The Significance of His Birth
Day 17 Tuesday, December 19th
1. Recognize the Context:
The Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus (verses 1-17). The first story presented is Joseph’s encounter with an angel of the Lord in a dream (verses 18-25). Joseph was instructed to take Mary as his wife, even though she was pregnant. He was told of the future greatness of this child. Joseph obeyed the command given to him by the angel of the Lord.
2. Read the Scripture: Matthew 2:1-6
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
The birth of Jesus took place during the reign of King Herod (40-4 B.C.). The Romans gave Herod his position, and although not a Jew himself, he was considered the "King of the Jews." He was a ruthless ruler known for killing several of his sons toward the end of his reign because he feared losing his throne. Even Augustus was known to have said that it was safer to be Herod’s pig (Greek-hys) than his son (Greek-hyios).
The Magi from the east most likely came from the region of Babylon. Magi were men who held significant positions in the religious courts of their respective countries. Their practices included a mixture of astrology, wisdom, and pagan religious practices. As Magi from Babylon, they undoubtedly were familiar with the Messianic predictions of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jews, who had gone into exile centuries earlier, would have introduced them to these writings.
The Magi were looking for the one to be born “King of the Jews” because of the star they had seen. But what accounted for the appearance of this star? This may have been some natural astronomical activity such as a comet, supernova, or "conjunction" of planets (We know of a conjunction that took place with Jupiter and Saturn in 7 B.C.). Or it may have been a supernaturally created star or an angelic being. Whatever it was, God used it to gain the Magi's attention and to lead them to Bethlehem in order to honor the real “King of the Jews.”
When King Herod heard the reason for the Magi’s visit, he was “disturbed.” This verb indicates “inner turmoil.” As mentioned above, he was paranoid about attempts to seize the throne, and their conversation with him only made matters worse. The disturbing news of their search put all of Jerusalem “on edge.” Herod asked his court about the Messianic prophecies, and they confirmed the location of the Messiah's birth (Micah 5:2).
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully consider the contrast Matthew presented between these two kings. On the one hand, Herod, a non-Jewish king of Jews, was granted power from an earthly empire. He was paranoid, neurotic, and violent. On the other hand, there was Jesus, the Jewish Messiah in the line of David, coming to earth by way of a humble birth in the plan of God to deliver Israel and all the nations. What does this comparison reveal about God's character and how he operates in the world?
Today, prayerfully consider the contrast between “God’s ways” and “human ways.”
What impact does this have on your choices and decisions today?
To do: (With the Holy Spirit's help)
Given the prayer suggestions and questions for reflection listed above, what can you incorporate into your life today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, co-workers.
Concerning the ways of God: