“Emmanuel: The King” – Matthew 2:1-12

August 31st, 2014 or January 6th, 2015

Matthew 2:1-12

“Emmanuel: The King”

 Wise Men Still Seek Him


Meditation/Preparation: Jesus is the King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords.  That is why Wise Men Still Seek Him.


If you leave Jesus because something doesn’t work out, Jesus was never your king anyway.  The thing that didn’t work out is your idol and your god and your king . . . not Jesus.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. — Matthew 6:24


Background Information:

  • I’m sorry to ruin what might be your favorite Christmas carol, but here in 2:1-12 there are not likely three kings.  However, there are two!  Matthew wants us to take note of two kings–King Herod and King Jesus.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 59-60)
  • Bethlehem, a town in the land of Judea (another name for Judah), was known as the place where King David was born and raised.  And since Matthew is constantly tying Jesus to David, it becomes clearer why he mentions Judea three times in chapter 2 (vv. 1, 5, 6).  Only a member of the tribe of Judah could qualify for the throne of David.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 35)
  • It was at Bethlehem that Jacob buried Rachel (Gn 35:19), the traditional site of whose tomb is still shown to tourists today.  It was also here that Ruth met and married Boaz (Ruth 1:22; 2:4) and that their illustrious grandson, David, grew up and tended sheep (1 Sm 17:12, 15).  The prophet Micah specifically promised that the Messiah would come from this small village (5:2).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 25)
  • The picture of the stable and the manger as the birthplace of Jesus is a picture indelibly etched in our minds; but it may well be that that picture is not altogether correct.  Justin Martyr, one of the greatest of the early fathers, who lived about AD 150, and who came from the district near Bethlehem, tells us that Jesus was born in a cave near the village of Bethlehem (Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho, 78, 304); and it may well be that Justin’s information is correct.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 24)
  • The cave in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem may be that same cave, or it may not be.  That we will never know for certain.  But there is something beautiful in the symbolism that the church where the cave is has a door so low that all must stoop to enter.  It is supremely fitting that every man should approach the infant Jesus upon his knees.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 25)
  • Bethlehem signifies the house of bread; the fittest place for him to be born in who is the true manna, the bread which came down from heaven, which was given for the life of the world.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 12)
  • The frequency of the repetition shows us that to indicate the young child first and the mother afterwards was not a literary slip.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 32)
  • In all of Scripture, David and Jesus, who begin and end the messianic line, are the only kings of Judah who were born in Bethlehem.  All the others were born in Jerusalem.  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 23)
  • During that time there was widespread expectation of the coming of a great king, a great deliverer.  The Roman historian Suetonius, speaking of the time around the birth of Christ, wrote, “There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world.”  Another Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote that “there was a firm persuasion that at this very time the east was to grow powerful and rulers coming from Judea were to acquire a universal empire.”  The Jewish historian Josephus reports in his Jewish Wars that at about the time of Christ’s birth the Jews believed reports that one from their country would soon become ruler of the habitable earth.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 28)
  • The current messianic expectations of most Jews at that time was more for a political and military deliverer than a spiritual savior–an expectation apparently shared by Jesus’ own disciples (Acts 1:6).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 32)
  • The ruling body in the Parthian-Persian empire at this time was much like the Roman senate.  They were the king-makers in an almost absolute way, and were composed entirely of magi.  They had become discontent with the weak king that presently ruled them and were looking for someone more capable to lead them in a campaign against Rome.  Caesar Augustus was old and feeble, and since the retirement of Tiberius the Roman army had had no commander in chief.  The time was propitious for the east to make its move against Rome.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 31)
  • The term for Jesus in 2:8, 9, 11 (also 2:14, 14, 20, 21) is “child” (paidion), which normally designates an infant or toddler.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 99)
  • Most obviously, the visit of foreign dignitaries to Jerusalem to see the son of David recalls the story of the Queen of Sheba (1 Kgs 10:1-10), and Matthew’s specific mention of the presentation of gold, frankincense, and myrrh echoes her royal gift to Solomon of “gold and a great quantity of spices” (1 Kgs 10:10), as well as other OT passages which take her visit and gifts as a model for the future glory of the Messiah (Ps 72:10-11, 15; “tribute,” “gifts,” “gold of Sheba”; Isa 60:5-6: “the wealth of the nations,” “gold and frankincense,” also with specific mention of Sheba).  The “kings” who are the donors in Ps 72:10-11; Isa 60:3 are the source of the later Christian tradition which by the early third century had turned Matthew’s “magi” into kings.  Matthew thus prepares the way for Jesus’ later declaration that “something greater than Solomon is here” (12:42).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 62)


Who are the Magi?:

  • Eastern tradition sets their number at twelve, but Western tradition sets it at three, based on the three gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 94)
  • The magi became skilled in astronomy and astrology (which, in that day, were closely associated) and had a sacrificial system that somewhat resembled the one God gave to Israel through Moses.  They were  involved in various occult practices, including sorcery, and were especially noted for their ability to interpret dreams.  It is from their name that our words magic and magician are derived.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 27)
  • Because of their monotheism, it was easy for the magi to adapt to the teaching of the sixth-century B.C. Persian religious leader named Zoroaster, who believed in a single god, Ahura Mazda, and a cosmic struggle between good and evil.  Darius the Great established Zoroastrianism as the state religion of Persia.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 27)
  • These Magi were men who were skilled in philosophy, medicine and natural science.  They were soothsayers and interpreters of dreams.  In later times the word Magus developed a much lower meaning, and came to mean little more than a fortune-teller, a sorcerer, a magician, and a charlatan.  Such was Elymas, the sorcerer (Acts 13:6, 8), and Simon who is commonly called Simon Magus (Acts 8:9, 11).  But at their best the Magi were good and holy men, who sought for truth.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 26)
  • The idea that they were kings was probably derived from such passages as Ps 72:10, 15, and Isa 49:7.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 13)
  • Most scholars believe that the traditional nonbiblical picture of the wise men arriving at the manger is incorrect based on clues given in this chapter.  More likely, the wise men arrived some time after Jesus’ birth–Jesus is called a child (paidion, 2:9, 11) rather than a baby or infant (brephos, used in Lk 2:12) and the wise men went to a house (2:11), not to a stable.  The fact that Herod had all the baby boys under two years old killed (2:16) may mean that a couple of years had passed between Jesus’ birth and this visit.  If so, apparently Mary and Joseph decided to remain for a time in Bethlehem instead of returning after the census taking (Lk 2:1-5) to Nazareth.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 21)
  • It may be that “the law of the Medes and Persians” (see Dn 6:8, 12, 15; Est 1:19) was founded on the teachings of these magi.  Historians tell us that no Persian was ever able to become king without mastering the scientific and religious disciplines of the magi and then being approved and crowned by them, and that this group also largely controlled judicial appointments (cf. Est 1:13).  Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, chief of the Babylonian magi, was with Nebuchadnezzar when he attacked and conquered Judah (Jer 39:3).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 27)
  • Daniel was appointed as “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan 2:48).  Because of his great wisdom and because he had successfully pleaded for the lives of the wise men who had failed to interpret the king’s dream (Dan 2:24), Daniel came to be highly regarded among the magi.  The plot against Daniel that caused him to be thrown into the lions’ den was fomented by the jealous satraps and the other commissioners, not the magi (Dan 6:4-9).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 27)
  • Because of Daniel’s high position and great respect among them, it seems certain that the magi learned much from that prophet about the one true God, the God of Israel, and about His will and plans for His people through the coming glorious King.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 28)
  • Some magi–many of them probably outcasts or false practitioners–lived in various parts of the Roman Empire, including Palestine.  Among them was Simon of Samaria (Acts 8:9), whom tradition and history have come to refer to as Simon Magus because of his “practicing magic” (Greek, mageuō, derived from the Babylonian magus, singular of magi).  The Jewish false prophet Bar-Jesus was also a sorcerer, or “magician” (Greek, magos).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 28)
  • Their journey from the East was long and dangerous.  Most likely they traveled from Persia, which is now Iran, or from the part of Babylonia that may now be Iraq.  In any case, the travel involved was significant.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 30)
  • The wise men were Gentiles, no doubt about it.  They were either from Arabia, Persia, or Babylon.  Following Origen of Alexandria, I think that they were from Babylon.  I say this because we know from the book of Daniel that the Chaldeans or Babylonians had “wise men” (Dan 2:12-14, 24, 27, 48; 4:6, 18; 5:6-8, 15) and also because of the theological significance attached to Babylon.  Matthew is possibly saying that the pilgrimage of the nations to the holy city, the flood of Gentiles entering into the people of God, has begun, as the prophets predicted (Isa 2:2, 3; cf. Isa 60:1-5; Mic 4:1, 2).  But I also think he is giving an ironic twist.  The twist is this: the return from the Babylonian exile is certainly over if the Babylonians themselves are bowing before Zion’s King!  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 65-66)
  • I picture them as a mix between Gandalf, David Copperfield, and Jeane Dixon.  While I doubt they wrote “the daily horoscopes for the Baghdad Gazette,” I don’t doubt that they were stargazers who thought present and future events were to be found in the stars.  And while I don’t think that they were quacks or charlatans as are most astrologers today–for example, Sylvia Browne or Miss Cleo–I do think they believed in and practiced magic of sorts, the same kind as Pharaoh’s wise men (“Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt…” [Ex 7:11; cf. Gn 41:8]) and as Simon Magus or Simon the Sorcerer, as he is known in Acts 8:9-24 (cf. Acts 13:6, 8).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 66)
  • They believe that the wise men who came from the east and arrived in Jerusalem were Medes or Persians.  In support of this belief they point not only to the Iranian origin of the word magoi or magi but also to the fact that, as pictured in the earliest Christian art that has been preserved, the travelers from afar are wearing Persian robes.  Moreover, such early writers as Clement of Alexandria, Diodorus of Taruss, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Juvencus, Prudentius and others agree that the magi came from Persia.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 150-51)
  • Through the influence of Daniel and his friends (see Dan 2:48; 5:11) these wise men and their associates, whether wise or not so wise, were brought into contact with the only true and living God, and, of course, also with the Messianic expectation.  Though much of the learning of these counselors of Babylon’s king was worthless, as the book of Daniel clearly shows, and though it is true that among the Jews there was even a saying, “Whoever learns anything from a magus is worthy of death, it was, nevertheless, the study of the stars by the Babylonian astrologers–perhaps we should say astronomers–which, though faulty in many respects, has been credited with establishing the foundation for the planetary world-system, time computation, and the calendar.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 151)
  • There is no basis whatever, not even in Ps 72:10 and Isa 60:3, for the notion that these men were “kings.”  The line “We three kings of Orient are” belongs to the same vast collection of legendary Yuletide lore to which belongs also “But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes,” and many similar bits of fancy.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 152)


What is the Star?:

  • We are not given a detailed description of the star.  We are not told how the magi connected this star with the birth.  We are not told how many magi there were, how they dressed, how they died, or where they were buried.  All that and much more is purposely left in the shade in order that against this dark background the light may shine forth all the more brilliantly.  These wise men, whoever they were, wherever they came from, came to worship him!  In the present instance, as is clear from verse 11, this can mean nothing less than that it was their intention to fall down before the Messianic King in humble adoration.  Matthew is telling all those who read this story or hear it read that they too must do the same.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 155)
  • Chinese astronomers recorded a nova which was visible for seventy days in 5/4 B.C., which would fit a date shortly before the death of Herod.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 69)
  • In those years, on the first day of the Egyptian month, Mesori, Sirius, the dog star, rose heliacally, that is at sunrise, and shone with extraordinary brilliance.  Now the name Mesori means the birth of a prince, and to those ancient astrologers such a star would undoubtedly mean the birth of some great king.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 26)
  • We infer from this that the star had appeared a couple of years earlier, for when Herod went on his murderous rampage, he ordered the killing of all boys two years old and under (2:16), although he may have added to the age to make sure the child would be destroyed.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 27)
  • The journey from the East was prompted by a remarkable phenomenon that they had seen in the heavens.  It may have been the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in the spring of 7 BC.  We know that ancient astronomers were able to calculate the orbits of planets years in advance.  Stauffer holds that the Magi noted only the beginning of the conjunction (the appearance of Jupiter in the east; v. 2) and set out for Palestine.  Upon arriving, they witnessed the extremely rare (once every 794 years) conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the Sign of the Fishes.  Note that when they left Jerusalem for Bethlehem they saw “the star they had seen in the east” (v. 9) and were filled with joy.  Stauffer goes on to say that since Jupiter was regarded as the star of the universe, Saturn the planet of Palestine, and the constellation of the Fishes the sign of the last days, this rare conjunction “could only mean that the ruler of the last days would appear in Palestine” (Jesus and His Story, 33)  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 13)
  • That the star was not a physical heavenly body is again evident from the fact that it was able to stand directly over the house where Jesus and his family now lived–which for obvious reasons could not be possible for an actual star (cf. Ex 40:34-38; Ezek 10:4).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 35)
  • It is interesting that both nature–the stars–and Scripture combined to direct the Magi to Jesus.  (Roger L. Hahn, Matthew: A Commentary for Bible Students, 61)
  • The idolaters worshiped the stars as the host of heaven, especially the eastern nations, whence the planets have the names of their idol-gods; we read of a particular star they had in veneration, Amos 5:26.  Thus the stars that had been misused came to be put to the right use, to lead men to Christ; the gods of the heathen became his servants.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 11)
  • The luminous wonder was actually moving from north to south, from Jerusalem to Bethlehem!  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 168)


What do we know about the gifts?:

  • The little family, Joseph, Mary, and the child, continues to live in relative poverty for at least forty days, as is evident from Lk 2:22-24; cf. Lv 12:2-8.  If the wise men from the east, bringing precious gifts, had arrived within this period of forty days, then, on the fortieth day Mary’s purification offering would probably have been something better than “a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.”  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 170)
  • Origen had good reason to say that the magi brought “gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to God.”  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 173)
  • The events described in this passage probably occurred several months after Jesus was born.  We see from 2:11 that Jesus’ family was now staying in a house rather than the stable where He was born (Lk 2:7).  Jesus, therefore, would already have been circumcised, and Mary would have completed her period of purification (Lk 2:21-27).  The fact that she offered “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Lk 2:24) instead of the normal lamb (Lv 12:6-8) indicates that the family was poor.  Had this offering been made after the magi with their expensive gifts (Mt 2:11) had already visited Jesus, the lamb could easily have been afforded and would have been required.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 25)
  • “For they opened their treasure chests, and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”  Thus they were fulfilling the acknowledgment of Christ on behalf of all nations.  They were signifying the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “All those who are in Sheba shall come, offering gold and precious stones and spreading the good news of the Lord; all the sheep of Kedar shall be gathered together, and the rams of Nabaioth shall come, and they will offer pleasing incense on your altar.  They recognized him at once.  They opened their treasure chests.  They displayed their offerings, gifts in themselves fit for nations to give.  For, realizing that he was king, they offered him their elegant and costly first fruits, fit for the Holy One.  (Anonymous, Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 2)  (Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mt 1-13, 28)
  • Gold is the metal of kings. [Frank]incense is a sweet-smelling gum imported from Arabia (cf. Jer 6:20).  Myrrh is a fragrant gum used both medicinally (Mk 15:23) and as a perfume (Ps 45:8; Prv 7:17).  Because gold was a royal metal, frankincense was used by priests in temple worship (Lv 2:1, 2, 15-16), and myrrh was used to embalm the bodies of the dead (Jn 19:39), some writers have seen a special symbolism in the three gifts.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 16)
  • This wise man knew that the world was a sinful place, sadly in need of One who would take on Himself the weight and guilt of the sins of mankind and atone for them.  So, convinced that such a great Savior must also be a great sufferer, he brought myrrh, a gift for One destined to die since the spice was used to embalm the bodies of the dead.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 43)
  • Myrrh was probably derived from a small tree with odoriferous wood, namely the Balsamodendron of Arabia.  It was used for the purpose of perfuming a bed (Prv 7:17) or a garment (Ps 45:8).  It was prescribed for certain young ladies, to make them more desirable (Est 2:12).  It was also used lavishly in bridal processions (Sg 3:6).  Mingled with wine it served as an anesthetic (Mk 15:23).  Finally, it was used in preparing a body for burial (Jn 19:39, 40).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 172)


What do we know about King Herod?:

  • In 40 B.C. Palestine was invaded by the Parthians, civil war broke out, and Herod fled to Rome.  By the Roman senate Herod was then nominated king of Judea.  An army was given him, to enable him to carve out his own kingdom with the sword.  This was no easy task.  It was, however, his one great ambition.  After encountering vigorous and unrelenting opposition from far and near he finally triumphed in the year 37 B.C.  Since, according to Josephus, Herod, at his death (in 4 B.C.) Was seventy years of age, he must have been born around 74 B.C.  He may already have passed his sixty-ninth birthday when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem, but the exact date of their arrival is uncertain.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 158)
  • Herod was known as Herod the Great and was the son of Antipater, an Edomite. Antipater helped Julius Caesar conquer Egypt, and for his services he was appointed procurator of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.  Antipater appointed his sons to rule under him.  Herod ruled over Galilee from the age of 26.  After his father’s death, he went to Rome to seek appointment as king.  He became king by Roman decree in 40 B.C., and was later named “King of the Jews” by Augustus Caesar in 30 B.C.  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 24)
  • The swiftness with which, even while still a very young governor of Galilee, he destroyed the bands of guerrillas that were making forays against the cities and despoiling the countryside, his efficiency in collecting tribute for Rome, the oratorical ability he revealed when he addressed the troops under his command or the Jerusalem populace, his subtle diplomacy, and the decisiveness with which he turned defeat into victory, were some of the qualities that made him the kind of monarch the Roman emperor admired.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 159)
  • Herod was also cruel and merciless.  He was incredibly jealous, suspicious, and afraid for his position and power.  Fearing his potential threat, he had the high priest Aristobulus, who was his wife Mariamne’s brother, drowned–after which he provided a magnificent funeral where he pretended to weep.  He then had Mariamne herself killed, and then her mother and two of his own sons.  Five days before his death (about a year after Jesus was born) he had a third son executed.  One of the greatest evidences of his bloodthirstiness and insane cruelty was having the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem arrested and imprisoned shortly before his death.  Because he knew no one would mourn his own death, he gave orders for those prisoners to be executed the moment he died–in order to guarantee that there would be mourning in Jerusalem.  That barbaric act was exceeded in cruelty only by his slaughter of “all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under” (Mt 2:16) in hopes of killing any threat to his throne from the One the magi said had been born King of the Jews.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 26)
  • The concern of the populace was not directly about the magi but about Herod’s reaction to them.  By bitter experience they knew that Herod’s agitation usually meant maniacal bloodshed.  He did not bother to identify his enemies carefully.  Anyone even suspected of doing him harm or of threatening his position or power was in considerable danger.  In his sweeping carnage many totally innocent people were often destroyed.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 31)
  • Herod has no fear of attack from the west, because that is where the Roman Empire lies, and he is the Rome-sanctioned ruler of Judea.  However, he develops a profound fear of attacks from the east.  During the Hasmonean struggle for supremacy between Antigonus and Hyrcanus II, Antigonus joined forces with the Parthians, an empire to the northeast of Israel, who invaded Judea and besieged Jerusalem.  Herod fled to Rome, where he appealed for help to oust the Parthians and claim the throne.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 97) 
  • That Idumean usurper, known to history as Herod the Great, was sitting on the throne of David when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem.  Never had the fortunes of David’s royal house fallen lower: its lineal heir was a humble village carpenter and an Edomite was sitting on David’s throne.  The long struggle between Easu and Jacob was about to come to a head as the serpent’s brood of the Edomite Herods set themselves against the Lord’s anointed One.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 39)
  • No man or woman was safe while Herod reigned.  One by one he murdered every rival claimant to the throne.  He stamped out the Hasmoneans; he murdered his wife’s brother, a lad of seventeen, because he was popular with the Jews; he murdered Mariamne, the beautiful Maccabean princess he had married, because he was suspicious of her, and he murdered both her sons; five days before his death he murdered his son and heir.  Herod hacked and hewed his way through life, slaughtering six to eight thousand of the best people in his realm.  Caesar Augustus is reported to have cynically said, “I’d sooner be Herod’s swine than Herod’s son.”  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 40)
  • In order to add to the luster of his name and, if possible, to win the people to his side, Herod proposed to rebuild and greatly enlarge and beautify Jerusalem’s sanctuary, the one at times referred to as “the second” or “Zerubbabel’s” temple built in the year 516 B.C., seventy years after the destruction of the First (see Ezra 5:2 ff.; Hag 1:13-15).  In an eloquent address to the people the king, if we can trust Josephus, divulged his plan “to make a thankful return, after the most pious manner, to God, for the blessings I have received from him, who has given me this kingdom, and to do this by making his temple as complete as I am able.”  He began to build it about the year 19 B.C.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 159-60)
  • The grandeur and beauty of this temple which Herod started to build and on which he made very considerable progress is evident from Mt 24:1, 2; Mk 13: 1, 2; and Lk 21:5, 6.  See further on 4:5; 21:12, 13, 23; 24:1-3.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 160)
  • If only King Herod would have read and heeded the message of Micah chapters 1-5:1, instead of just 5:2.   Matthew 2:13-23 might never of happened.  But, then again . . . no.


Jesus as the New and Improved Moses:

  • Their real point is theological, to show that the Messiah was born in Bethlehem as predicted, that his appearance provoked Jewish hostility but won Gentile acceptance (the Magi), and above all to set up a contrast between Moses and Jesus.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 82)
  • Herold’s place in the story thus ensures not only a reflection on who is the true “king of the Jews” and on the contrast between Herod’s ruthlessly protected political power and Jesus’ different way of being “king,” but also sets up the typological model for the newborn Messiah to play the role of the new Moses, who will also deliver his people (cf. 1:21) and through whose ministry a new people of God will be constituted just as Israel became God’s chosen people through the exodus and the covenant at Sinai under the leadership of Moses.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 63)
  • This Moses typology suggests itself even by comparison with the basic story as recorded in Exodus.  But as we have already noted, Jewish traditions about the birth of Moses had by the first century developed well beyond the Exodus story, and for those who know those fuller traditions there is further rich material for typological comparison.  According to this developing tradition, not only was Moses’ father Amram informed in a dream of his son’s future role (Josephus, Ant. 2:210-16), but Pharaoh too, who according to the Exodus account was simply aiming at a genocidal reduction of the Israelite population, was, according to Josephus (Ant. 2:205, 209), specifically warned of the birth of one child who was destined to humble Egypt and exalt Israel, as a result of which both Pharaoh and the Egyptians were alarmed (Ant. 2:206, 215; cf. Mt 2:3) and decided on the policy of infanticide.  The warning was delivered, according to Josephus, by an Egyptian “sacred scribe” (hierogrammateus), but other sources attribute it more specifically to “astrologers” (Exod. Rab. 1:18; b. Sanh. 101b), which would correspond to Matthew’s magoi.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 63)


The question to be answered is . . . Why does Matthew include details that no one else includes in the birth narrative of Jesus?


Answer:  Because Matthew is writing to the Jewish people who rejected Jesus.  They rejected Jesus because He did not fit their preconceived attributes they thought He should possess.  Instead of seeking the Messiah, they killed Him.  Wise men still seek Him.


How many kings

stepped down from their thrones?

How many lords

have abandoned their homes?

How many greats

have become the least of these?


How many gods

Have poured out their hearts?

To romance a world

that is torn apart?

How many fathers

gave up their son for me?


Only one did that for me.

Lyrics from How Many Kings by Downhere


The Word for the Day is . . . Submit


What do we learn from Matthew 2:1-12?:



I-  The Wise men seek the King and submit to what little knowledge they have concerning a universal King born in Israel.  (Mt 2:1-2, 9-12 )


It is not what you know that counts.  It is what you do with what you know.


Some people love unbelief, and they use their accumulating knowledge as justification for it.  The wise men were not like this.  They wanted to know about Jesus, but they were not interested in this knowledge for its own sake.  They knew when they found him that they would worship him and give him their gifts.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 34)


The spiritual state of the priests and the scribes is a sobering reminder that mere knowledge of the Scriptures is not enough.  You can know the text well yet still miss the point.  May God keep us from this kind of deceptive rebellion in our own lives and in our own churches.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 34)


To have the “king of the Jews” recognized and honored first not by his own people but by representatives of the “many” who were later to come from the east and the west to take their place in the kingdom of heaven (8:11) appropriately set the scene for the ministry of the Israelite Messiah who would both be rejected by his people (here foreshadowed by the stance of Herod and “all Jerusalem”) and send out his disciples to recruit from all nations (28:19).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 67)


Astrology and those who practiced the art were held in contempt by the Bible and by God-fearing Jews (Isa 47:13-15; Jer 10:1-2; Dan 2:10; 4:7).  Matthew made a significant point in highlighting the worship of these wise men (who were pagan astrologers, wise in the ways of secular science, diviners, and magicians) in contrast to the Jewish religious leaders who knew the Holy Scriptures and did not need to travel far to find their Messiah.  The Jewish leaders directed the wise men to Bethlehem but apparently did not go themselves (2:4-6).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 24)


It may seem to us extraordinary that those men should set out from the East to find a king, but the strange thing is that, just about the time Jesus was born, there was in the world a strange feeling of expectation of the coming of a king.  Even the Roman historians knew about this.  Not so very much later than this Suetonius could write, “There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world” (Suetonius: Life of Vespasian, 4: 5).  Tacitus tells of the same belief that “there was a firm persuasion…that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judea were to acquire universal empire” (Tacitus: Histories, 5:13).  The Jews had the belief that “about that time one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth” (Josephus: Wars of the Jews, 6:5, 4).  At a slightly later time we find Tiridates, King of Armenia, visiting Nero at Rome with his Magi along with him (Suetonius: Life of Nero, 13:1).  We find the Magi in Athens sacrificing to the memory of Plato (Seneca: Epistles, 58:31).  Almost at the same time as Jesus was born we find Augustus, the Roman Emperor, being hailed as the Savior of the World, and Virgil, the Roman poet, writing his Fourth Eclogue, which is known as the Messianic Eclogue, about the golden days to come.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 27)


The magi had much less knowledge of the true God than did the Jewish leaders, but what they knew of Him they believed and followed.  The Jewish leaders had the letter of God’s Word, which, by itself, kills because it judges and condemns those who know it but do not know and accept the One who has given it.  The Gentile magi, on the other hand, had little of the letter of God’s Word but were remarkably responsive to God’s Spirit, who “gives life” (2 Cor 3:6).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 34)


Because they, as foreigners, knew of the monumental birth, they apparently assumed that anyone in Judea, and certainly in Jerusalem, would know of this special baby’s whereabouts.  They must have been more than a little shocked to discover that no one seemed to know what they were talking about.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 28)


If there is no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile.  There will be no worship without the Spirit.

If God can be understood and comprehended by any of our human means, then I cannot worship Him.  One thing is sure.  I will never bend my knees and say “Holy, holy, holy” to that which I have been able to decipher and figure out in my own mind!  That which I can explain will never bring me to the place of awe.  It can never fill me with astonishment or wonder or admiration.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 85)


II-  Herod and the Jews refuse to submit to the Christ because of pride, fear, depravity, and arrogance.  (Mt 2:3-5, 12)


Herold feared Jesus.  The Jews ignored Him.  The Magi worshiped Him.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 15)


It would seem that the star, which hitherto guided them in the way, had lately disappeared.  The reason may easily be conjectured.  It was, that they might make inquiry in Jerusalem about the new King, and might thus take away all excuse from the Jews, who, after having been instructed about the Redeemer who was sent to them, knowingly and willingly despise him.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 137)


He (Herod) loved power more than anything else.  Therefore the least suspicion that someone had arisen who might wish to deprive him of his throne often drew from him the immediate reaction, “He must die!”  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 162)


“The descent to hell is easy, and those who begin by worshiping power soon worship evil.”  (C. S. Lewis; The Allegory of Love, 188)


Herold symbolizes all those today who, falsely seeking after the Lord, never manage to find him.  (Crysostom, Forty Gospel Homilies 10.2)  (Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mt 1-13, 23)


As Reinhold Niebuhr supposedly once quipped, “Men use reason as kings use princes and courtiers in order to get what they want.”  (Kenneth J. Collins, The Evangelical Moment, 150)


When we allow others’ perceptions of us (or even our perceptions of their perceptions!) to control how we live, we are enslaved.  We become entrenched in the ways of this world and do not live as citizens of heaven, which is another kind of kingdom altogether.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 53-54)


The leadership may be disturbed along with Herod because they know the consequences they might suffer if he were to fly into a rage at the perceived threat of the arriving forces with the Magi.  But more likely, their reaction gives a clue to the spiritual health of Israel’s leadership.  They have aligned themselves politically with Herod, and if his power base is threatened, so is theirs.  One would expect the religious leadership to celebrate at the report of the birth of the king of Israel, but the arrival of the true king of the Jews presents a threat to Israel’s corrupt religious and political power.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 97)


Herod’s devious scheme to discover and destroy this unknown baby shows his fear that the magi’s declaration about the Child could be correct, and gives unintended testimony to Jesus’ true royalty.  Herod knew that he himself was a usurper to the throne on which he sat only by virtue of Rome–who herself ruled Judah only by the “right” of military force.  Herod was an Edomite, not a Jew, and had no legitimate claim to be the Jew’s king.  He therefore feared and hated even the suggestion of a rival claimant.  But even the hatred of the false king gave indirect testimony to the identity of the true King.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 24)


He’s a self made man and he worships his creator.


You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.


III-  Upon seeking, finding, and seeing the King of Kings as He really is, their response is overjoyous, generous, worship(Mt 2:10-11; see also: Dt 4:29; Jer 29:13; Mt 7:7; Rom 14:17)


The implication here is that the men were coming not merely to give homage to a monarch but to worship before deity.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 29)


They already knew from Herod that Bethlehem (a mere five of six miles from Jerusalem) was their destination, so that they did not need the star to tell them that; their extravagantly expressed joy is hard to explain unless the star somehow indicated the actual house rather than just the village as a whole.  It seems, then, that the star’s movement gave them the final supernatural direction they needed to the specific house “where the child was.”  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 74)


Our emotions respond to and reflect our inner thoughts, and it’s only as we center these thoughts on God’s character that we find joyful praises springing up from our heart.  Are your emotions ever warmed by thoughts about God’s majesty?  If your thoughts and desires are consumed with Him, your emotions will respond.  If you never find yourself moved emotionally, then you must ask whether you desire Him passionately.  (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Idols of the Heart, 199)


Each of us will eventually give away all our earthly possessions.  How we choose to do so, however, is a reflection on our commitment to the Kingdom of God.  — Charles F. Stanley


No matter how much education and training we may receive in a certain field of study, we will discover that we have only learned scattered fragments of truth.  On the other hand, the simplest Christian believer, who may have come into the kingdom only a few days ago, has already learned many marvelous things at the center of truth.  That believer is able to confess that he knows God.  Knowing God is potentially more than all of this world’s teachers could ever impart, because those teachers, if they are without God, are on the outside looking in.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 63)


There is no subtler perversion of the Christian Faith than to treat it as a mere means to a worldly end, however admirable that end in itself may be.  The Christian Faith is important because it is true.  What it happens to achieve, in ourselves or in others, is another and, strictly speaking, secondary matter.  For the Christian Faith will remain true whether we who profess it turn into heroic saints or into even more miserable sinners.  We must insist that we worship God because he is God, not because we want something out of him.  What a mean blasphemy it would be, to go through magnificent acts of public worship always with the dominant intention at the back of the mind—“This is really going to make a better chap of me!”  What arrogance and presumption, to treat eternal God, throned in glory, as a visual aid to moral self-improvement.  (Harry Blamires; The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?, 110)


Praise takes the self-centeredness out of love.  We have already shown how happiness is always directed away from the self to the source of joy: the beautiful view, the beautiful beloved, the beautiful symphony, or the beautiful picture.  That is the nature of joy.  And worship is joy turned backwards towards God—the source of all joy.  For whatever it is that gives one happiness, God is its ultimate source.  It is quite right to express gratitude to the orchestral players and the conductor after a moving performance of a symphony.  A little reflection reminds us that we must feel gratitude to Beethoven too.  And a little further reflection reminds us that we must show gratitude to the God who gave us Beethoven and who made the human brains and skills that conceived and manufactured violins and trumpets. (Harry Blamires; On Christian Truth, 123)


“Without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship. The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.”   (John Piper; Desiring God, 81)


Our worship should, in the literal meaning of the word, be characterized by enthusiasm–which signifies not simply human exuberance but the divine indwelling (en-theos).

Lifeless, meaningless worship will inevitably put off the newcomer who is not yet a believer.  But in the heartfelt worship of a people surrendered to him, God is pleased to dwell in the praises of his people. (Eddie Gibbs; Church Next, 182-83


“My old effort to achieve worship with no self-interest in it proved to be a contradiction in terms.  Worship is basically adoration, and we adore only what delights us.  There is no such thing as sad adoration or unhappy praise.

We have a name for those who try to praise when they have no pleasure in the object.  We call them hypocrites.”  (John Piper; Desiring God, 19)

It is a mark of spiritual barrenness in the church when people come to worship to fulfill a duty or keep a habit rather than satisfy an appetite. (Eric Alexander, Truth for Life tape 65562 Side A)


True worship always forgets itself. (Matt Redman; The Unquenchable Worshiper, 42)


“To handle the things of God without worship is always to falsify them.” (Dallas Willard; Leadership, Spring 1999, 32)


IV-  Matthew purposely rewords the prophecy from Micah 5:2-5a in order to get us to realize that submitting to the Shepherd King is the best thing that could happen to us. (Mt 2:4-6; see also: Psa 23; Ezek 34:23-31; Micah 5:1-6; Jn 3:29; 10:1-18; Rev 19:1-21)


There is greater difficulty in what follows:  for the Prophet says, that Bethlehem is little, when reckoned among the governments of Judah; while Matthew, on the contrary, speaks highly of its rank as one of the most distinguished: thou art by no means the least among the princes of Judah.  This reason has induced some commentators to read the passage in the prophet as a question, Art thou little among the thousands of Judah?  But I rather agree with those who think that Matthew intended, by this change of the language, to magnify the grace of God in making an inconsiderable and unknown town the birth-place of the highest King.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 134)


We see in the prophecy of Micah the unusual linkage between king and shepherd, and we see again the link to David in the OT, who was the great shepherd king.  So Jesus comes not only as a King for His people but also, as He described Himself, as a good shepherd who came to tend and care for His sheep (Jn 10:11).  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 30)


Behind the expression “they returned” is a word (amacboreo) that highlights a thematic pattern of hostility, withdrawal, and prophetic fulfillment that recurs in the narrative.  Matthew emphasizes that in spite ofrecurring hostile circumstances, God’s sovereign care surrounds Jesus Messiah’s earthly life.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 102)


Herod, an apostate, had wrongly invaded the kingdom of the Jews, taken away their liberty, profaned their holy places, disrupted the established order, abolished whatever there was of discipline and religious worship.  It was fitting therefore that God’s own aid would come to succor that holy race without any human help.  Rightly did God emancipate the race that no human hand could free.  In just this way will Christ come again, to undo the antichrist, free the world, restore the original land of paradise, uphold the liberty of the world and take away all its slavery.  (Peter Chrysologus, Herod and Christ)  (Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mt 1-13, 21-22)


Given the importance of competent leaders in the church–and in business and government, too–we might expect that the Bible would use the term more often.  In fact, the King James Bible (on which many of my generation have been nurtured) uses the term leader only six times.  Much more frequently, the role is called servant.  We do not read about “Moses, my leader,” but “Moses, my servant.”  And this is exactly what Christ taught.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 21)


This is why so many moderns have no kingdom power.  You cannot enjoy a kingdom unless you are submitted to the king.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 158)


Kingdom obedience is kingdom abundance.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 312)


The Garden (of Eden) without the King (Jesus) is a jungle.  (Steve Brown Key Life 2-21-00)





What application should we make of this passage in our lives?:



A-  No matter how much the world might reject Christ, don’t allow the world to influence your thinking.  Submit to Christ.  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  (Psa 2; Jer 23:5; Mt 20:20-28; Mk 10:35-45; Rom 12:1-2; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Tim 6:10-16)


There is a rabbinical tradition that said that the formal prayers of the Jewish people on the Day of Atonement included 44 references to God becoming or being King of my life.


A prayer in which there is no mention of the Kingdom of God is no prayer at all.  (Talmud)


The Kingdom of God is God reigning in us.  —John Calvin


Furthermore, praying “Your Kingdom come” involves a commitment to do God’s will.  Matthew’s record of the Lord’s Prayer expands this phrase:  “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10).  To pray “Your kingdom come” is to pray for the bending of our wills in profound obedience to his.  It is a commitment to consciously submit everything to his authority.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 157)


This is the Gospel of “rejection,” and here the rulers of Israel appear from the first as indifferent to his coming, and “all Jerusalem” is “troubled” by his birth.  It is also the Gospel of the coming and the triumph of Christ; and here appear the representatives of the Gentile nations offering homage to him before whom all knees will bow, whom someday all will acknowledge as universal King.  (Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Matthew, 35)


These men traveled thousands of miles to see the king of the Jews.  When they finally found him, they responded with joy, worship, and gifts.  This is so different from the approach people often take today.  Some expect God to come looking for us, to explain himself, prove who he is, and give us gifts.  But the truly wise still seek and worship Jesus today for who he is, not for what they can get.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 21)


Human ambition, power, and strategy often cannot see the hand of God and unwittingly attempt to thwart his purposes.  Herod and the religious leadership in Jerusalem were blinded to God’s plan of redemption because of the lust for their own plans and purposes.  Their blindness then caused them to attempt to hinder God’s design.  Only eyes of faith are open to see God’s activities, because he often performs behind the scenes of human history in unexpected ways to bring about his purposes.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 104)


Jerusalem had only recently been delivered from subjugation.  It might have been more reasonable for them to think, If the Persians tremble before this king now merely at his birth, wouldn’t they tremble much more when he grows up?  They would fear and obey him, and our situation might then be more glorious than that of the barbarians.  Even if they knew nothing of mysteries or revelations but formed their judgments only on the basis of present self-interest, they surely might have thought along these lines.  But nothing like this really occurred to them, so great was their dullness in prophecy and envy in human affairs.  (Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 6:4)  (Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mt 1-13, 23)


This is why so many moderns have no kingdom power.  You cannot enjoy a kingdom unless you are submitted to the king.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 158)


Stephan Charnock “When we believe that we should be satisfied rather than God glorified in our worship; then we put God below ourselves as though He had been made for us rather than that we had been made for Him..”


The proud and lofty man or woman cannot worship God any more acceptably than can the proud devil himself.  There must be humility in the heart of the person who would worship God in spirit and in truth.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 84)


For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality; and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline and virtue.  For the modern man, the cardinal problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique.  (C. S. Lewis; The Abolition of Man) (Tim Keller sermon “Power for Facing Trouble”)


B-  Keep challenging your presuppositions and your thinking until you are able to comprehend Messiah in such a way that you too are able to respond with appropriate overjoyous, generous, worship and obedience.  (Isa 53; Mt 7:24-27; Jn 1:1-14; 10:10; Rom chps 5-8; Rev 19:1-21)


We may well imagine their expectations were raised to find this royal babe, though slighted by the nation, yet honorably attended at home; and what a disappointment it was to them when they found a cottage was his palace, and his own poor mother all the retinue he had!  Is this the Savior of the world?  Is this the King of the Jews, nay, and the Prince of the kings of the earth?  Yes, this is he, who, though he was rich, yet, for our sakes, became thus poor.  However, these wise men were so wise as to see through this veil, and in this despised babe to discern the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father; they did not think themselves balked or baffled in their enquiry; but, as having found the King they sought, they presented themselves first, and then their gifts, to him.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 13-14)


Herod was troubled, but the wise men rejoiced with exceeding great joy.  This is a summary of today’s experience.  Christ is one of two things in your life.  He is either the source of your keenest troubles, or he is the beginning and the end of your most supreme joys.  The good always troubles the bad.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 29)


Right worship is always, and must be, the only basis for right giving and right learning and right service.  Giving that is generous but done apart from a loving relationship with God is empty giving.  Learning that is orthodox and biblical but is learned apart from knowing and depending on the Source of truth, is empty knowledge, like that of the chief priests and scribes.  Service that is demanding and sacrificial but done in the power of the flesh or for the praise of men is empty service.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 35-36)


Worship is giving, it is not receiving.  We are never to see Christ without giving him ourselves.  Jesus Christ does not seek the homage of a courteous recognition, he seeks the loyalty of absolute sacrifice.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 34)


We do not know what social position these magi held, but it was sufficient for them to have felt it appropriate to go to visit a newborn king, and to have been given an audience with the king in Jerusalem.  For these foreign dignitaries to prostrate themselves in homage before a child in an ordinary house in Bethlehem is a remarkable illustration of the reversal of the world’s values which will become such a prominent feature of the Messiah’s proclamation of the kingdom of heaven (18:1-5; 20:25-28, etc.).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 75)


It was customary to approach a King with a gift, and the courteous Magi did not come to the new-born King empty-handed.  In their “solemn gifts of mystic meaning” there lay a deep symbolic significance.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 15)


Needless to say, this view of human reason contradicts the biblical point of view as it has been explained in previous lessons.  The fall of man involved the entirety of man; all aspects of his personality were corrupted by sin.  As a result, reason is not the judge of truth; only God can act as such a judge.  Moreover, sin has so affected mankind that even rational abilities are not neutral.  Christians seek to use their reason in dependence on God.  Non-Christians seek to be independent in their thinking; there is no neutral ground on which to deal with unbelief.  Human reason can be as much a hindrance as a help to faith in Christ.  As St. Augustine once said, “Believe that you may understand.”  To rest our faith on independent reason is to rebel against God.  Reason must rest on our faith commitment to Christ and our faith must rest on God alone.   (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 74)


Biblical authority must never depend on human verification for it is the unquestionable Word of God.

The problem with much of the popular tactics used by many defenders of the faith today may be summed up as a problem of authority.  The apologist must see clearly that the nonChristian is in need of forsaking his commitment to independence and should turn in faith to the authority of Christ.  If however, trust in Christ is founded on logical consistency, historical evidence, scientific arguments, etc., then Christ is yet to be received as the ultimate authority.  The various foundations are more authoritative than Christ himself. . . . if beliefs in Christian truth comes only after the claims of Christ are run through the verification machine of independent human judgment, then human judgment is still thought to be the ultimate authority. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 79-80)


At first I was surprised by such hostility.  I thought to myself, If God doesn’t exist or if Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, why make a big fuss?  Why write a book against religion?  People believe in far crazier things than our religion.  Why attack Christianity?  Why do these scientists, as many of them are, attack the faith that has thus far produced the world’s greatest scientists and mathematicians, the likes of Newton and Pascal?  But then I remembered that an intelligent person only attacks what he knows to be a real threat to his way of thinking and, more importantly, his way of living.  And Jesus is such a threat.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 64)


If Jesus is king–and you can almost hear in Herod’s dungeon the prophetic voice of John the Baptist before his beheading (cf. 14:4)–it means you’re not.  It means your dethronement.  It means your submission.  It means you can’t lead your life any longer, as Herod did and as I suggest these new atheists do, by the dictates of your unrepresented immoral desires.  If Jesus is who he says he is, you either love him or you hate him!  Which is exactly what Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (10:34).  This is no nice Christmas story.  This is a nasty conflict of kingdoms.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 64)


The kingdom of God always appears upside down to the human perspective.  We think it’s strange to die in order to live, or to give in order to receive, or to serve in order to lead.  Solomon captures the perpetual enigma of our looking-glass values just as Jesus describes them in the Sermon on the Mount.  He insists we should embrace sorrow over laughter, rebuke over praise, the long way instead of the short, and today instead of yesterday.

The truth is that it’s not the kingdom of God that is upside down–it’s the world.  It’s not the Word of God that turns life inside out–it’s the world that has reversed all the equations that God designed for our lives.   (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 189)


There was the reaction of the chief priests and scribes, the reaction of complete indifference.  It did not make the slightest difference to them.  They were so engrossed in their Temple ritual and their legal discussions that they completely disregarded Jesus.  He meant nothing to them.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 30)


Trust the men who can do homage to anything, out of and greater than themselves.  Always set a high price upon reverence.  Veneration is the basis of all noble and tender and beneficent character.  I would distrust the man who has proved himself destitute of veneration.  It does us good to bend the knee to an object which we suppose to be greater than we are ourselves.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 27)


When the Christian man shouts, “Praise the Lord,” “Amen,” or “Hallelujah,” he utters a fool’s language to those who have never been in his temper.  It is a foreign tongue to them, which they can only answer by foolish mocking.  But there are times in the religious experience when only such a word as Hallelujah–a word not to be explained in smaller terms–expresses the dominant feeling of the excited and grateful soul.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 30)


“Spiritual caressing,” if left unabated, would eventually cause us to lose focus.  Thus we could begin to enjoy the fruits of worshiping God (our feelings) more than we enjoyed the God we worship.  Augustine wrote, “Whosoever seeketh of God anything besides God, doth not love God purely.  If a wife loved her husband, because he is rich, she is not pure, for she loveth not her husband, but the gold of her husband.”  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 185)


The world idolizes strength.  Jesus said God demonstrates his strength through people’s weakness.  The world values large numbers.  Jesus chose a small group to be his disciples and often ignored the crowds to focus on individuals.  The world seeks happiness.  Jesus said blessed are they that mourn.  The world is attracted to large, spectacular performances.  Jesus said his kingdom would be like a mustard seed.  The world does good deeds in order to win people’s praise.  Jesus said, do your good deeds in secret, because the Father will see them and give a reward.  The world uses slick marketing campaigns to attract people.  Jesus said no one can come to him unless the Father draws them.  Over and over again Jesus rejected human reasoning in favor of God’s wisdom.  What is the difference between human reasoning and God’s wisdom?  Eph 3:20 says: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (NIV).  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 66-7)


If I cry out against God because of a great loss, I have just revealed my idol; that thing or person he blessed me with, rather than He who blesses me.  — Buddy Briggs


People are experts in hearing what they want to hear so they can believe what they want to believe so they can do what they want to do.  (Leadership Magazine)


If you have any conditions to your obedience to Jesus then Jesus is not your King and you are not in the Kingdom.  Because the thing that is the basis of your “if” or “when” of your salvation is your salvation and King.  You cannot say “I’ll follow you Jesus if . . . or “I’ll follow you Jesus when . . .” because the thing that is the “if” or “when” is your king and Lord . . . not Jesus.  (Keith Porter after listening to Tim Keller)


The real trouble with man in sin is that he always wants to understand.  The ultimate sin of man is pride of intellect.  That is why it is always true to say that “not many wise men after the flesh, not many might, not many noble are called.”  The wise man after the flesh wants to understand.  He pits his brain against God’s wisdom, and he says, “I don’t see.”  Of course he doesn’t.  And Christ says to him, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3).  If you think that with your mind, which is so small when you compare it with the mind of God, and which is not only small but also sinful, and perverted, and polluted, and twisted–if you think that with the mind you have you can comprehend the working of God’s eternal mind and wisdom, obviously you do not know God, you are outside the life of God, and you are lost.  The first thing that must happen to you before you can ever become a Christian is that you must surrender that little mind of yours, and begin to say, “Of course I cannot understand it; my whole nature is against it.  I can see that there is only one thing to do; I submit myself to the revelation that God has been pleased to give.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 251)


The means of worship influences the worshipers’ apprehension of God.  So, Christian corporate worship both requires and shapes our understanding of the Bible’s teaching about God.  The doctrine of God informs our corporate worship, and, in turn, our corporate worship refines our practical comprehension and embrace of the doctrine of God.  It is true, of course, that worship in all of life impacts our corporate worship.  Those who do not “present [their] bodies a living and holy sacrifice” are both unprepared to enter into the fullness of corporate worship as it is envisioned in the world and are not expressing one of its principal intended ethical effects.  In fact, the person in whom there is an experiential dissonance between activity in gathered worship and worship in the rest of life is in danger of creating a parallel but juxtaposed life, the breeding ground of a fatal spiritual hypocrisy.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 52-53)


Humanity, having been created in God’s image, and with a sense of deity indelibly written on its heart, is inescapably religious.  However, since the fall, our tendency is to attempt to create God in our own image and thus worship ourselves rather than the one in whose image we were made.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 59)


We have been made for relationship with God.  Therefore it is not surprising that we long to meet and know God.  But the God we seek is the God we want, not the God who is.  We fashion a god who blesses without obligation, who lets us feel his presence without living his life, who stands with us and never against us, who gives us what we want, when we want it.  We worship a god of consumer satisfaction, hoping the talismans of guitars and candles or organs and liturgy will put us in touch with God as we want him to be.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 65-66)


Worship Point:  When you see Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords you will possess overjoyous, generous, worship.


To worship God is also to bow before his absolute, ultimate authority.  We adore not only his power, but also his holy word.  Psalm 19 praises God first for revealing himself in his mighty acts of creation and providence (vv. 1-6) and then for the perfection of his law (vv. 7-11).  When we enter his presence, overwhelmed by his majesty and power, how can we ignore what he is saying to us?  So, in worship we hear the reading and exposition of the Scriptures (see Acts 15:21; 1 Tm 4:13; Col 4:16; 1 Thes 5:27; Acts 20:7; 2 Tm 4:2).  God wants us to be doers of that word, not hearers only (Rom 2:13; Jas 1:22-25; 4:11).  (John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth, 4)


True biblical worship so satisfies our total personality that we don’t have to shop around for man-made substitutes. William Temple made this clear in his masterful definition of worship:

“For worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose—and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” (Warren W. Wiersbe; The Integrity Crisis, 1991, 119)


If corporate worship emphasizes emotions, the church begins to look for physical manifestations of God’s work during its services in order to verify that He is blessing us.  If the church emphasizes the intellectual aspect, the power of the Spirit becomes overshadowed by the prowess of human logic.  Services can become lectures surrounded by archaic formality.  If a church dwells exclusively on active response, it may miss the message of God’s sovereign grace.  If none of the facets of God’s character are evident in the service, the church soon becomes a dead organization, bound together only by human loyalties and/or financial obligations.

For a worship service to have vital worship, at least three things are required.  First and most obviously, the Spirit must be working in and through the people of the church.  Second, a preacher is needed who combines meaningful, biblical scholarship, comprehension of the dynamics driving today’s culture, and pastoral insight about contemporary living.  The Word must be persuasively proclaimed and insightfully applied.  Third, the service must be geared to achieving vital worship of the living God.  (Donald J. MacNair; The Practices of a Healthy Church, 94)


“Many worship services are monuments to the spiritual self-centeredness of local churches.”  (Richard Lovelace, Renewal as a Way of Life, 174)


Worship is a meeting between God and His people when the worshiper is brought into personal contact with the one who gives meaning and purpose to life; from this encounter the worshiper receives strength and courage to live with hope in a fallen world.  — Robert Webber


There are men who are greater in blasphemy than in reverence, who never have anything good to say of anybody, and they never do anything for mankind worthy of a moment’s remembrance.  Why have we come into Christ’s house this morning?  If we have come to worship him, we shall retire from the house larger and better men:  the small critical function with which we might have distressed ourselves in passing through the service will be suspended, and in our hearts there will glow a fire of new love.  By so much as we have bent the knee lovingly and loyally to the Son of Man have we thrown off the worst part of ourselves, and taken upon us part of that which constitutes his beauty and strength.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 27-28)


Finding Christ brings real joy–deeper than winning at sports, more enduring than the first test drive in that new car–this joy fills the soul and makes you glad.  This joy comes from knowing all is well, you’re OK, God loves you, the future will be secure.

Have you been on a journey to find yourself, to find love, satisfaction, or some sense of what this life is all about?  There’s joy at the end of that journey when you find Christ.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 28)


Worship is the work of acknowledging the greatness of our covenant Lord.  (John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth, 1)


Worship is an outward expression of what we value most. (Ligon Duncan; 5 Keys to Spiritual Growth – Ligioner Ministries tapes)


“Many go to church.  Few go to worship.”  announced a church billboard in Nashville.  (James P. Gills, M.D., The Dynamics of Worship, 132)


Gospel Application:  The Good News is that the King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords is not a demanding, self-centered, prideful king; but he is an accommodating, loving and humble king who was willing to do all that was necessary in order for you to enjoy life in all of its abundance.


If you want to be culture leaders and have a huge influence in the world in which you live. . . bear more pain than you inflict.   — Richard Mouw


Spiritual Challenge:  What idol is preventing you from seeing Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who loves you so much that He was willing to die on your behalf?  Whatever is preventing you from this truth, get rid of it; kill it; run from it, destroy it, or fight against it.   You must not submit to that idol but you must submit to the King and Lord of all.


If you leave Jesus because something doesn’t work out, Jesus was never your king anyway.  The thing that didn’t work out is your idol and your god and your king . . . not Jesus.


An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give.  Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god.  This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.  It is a subtle but deadly mistake.  The sign that you have slipped into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a “scoffer.”  Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness.  This is a sign that they do not see themselves as sinners saved by grace.  Instead, their trust in the rightness of their views makes them feel superior.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 131)


There are only 2 reasons to get into religion:  You can either get into religion to serve God or you can get into religion to get God to serve you and there is really no middle ground.  It is one or the other.  (Tim Keller sermon, “King is Abandoned”)


He is not giving us the life story of the wise men.  We don’t know what happened to them.  We don’t know if this first act of worship was their only act or if they continued on with lives of love and service to Jesus.  But he is telling us what wise men (then and now) do.  Wise men and women and children–from the south and north, west and east–come to Jesus, and wise men find fulfillment through worshiping the newborn and forever-born King of kings.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 57)


We live in a world–a church world–of indifference.  People pack the pews each Sunday but live as though there is no King upon the throne but them.  They are each their own king, and they do whatever is fitting in their own eyes.  But rest assured, King Jesus is not indifferent toward such false, puny, self-appointed royalty.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 63)




The greatest of Kings born in the most humblest of place.  God made into flesh  (FromThe Nativity Movie)


Wise Men Still Seek Him


Quotes to Note:


Matthew’s main lesson for the Jews who were the first to read his Gospel, or to hear it read to them, must have been to remind them of the fact that salvation, though beginning with the Jews, does not end there.  The Gentiles, too, must be won for Christ.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 174)


He was revealed to the astrologers by a method suited to their habits and understanding; and their object in coming to Jesus was not personal advantage, but solely to give Him homage.  (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 40)


God does not take our words always in the sense in which we offer them.  He reads between the lines, he peruses the small print of the motive and of the inward and half-revealed or even half-formed desire.  He shows us to ourselves.  Sometimes when we say worship, he shows us by an analysis of our own acceptation of the term, that destroy is the proper meaning of our language.  Lord, interpret my speech to me: I use words of false meaning, I think sometimes I mean to be religious–show me that some religions are lies, and that some prayers are offenses.  Save me from being my own lexicographer: when I write a word, do Thou, gentle Father, ever wise, write after it its true and proper meaning.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 38)


God comes to men in the spheres with which they are most familiar; to Zacharias in the Temple, to the shepherds in the fields, to the wise men by a portent in the heavens.  He knows just where to find us.  Be sure to follow your star, whatever it be; only remember that it must ultimately receive the corroboration of Scripture.  (F. B. Meyer)



The King of

all Kings


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