“Emmanuel’s Conflict” – Matthew 2:13-18

September 7th, 2014

Matthew 2:13-18

“Emmanuel’s Conflict”

 

Meditation/Preparation:  The world is crowded with competing kingdoms.  Choose wisely because you can only serve one.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you. —  John 15:19

 

Background Information:

  • Matthew has a multifaceted perspective on the way that Jesus “fulfills” the OT Scriptures.  (1) In some cases, “fulfill” indicates the way in which the events of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry bring to actualization predictive prophecy.  Such fulfillment may be a specific prediction, as in 1:22-23 (the virgin birth), or it may be a collective predictive theme, as in 3:15, where Jesus’ life ministry brings to actualization the collective OT prophecy of salvation-historical righteousness.

(2) In other cases, “fulfill” can indicate the way in which Jesus brings to its intended full meaning the entire OT Scripture, such as his dramatic declaration in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

(3) In still other cases, Matthew’s use of “fulfill” can indicate the way in which Jesus’ earthly life and ministry correspond analogically or typologically (some say recapitulated or repeated) to certain aspects of the national history of Israel.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 111)

  • It is often necessary to do this in studying the quotations from the OT that we find in the NT; for, as C.H. Dodd has reminded us, “sections of the OT Scriptures were understood by the Christian evangelists as wholes, and particular verses or sentences were sometimes quoted from them rather as pointers to the whole context than as constituting testimonials in and for themselves.  (C.H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures, 126).  (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 43)
  • (v. 13) Going to Egypt was not unusual.  Egypt had been a place of refuge for Israelites during times of political upheaval (1 Kgs 11:40; 2 Kgs 25:26).  There were colonies of Jews in several major Egyptian cities (Alexandria was a key center of Jewish knowledge and education). (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 31)
  • (v. 13) During the period of Greek rule of the Mediterranean world, which occurred during the intertestamental period, Alexander the Great established a sanctuary for Jews in Alexandria, the Egyptian city he named for himself.  Throughout the Roman rule that followed, that city was still considered a special place of safety and opportunity for Jews.  The Jewish philosopher and historian Philo, himself a prominent resident of Alexandria, reported that by A.D. 40, a few years after the death of Christ, the city’s population included at least one million Jews.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 41)
  • (v. 16) The record of this atrocity is told only here, so some have doubted its authenticity.  Considering Herod’s ruthlessness and the murderous acts already listed under his name, apparently the slaughter of a few children in an insignificant village did not make the historical annals.  There are examples of Romans having entire towns razed, killing every living creature, just as an example to a region.  So while the “slaughter of the innocents” by Herod was terrible, it was not as uncommon as we think.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 32)
  • (v. 16) Estimates of the total population of Bethlehem in the first century are generally under a thousand, which would mean that the number of male children up to two years old at any one time could hardly be more than twenty, even allowing for “all its district.”  Terrible as such a slaughter would be for the local community, it is not on a scale to match the more spectacular assassinations recorded by Josephus.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 85)
  • (v. 16) The Greek word empaizō (NIV outwitted) generally carried the idea of mocking, and is so translated in the KJV of this passage.  The root meaning is “to play like a child,” especially in the sense of making sport or of jesting.  It is used to describe the accusations and taunts of Jesus’ enemies against Him (Mt 20:19; 27:41; Mk 15:20; Lk 22:63; 23:11; etc.).  But the idea in Mt 2:16 is better rendered as tricked.  Either meaning, however, refers to Herod’s perception of the motives of the magi, not their true intention.  It was not their purpose to trick or mock the king but simply to obey God’s command “not to return to Herod” (v. 12).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 43)
  • (v. 16)Thumoo (to be enraged) (NIV furious) is a strong word, made still stronger by lian (very, or better, exceedingly).  The Greek is in the passive voice, indicating that Herod had lost control of his passion and now was completely controlled by it.  His senses, and what little judgment he may have had, were blinded.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 44)
  • (v. 17) Neither Hos 11:1, which speaks of God bringing his son out of Egypt, nor Jer 31:15, which refers to Rachel weeping for her children, requires a futuristic fulfillment.  They are understandable in terms of past events alone.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 39)
  • (v. 17) Here for the first time the formula includes the prophet’s name (cf. 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 27:9; also 3:3; 13:14; 15:7).  Only the “major” prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah (who each had an OT book under their name) are so identified; those who occur in the book of the Twelve (Mic 2:6; Hos 2:15; Zech 21:4) and those who are not identifiable as prophets at all (2:23; 13:35) remain anonymous, while in 27:9 Zechariah, the primary source of the quotation, is subsumed under the major prophet Jeremiah.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 85-86)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . What is Herod’s problem and what can we learn from this true story surrounding the birth of Jesus?

 

Answer:  Herod is the quintessential model of what it means to be of the world, the flesh, the Devil.  Jesus is the quintessential model of what it means to be of God and the Spirit.  There is always a conflict between the two.  Only Jesus can deliver us from being a slave to the kingdom of this world.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Conflict

 

What is Matthew trying to teach us in Matthew 2:13-18?:

 

 

I-  There can only be one king in a realm.   (2:13-16; see also: Josh 24:25;  Mt 6:24; Lk 14:26)

 

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)

 

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)

 

How sin enslaves men, and how inconsistent it makes them!  Herod should have been angry with himself, for it was he who had practiced deception.  In doing so he may well have chuckled at the simplicity of the magi, who, so he thought, actually believed that he, the great King Herod, would go to Bethlehem and prostrate himself before a Jewish baby throne-pretender!  Now that his trick has boomeranged–the failure of the wise men to return being an injury to his pride–the cruel tyrant is angry with those whom he himself had tried to trick.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 180)

 

II-  If you are associated with King Jesus you will be in conflict with this world and you will be persecuted.  (2:16-18; see also: Mt 5:10-12; Jn 3:19-20; 15:18-20; 17:14; 2 Cor 4:9; 1 Thes 3:4; 2 Tm 3:12; 1 Jn 3:13)

 

Faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest…It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man.  Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it.  Peace with God means conflict with the world. (Matt Redman, The Unquenchable Worshiper, 111-12)

 

The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.  George Orwell

 

Herod is convinced that he has been tricked by the magi.  So he flies into a rage.  Not having exercised self-control for so many years, he is no longer able to control his passions.  In an outburst of violence he orders the boy babies of Bethlehem and environs to be killed, all those of two years and under.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 179-80)

 

Most of the people who reject Christianity know almost nothing of what they are rejecting:  those who condemn what they do not understand are, surely, little men.  ”  (Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, 82-83)

 

The way of the world is to praise dead saints, and persecute living ones.  — Nathaniel Howe

 

George Bernard Shaw once said that the biggest compliment you can pay an author is to burn his books.  Someone else has said, “A wolf will never attack a painted sheep.”   Counterfeit Christianity is always safe; real Christianity is always in peril.   To suffer persecution is to be paid the greatest of compliments because it is the certain proof that men think we really matter.  (William Barclay; The Acts of the Apostles, 75)

 

When the church isn’t being persecuted, it is being corrupted.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 116)

 

In Ermelo, Holland, Brother Andrew told the story of sitting in Budapest, Hungary, with a dozen pastors of that city, teaching them from the Bible.  In walked an old friend, a pastor from Romania who had recently been released from prison.  Brother Andrew said that he stopped teaching and knew that it was time to listen.

After a long pause the Romanian pastor said, “Andrew, are there any pastors in prison in Holland?”  “No,” he replied.  “Why not?” the pastor asked.  Brother Andrew thought for a moment and said, “I think it must be because we do not take advantage of all the opportunities God gives us.”  Then came the most difficult question.  “Andrew, what do you do with 2 Tm 3:12?”  Brother Andrew opened his Bible and turned to the text and read aloud, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  He closed the Bible slowly and said, “Brother, please forgive me.  We do nothing with that verse.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 346)

 

We do not have to look far to see the application to our own lives.  The siren song of popular culture is to avoid pain and take the easy way, the path of least resistance.  But God’s Word still speaks truly: “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tm 3:12).  Jesus embraced the cross by refusing the easy way, and as his followers, he says, we must do the same:  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Mt 16:24, 25).

If we embrace the logic of Jesus’ refusal to take the easy way, we will see that taking the path of least resistance, to follow comfortable expediency, is idolatry–it is worshiping a false God.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 136)

 

III-  Matthew shows us that Jesus is the vicarious, righteous,  recapitulation of Adam and Israel sent to save you from the kingdom of this world.  (2:15, 17-18 ; see also: Jer 31; Jn 3:1-21; Rom 5:14; 1 Cor 15:22, 45; 1 Tm 1:15; 6:15;  Heb 8:1-13 ; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:9, 14; 5:4-5;  Rv 17:14)

 

Jesus Christ was what Israel was destined and failed to be, the true Servant of God, His Anointed, His Son, the medium of conveying His name to the world.  The ideal of the nation was realized in Him.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 31)

 

Matthew would have known that Hos 11:1 is about Israel.  What Matthew understood (and wants us to understand) is something beyond a mere futuristic prophecy, namely, that Jesus is the ultimate embodiment of Israel, the one in whom is wrapped up the true character and destiny of the people.  The fact that Jesus was taken to Egypt and returned from Egypt was one of God’s ways of alerting us to how significant Christ’s tie with his people really was.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 40)

 

It was Hosea who had uttered these words originally, and when he spoke prophetically about God’s calling His Son out of Egypt, he was referring to the exodus, when God acted to bring His people out of slavery and into freedom.  However, Matthew tells us that this prophecy did not meet its fullest completion in the exodus but, rather, in this return of Jesus from Egypt to Israel.

This is significant because, in the OT, the whole nation of Israel was called metaphorically the “son of God,” but now that title “Son of God” is reduced to a single person.  The text teaches its fullest fulfillment when the only begotten Son is called out of Egypt.  This also adds credibility to the fact that the OT uses types and shadows that indicate a deeper fulfillment in later times.  In one sense we see that Jesus’ life was a recapitulation of the history of Israel.  He is the tabernacle.  He is the Passover.  We see repeatedly that points of interest and significance in the OT find their striking fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 37)

 

When Matthew quotes Hos 11:1 and applies it to Christ, it is evident that he regards Israel as a type of the Messiah.  Jesus Christ, too, is God’s Son.  This is true in the deepest, trinitarian, sense of the term (cf. Jn 1:14).  Just as Pharaoh, that cruel king, had tried to destroy Israel, so another king, namely Herod, at least equally cruel, was attempting to destroy Christ.  But just as on the way to Egypt, during their stay in that house of bondage, and in their exodus Jehovah had protected his people, so God had protected his Son, not only on the way to Egypt and during his temporary residence there but also on the way back.  The Messiah was, as it were, recapitulating the history of his people Israel.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 178-79)

 

The 31st chapter of Jeremiah, from which Matthew quotes these words, is filled with words of consolation.  This comfort concerns both Israel and Judah (Jer 31:27, 31; cf. 33:14), that is, the entire remnant (31:7).  Jehovah has loved his people with an everlasting love (31:3).  Therefore he who has scattered them will also regather them (31:10).  Rachel must therefore refrain from weeping (31:16).  Is not Ephraim his darling child? (31:20).  Will he not make a new covenant with his people (31:31), forgiving their iniquity and no longer remembering their sin? (31:34).  The remnant will indeed return, and for what purpose?  Merely to rebuild the cities (31:38)?  No, but in order to bring forth “the Branch of Righteousness.”  It is he who will execute justice and righteousness in the land (33:14, 15).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 184)

 

These citations make an important point:  Christianity is not a novelty but rather a religion founded by God long ago and now brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  These texts also document the link between the two testaments, for they demonstrate, as has sometimes been said, how “the NT is in the Old concealed, while the OT is in the New revealed.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 37)

 

Matthew has already made the exile a significant turning point in Israel’s history in his handling of the genealogy of Jesus in chapter 1.  It is the break between the second and third sets of fourteen names in Christ’s family tree (see vv. 11, 12, 17).  The exile marked the end of the line of David’s descendants who sat upon his throne and ruled from Jerusalem.  Perhaps Matthew is saying that the true exile, with its lack of a Davidic king, is over now because the true King, the Messiah, has arrived.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 41)

 

Matthew has already made the Exile a turning point in his thought (1:11-12), for at that time the Davidic line was dethroned.  The tears of the Exile are now being “fulfilled”–i.e., the tears begun in Jeremiah’s day are climaxed and ended by the tears of the mothers of Bethlehem.  The heir to David’s throne has come, the Exile is over, the true Son of God has arrived, and he will introduce the new covenant (Mt 26:28) promised by Jeremiah.  (D.A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, 95)

 

Matthew quotes from Jeremiah 31, the same chapter where we are promised that God will enter into a new covenant with us through Christ, so that all God’s people will know and love and worship God.  Jesus brings hope in the midst of hurt and life in the midst of death.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 45)

 

Jeremiah 31 is a chapter of hope and restoration, in which the grief of v. 15 strikes the only discordant note precisely because that grief is no longer appropriate.  So the prophecy goes on (vv. 16-17) to call on Rachel to stop lamenting because the exiles will return.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 87)

 

Readers with a good knowledge of the OT might remember that it was specifically at Ramah that the exiles were gathered for the march to Babylon in 586 B.C. (Jer 40:1), Jeremiah himself being among them.  This then might be a trigger to thoughts of exile and (in the context of Jer 31, though not of Jer 40) return, of hope beyond the disaster.  Moreover, Jeremiah was himself released at Ramah, and did not go to Babylon with the other exiles, but stayed in Judah to try (unsuccessfully) to influence those who remained (Jer 40:1-6).  Is there a hint here of the role of the future Jeremiah (as Jesus will be described in 16:14) who was to escape the fate of the “children” and go on to appeal (equally unsuccessfully) to the leaders of God’s people in Judea?  Might Matthew also have had in mind that it was to Egypt that Jeremiah, like Jesus, ultimately escaped (though unwillingly)?  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 87)

 

This is one of Matthew’s most elusive OT quotations, and few claim with any confidence to have fathomed just what he intended, but the creativity which he displays in many of his formula-quotations perhaps encourages us to believe that in giving so prominent a place to Jer 31:15 he had more in mind than simply to point out that there was a precedent for sorrow arising out of the loss of children, even if we now lack the key to unlock the fuller meaning that some of his readers may have been able to draw from the quotation.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 88)

 

Paul continues, “The free gift is not like the trespass” (5:15).  Paul wants us to appreciate the nature of the great imbalance between Adam and Christ.  In the first place, Christ did not begin where Adam began, in a fresh new creation without Sin or Death, but came instead into a world full of Sin and Death.  Moreover, Christ’s costly obedience–it cost him his life–is grossly disproportionate to Adam’s disobedience.  All Adam had to do was not eat of the fruit of one tree.  Finally, Israel had been called to be the obedient opposite of Adam for the sake of the world now under the reign of Sin and Death, but Israel had failed in that task.  As a result, Christ had to do not only what Adam should have done, but now also what Israel should have done as well.   (A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans, 65)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION:

What can we learn from this message from Matthew?:

 

 

A-  The world is at war against King Jesus.  (Ps 2; 22:6-8; 69:7-8; Isa 49:7; 53:1-3; Mt 11:11-12; 13:1-23; Jn 1:11; 15:18; Jas 4:4; 1 Jn 2:15-16; 3:13; Rv 12:4-6; 17:14)

 

Herod’s crime was made even more vile and heinous by the fact that he knew that the Child he sought to destroy was the Messiah, the Christ.  He questioned the chief priests and scribes specifically about “where the Christ was to be born” (2:4).  He arrogantly and stupidly set himself against God’s very Anointed (cf. 1 Cor 16:22).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 44)

 

The slaughter in Bethlehem was the beginning of the tragedy and bloodshed that would result from Israel’s rejection of her Savior and true King.   Those innocent and precious babies of Bethlehem were the first casualties in the now-intensified warfare between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God’s Christ, God’s Anointed.  Within two generations from that time (in A.D. 70) Jerusalem would see its Temple destroyed and over a million of its people massacred by the troops of Titus.  Yet that destruction will pale in comparison with that of the Antichrist–a ruler immeasurably more wicked and powerful than Herod–when in the Great Tribulation he will shed more of Israel’s blood than will ever have been shed before (Dn 12:1; Mt 24:21-22).  All of that bloodshed is over the conflict with the Messiah.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 44-45)

 

Here is a terrible illustration of what men will do to get rid of Jesus Christ.  If a man is set on his own way, if he sees in Christ someone who is liable to interfere with his ambitions and rebuke his ways, his one desire is to eliminate Christ; and then he is driven to the most terrible things, for if he does not break men’s bodies, he will break their hearts.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 37)

 

The story underlines the futility of opposing the purposes of God.  Voltaire, the noted French atheist, devoted his brilliant gifts to discrediting the Scriptures.  His home in Geneva later became a repository of the Bible Society!  God has the last laugh.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 17)

 

“For Herod is about to seek the young Child to destroy Him” is in simple but emphatic antithesis to the Magi, who sought Him out “to worship Him.”  (Alfred Plummer, Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 16)

 

B-  The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this world have opposing values.  (Jn 15:18-19; Rom 8:5-11; 12:1-2; 1 Cor 2:12; 2 Cor 10:3-4; Gal 5:16-26; 6:8; Eph 4:22-5:10; ; Jas 4:4; 1 Jn 2:15)

 

Our nature is carnal (fleshly); but the Law’s nature is spiritual.  This explains why the old nature responds as it does to the Law.  It has well been said, “The old nature knows no Law, the new nature needs no Law.”  The Law cannot transform the old nature; it can only reveal how sinful that old nature is.  (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Right, 80)

 

Paul’s righteousness based on the Law brought him into direct conflict with the Truth.  He was a persecutor of true worshipers, as is everyone who tries to live by the Law.  Just as Cain could not tolerate Abel, those who seek to stand by their own righteousness find the presence of those who stand by faith in Jesus intolerable.  The righteousness of God, based completely on the atonement of the cross, strips away facades and lays bare the pride of man.  The cross is the greatest threat to man’s self-centeredness.  Paul testified to the Philippians that to know Christ he had to give up everything that he was.  When he perceived the righteousness of Jesus, he counted everything that he had so valued in life as rubbish (Phil 3:2-9).  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 23)

 

“The antithesis of worldly behavior, and the cure for conformity to the world, is set forth particularly in the “upside-down kingdom “ of the Sermon on the Mount.  The lifestyle of the kingdom is not proud but poor in spirit, not self-confident but meek and sensitive to conviction of sin, not self-righteous but repentant, not praise-seeking but God-obeying even to the point of suffering persecution, not vengeful but forgiving, not ostentatious or laborious in piety but secretive and simple, not anxious or acquisitive but content in serving God, not judgmental but merciful.  If these patterns can be nurtured in the church, they will affect the moral structure of the rest of humanity.”   (Richard Lovelace;Renewal as a Way of Life, 97)

 

The apostle John writes, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn 2:16).  We fail to understand the force of this passage because of our tendency to relegate it all to sexual sin.  The “lust of the flesh” refers to the failure to discipline the natural human passions.  C. H. Dodd says that the “lust of the eyes” refers to “the tendency to be captivated by outward show.”  He defines the “pride of life” as “pretentious egoism.”  In each case the same thing is seen: infatuation with natural human powers and abilities without any dependence upon God.  That is the flesh in operation, and the flesh is the deadly enemy of humility.

The strictest daily discipline is necessary to hold these passions in check.  The flesh must learn the painful lesson that it has no rights of its own.  It is the work of hidden service that will accomplish this self-abasement.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 130-31)

 

“The truth must essentially be regarded as in conflict with the world; the world has never been so good, and will never become so good that the majority will desire truth.”  —Soren Kierkegaard  (Dr. Chris Thurman, The Lies We Believe, 59)

 

The extreme cruelty and ruthlessness of recent history suggest that when man makes himself, his bosses, his society, or his race the measure of all things, he becomes less human rather than more.  The other side of the paradox is more hopeful.  When man makes something outside himself the measure of all things–when his absolute is God–he becomes more human as a by-product.  God lifts him into genuine humanity.  (Chad Walsh, Early Christians of the 21st Century, 52)

 

Two great enemies obtained dominion over man when Adam sinned–the world and self.  Of the world Christ says, “The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (Jn 14:17).  Worldliness is the great hindrance that keeps believers from living a spiritual life.  Of self Christ said, “Let him deny himself” (Mk 8:34).  Self, in all its forms–self-will, self-pleasing, self-confidence–renders life in the power of the Spirit impossible.  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 27)

 

People living in the dark want everybody to be in the dark.   People who deny the Light are threatened by people who have seen the Light.  (Steve Brown message, “Kingdoms in Conflict” from Matthew 2)

 

The power of evil is destructive, the power of goodness is preservative.  We need direction in the qualities and uses of strength.  It is easy to destroy:  even a beast can crush a flower, but no angel in all the heavens can reset the broken joint.  We mistake destructiveness as a sign of power.  What power there is in the act of destructiveness is of the lowest and coarsest quality.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 42)

 

C-  Choose your king and serve him; otherwise you will have unidentified conflict both within and without.  (Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13; Rom 7:15-23; 8:5-11; Gal 5:16-21; Jas 4:1-10)

 

Enmity with God is the source of all that poisons man; overcoming this enmity is the basic condition for peace in the world.  Only the man who is reconciled with God can also be reconciled and in harmony with himself, and only the man who is reconciled with God and with himself can establish peace around him and throughout the world.  (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, 85)  (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession–Why Jesus Is Great, 172)

 

The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself.  — Garth Brooks

 

Religious leader David O. McKay taught, “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.”  If you win the battles there, if you settle the issues that inwardly conflict, you feel a sense of peace, a sense of knowing what you’re about.  And you’ll find that the public victories–where you tend to think cooperatively, to promote the welfare and good of other people, and to be genuinely happy for other people’s successes–will follow naturally.  (Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 294)

 

All a tyrant has to do is promise security and the gratification of their flesh and he has won their allegiance.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 40)

 

What other gods could we have besides the Lord?  Plenty.  For Israel there were the Canaanite Baals, those jolly nature gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution.  For us there are still the great gods Sex, Shekels, and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god:  self), and the other enslaving trio, Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as “The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16).  Football, the Firm, and Family are also gods for some.  Indeed the list of other gods is endless, for anything that anyone allows to run his life becomes his god and the claimants for this prerogative are legion.  In the matter of life’s basic loyalty, temptation is a many-headed monster.  (James Packer, Your Father Loves You)

 

He who angers you, controls you!

 

We humans have a fatal tendency to try to adjust the truth to fit our desires rather than adjusting our desires to fit the truth.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 32)

 

Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.  —Winston Churchill

 

Augustine was right when he said that we love the truth when it enlightens us, but we hate it when it convicts us.  Maybe we can’t handle the truth.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 36)

 

People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.  —Blaise Pascal

 

The late Julian Huxley, once a leader among Darwinists admitted that sexual freedom is a popular motivation behind evolutionary dogma.  When he was asked by talk show host Merv Giffin, “Why do people believe in evolution?” Huxley honestly answered, “The reason we accepted Darwinism even without proof, is because we didn’t want God to interfere with our sexual mores.”  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 163)

 

Herod was willing to kill anyone with whom he had any sort of relationship rather than for that one to threaten him at all.  He was going to take what was his because He was king of his life and nothing else mattered.  He was the quintessential “Ubermensch” (Nietzsche’s superman) even though he was 1800 years ahead of his time.

 

The one who would have God’s power must lead a life of self-denial.  There are many things which are not sinful in the ordinary understanding of the word sin, but which hinder spirituality and rob men of power.  I do not believe that any man can lead a luxurious life, overindulge his natural appetites, indulge extensively in dainties, and enjoy the fullness of God’s power.  The gratification of the flesh and the fullness of the Spirit do not go hand in hand.  “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal 5:17).  Paul wrote: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor 9:27; see ASV, Greek; note also Eph 5:18).  (R. A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 75-76)

 

As we come to consider them, we must again remind ourselves that the Scripture makes it very plain and clear that there is no part of this Christian life which is without its dangers.  Nothing is so false to the teaching of the NT as to give the impression that the moment you believe and are converted, all your troubles are at an end and you will never have another problem.  Alas, that is not true, and it is not true because we have an enemy, the Adversary of our souls.  But not only do we have to contend with the enemy, there is still the old nature within, and these two together make it certain that we shall have troubles and difficulties; and it is our business to understand the teaching of the Scripture with respect to these, lest we be caught by the guile and the subtlety of the enemy.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 121)

 

There is a tension underlying false discernment, an anxiety that pressures the mind to make a judgment.  True discernment emerges out of a tranquil and pure heart, one that is almost surprised by the wisdom and grace in the voice of Christ.  Remember, our thoughts will always be colored by the attitudes of our hearts.  Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt 12:34).  He also said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mk 7:21).  Again He said, “the pure in heart…shall see God” (Mt 5:8).  From the heart the mouth speaks, the eyes see, and the mind thinks.  In fact, Prv 4:23 (NKJV) tells us to diligently guard our hearts for “out of [the heart] spring the issues of life.”

Life, as we perceive it, is based upon the condition of our heart.  This is very important because the gifts of the Spirit must pass through our hearts before they are presented to the world around us.  In other words, if our hearts are not right, the gifts will not be right either.

When the heart has unrest it cannot hear from God.  Therefore, we must learn to mistrust our judgment when our heart is bitter, angry, ambitious or harboring strife for any reason.  The Scriptures tell us to “let the peace of Christ rule [act as arbiter] in [our] hearts” (Col 3:15).  To hear clearly from God, we must first have peace.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 81-82)

 

To those who submit gladly to the truth of God about themselves as sinners, and about Christ as the Savior, and about the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier, and about God the Father as Creator–to them sex and food are sanctified.  That is, they are pure.  They are not unclean idols competing for our affections, which belong supremely to God.  They are instead pure partners in the revelation of God’s glory.  They are beams of his goodness along which the pure in heart see God (Mt 5:8).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 189)

 

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 like 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)

 

There’s a difference between proving a proposition and accepting a proposition.  We might be able to prove Christianity is true beyond reasonable doubt, but only you can choose to accept it.  Please consider this question to see if you are open to acceptance: If someone could provide reasonable answers to the most significant questions and objections you have about Christianity–reasonable to the point that Christianity seems true beyond a reasonable doubt–would you then become a Christian?  Think about that for a moment.  If your honest answer is no, then your resistance to Christianity is emotional or volitional, not merely intellectual.  No amount of evidence will convince you because evidence is not what’s in your way–you are.  In the end, only you know if you are truly open to the evidence for Christianity.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 31)

 

Josephus sums up Herod’s life in these words: “He was a man of great barbarity toward all men equally, and a slave to his passion.”  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 186)

 

When we lose our temper we throw away logic, reason, priorities, reputation and dignity.  Satan desires to rob us of all of these virtues because they are given to us by God.   Don’t lose control of your temper.   Allow God, through the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, to guard and keep our hearts and minds through Christ our Lord.

 

I lose my temper, but it’s all over in a minute,” said the student.  “So is the hydrogen bomb,” I replied.  “But think of the damage it produces!” —George Sweeting (Patrick Morley, The Man In The Mirror,  264)

 

D-  Realize that King Jesus had fulfilled all, conquered all and is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  By faith and obedience in Him we are a member of His kingdom.(Mt 5:18; 8:17; Lk 18:31; 22:37; 24:44; Jn 1:1-14, 29; 3:1-17Acts 3:18; Rom chps 6-8; 8:31; Gal 5:22-26; Eph 4:1-5:21; Col 3:1-17)

 

So when Matthew quotes from Jeremiah, it’s as if he’s saying amidst the bitter tragedy of Bethlehem, “Yes, the pain is real, but there is hope for your future, and that hope is here.  Jesus has come!”  Jesus ends the mournful exile.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 45)

 

What the world needs is not knowledge; it is not teaching; it is not information; it is not medical treatment; it is not psychotherapy; it is not social progress; it is not punishment, even.  It is none of these things.

What men and women need is a new heart, a new nature, a nature that will hate darkness and love the light, instead of loving the darkness and hating the light.  They need an entire renovation, and, blessed be the name of God, it is the very thing that God offers in and through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  The Son of God came and took unto himself human nature.  He united it to himself in order that he night give us that nature. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones;  God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 67)

 

Trying to pursue holiness in the flesh is like fighting in quicksand. The more you try, the worse shape you end up in.  (Brad Shaw 3-22-05)

 

Self-Control:  Instant obedience to the initial promptings of God’s Spirit.

 

Worship Point:  Look at the kingdom of this world.  Look at the Kingdom of God.   In light of the contrast do I really need to explain how you worship?

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus is the Way, Truth and the Life.  We get into and remain in the Kingdom of God ONLY by His grace.  

 

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 mighty, 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)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Recognize the two kingdoms in conflict in both yourself and our world.  Be alert and aware to which kingdom you are supporting.  Listen carefully to the voice of God Who desires to deliver you from the bondage of the kingdom of this world.

 

 

Quotes to Note:

Opposition crystallizes boldness.  Difficulties deepen our determination. Conflict forces us to clarify the irreducible maximum of what we believe.  (Lloyd J. Ogilvie; The Communicator’s Commentary: Acts, 105)

 

 

 

Christ:

King of Kings

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