By Joseph Ametepe
On Christmas Eve 1914, during the First World War, also known as the Great War, the guns fell silent along a 30-mile stretch of the Western Front. Soldiers peered cautiously over the tops of trenches while a few emerged to repair their positions and bury the dead. As darkness fell, some German troops set out lanterns and sang Christmas carols. Men on the British side applauded and shouted greetings.
The next day, German, French, and British troops met in no man’s land to shake hands, share food, and exchange gifts. It was a brief respite from war that soon ended when artillery and machine guns roared to life again. But no one who experienced “The Christmas Truce,” as it became known would ever forget how it felt and how it fueled their longing for lasting peace – which can only be found in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
You see, in Jesus we can find lasting peace with God and harmony with each other. This is the life-changing message of Christmas. ~Adapted from Daily Bread, December 24, 2014.
Unfortunately, on the First Christmas, many, including King Herod the Great, did not find lasting peace in their souls, let alone with God. Herod, whose heart was troubled at the words of the Magi – “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2) – put on a false front of having peace in his heart and craftily told the Magi – who were sincerely seeking the newborn King to worship Him, that, he too would want to worship Him if they found out where He was!
This brings me to the main idea or the heart of the Christmas message God has given me from His Word to deliver to you at this joyful hour in your life and my life. Please I want you to listen carefully to it, not just with your head, but more importantly with your heart, where the Holy Spirit is delighted and desirous to plant the seed of God’s lasting and life-changing truth – in order to transform genuine born again believers among us here today more into the great and glorious likeness of Jesus Christ – the only Begotten Son, the Beginning, the Blessed One, the Beautiful One, the Builder and the Bridegroom of the Church, and to turn unbelievers from their sin of unbelief gently and graciously leading them to personal saving faith in Jesus Christ – the Lord of Lords and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So here is our message in a nutshell. Please, I humbly exhort you by the name of our Lord Jesus to pay very close attention to it with an open heart and an open mind willing to receive it and respond to it.
True celebration of the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace, centers on the glad and genuine worship of who He is. Simply put, Christmas ain’t Christmas unless Jesus is honored for who He really is.
Folks, friends, faithful followers of Christ among us here today, and fellow believers in the fold and flock, fellowship and family of God, the Bible is going to freshly and faithfully show us today that – on the First Christmas, nearly two thousand years ago, the celebration of the birth of the Messiah, the King of the Jews, by the wise men from the east, focused on their hearty, heartfelt, humble and honest worship of who He really is! With hearts overflowing with joy – the Magi showed us what true celebration of the birth Jesus is all about! It’s about joyful and jubilant worship of Jesus! You see, the birth of Christ awakened spiritual longing in the hearts of the wise-men and they diligently sought Him to worship Him. On the other hand, the Bible will vividly and visually show us that when Jesus was born into the world, His presence did not soothe and comfort most people; instead it startled and disturbed them. In fact, His presence awakened in others like Herod, fear and insecurity. Guess what! Things haven’t changed much! Jesus still divides people into those who acknowledge Him as the rightful King of their lives and those who don’t – no matter how they try to spin it!
Please if you have your Bibles with you, or your smartphones, turn them to the Gospel of Matthew 2:7-12. Would you please listen carefully as I recite our Christmas Story from the Updated New American Standard Bible – which is the most literal translation of the Bible into our English language!
This is the Word of God to the people of God! May the Lord add His blessing to the recital of His holy Word.
We have before us today, a passage of Scripture, which is part of Matthew’s account of the visit of the Magi – that is, Matthew 2:1-12. We are looking at the second part of this wonderful story, that is, Matthew 2:7-12, in our message today. It is a passage which can be accurately described as a passage of vivid contrasts. First of all, it is a passage of vivid contrasts because it relays the vivid contrast between the secrecy of Herod and the sincerity of the Magi. Herod was all hush, hush about finding out the exact time the star appeared. You see, he apparently didn’t want anyone else in Jerusalem to know. As such, he employed covert and clandestine means to get the information he desperately needed. In contrast, the Magi were honestly seeking for the newborn King of the Jews. They were candid in their search for the King of the Jews. Second, it is a passage of vivid contrasts because it reveals the vivid contrast between Herod, a false worshiper and the Magi, true worshipers of Christ. Although Herod talked the talk of wanting to worship Christ, he was a fake, a sham, a counterfeit at heart. But that was not the case with the Magi. They not only talked the talk of worshiping Christ, they walked the walk of worshiping King Jesus for who He really was. Third, it is a passage of vivid contrasts because it records the vivid contrast between the plot of Herod and the purpose of God. You see, the plot of Herod to find out the exact location of the Christ of God in order to carry out His clandestine scheme against Him, failed miserably. In contrast, the purpose of God for Christ prevailed. Christ was protected and preserved from the murderer. God’s purpose for the Christ-Child triumphed over the wicked plot of Herod the Great. So these are the reasons why our passage of Scripture is a passage of vivid contrasts.
Having so far simply whetted your spiritual appetite, please allow me to give you a brief overview of how the Holy Spirit has prepared me to present this Christmas story to you from start to finish. First of all, we will examine what the Bible reveals about the pretense of Herod in verses 7-8. Herod was really good at putting on a false front. Herod was not the rightful heir to the throne of David. Therefore many Jews hated him as a usurper. Hearing about the birth of the King of the Jews, not only troubled him deeply but it also threatened him. You see, Herod perceived the newborn King of the Jews to be a future threat to his position. Instead of facing the truth, Herod masqueraded himself as a worshiper of Christ. Herod pretended he was all about worshiping King Jesus. Second, we will elaborate on the perseverance of the Magi in verse 9a. The Magi traveled thousands of miles to Jerusalem, taking many months, to see the King of the Jews. But having finally arrived in Jerusalem, they didn’t find Him there. However, they didn’t quit on their quest to see the King of the Jews. They were not quitters like we often are – especially when the going gets tough for us. They pressed on. They persevered in their pursuit of finding the King of the Jews and falling before Him and giving Him homage. Third, we will explain the Bible’s teaching focusing on the providential guidance of God in verses 9b-10. God providentially guided the Magi with “the Star” (Matthew 2:7, 9, 10), which was earlier called “His star” [Greek: autou ton astera] (Matthew 2:2). Now the question is: What kind of star is “the star?” Was it a Nova, that is, a star showing sudden large increase in brightness and then slowly returning to its original state over a few months? Well, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, we will answer these questions in the course of our study today. Fourth, we will emphasize what the Bible discloses about the Magi’s passionate worship of Jesus in verse 11. In this verse, the Bible vividly describes for us the crowning moment of the diligent pursuit of Jesus. The Magi passionately poured out their hearts in true worship of Jesus for who He is in a way that is remarkable and revealing. You ask: What makes their worship of Jesus remarkable and revealing? Well, with the help of the Spirit and the Scriptures we will address this crucial question in our message today. Fifth and finally, we will expound on the personal warning of God given to the Magi in verse 12. After finding Jesus and worshiping Him, the Magi were personally warned by God not to return through Jerusalem as they had intended. The question is: What does the personal warning of God reveal to us of God’s ways? Well, I’m eager to know and I hope you are eager to know too.
Having given you a concise overview of our Christmas Story, let’s now dig deeper into it to discover the precious and practical spiritual lessons the Holy Spirit is so eager and enthused to impress upon our hearts in order to do His special and supernatural work of molding and making genuine born again believers among us here today more like Jesus Christ – our Life, our Leader, our Lover, and our Lord in this present age and in the age soon to come. We begin first of all by examining what the Bible reveals about the:
I. Pretense of Herod (vv. 7-8).
We are about to be introduced to a man who was not only crafty, cunning, cruel, cold-blooded and callous at heart, but also a counterfeit. You see, Herod the Great put on a false front before the Magi – pretending that his heart was fully committed to worshiping the Messiah the King of the Jews. Would you please notice what the Bible reveals to us about the pretense of Herod! Verse 7 first reveals to us that he was a shrewd schemer. “Then Herod secretly called the Magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared” (Matthew 2:7).
Please pay close attention to the word “secretly” [Greek: lathra]. It also means privately, privily, confidentially, or quietly without the knowledge of others. You see, Herod’s secrecy reveals that his motive was deceitful and devious. In other words, his motive was impure. At a secret meeting or at a closed door meeting between the Magi and Herod, Herod craftily sought to know the time [Greek: chronos] of the appearing star. The Greek verb translated “determined” [Greek: akriboo], also means carefully inquire, ascertain exactly, accurately, or find out. The point here is that Herod was not only crafty and cunning, cruel and cold-blooded, but he was very calculated. Herod was not going to accept anything less than the precise minute, hour, day, month, and year on which the star appeared. Herod wanted to know even the very second the star appeared in the sky. It is generally believed that the Magi didn’t arrive in Jerusalem until at least a year after the appearance of the star.
You see, Herod knew that the shrewd way to get the right information he desperately needed to locate the right child was to let the wise men go down and find the right child and then come back and tell him. So he didn’t send any escort with them. Why? It’s because the success of his deceitful scheme greatly depended on winning the Magi’s confidence. Herod couldn’t foresee God’s intervention to topple His devious and deceitful scheme. As far as the Bible is concerned, Herod was a shrewd schemer and a sham.
After vividly depicting Herod as a shrewd schemer, the Bible also reveals that he was a sham. “And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the Child, and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him,’” (Matthew 2:8).
Herod piously said to the Magi in their closed door meeting: “I want you to know that the whole reason for calling this secret meeting with you is that I too would very much want to worship the King of the Jews. I will leave everything I am doing here in Jerusalem and come to the exact place the King of the Jews is and personally give him my heartfelt worship. Believe me, that’s what I want to do.” What a smooth and slick talker Herod was! You know and I know that Herod did not want to worship Christ the King of the Jews – He was lying. You see, this was a trick to get the Magi to return to him and reveal the whereabouts of the newborn King. Herod wanted to kill the Child (see Matthew 2:13-15), whom He saw as a potential threat to his throne. In fact, he had already schemed to kill the small boys of Bethlehem as verse 16 indicates. So let’s not miss the point here. Herod was a big time pretender.
Some years ago, the story is told of a waitress in Ohio, who asked to see a customer’s driver’s license. She was shocked when she saw the photo on the I.D. Guess what! It was her own picture! OOPS! You see, the waitress had lost her driver’s license a month earlier, and this young woman was using it so she’d have “proof” that she was old enough to drink alcohol. The police were called, and the customer was arrested for identity theft. Trying to gain what she wanted, she pretended to be someone she wasn’t. So was Herod the Great. He pretended to be a true worshiper of Jesus, when that was not at all true. Herod had no genuine desire to worship Jesus as King and Messiah and Ruler of the nations and kings. His heart’s true desire was to lay hands on Jesus and kill Him. He wanted to eliminate all threats and rivals to his reign and kingship.
May I say to us, that this sickness of pretending to be someone we are not goes on in our countries, cities, communities, churches, congregations, chapels, and campuses today! Some people put on a false front like Herod. They use the “right Christianese” attend church services almost every Sunday, they go to weekly Bible studies, and even pray before their meals. They pretend to “have it all together” in order to gain the approval of others. But inside, they are struggling with hatred, anger, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, unforgiveness, murderous and suicidal thoughts. They won’t confess their struggles to Jesus who is willing to free them and give them rest (see Matthew 11:28-30). You can pretend all you want and even succeed in fooling people. But may I say to you, you cannot pull the wool over God’s eye. Instead of admitting that he is feeling threatened and insecure, Herod of pretended to be someone He was not. Perhaps, you are here today and would like to confess that you have been pretending to be someone you are not! You’ve cheated your way through life and deceived others to get their approval. Today, Jesus is speaking to you. He says, ‘Don’t be like Herod! Turn from all your pretentious ways. Repent today and receive my free and full forgiveness! He says, “I am ready to forgive you, if you’d step up to the plate to ask Me forgiveness.”
Having examined me the pretense of Herod (vv. 7-8), the Bible now brings us to the point of elaboration on the:
II. Perseverance of the Magi (v. 9a).
I personally thank God for the Magi because their lives vividly demonstrated what perseverance in the Christian life is all about! In the first part of verse 9, we read these brief but blessed words: “After hearing the king, they went their way” (Matthew 2:9a). Literally, this reads: “So they hearing the king went.” These words are so precious. You see, in spite of their disappointment of not seeing the King of the Jews upon their arrival in Jerusalem, the Magi stayed the course of seeking and pursuing Jesus. They persisted. They pressed on. They persevered with all diligence. They didn’t quit in their quest to see the King of the Jews.
Now please think with me for a moment about the persevering spirit demonstrated by the magi in their pursuit of King Jesus. Have you thought of what trouble it must have cost these wise men to travel from their homes to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem? Have you thought of how many weary miles they must have journeyed? Have you thought of the many months they must have traveled over desert wasteland on possibly camels’ back, and not cars? Have you thought of the dangers they must have faced traveling thousands of miles that were infested by bandits and bad-dudes? Yet none of these things moved the wise men from the east. You see, they had set their hearts on seeing “Him who has been King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). And they never rested until they saw Him. That, I tell you friends and fellow believers is perseverance.
What about you and me? What spiritual diligence do we show in seeking and pursuing Jesus? What persistence do we display in following hard after the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ? What does your faith in Christ cost you? When the going gets tough for us, do we quit? Do we give up? Do we throw in the towel and turn our backs on Jesus? These are serious personal and practical questions to us? They deserve sincere and careful consideration.
Having elaborated on the perseverance of the Magi in v. 9a, the Bible now brings us to the point of explaining its teaching on the:
III. Providential Guidance of God (vv. 9b-10).
Oh how wonderful is the Lord our God! He delights in using any and all things to providentially guide those who are sincerely seeking Him. This is exactly what we see in our Christmas Story. God would use “the star” as “His heaven-sent GPS” to guide the Magi to the exact place where they would at last come face to face with “Him who has been born King of the Jews.” Notice first what the Bible says about the reappearance of the star: “and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood in the place where the Child was” (Matthew 2:9b). Please notice that “the star” is used three times in our passage (vv. 7, 9, 10). It was first mentioned in (Matthew 2:2). So in total, it was used four times. The question is: Why does the Bible repeatedly refer to “the star?” Was it because the Holy Spirit was short of words, that is why He kept repeating “the star?” Please listen! The repetition was to emphasize God’s providential guidance of the Magi to find the exact location of Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Now please understand that the Bible does not say that the Bible does not say that the star, which the wise men had seen at the beginning of their journey (see Matthew 2:2), led them to Jerusalem – the capital city of Herod’s kingdom. They went first to the capital city because they thought it would be the natural place for the King of the Jews to be born. But now the star reappeared ahead of them as they made their way to Bethlehem – meaning “house of Bread.” It was only 5 miles from Jerusalem, almost directly south. So this implies very specific localized guidance from the traveling star, which came to rest over the young Christ-Child’s specific location. No doubt, the star was God’s providential or heaven-sent guidance of the Magi – directing them to the Messiah. Now the crucial question is: What kind of star is “the star?” Some say “the star” may have been a conjunction or concurrence (an instance of two or more events or things occurring at the same point in time and space) of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in 6 B.C. And others think that possibly it was a “Nova,” that is, a star showing sudden large increase in brightness and then slowly returning to its original state over a few months. Please listen! The star was neither a conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in 6 B.C. nor a Nova. Please think of this! Couldn’t God who created the heavens, with all their innumerable stars, have created a special star to signal the arrival of His Begotten, Blessed and Beloved Son? Yes! Yes! Yes, indeed!
Commenting on the star, Henry H. Halley writes: “The star that the wise men saw was no doubt a distinct phenomenon, a supernatural light, which by a direct act of God, went before them, and pointed out the exact spot; a supernatural announcement of a supernatural birth.” –Halley Bible’s Handbook, p. 149.
Taking the reappearance of the star as a confirmation of God’s providential guidance on their quest to see “Him who has been born the King of the Jews,” led to the rejoicing of the Magi. This is exactly what we see in verse 10. “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10).
You see, the Magi’s diligent pursuit of Jesus is now being rewarded. As such, they could not help but overflow with the joy of the Lord. I tell you friends and fellow believers, theirs was an exuberant joy. Theirs was a joyful and jubilant rejoicing. That is why the Bible uses too powerful adjectives to describe their joy. Literally, this reads, “they rejoiced with a joy great [Greek: megalen] exceedingly"[Greek: sphodra]. In Jeremiah 29:13, God gave this promise to the Jews of Jeremiah’s day: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart”. Guess what! The wise men from the east experienced the fulfillment of this Scripture in their lives on that memorable day in Bethlehem. Their perseverance in seeking Jesus with all their heart has borne fruit. They were not all disappointed. May I say to us, no one who has set his or her heart on sincerely seeking Jesus will be disappointed! Rather, he or she will be overjoyed at finding Jesus.
Having explained the Bible’s teaching focusing on the providential guidance of God in verses 9b-10, it now brings us to the crowning moment of the Magi’s diligent pursuit of Jesus, that is, their:
IV. Passionate Worship of Jesus (v. 11).
We are about to see for ourselves the Bible’s vivid description of how the Magi poured out their hearts in passionate and true worship of Jesus for who He is, in a way that is remarkable and revealing. “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).
Please notice very carefully that the Bible clearly specified the place where the Magi found Jesus on that memorable day. It was in a “house” [Greek: oikian], not in a manger. Most Christmas cards show the wise men coming to the stable. That, my friend, is not the true depiction of the Magi’s visit to Jesus. You see, some time had elapsed since the birth of Jesus in a manger and the family was now settled in a house. Please notice also the preeminent position of the Christ-Child. The Christ-Child is given first place over Mary, His mother. In fact, whenever Matthew mentions Mary in connection with her Child, Christ is always given first place (see Matthew 2:11, 13, 14, 20, 21). Five times Matthew, under the leading of the Spirit, maintained the order “the Child and then Mary.” You see, ordinarily mention would be made of a mother first, then her child. But you know and I know that this Child is unique. He is special and must be given first place. That is why the wise men would worship Jesus not Mary or Joseph. Somehow, in their heart of hearts, the wise men knew that it is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who deserves our praise and worship, both now and to the day of eternity, not Mary or Joseph. Now observe what the Bible reveals about their passionate worship of Jesus. “And they fell to the ground and worshiped Him” (Matthew 2:11b). Remember that in Matthew 2:2, the Magi clearly and concisely stated that their purpose in coming from the east was to worship King Jesus. Now, we see them actually doing just that. You see, they did not merely talk a good game. They also walked the walk. In fact, their worship of King of Jesus wonderfully foreshadowed the worship of Jesus by all Gentile nations.
Now notice in their passionate worship of Jesus, the Bible describes them literally “falling down” – [Greek: pesontes, from pipto] – which means to throw oneself to the ground as a sign of devotion, before high-ranking persons or divine beings. In their passionate worship of Jesus, the wise men held nothing back as they fell on their knees to give Him humble, heartfelt, honest, honest worship. The Magi worshiped Jesus for who He was in spirit and truth. This is the essence of true worship – honoring Christ for who He really is. Remember, when the woman of Samaritan encountered Jesus at well, the Lord Jesus revealed that the Father is looking for true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). It is possible that the Lord Jesus thought of the Magi as He taught on the Father’s longing for the worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth.
Their worship of Jesus is remarkable and revealing, but you ask: How so? Please listen carefully now! They worshiped Christ before He would ever pray as the God-Man to the Father. They worshiped Christ before He would ever preach the gospel with divine authority. They worshiped Christ before He would ever prophesy of the end of the age. They worshiped Christ before He would ever pardon sin on earth as the Son of Man. They worshiped Christ before He would ever perform miracles affirming His deity or divinity. They worshiped Christ before He would ever promise eternal life as the true God. They worshiped Christ before He would ever pronounce to the Jews: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). They worshiped Christ before He would ever pay for our sin debt in full – as the God-Man and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world– whose sacrifice alone fully satisfied the Father’s wrath against your sins and my sins. May I say to us, passionate was their worship. Pure was their worship. Personal was their worship. And profound was their faith which they demonstrated on that historic day in the little town of Bethlehem. You see, the wise men worshiped Jesus before He convincingly showed Himself to a watching world that He is indeed the God-Man, fully God and fully Man.
C. Ryle eloquently speaks of the profound faith demonstrated by the Magi in their passionate worship of Jesus: “These wise men believed in Christ when they had never seen Him; but that was not all. They believed in Him when the scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving; but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him as a little infant on Mary’s knees, and worshiped Him as King. This was the crowning point of their faith. They saw no miracles to convince them. They saw no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a newborn infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any of us. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Saviour of the world! “They bowed down and worshiped Him” (v. 11). We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible. It is a faith that deserves to be placed side by side with that of the penitent thief. The thief saw someone dying the death of a criminal, and yet prayed to him and “called him Lord.” The wise men saw a newborn baby on the lap of a poor woman, and yet worshiped him, and confessed that he was Christ. Blessed indeed are those who can believe in this way! This is the kind of faith that Go delights to honor. We see the proof of that this very day. Wherever the Bible is read the conduct of these wise men is known, and told as a memorial to them. Let us walk in the steps of their faith. Let us not be ashamed to believe in Jesus and confessed him, though all around us remained indifferent and unbelieving. Have we not a thousand times more evidence than the wise men had, to make us believe that Jesus is the Christ? Beyond doubt we have. Yet where is our faith?...It is not always those who have the most religious privilege who give Christ most honor. We might have thought that the scribes and Pharisees would have been the first to hasten to Bethlehem, on the slightest rumor that the Saviour was born. But it was not so. A few unknown strangers from a distant land were the first except for the shepherds mentioned by St. Luke, to rejoice at His birth. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). What a mournful picture this is of human nature!...There are many who, from residence and convenience, ought to be the foremost in the worship of God, and yet are always last. There are many who might well be expected to be last, who are always first.” – R. C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentary, Matthew, pp.8-10.
Please notice also that their passionate worship led to the presentation of gifts to the Christ. The Magi traveled thousands of miles to see the King of the Jews. When they finally found Him, they responded with profound joy, passionate worship and presents. With willing hearts, overflowing with great joy, they presented to Him what was valuable to them. This is so different from the approach people often take today. We expect God to come looking for us to explain Himself to us, prove who He is and give us gifts. But those who are wise still seek and worship Jesus not for what they can get, but for who He is. Does that describe you today? Remember, Christmas ain’t Christmas unless Jesus is honored for who He really is!
The three gifts presented by the Magi namely, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, perhaps gave rise to the legend that there were three “wise men.” But you would notice that the Bible does not indicate the number of the Magi. Moreover, the Bible does not say that they were kings.
Bible Commentator D. A. Carson shares this thought on the gifts and their significance. “Bringing gifts was particularly important in the ancient East when approaching a superior (cf. Genesis 43:11; 1 Samuel 9:7-8; 1 Kings 10:2)….Frankincense is a glittering, odorous gum obtained by making incisions in the bark of several tress; myrrh exudes from a tree found in Arabia and a few other places and was a much- valued spice and perfume (Psalm 45:8; Song of Songs 3:6) used in embalming (John 19:39). Commentators, ancient (Origen) and modern (Hendriksen), have found symbolic value in the three gifts-gold suggesting royalty, incense divinity, and myrrh the Passion and burial.” D. A. Carson, The Expositors Bible Commentary, p. 89.
Whether or not the wise men attached these symbolic values to their gifts, one thing we know for sure is that these three gifts were expensive and have helped finance the family in the flight to Egypt.
The Christmas story in our passage of study ends with the:
V. Personal Warning of God Given to the Magi (v. 12).
“And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the Magi left for their own country by another way” (Matthew 2:12).
After finding Jesus and worshiping Him, the Magi were warned by God in a dream not to return through Jerusalem as they had intended. Have you noticed that it is often difficult for honest people to see through or understand pretenders? Have you also noticed that it is often very hard for generous people to catch on to the schemes of self-seeking scammers and swindlers? No doubt, the wise men were honest and generous people. But it seemed they lacked spiritual discernment. They had failed to see what Herod was actually up to when he piously said to them: “When you have found the Child, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him” (Matthew 2:8). You see, Herod had succeeded in pulling the wool over the eyes of the wise men. They had assumed that Herod was sincere in his desire to come and worship Jesus. But thought the eyes of the wise men were not sharp enough to discern Herod’s deceitful, devious, and dirty scheme, before the Almighty God nothing is hidden (see Hebrews 4:13). Using a dream, God personally warned the wise men not to return to Herod, the sly, sleek and smooth talking king. The wise men obediently returned to their homeland by another route. The crucial question here is: What does the personal warning of God reveal of His ways? Here is it! God’s plan will always prevail over the enemy’s wicked plot against His child. God outwitted Herod the trickster and overturned his clandestine plot against “Him who has been born King of the Jews.” Oh child of God, may you be encouraged today and assured that God knows when to step in and overthrow the wicked plots of the enemy against you! The Bible says: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). This was a bitter pill for Herod to swallow.
Some Bible teachers find significance in the Magi’s return by another route. Finding Jesus may mean that your life must take a different direction, one that is responsive and obedient to God’s Word. In what ways has Jesus affected the direction of your life?
So how does this Christmas message apply to you and to me today? Please listen! If you are already a genuine born again believer in Jesus Christ, here is how the Holy Spirit wants to apply it to you and to me. Confess to Jesus today all the ways you pretend to be something you are not and receive His free and full forgiveness. You see, you will, and I will eventually be exposed for putting on a false front sooner or later. Just ask Herod! Consider carefully before Jesus today whether you are staying the course of seeking Jesus Himself to be your one true satisfaction in life, of loving Jesus, of living for Jesus, of listening to Jesus, of looking to Jesus, of learning at Jesus’ feet. Count on Jesus today to guide you into His purpose for your life so that your life will make a difference for eternity. Commit yourself today to following God’s leading in your life even as the wise men did – allowing no disappointment or difficulty from stopping them from seeking, seeing, and surrendering their hearts to Jesus! Celebrate Jesus with passionate worship for who He really is, not only during this Christmas season, but every single day of your life until you see His blessed face in glory! Claim with calm assurance today that God’s plan for your life will prevail over the enemy’s wicked plot against you.
Now if you are not a born again believer in Jesus may I humbly and honestly say to you today that God doesn’t want you to miss out on the true celebration of Christmas – that is, honoring Jesus Christ for who He really is. God is inviting you to the party, to the celebration of His Son. Oh how He loves you and me! He’s prepared everything for you to join and enjoy the party. All He requires of you is to believe. Believe today that Jesus died on the cross for your sins. Believe today that Jesus was buried to put away your sins. Believe today that Jesus rose again from the dead on the third day to bring you to a right standing with a holy and righteous God and you will be saved and set apart for His purposes, not only in this life but also in the life soon to come!
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).