Thursday, January 2, 2014

January 2, 2014 – Matthew 2 – Trusting the evidence.

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Today’s reading comes from Matthew 1. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus was born in Bethlehem a small hamlet in the region of Judea. Bethlehem is a bedroom community for the city of Jerusalem five miles away.
  • Some wise men, how many we do not know, who come from eastern lands, more than likely the land of Babylon which had been conquered by the Medes and Persians (modern day Iraq), see a star in the sky and they follow it to Jerusalem looking for a king.
    • It is interesting that they know what they are looking for. There is a lot of speculation about these wise men. These men are possibly the religious teachers of their day. They were the primary scholars of their day. With these roots they would be knowledgeable in astrology, astronomy, medicine, math, and natural sciences.
    • With their educated backgrounds these men may have been experts in many different types of religious literature. The writings of the Jews would certainly be known to them since the Jews were once conquered by and lived under Babylonian and Persian rule. In fact several Jews had high ranking positions within Babylon and Persia … remember Daniel, Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael), Abednego (Azaria), and Ester (Hadassah).
    • There is also a chance that these wise men that came had Jewish ancestry. When the Persians allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem during the times of Nehemiah and Ezra not all returned. Some had pretty good lives established in the land of captivity. Instead of returning many continued to live their lives in the new land. We do not know for sure, but some of these wise men may have been Jewish. This would give reason for their desire to worship … however, you did not have to be Jewish to worship.
  • These wise men understood something that the Jews would later struggle with, they were expecting the birth of Jesus and they were looking for it. They were watching because they understood the words of the prophets and they believed them. When the wise men come looking for the child they begin by going to Herod, the King (Not really the king since Rome was in charge, but a title the Roman’s allowed him to keep).
    • Herod struggled with this because he felt threatened. Now the Jewish priest and teachers of the Law understood the scriptures but they missed all the sings. This will be a theme of theirs for Jesus entire life.
    • Herod sends the wise men on their way, to the town where the Priest said He would be born. He also tricks them making them believe he too wants to worship this new king. Fortunately for Jesus we learn that God intervened because Herod had other intentions.
  • The wise men find Jesus just after following a star that lead them right to Him. Jesus was not in a stable and probably still not in a manger. Time has passed. The census that we learn of from Luke has passed and Mary and Joseph are now possibly the invited guest into someone’s home, home owners themselves, or renting a place (Joseph a carpenter would be able to find work in Bethlehem). There is a chance that Jesus is nearly two years old by this point. Later we learn that Herod wants all baby boys in and around Bethlehem that were two years or under killed. This possibly gives us Jesus age.
    • The wise men present Jesus with an offering of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. People have speculated about various spiritual implications of these gifts connecting them to Jesus life and mission, but we will not do that here. We do know this; there was a lot of value in the gifts they presented Jesus and His family with.
  • When the wise men leave they do not go back to Herod because God directs them not to. Herod becomes furious and decides to kill all boys two and under. Jesus is not one of them, because God had already sent Jesus and His family to Egypt. The gift of the wise men would certainly help fun this journey.
    • The family lives in Egypt until Herod dies and then they are lead to return home. The young family decides to return to their hometown, Nazareth to avoid any more threats on the child’s life from Herod’s son.

 What is this passage teaching?
  • Throughout this passage Matthew references the prophetical writings of the Old Testament. Matthew established in our chapter one that Jesus had a strong linage from Abraham and David. Now in chapter two He established Jesus divine linage. Jesus just was not some child that was randomly born. His life was planned and the events of His life foretold through the prophets; the place of His birth, the result of His birth leading to weeping in Bethlehem, and His growing up in Nazareth. Matthew wanted His audience to understand Jesus was from God and all along part of God’s plan.

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Friends … Jesus wasn't a mistake. God had a plan for Jesus all along. He sent His son to us in a prescribed way giving us a lot of evidence to make faith in Him something easy. God never wanted salvation to be something hard … if He did, He would have made it something we had to do. No Jesus came so that He could save us from our sins. Do not beat yourself up and do not struggle trying to save yourself. Jesus has done that for you. He asks us to have faith, confess and repents our sins, accept Him as Lord and savior, and then die a death in the watery graves of baptism. What I love about God is He gives us so much evidence to believe in Son!
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