world and in spiritual warfare. As we have it in Ephesians 6:12,
Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 'Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Childfs life are dead.' Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, 'He shall be called a Nazarene.'
After Herod died, once again, God spoke to Joseph through a dream and instructed him to take Jesus and his mother and return to the land of Israel. Apparently, he headed back to Bethlehem but, once being warned in yet another dream, Joseph altered his course and returned to their original home in Nazareth. This fulfilled the prophet Isaiah's words in Isaiah 11:1,
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The name, Nazareth, meant branch.
It was just a little berg that, no doubt, lived up to its name ... not even
large enough, or of sufficient importance, to be called a bush! It was just a
little branch. When Philip told his brother, Nethaniel, that he had found the
Messiah, he said,
gWe have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the
prophets, wrote\Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.h And
Nathanael said to him, gCan anything good come out of Nazareth?h Philip said to him, gCome and see.h John 1:45b-46
My, how that little town has impacted our world to this day. Out of it, a carpenter's son, named Jesus, came ... God's Branch ... who sprung up out of the lineage of Jesse of the royal line of King David. The one of whom Jacob said,
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh (the prophetic name for Jesus that means "Rest") comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
... and of whom the Psalmist writes,
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.