Week 11 | Section 14, 15

We Saw His StarToo many people in this world are consumed by the need for power. King Herod, being one of them, pursued Jesus – the infant born “King of the Jews” and sought his destruction trying to defend his perception of power. However, God’s plan of salvation was not to be stopped, and Herod’s unrighteous acts simply added to the list of prophesies that would be fulfilled by Jesus.

Rather than trying to justify our value or argue for seats of power, we should follow the lead of those magi who were among the first to worship him in humility and awe.


 

Scripture:
Matthew 2:1-121 | Section 14

1 Now2 when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men3¯4 from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east,5 and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Christ would be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is written through the prophet, ‘You Bethlehem, land of Judah, are in no way least among the princes of Judah: for out of you shall come a governor, who shall shepherd my people, Israel.’ ” Then Herod secretly called the wise men, and learned from them exactly what time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child. When you have found him, bring me word, so that I also may come and worship him.” They, having heard the king, went their way; and behold, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 They came into the house6 and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.7 12 Being warned in a dream8 not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country another way.

Matthew 2:13-18 |Section 15

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream,9 saying, “Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” 14 He arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt,10 15 and was there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and sent out, and killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under, according to the exact time which he had learned from the wise men.11 17 Then that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying,18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; she wouldn’t be comforted,because they are no more.”12

Group Dialog:

  1. The writings of the prophets had circulated and prepared even the magi to come worship the new king. How did God work to prepare your heart to worship the Lord even before you believed?
  2. Talk about these paradigms: power and authority; worship and self-aggrandizement; control and stewardship.
  3. What can we learn from today’s lesson about the providence and power of God and the will of human beings?
  4. What would you be inclined to bring Jesus if he were to appear again in our lifetime? What do you offer Him each day?

Learning Objectives:

prophesy (ordained and foreknown), providence; discernment, decision, God’s will, divine intervention,  humility, seasons of service, servant-leadership,

 

  1. To continue our journey this week we move from reading Luke to the Gospel of Matthew. Note that Thomas and Gundry have honored the placement A.T. Robertson gave  Lk 2:39 at the close of section 16 though they themselves prefer to interpret the sequence of events in Lk 2:39 as immediately after 2:38. See note “o” in the Harmony of the Gospels, page 38
  2. Timeline of Jesus’ Childhood Years – See also Calendars – Synchronization of Time
  3. Sometimes called “wise men” may have been a sect of persian zoroastrian priests, or perhaps a more diverse group of early astrologers (or some have used the terms astrologists, or astronomers, possibly in order to avoid the occultist connotations) who often traveled in groups of 30 to 50.  We don’t know how many came to see Jesus. It has been assumed that there were three because of the three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). We can at least assume 2 of them, since the scripture refers to “them”. Tradition holds that they had nobility and power.
  4. In the west the names of the wise men were determined in 8th century based on an early 6th century Greek manuscript in Alexandria and their names were: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar and who came from Syria. However, the bible doesn’t say the names or how many magi were there. Around the world, the names of 17 individuals were beleived to have been present. The eastern Church had the names Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater.  Another tradition uses the names Kagpha, Badadakharida and Badadilma. Some Chinese Christians cite anecdotal evidence that Liu Shang, the chief astrologer during the Han dynasty in China, went to visit Jesus. Liu Shang discovered a new star the Chinese called the “king star” – which was associated with the birth of a new king. The disappearance of Liu Shang from China’s imperial court for two years shortly after this star was discovered, they interpret as perhaps traveling the Silk Road to Bethlehem.  Syrian Christians name the Magi- Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas. In the Eastern churches, the Wise Men are named- Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater. The Armenians list the names of the Wise men as Kagpha, Badadakharida and Badadilma.
  5. Read: Num 24:17, and Daniel 9:24-27. See also the eschatological writings of Steve Gregg video, and this post about the Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity)
  6. we’re not at the manger at the Inn anymore, unless the Inn IS the house, and they’ve moved into a room.  In either case, along with the reference more than once in this section of “the child” rather than “a baby” or “the baby”, tells us of the passage of time from the initial birth scene of Jesus.  This includes Herod’s use of the phrase “the child” after he has been debriefed by the Magi who have first come to Jerusalem.  In other words, the Magi, in describing the time frame from when they first saw “his star” until that moment, are describing a certain passage of time, long enough for Herod himself to not refer to a “baby” but a little more grown “child.”    That may seem slight or innocuous, but it does also explain why Herod would later in this section (15) order the slaughter of male children 2 years old and under – “boys”, not just newborns.   For those who desire to be sticklers in arranging the Christmas creche tableau for the annual pageant, you would remove all the shepherds and the sheep, etc., and change the backdrop for the scene for when the Magi show up!
  7.  The three gifts given by the Wise-men are called “treasures,” and find their significance in the Old Testament. Obviously the men were students of the word, which is not surprising since the Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years, and one of the greatest of the divines in their history would have been the Hebrew Daniel. Gold is the symbol of royalty or depicting Jesus is a king. It was most valuable mineral noted in the Old Testament. The mercy seat, and nearly everything in the Holy place had gold (Exod.25:17). Frankincense was burned on the altar of incense and within the holy place. It symbolized prayers going up to God (Lev.2:2, 16) and was a symbol of deity. Myrrh represents death and embalming in the Old Testament. Jesus will be put in a tomb wrapped in cloth with myrrh and aloe (Jn.19:39).
  8. We are not told by what spirit this dream came to the magi. It could have been an angel, or some other spirit or manner of thought. The end result remains, though, that the magi heeded the warning.
  9. Now Joseph has a dream, but in this case (cf vs 12) the scripture makes it clear that an angel was in it and speaking to Joseph. Just like the Magi, Joseph is warned to flee from Herod by going another route. Joseph is quick to respond to the warning and the holy family flees to Egypt.
  10. One researcher, Arthur Blessitt, has calculated that “Mary the Mother of Jesus walked at least half the distance around the world at the equator and that in the course of his adult life Jesus of Nazareth walked almost the distance around the world at the equator”. From his experience walking the roads, he says, “In the summer time the heat could reach up to 120 F. and in the winter there is often snow along that route. The way included mountains, valleys, rivers, desert and wilderness. [Back then] There were bandits and killers hiding along the wayside.”
  11. “Slaughter of the Innocents” This is an incredibly horrific scene, when human authority and power-hungry ego shatter the boundaries of morality, right living, respect of life, concern of others, and the well-being of one’s community members.  Murdering countless infants and children, in order to preserve his precarious position as king is beyond justification.  Current atrocities in in northern Syria and Iraq in the slaughter of those professing to be Christians (and quite a few other religious minorities) shows that some things never change.
  12. There is a strange old prophecy where which easily refers to this tragic moment and aftermath of mourning. What is perplexing in this case, is God’s foreknowledge of this atrocity. It is important when considering prophecy that it does not immediately imply that this was God’s Will.  The prophecy does, however, describe what would be taking place due to human will.