Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Matthew 2 Sermon Notes

Matthew 2:1-23
Sermon Notes
False Worship
May 8, 2016
Lynchburg, Virginia

         This sermon title is False Worship, referring to Herod and perhaps also to the scribes and leaders and people mentioned in this chapter by Matthew. But there is also true worship, the Magi from the East.
         Part of what we should see in this chapter is the contrast of worshippers. Herod ruled Israel, even though he was an enemy of the people. The religious leaders of Jerusalem were not much better. In fact, Herod represented them well. Herod was aware that a Messiah was to arise among the people Israel. Such an one would be a King and the Savior of the people. This fact did not encourage Herod. His interest was not in the salvation of the people but in the domination of the people. The scribes and leaders are like their hated leader. Matthew leaves them all without excuse in his opening chapters.
         But there are those who will worship Jesus in Spirit and in Truth.  They are the wise who come from the East, from the rising of the Son on the sons and daughters of Eve. They will bring gifts to Him, prostrate themselves before the Lord and will be worshippers indeed. Their national connections do not matter. Their blood line does not matter. What matters is whether or not they believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Promised One, the deliverer of His people. And having believed, are willing to bow themselves before Him in worship and submission. All who do this are the true children of God.


Matt. 2:1   Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 
It took a series of remarkable circumstances to get Jesus to Bethlehem. Remember that Matthew’s main audience is Jews who would understand the fulfillment of the prophecies about the Messiah.
Luke tells us that Augustus Ceasar made a decree that the world should be taxed. He was lord of the Earth and commanded the earth to submit to him. And God used this decree to bring about an ancient prophecy of where the true Lord would be born.
This Herod is Herod the Great.
The wise men were from the East. They bore the name Magi. We derive our word magicians from this but it was also used for Persian philosophers, the wise men of the land. So, wise men is a fitting translation.

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 
It is clear from their having seen His Star in the East that they were into astronomy. Some might call this astrology. But the Lord, Himself, has told us that He set the stars in the sky for signs and seasons. These wise men clearly read the star aright. They came to pay homage. It seems that from their language they assume this baby will be a great king. They pay obeisance for that reason. However, the text lends us reasons to have even higher hopes. If even the wise men from the East come to praise Him, what might this child be? Who is He?
Some traditions speak of these wise men as the descendants of those who were left in Babylon. They maintain that they kept up a scientific community and studied the scriptures along with their sciences to ascertain the date and location of the arrival of the Messiah. There does some to be some great importance to their travel and worship of Jesus so this conjecture is not too far fetched.

3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.  5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 
Of course Herod was troubled. The wise men may have wrongly believed that Herod and the leading Jews would have rejoiced at the revelation of the Messiah. Why would all Jerusalem be troubled? Perhaps Matthew says this to condemn the inhabitants of Jerusalem along with Herod.
Herod gathers the chief priests, sribes and people to demand of them where the Christ would be born. He at least knew enough to know that the Scriptures said something about it. But he didn’t know what or where.
John Calvin quote, “Let us therefore learn, that the chief cause of blindness in the enemies of truth is to be found in their wicked affections, which change light into darkness.”

6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 
John Calvin, “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.”
You can see from their reply and quote from the OT, why Herod was troubled. The Governor would rule the people Israel. Herod was not willing to release his rule to the rule of the Messiah.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.  8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
Herod sought the wise men privately. Obviously, he did not want the other leaders or people to get behind the idea that the Messiah had arrived. He saw his danger and sought to find the Messiah on his own in order to kill Him. He attempted to deceive the wise men but the Lord protected them.

Matt. 2:9   When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.  10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
There seems to be a miracle happening here. The wise men had lost sight of the star but now find it again. Why this interlude? Perhaps the Lord allowed this to show how wicked Herod was and how the chief priests, scribes and people were complicit in this rebellion.
The star, which had lately disappeared, now reappeared to them and they rejoice greatly.
Some have speculated that this star was an angel.

 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 
The wise men prostrate themselves and worship Jesus, presenting Him gold, frankincense and myrrh.
John Calvin quote “Almost all the commentators indulge in speculations about those gifts, as denoting the kingdom, priesthood, and burial of Christ. They make gold the symbol of his kingdom,—frankincense, of his priesthoods,— and myrrh, of his burial. I see no solid ground for such an opinion.”
Calvin is always careful to not read more into the text than is there. However, there is also a danger of not getting out of the text what the Spirit intends. When very specific items or numbers are mentioned, we should pay attention. I think the common commentary view here makes a lot of sense.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
God warned them not to return to Herod and they headed home.

Matt. 2:13   And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.  14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:  15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Again, there is a series of events here that all conspire together to fulfill the Word of God. Herod is out for blood and God warned Joseph. Joseph makes a flight to Egypt that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.
Calvin points out that we should be humble about how God chooses to save us. He could have wiped out Herod and his army. Herod does in fact die in short order. However, the Lord provided a way of escape. We should hold our plans loosely and follow God’s Providential care as it unfolds before us.
Jesus is the New Israel. Israel is saved in Egypt and returns from there inherit the promised land. Jesus exactly repeats this history of Israel.

Matt. 2:16   Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
Herod the Great’s father, Antipater, was an Edomite. The Edomites were the ancient enemies of Israel.
Herod is enraged that the wise men did not return. His response is shocking in the extreme. Herod orders the murder of all the boys in Bethlehem age two and under.
Herod was a murderous leader who had killed several members of his own household, including three of his sons, one of his wives and her mother.

17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,  18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
How many children were killed? This is unknown. However, the following might be helpful. Josephus recorded much about Heroed. However, he does not mention the massacre.  Why?
Bethlehem was a small, rather insignificant town in the hill country of Judah, about five miles south of Jerusalem.When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, only 123 men settled in Bethlehem (Ezra 2:21).It probably did not have more than a thousand citizens at the time of Christ’s birth.It has been estimated that, at the beginning of the first century, there likely would have been only about ten to thirty boy babies under the age of two in the little hamlet (Michael J. Wilkins, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. Clinton Arnold, Ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002, p. 19).

Matt. 2:19   But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,  20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.  21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 
Herod died in March or April of 4 BC, shortly after the killing of the innocents. By this timeline, it is likely that Joseph, Mary and Jesus did not spend much time in Egypt.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:  23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
Joseph assumed that Herod’s son Archelaus would have the same intentions towards Jesus as Herod the Great. Thus, he sought to live further from the throne of Herod. Nazareth, of Galilee, the land of the Gentiles.
This last phrase is a bit confusing. There is no clear place where the Messiah is called a Nazarene. That is, the Bible does not say that the Christ is from Nazareth. However, there are places were it says that the child shall be a Nazarite from his youth. That refers to Samson. Calvin thinks this might be the Scripture that is referenced here.
         The Hebrew word for Nazarite is Nazir. A Nazarite was one who was set apart, holy, for a particular purpose. A Nazarite vow could be made and one was not to drink wine, touch a dead body, shave his head, or be made unclean for any purpose.
         Num. 6:1   And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD:  3 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.  4 All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.  5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
         We know that Jesus was not a Nazarite. John came neither eating nor drinking and they said he had a demon. Jesus came both eating and drinking and they said he was a glutton and winebibber.
         Is this a new kind of Nazarite? Yes, Jesus is the Holy child. He is set apart from His mother’s womb. He is of the Holy Ghost and is Holy. Jesus is a different kind of Nazarite. In His case, He cannot be made unclean. Instead of defiling Himself with drink or by touching a dead body, those He touches are made clean.
         Or, is He the branch? Netser? Branch from Tsemach, sprout, branch?
Is. 11:1   And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
Branch here is Netzar.
In the blessing to Joseph it is said, Gen. 49:26 “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.”
It is my contention then, that this reference in Matthew signifies these two things, that a Branch shall Spring up who shall be set apart, holy, from the womb. He shall be like the branch Netzar, from Nazareth, and He shall be separate unto me,g a Nazarite.

         God desires true worship. This worship starts with submitting yourself to Jesus. Do you bow before Him? Do you realize that He is the Holy One of Israel? Do you understand that it is Jesus who takes away sins? Do you believe that if you only touch the hem of His garment you shall be clean? Do you believe that Jesus is holy and all that He must do is touch you and your sins are forgiven so that you can dwell in His presence without fear of condemnation?

         This is Jesus. Believe in Him. Amen.

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