Friday, September 25, 2015

Matthew 2 Herod and the King

SLIDE 1 How can we not take advantage of these first two chapters in Matthew to talk about Christmas? My pastor’s birthday is in January and he starts counting down the months until Christmas in summer, more likely February.  We are even having a Christmas in October decoration swap.  Many years ago in order to celebrate Christmas in public school I created a unit called “Christmas around the World.” Today it would have to be “Holidays around the World.”
SLIDE 2 From that experience learned celebrations among Spanish speaking children were more in keeping with the birth of Jesus than our tradition of Santa Claus. One festival is The Three Kings Day which recounts the story of the three wise men that brought gifts to baby Jesus. There are parades and parties and good food. Some children fill their shoes with straw or carrots for the kings horses. Their favorite is Balthazar who rides a donkey and is who is believed to leave small gifts. Sometimes this holiday is referred to as the “12th Day of Christmas.”
SLIDE 3 The twelve days of Christmas start from December 25 until the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. I posted the Christian interpretation of the 12 days that I found on our FB page. The foreign travelers did not arrive in time for the birth in the manger. Some call Matthew 2:1-12, called “The Gospel for Epiphany,” 

Matthew 2 shows us the best and worst of human nature. The journey of the magi must have been long and difficult and expensive. When they
found the Christ child they fell down and worshiped him. Offering treasures of gold and frankincense and myrrh. While the outrageous reaction of Herod culminated in the infanticide of all Jewish boys under two living in the area of Bethlehem, symbolizes the worst. Let us pray.
SLIDE 4 How does God Speak? This is not an exhaustive list. God certainly has all manner or ways of speaking to His children. Ponder the idea as we study. If you will open your bible to Matthew 2 you can follow along.
·        Through His Creation
·        Sending His Angels
·        Dreams
·        Holy Spirit
SLIDE 5 Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."
Why did these wise men-wealthy, educated foreigners study the stars concerning the prophecy of a Jewish King? In the scriptures they found a promise about a star.
SLIDE 6 How does God make Himself known to man?       
Through His Creation
  • ·        Balaam’s Donkey (What does a donkey have to do with the Star?)
  • ·        Moses’ Burning Bush
  • ·        Star to the Magi
NUMBERS 22:2-6 Balak, king of Moab, sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor.  “ Come, curse this people Israel, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” Balaam was a diviner and false prophet for hire. God spoke to Balaam in a dream telling him not to go. Balak offered more money.
On the way, Balaam has some donkey trouble. You may know the story of Balaam’s donkey. Trying to protect his master the donkey presses against the wall and Balaam beats this loyal animal 3 TIMES. Numbers 22:22-38 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”
Now tell me why he did not think that strange? But He answers him!!! The Lord revealed to Balaam the angel standing in his path with a sword. That definitely would convince me. God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel only to bless. You can imagine Balak was not happy. “What the Lord speaks, that will I speak.” 
It wasn’t that Balaam did not know God’s will; he did not want to do God’s will.
SLIDE 7 Balaam spoke oracles over the Children of Israel. Numbers 24:15-17 is the Final of three Oracles…. the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
16 the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
    and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
    falling down with his eyes uncovered:
17 I see him, but not now;
    I behold him, but not near:
    a star shall come out of Jacob,
    and a scepter (King) shall rise out of Israel;
“Thus Balaam's reluctant, but divinely inspired, prophecy, revealed that a unique Star associated with Israel would accompany a future King would eventually rule the world.”
SLIDE 8 Psalm 147: 4 He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.
The Bible says the stars can carry messages from God on high. The stars were part of his communication to those living in the Magi’s day. The burning bush was God’s invitation to Moses, an invitation to draw near and to hear a fuller message. When the Magi saw signs in the heavens, they responded as did Moses. They drew near to learn more. 
SLIDE 9 How do you know God’s will? We are fashioned for a relationship with our Creator. Is He speaking to you? Can you hear Him in the hustle bustle of your daily schedule? Draw near to him and learn more of His loving care. Psalm 37: is a good place to start.
3    Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4    Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5    Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;

Okay, so the Magi found this obscure scripture. Ladies I not only want to know what Matthew says but I want to know the why and how it happened? Don’t you!  Why would foreign scholars care about this small nation of Israel? Unlike Herod they were in awe of the God of Israel and eager to find the King of the Jews. Stay with me now as we return to the OT.
Other ways God spoke was through Dreams and Visions
      King Nebuchadnezzar
      Wise Men
How does God speak to you?
 Last year in CBS evening class we studied Daniel, a man who heard from God through dreams and visions. God allowed Babylon to discipline his people. King Nebuchadnezzar went to Jerusalem and captured “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace.” Daniel 1:4
SLIDE 11 Nebuchadnezzar was troubled with a dream. Daniel and his companions prayed for wisdom. Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven giving God all the glory.
The King declared "Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery."  He gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.
SLIDE 12 The well known story of Daniel in the Lion’s den proved to King Cyrus the power of Daniel’s God. In chapter 6:26 King Cyrus commanded people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.
The Magi, especially those in Babylon and Persia would have been familiar with Daniel and the supremacy of His God.  Some of the Magi may even have been Jews in religion. Remember Queen Esther’s bold approach to the King resulting in God’s preservation of the Jews in Persia. The last verse in the book of Esther 8:17 states "many of the people of the land became Jews."  
“This event in itself would prompt the Persian members of the Magi at that time to study the Jewish sacred books, especially the Messianic prophecies of Daniel.  It would easily be possible for the Persian Magi, to put these prophecies of Balaam and Daniel together, and thus be watching for "His star" to appear.” When They Saw the Starby Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.
SLIDE 13 The wise men did not arrive in Jerusalem just looking for one baby born of the Jews.  They arrived looking for one born king of the Jews. This would have been particularly disturbing to Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed King of the Jews.  
Let’s look at Matthew 2:2-6
2-6 assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, (King Herod)he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5    They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

SLIDE 14 6      "'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'" This reference comes from Micah 5:3 All through the Old Testaments are prophecies of the coming Messiah for those willing to study.
SLIDE 15 God also communicates by Sending Angels.  Another part of the Christmas story in Luke occurs when the angel sent to Zachariah during his once in a lifetime service in the Holy of Holies informed his wife Elizabeth would bear a son. (More on that next week.)
      Also Mary was visited by an angel and the Holy Spirit.
      An angel chorus announced to the Shepherds the birth of Jesus.
Are you ready for Christmas yet? How does God communicate with you?
SLIDE 16 All these years of studying and just this week I realized that the STAR the Wise Men followed sometimes was hidden from view and then reappeared. Let’s continue. Isn’t this a beautiful picture of the nativity? It appears that the Magi were present at the cave the birthplace of Christ. As we mentioned the Epiphany was the 12th day of Christmas  celebrated on January 6, Joseph must have secured more permanent housing for the family.
SLIDE 17 Matthew 2:9-12 And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Alleluia
How do we welcome this GOOD NEWS?  Do you begrudge the retailers starting in September with the commercialization of Christmas?
SLIDE 18 After years of stressing over the holiday madness, I now only celebrate the Birth of Jesus. Gone from my house are all signs of Santa Claus and the frenzy of shopping for gifts no one really needs. Only Chrismons hang on my tree every year and Nativity scene decorate my home.
Verse 12 tells us God protected the caravan of Wise Men. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, the Magi departed to their own country by another way.
 SLIDE 19 13Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
14And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt15and remained there until the death of Herod.
Herod, at home in Jerusalem, surrounded by advisors well versed in the scriptures, yet he did not know what was happening in Bethlehem, had not noticed the star, he had no message from God about the Messiah.
SLIDE 20 Herod was not a full Jew. His lineage came through Esau instead of Jacob.  In his paranoia over losing his throne, he even had members of his own family killed to preserve his reign.
Matthew 2:16-18, the account of the slaughter of all the boys under two years old, is known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents mourned on December 28,
Jeremiah 31:15 the prophet, saying, 'A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.'” 
SLIDE 21 Hosea 11:1"Out of Egypt I called my son."
Matthew 2:19-23 An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
 "Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, Even with Herod dead his son ruled Judah. God warned Joseph in another dream and he went to district of Galilee to a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: "He shall be called a Nazarene." Not to be confused with a Nazarite.

SLIDE 22 Are you allowing time to listen when God speaks to you? Through Jesus the Christ, God is inviting you into relationship. If you accept the invitation, Jesus promises to come and be with you. If you feel God calling you into relationship, you can do this by praying to God right now.  Members of the Leader’s Council will pray with you right now.