Be Strong

Expect Strong Opposition (Matthew 2:13-18). After the wise men leave, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream Matthew 2:13~…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. (ESV) Again notice the angel says, the child, not your child, Jesus is the Son of God. The angel also tells Joseph to stay in Egypt until he tells him to return because Herod is seeking to kill. This young family, having been through so much, heads out on a 75-mile journey. If you have ever asked why this way, why Egypt? It was to fulfill a prophecy of Hosea 11:1~When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (NIV)

I bet each of us has been called out of Egypt a time or three. It began as a place of blessing and provision, before turning to problems or even slavery. Jesus Christ was born in an any man condition that every man could relate to the life of faith. Hebrews 4:15~For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (ESV) How many of you know that the enemy of our soul, our adversary the devil cannot stand it when God’s plan and purpose are fulfilled. Herod flies-off-the-handle enraged that the wise guys, those Magi, duped him. In his fury, he sends his soldiers to kill all the male babies two years old and younger in and around Bethlehem. Herod’s not alone in his rejection of Jesus. The chief priests, scribes, and many other Jews in Jerusalem have heard and known about the Magi’s message. Yet, none feign any interest. Jesus comes to save His people, Jews, who do not want Him. John 1:11~He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (ESV)

To explain that Herod’s atrocities fulfill the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15 Matt writes in 2:17-18~A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted because they are no more. (ESV) Originally referring to the weeping of the nation as a result of the slaughter of their children at the time of Babylonian captivity in 586 BC. The parallel is obvious to Matt’s Jewish audience who witness the slaughter of their own children again, by non-Jews. In Old Testament times, Ramah was a small town about five miles north of Jerusalem. It was on the border of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. It was the place where Jewish captives were assembled for deportation to Babylon (Jeremiah 40:1). 

Rachel, was the wife of Jacob, renamed Israel, as is considered the mother of the Jewish nation. Her tomb was near Bethlehem. Rachel weeping for her children represents the weeping of all Jewish mothers over the fate of their children, and it foreshadows the mothers in Bethlehem weeping over the massacre of their children by Herod. When doing God’s will, expect God to lead in Incremental steps, and we can expect Opposition to be strong from our world.
Is there a place of opposition in your life that needs some extra prayer? Why not take time today
to ask God for His help, wisdom, and guidance.

Sacrifice of Worship

As the wise men go into the house and see the child, they bow down and worship Him. Because worship always involves sacrifice, they give baby Jesus, very expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The reason we believe there were three Magi is born out of the tradition of there being three gifts given. We truly do not know who was there the night they worshiped Jesus. Throughout history, and still today, gold is considered to be the most precious of metals, with the widest trading platforms and notoriety it still serves as a symbol of value and wealth. Frankincense is a very expensive gum resin from an African tree is pressed for its oil. While Myrrh is also a gum resin refined into an expensive oil. Both were used as two of the ingredients in the Old Testament oil of anointing. (Exodus 30:23; John 19:39). This oil was used in much the same manner as many of you have seen me walk the pews and pray over our church, this is God’s command to Ole Mo to anoint the tent and all its furniture. Exodus 30:29~…Whatever touches them will become holy. (ESV)

These expensive gifts will provide the financial resources for Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt avoiding Herod’s wrath. This beautiful moment is an example of Jehovah Jireh, God our provider. Who resources the needs of His children to facilitate His own plan. This doesn’t mean he will give you a lake house, what it does reveal is that God provides what is necessary to fulfill His divine purpose. And, yes, sometimes His blessings are so great, we feel like Obed Edom in 2 Samuel 6. While other times it is precisely the right amount of oil, as it was with Elijah and the Widow in 2 Kings 4. These wise guys, Magi, who came to worship Jesus, gave as an act of their worship. We must grasp that giving an offering is not added to worship, or an interruption of worship, rather it is an integral part of worship. I love how William McDowell, captures this in song saying: I give myself away So You can use me, Here I am, Here I stand Lord, my life is in your hands, Take my heart, Take my life, As a living sacrifice, all my dreams, all my plans, Lord I place them in your hands, I give myself away, everything we have is to be used for God’s glory.

Being warned in a dream not to return to Herod. They, therefore, return to their own country by way of another route (2:11-12). Dreams were a common method of divine guidance in the Old Testament Numbers 12:6. As soon as Jesus Christ is born, the evil world under Satan’s influence is ruckus and already trying to snuff Him out. However, nothing can change God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Proverbs 19:21~Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (NIV) Joseph and Mary have no idea what God’s will has in store for them. Someone once said, The way to see far ahead in the will of God, is to go as far ahead as you can see; Then, God will reveal the next step. If we want to know What to Expect, when doing God’s will, expect God to lead by Incremental steps.

What step can you take today to walk more closely with the Lord?

What was seen

Expect Incremental Steps (Matthew 2:1-12). As we will discover in chapter 2, God reveals His will to us one step at a time. Matt doesn’t record the details of Jesus’ birth, as Luke does. Matt states simply Jesus is born in Bethlehem. Matthew 2:11~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. (ESV) Bethlehem is a small town some five miles south of Jerusalem. Since Matt is primarily writing to Jews to prove Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, he places emphasis on where Jesus Christ is born. Bethlehem Ephrathah is only a small village among the many clans of Judah, small but bringing one from old, Micah 5:2 (NIV).

Ephrathah is the ancient name of Bethlehem in Judah (Genesis 35:16, 

19). Jesus’ birth takes place in the days of Herod the Great (2:1) who rules from 37 to 4 BC. A ruthless, evil man, who murders members of his own family. It’s his son Herod Antipas who beheads John the Baptist in Mark 6:26-28. After Jesus is born, wise men come from the east to Jerusalem (2:1). Little is known about the Magi, some call wise guys. They are not kings but specialize in astronomy and likely hail from Babylon, famously known for studying the stars and prophecies, like the messianic prophecies from Jews exiled during the Babylonian captivity. Apparently, the Magi are God-fearing Gentiles, like Cornelius of Acts 10:1-2. When they arrive in Jerusalem, they explain they’re looking for the king of the Jews Matthew 2:2~…For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. (ESV)

When Herod hears this news, he’s troubled, as is everyone in Jerusalem. He calls a meeting of the leading priests and scribes asking them where is the Christ or Messiah to be born. Sharing Micah 5:2 the prophecy says Bethlehem of Judea (2:2-6). To avoid arousing more public interest in their visit, Herod calls for a private inquiry with these wise guys to learns when the star first appeared. Telling the wise men to go, search, then report back so he too can worship the Christ (2:7-8). 

After the meeting, the wise men go set out. The star they’ve seen in the east guides them just as God led the Israelites with a pillar of cloud in Exodus 13:21. When the star stops over Bethlehem, they’re filled with joy (2:9-10). Now Bethlehem means house of bread. What makes this interesting is what Jesus declares in John 6:48~I am the bread of life. (ESV) This is the first of the seven I Am sayings of Jesus Christ. Moreover, this image is pressed upon us each time we follow the Lord in Holy Communion. His body, the bread of life, and His blood the wine, Broken and poured out all for love. Remember Jesus Christ was born to die in our place for our sins.

Why not take a step closer to God today.