Monday, December 22, 2014

Responses to the Birth of Christ

In Matthew 1:18-25 we have the record of the virgin birth of Christ. In 2:1-18 we see responses to the news of His birth from both Jews and Gentiles. 

Please read Matthew 2:1-18

The events in this passage take place AFTER the birth of Christ. Based on nativity scenes and Christmas carols most think that three wise men presented their gifts to baby Jesus on the night of His birth. However, by the time the wise men found Jesus He was a young child in a house, not a baby in a manger (2:11). As much as two years could have elapsed between the birth of Christ and the visit of the wise men (2:16). The passage does not say there were three wise men. They presented three kinds of gifts but there was likely much more than just three men in their entourage. Why does it matter? If it’s in the Bible it matters! I don’t think we should go on a campaign against traditional nativity scenes. I appreciate any attempts that people make today in this antichrist culture to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. However, we must always put God’s truth above man’s tradition. 

Let's consider this passage on three levels:
1. Doctrinally 
The wise men were in the east when they saw the star. They did not see the star shining in the east (not an “eastern star”). They journeyed west toward Jerusalem. They were likely from the kingdom of Persia. Evidently they had access to some prophecy about Israel’s Messiah. Due to the Babylonian captivity the prophet Daniel spent many years living in the east during the reigns of several kings. He was made chief over the "wise men" (Dan. 2:2, 12, 48). Copies of his writings likely remained in that region (there were Jews still there after the captivity, not all returned to Jerusalem). The prophet Balaam lived near the Euphrates River. Perhaps they knew his prophecy about the Star that would come out of Jacob (Num. 24:17).  
The star was either a supernatural star or an angel (angels called stars, Job 38:5-7). It appeared, disappeared, reappeared, and lead them to Jesus. They did not follow the star the whole journey. If so, why would they end up in Jerusalem? They naturally thought the King of the Jews would be in the capitol city of Israel. Also, why would they rejoice at seeing the star when departing Jerusalem? The star reappeared after they were told that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem because He was no longer Bethlehem. He was in Nazareth (Lk. 2:39).
Men are not born as a king (v.2). The son of a king is a prince that becomes a king. Christ is much more than a man! He is a branch out of David (humanity) but He is also the root (deity, Rev. 22:16)! "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" is the first question in NT. It concerns the incarnate Word of God. The first question in the OT concerned the spoken word of God (Gen. 3:1). This question was asked by wise men for the purpose of worship. The OT question was asked by a wise serpent for the purpose of deception. 
The chief priests and scribes knew the scripture but had no heart for what it said (much like the professing church today, 2 Tim. 3:5)! Most professing Christians have no heart for the coming of the Lord. They are not looking for that blessed hope (Titus 2:13). They do not love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8). Intellectual knowledge of the scripture without experimental delight in them is useless (1 Cor. 8:1).

They were satisfied with a wicked Edomite King in Jerusalem. After all, he was building them a temple. Herod and all Jerusalem (except a remnant) were troubled at the news because of the political ramifications. The scribes misquoted the prophecy (Mic. 5:2) and watered it down. It seems intentional because they omitted the statement concerning the deity of the Messiah ("whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting"). They were busy going through their religious motions but had no heart for the One their scriptures and ceremonies pointed to! Consider all the prophecy fulfilled just in this chapter (2:5,15,17,23). Based on the seventy weeks prophecy in Daniel 9 they could have known the time of His coming into the world. 
The Gentile wise men traveled hundreds of miles to worship the King of the Jews but the Jews wouldn’t travel eight miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem! Jesus was already being rejected by His own nation. 
Why gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Associated with the three offices of the Messiah. 
1) Gold – suitable gift for a king (1 Kings 10:18)
2) Frankincense – suitable gift for a priest (Ex. 30:34-36)
3) Myrrh – suitable gift for a suffering prophet (used embalming fluid, Jam. 5:10; Jn. 19:39)
That these men worshipped Jesus as a little child proves that He never ceased to be God at any point in His incarnation. He laid aside His glory, not His deity! He did not become the Son of God at His baptism as some heretics claim.  
Herod’s decree demonstrates how Satan used him in his effort to get rid of the promised seed. Herod was a liar and a murderer, just like his father (Jn. 8:44). 
2. Prophetically 

The visit of the wise men is only recorded by Matthew. The emphasis in Matthew is that Jesus Christ is the King. This historical account of Gentile wise men seeking the King of the Jews, presenting Him gifts, and worshipping Him prefigures the day when the kings of the earth will seek His face and worship Him in the coming Kingdom Age when He reigns from Jerusalem as King over all the earth (Ps. 72:7-11; Isa. 60:5-6).
Isaiah 60:5-6
(5) Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
(6) The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.
Notice that myrrh is not mentioned among the gifts of gold and incense (same as frankincense). That is because this will be fulfilled when Christ comes again in glory. He will never suffer or die again!

3. Practically
There are certainly spiritual and practical applications in this passage for us. 

The wise men picture the conversion of sinners:

1. They were supernaturally drawn to Christ – The Holy Spirit uses the light of His word to draw sinners to Christ.

2. They found Christ because they believed the word of God (2 Tim. 3:15; Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:13)

3. They rejoiced in finding Christ – There is no greater joy than the joy of salvation (Phil. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:8)

4. They worshipped Him – This is the immediate, normal response of those who know Him

5. They presented gifts – AFTER salvation we present ourselves to the Lord (Rom. 12:1)

6. They departed another way – Those who meet the Lord are changed (Eph. 2:8-10)

Joseph and Mary were poor (compare Lk. 2:24 with Lev. 12:8). God sent the wise men to provide for their trip to Egypt. Where God guides, He provides (Phil. 4:19)! 

It is said that “Wise men still seek Jesus”. The worldly wise rarely seek Christ (1 Cor. 1:17-29). True wisdom is found in Christ (Col. 2:3) and we must be in Him to have His wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30-31).

1 comment:

  1. Superb study, Bro. David. The Isaiah 60 reference is very helpful. Keep up the good work!


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