Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
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Read His Words Before Ours!

Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.

5 “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:
6 And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah: Because out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

7 Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship him.”

9 After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen at its rising. It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route.

The Original Intent

1) According to this passage, what indicated that Jesus had been born? (verses 1-2)

Verses 1-2 tell the reader that, after Jesus was born, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem looking for the “king of the Jews” because they had seen His star and wanted to worship Him.

Not much is known about the star of Bethlehem or the band of traveling wise men, but we do know the star was significant enough that those from far off recognized the proclamation of the birth of a King and came to worship this Emmanuel (meaning, “God with us”).

Finding the new king and worshiping Him were their purposes; kindly, the God of Creation who rules space and all celestial beings (Psalm 8:3), used a heavenly body to bring these Gentiles to welcome the Savior of the whole world, whether Jew or Gentile.

The Everyday Application

1) According to this passage, what indicated that Jesus had been born? (verses 1-2)

Although prophecies pertaining specifically to “the star of Bethlehem” were not preserved in our Bibles, we know from this passage that, upon seeing the fulfillment of prophetic words in the sky, travelers from a far distance came with intent to worship the Messiah.

Verse 3 adds to our understanding that this star’s presence, and the knowledge of a newborn king, deeply disturbed Jewish King Herod and the whole city of Jerusalem along with him. (Matthew 2:3) As we read the account in Matthew 1:18-24 of the angel’s visit to Joseph just before Jesus’ birth, it’s clear this baby was no ordinary child. His birth ushered in the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies of a long-ago promised Savior who would come to set His people free. (Isaiah 7:14)

The long-awaited Messiah, the promised Deliverer of Israel, had come in the unexpected form of a baby. God himself, Emmanuel, had come for His people. (Matthew 1:23) He came to ransom us from sin, our true bondage. (Mark 10:45)

The Original Intent

2) What do verses 3-6 tell us about the birthplace of Jesus?

In verse 3, we see a very distraught King Herod as well as a disturbance in Jerusalem over the possible coming of the long awaited Messiah. In verses 4-5, King Herod assembles his priest and scribes to ask about the birthplace of the Messiah; with their knowledge of Old Testament prophecy, they knew the birthplace to be Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)

Verse 6 provides even more detail about Bethlehem as we learn it’s located in the land of Judah and it uniquely held the promise of a ruler who will “shepherd” the people of Israel. The passage quoted in verse 6 is the actual prophecy from Micah 5:2. Micah wrote this prophecy empowered by the Holy Spirit roughly 700 years before the birth of Christ.

Jewish scholars of the 1st century consider this to be a prophecy about the coming Messiah, which is why Herod’s priest and scribes were able to give the exact location of where the coming Messiah had been born. (GotQuestions.org)

Although we read of Bethlehem as Jesus’ birthplace in the New Testament (Luke 2:4-7), centuries earlier, there were God-ordained plans in place for the coming Messiah in this little town, which was considered insignificant among the cities of Judah.

The Everyday Application

2) What do verses 3-6 tell us about the birthplace of Jesus?

A King and an entire city of Jerusalem being “disturbed” over happenings in a town of such insignificance as Bethlehem seems a bit far-fetched, but we are watching the response of an earthly king, Herod, who fears the eternal king, Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:16-17)

Bethlehem was considered fairly unimportant during the time of Jesus’ birth, but the city itself had been a symbol of King David’s dynasty, hence the term “City of David”. (Luke 2:11) (GotQuestions.org) When we sing songs like “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, it truly was small, but we know that despite its humble size, Bethlehem was the birthplace of Someone mighty, the “Everlasting Light” who would “shepherd His people”. (Micah 5:2)

In that city, the long-awaited Messiah had come, the baby who would be named Jesus because He would save His people from their sin. (Matthew 1:21)

The Original Intent

3) Why did Herod send the wise men to Bethlehem? (verses 7-9)

We are told in verses 7-9 that Herod secretly summoned the wise men with the purpose of sending them on a seemingly benign mission. Herod instructed them to go find the child and report back to him, so he could worship this Messiah along with them.

As we keep reading, we plainly see his true motives and Herod’s wickedly deceptive trickery becomes evident. He merely used the wise men to cover his deep-seated insecurity, arrogance, and self-love which led to the massacre of countless innocent toddlers and babies. Herod tells the wise men he wants to worship this baby who had been born “King”, but later in the passage, an angel warns the wise men to go home by another route because Herod intends harm to Jesus. (Matthew 2:12)

These Gentile astronomers were more keen on listening to and obeying the Lord than the Jewish King was to worship Him

The Everyday Application

3) Why did Herod send the wise men to Bethlehem? (verses 7-9)

We know King Herod was fearful of this baby taking his throne because, after He became aware of Jesus’ arrival, he set about killing all baby boys under the age of two. (Matthew 2:16)

What happened in Bethlehem helps us realize that God is both intentional in all His ways and aware of the earthly schemes of man. His plans cannot be thwarted or changed because of humanity’s choices. (Psalm 33:11)

God’s plan from the beginning was that Jesus would fulfill the Law and ransom His people once and for all from their sin. Sin always brings separation from the Holy God, and without Someone perfect to pay the death penalty caused by our sin, we would be forever condemned to an eternal death apart from His good, loving presence.

Christ took that punishment for us, and because of His great love and mercy, we are no longer under condemnation of sin if we take Him at His word and believe Him. (Romans 8:1-4, John 12:44-46)

The Original Intent

4) What was the response of the wise men when they encountered Jesus? (verses 11-12)

In just two verses, we gain a glimpse of the true wisdom on display in these men who followed a star to find a King. On encountering Jesus, the wise men humbled themselves to a posture of worship by bowing to young, toddler Jesus.

They honored Him for Who He truly was and proved it by presenting the Christ-child with valuable treasures. (verse 11) They gave of themselves in adoring humility. These men also demonstrate obedience in following the message of the Lord as delivered in a dream.

Their obedience proved that their physical bowing before Jesus actually reflected hearts that humbly listened to the Lord and quickly obeyed Him. After their encounter, they chose not to return and give a report to Herod on what they had seen or found because they were warned in a dream, likely delivered by an angel. (verse 12) They went back to their country via another route.

The Everyday Application

4) What was the response of the wise men when they encountered Jesus? (verses 11-12)

As with anyone who encounters the one true God, the wise men worshiped with their bodies, their hearts, and their possessions.

Like many after them who would encounter Jesus, Emmanuel, the living God on Earth, the wise men, recognized Him for His true identity and took the proper posture before Him by offering themselves in surrendered worship.

I don’t know if they understood the full weight of who Jesus was and the affliction of sin He would remove for all eternity by His future sacrifice on the cross, but they certainly recognized him as the rightful King of the Jews, the one prophesied about that would be the Savior of His people. (John 3:16-21)

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