Micah 5:1-3; Matthew 2:1-12.
We have to answer a great many questions today. Why did God send is son to earth to be born as a human being? Why dot the prophets write about him? Why did he send him to die the cruel death on the cross? Why the tomb? Why did he raise him from the grave? Why the church? If you want to understand Christianity, and why the disciples left all , and why many were tortured and died for their faith, and why millions are believers today, then you must look at Jesus of Nazareth. These things would not have happened if they were not historical facts. That’s the only way we explain them. Jesus of Nazaraath was a real historical person. If he were not a real person all history is a lie. We and the world are deluding ourselves.
The Fact of Prophecy
Individuals over the centuries did not sit down and imagine what would happen in the future. They did not think it out or come up with a bright idea and guess a certain date and certain time for some event to come true. No man being can foretell with minute accuracy all the details concerning the life and events of Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of telling one fact hundreds of years in advance but hundreds of facts in advance. Isn’t it wonderful and amazing the way the Old Testament gives us the details of the coming of the king? It begins in the broadest possible way by saying the Messiah shall come of the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15. Then it narrows it down to a certain line. Then He is limited to a certain kind of birth. And finally, he is limited to a certain locality: the city of Bethlehem. Jesus life and death and resurrection were a fulfillment of prophecy. The fact are not up for debate. God had a great plan and purpose in respect to this world. He carried out his plan and no man, no leader, no priest, no religion, no empire could stop him.
God Sent a Deliverer
Vs 1, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea,…” God sent his son into the world of human beings. God so loved me that he sent his only son into the world to bear the punishment for my sin. “The son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20). That is why I am a Christian and a follower of him. The son said I came down form above and I go back to the father. He came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” The prophets foretold a baby would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem. He was the coming Deliverer, the Messiah. They were to wait for him. There never was a baby like this baby, Jesus. At his birth God arranged for a star to identify his coming it was the supernatural movement of a heavenly body. During his ministry all nature bowed to his power as he rearranged it. At his death the Sun became black and the earth quaked. It was witnessed by the visit of the Gentile Wise men from the east. God’s plans for the Nation Israel, is not only is the Messiah the glory of his people Israel, but he is also a light to lighten the Gentiles. In Matthew the Lord Jesus is not only presented as the Son of David, but as the Son of Abraham. In the Old Testament including God’s plans for the Nation Israel, there is frequent mention of the fact that his plans encompass not only the nation but also the Gentile nations.
In one of the great Messianic sections of Isaiah we read, “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising”. This is a beautiful account of the coming of the Wise men, in order to worship the Lord Jesus at his birth with their gifts.
Today, Israel, instead of being a light, is blind. And the nations, instead of listening to the light which has come to us through our great Israelitish Messiah, are raging.
The UK is in confusion Europe is in confusion America is in confusion, the Middle east is in confusion, Africa is in confusion, our worlds in a state of confusion. The education system is confusion, theology is in a state of confusion, the church is in a state of confusion. There is no more black and white they have been merged into each other and everything is grey. The preaching of the gospel in our churches today is often not clear.
Vs 1, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea…” These gentile pilgrims came to Bethlehem which means “the house of bread.” It was only on this night of the coming of our Lord Jesus to Bethlehem that Bethlehem truly was the “house of bread.” Bethlehem was the place where the first announcement of the Temple was made. And it is at Bethlehem in the New Testament that we read of the birth of him who was the true temple of God. It was in the Bethlehem that Jacob buried Rachel which is a connection of Rachel with this account in Matthew. It was at Bethlehem that Ruth and Boaz met, and above all, it was at Bethlehem that David lived and reigned. The climax is that David’s greater son should be born in Bethlehem in accordance with the word of God.
Christ appeared there in his humiliation. He is born of lowly parents. He is laid in a manger. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, but the principalities and powers that are in heaven are immediately in commotion when the Son of God comes to tabernacle with men. An angel descends to proclaim the advent of the new born king, and suddenly there is with him a heavenly host, and they are praising God and thanking God for the things that are happening in that little manger, in that place of humiliation.
An amazing ting happened n the cosmos a star is appointed to guide the Wise-men from the east to the place where the shepherds are to be born. The shepherds have come to pay their homage. As they come and see the birth, or the child, they go back to their fields rejoicing and praising God for what they have seen. And then representatives from the Gentiles come to visit him. And so in the midst of the state of humiliation of our Lord, all of the angelic armies of heaven are in commotion.
Jesus is the centre of attraction in the angelic spiritual realm, in the cosmic realm, in the earthy realm. The moment the little babe is laid in the manger, it seems as if all the universe is active in this praise and thanksgiving, and the angels, the stars, the shepherds and the learned Gentiles are all concerned over what has happened.
The Great Question Asked by the Wise Men
Where is the Baby?
Vs 1“Where is he who was born King of the Jews…”
When these Wise-men finally reached the city of Jerusalem they asked this question. We do not know how many people they asked this question as they went up and down the streets of the city of Jerusalem seeking the child, where is he that is born King of the Jews, and the city of peace, the city that is David’s great city, could give them no answer. They got no response no one even wanted to know the answer to the question they were asking.
They had traveled so far from home a journey of a thousand miles from Persia to Israel. Why have they made such a treacherous journey?
The answer is, they have come to see the baby born king of the Jews. This is fascinating. They knew a baby had been born but they didn’t know where. They knew he was a king but didn’t know his name. So they come to Jerusalem–the capital city–seeking help. They also assume that everyone must know about this baby. But a great surprise awaits them.
The Wise Men -Star-Gazers From The East
Vs 1 “…behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem…”
Who were the Wise Men- the Magi? These Wise Men are called “Magi from the east.” That’s all we are told about them. We do not know how many wise men there were, where they came from, how long and how far they travelled, we don’t know their rank. They were kings. They slide into the story, they present their silent adoration, and as silently go away. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We do know their names. Scripture simply says that they were mogoi, or magi – “wise men.” The term “Magi” is ultimately a Persian word that referred to a special class of priests in the Persian empire.
The Wise-men. We know from other sources that the Magi had existed for hundreds of years before the time of Christ. They were the professors and philosophers of their day. Learned men, they were men who were skilled in philosophy. They were brilliant and highly educated scholars who were trained and skilled in medicine, history, religion, prophecy and astronomy. They were also trained in what we would call astrology. They had their own religion (they are usually thought to have been followers of Zoroastrianism), their own priesthood, their own writings. They were skilled in natural science, and they were also very interested in interpreting dreams and in soothsaying. These men were very good men, and they evidently were very earnest men who were anxious to interpret the things that they had seen in disguise. They had come into contact with something that was supernatural.
Daniel and the Wise men. They existed in his day and it even seems that Daniel was appointed head over the cast of the Magi in the time of King Darius.
The Great Question Asked by the Wise Men
Where is the Baby?
Vs 1“Where is he who was born King of the Jews?” When these Wise-men finally reached the city of Jerusalem they asked this question. They had traveled so far from home a journey of a thousand miles from Persia to Israel. Why have they made such a treacherous journey? The answer is, they have come to see the baby born king of the Jews. This is fascinating. They knew a baby had been born but they didn’t know where. They knew he was a king but didn’t know his name. So they come to Jerusalem the capital city seeking help. They also assume that everyone must know about this baby. But a great surprise awaits them.
We do not know how many people they asked this question as they went up and down the streets of the city of Jerusalem seeking the child, where is he that is born King of the Jews. The people in the city of David could give them no answer. They got no response no one even wanted to know the answer to the question they were asking.
The Star of Wonder
“…for we have seen his star in its rising.” How Did They Know About a Star? The Jews and Persians had intermingled for at least 500 years. Since the time of Daniel the Persians had known of the Jewish expectation of a Messiah. They may have even known from the prophecy of the “70 weeks” in Daniel 9 the approximate time of his appearing. They did not know the exact time but when they saw the star they knew the time had come. The particular Greek word (aster) is a very general one. It referred to any bright object in the sky. It could refer to a star or a planet or a meteor or even to a comet. This was a wonder that occurred at that time. It was not Halley’s comet that was visible in about 11 B.C., shooting brilliantly across the skies, but that is not it since the star they came and stood over the place where the child was in the little village of Bethlehem. It was not a supernova exploding suddenly filling the sky with light. These are unpredictable and very rare and there is no record in any astronomical records of a supernova in the years surrounding the birth of Christ. Some think it was a conjunction of Planets. In 7 B.C. there was a brilliant conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, and some have wondered if this perhaps was the mighty star that they had seen. In the years 5 to 2 B.C., there was also an unusual astronomical phenomenon. It was a “star” that was supernatural and not a natural phenomena. It was placed by God in the heaven especially for the Magi to see. Some even think it was the shekinah glory of God in the Old Testament.
The Wise Men were students of the sky and watched for the unusual. In those days it was not uncommon to associate the birth of a great ruler with unusual heavenly phenomena. The star would make perfect sense to them and would in fact perfectly fit what they already believed. God was getting the attention of these pagan priests. They knew the truth and the “star” was a further step. A star alone would not tell the Magi all they needed to know. They knew enough to come to Bethlehem to seek a baby born king of the Jews. They didn’t get that from the skies. So here’s the bigger question: How did they know the star meant anything at all?
The unusual star was recognized immediately by that the Wise-men and they followed it closely as it dipped low in the heaven stopping precisely over the house in Bethlehem were the child was.
There was a strange feeling of expectancy in the east. The Wise men, other sages in the Orient were looking for men to come and rule the world. Tacitus has also written that, “There was a firm persuasion that at this time, this very time, the east was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judea were to acquire universal dominion.” So there were moving about in the east reports from Judea there would come someone who was to be a kind of universal ruler.
The Jews, in spite of their failure, believed their Messiah would come. They had read the Scriptures, and they had proclaimed those Scriptures, and as a result of their proclamation of the Scriptures they had spread over the east some anticipation of the fact that the Messiah would come and that he would be a universal ruler. In fact we have some in the city of Jerusalem and in other places who are expecting the Messiah, as the Lord’s ministry seems to indicate, would seem to confirm that.
The Magi looked to the stars for guidance, the Jews and the Magi had intermingled for at least 500 years, the Magi would notice any new sign in the sky. It should not surprise us that the Magi would travel to Jerusalem to greet this new Jewish king.
In our day astrology is an evil thing. But in the beginning astrology was connected with man’s search for God. The ancients studied the skies in order to find the answers to the great questions of life–Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?
There is a difference between astronomy and astrology. Astronomy is the science of the study of the stars. Astrology is the belief that there is a connection between the position of the stars and human destiny. The Magi were experts in both astronomy and astrology and claimed to be able to divine the future.
The important fact for us to know is that they were highly influential in Persia. They were in fact advisors to the king. While they were not kings, it would not be wrong to call them king-makers because they functioned as political advisors to the Persian rulers.
“We…have come to Worship him.”
Verse 2 “We have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” Why worship him? What was “his star in the east?” What did they see and how did they know it was his star and how did they connect it with Israel?
The Wise Men were students of the sky and watched for the unusual. In those days it was not uncommon to associate the birth of a great ruler with unusual heavenly phenomena. The star would make perfect sense to them and would in fact perfectly fit what they already believed. God was getting the attention of these pagan priests.
Herod the Murderer
Vs 3 “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Word got to Herod about the question these strangers were asking and he was troubled agitated. He became alarmed. The people in the city knew when he was troubled he would take it out on them. This crazy, disturbed tyrant was half-Jew and half-Idumean. He was an Edomite. And the Edomites were the enemies of Israel. He was a descendant of Esau.
He was disturbed because he was called Herod the King and no one else had the right to be called king. No one is ever born a king only the Lord Jesus he is the only one born a king. The news that a baby had been born who was destined to be king, disturbed him, it would be a usurper of his throne and his right.
Herod was an evil man, a murderer, and insanely jealous. And any kind of rivalry he could not stand. He had murdered his wife. He had murdered his mother-in-law. He had murdered one of his sons and then two more of his sons. It caused him no regret or remorse to murder those who were nearest to him. So why would he care for those outside the family? All hell would break loose when Herod became disturbed.
Therefore it’s not surprising that when Herod the King, had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. The birth of the Messiah meant trouble for the evil man and the people would not be disturbed about what he wanted to do with the Messiah but because they knew that they might suffer from it.
Herod called together a meeting of the chief priests and the scribes of the people
Vs 4-7 “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. Herod called a meeting of the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and he demanded of them where the Messiah should be born. Evidently, the Holy Spirit spoke to the heart of Herod, and there was brought home to this man the conviction that these Wise-men who have come from the east might be giving us a true story of what has happened to them. And so he asks of these experts in Scriptural understanding where is the Messiah to be born? And there is no hesitation, for the text of Scripture is extremely clear. The Jews know the correct answer, the evangelist knows the correct answer, and even the stars in heaven know the correct answer: the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem.
Vs 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel. And they said unto him, in Bethlehem of Judea. And Matthew adds these words, “For thus it is written by the prophet, AND THOU BETHLEHEM IN THE LAND OF JUDAH, ART NOT THE LEAST AMONG THE PRINCES OF JUDAH: FOR OUT OF THEE SHALL COME A GOVERNOR WHO SHALL RULE MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.” So there is no hesitation. These wise men who study the Scripture know precisely where the Messiah is to be born.
They knew the time the child would be born in Bethlehem, and they were fast approaching the time when the Messiah should come. And the arrival of Wise-men a report that they had seen this marvellous phenomenon in the skies, jerked them into examining the scriptures. Their hearts were alerted to the possibility that the King has truly been born.
That prophecy in the prophecy of Micah is definite about it. True prophets were precise not any mistakes. The prophecies of Scripture are not prophecies that are given in ambiguous, loose language so that they might be fulfilled in several ways. The prophecies of Scripture are not like what so called prophecies are like today. They are not doubled meanings but a clear word of prophecy. Scripture says in Bethlehem Ephrathah” it is clear and precise. There are two Bethlehems in the Old Testament record. There is one in Judea, there is one in Zebulon. And so we read in the Old Testament, “but thou Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, out of these shall he come forth to be who is to be ruler in Israel.” These are prophecies of the word of God, and the prophecies of the word of God are tremendously different from the prophecies of men.
There are those in churches today who call themselves prophets but you can never get any clear precise prophecies out of them. They say “somebody in the meeting is going to be a great missionary or preacher, or has a heart condition and is receiving haling now”. That’s not a very definite kind of prophecy. It’s not one that you can test at all. Is God not specific anymore? Where are the rue prophets today?
These prophecies of Scripture are definite, and they are to the point, and they can be tested. And when they are fulfilled, we can know that God has been the origin of the prophecy. The details of the prophecy in Micah are very striking: thou Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah. Matthew states: thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art least among the princes of Judah. He of course knows that as a result of what has happened in little Bethlehem, Bethlehem has been exalted above cities of like character.
At this point in history the Son of God came, and when out of his human nature was born and began his life as the God-man. This coming of the Son out of Bethlehem is not the only coming his comings and goings forth, have been of old from everlasting. Throughout the whole of the Old Testament period of time, the Son has been active. He was active in Creation. He was active in the theophonies. He was in the garden in Eden. He was the one who met with Abraham. He was with Joshua. He was with Gideon. He was with Samson and his family, so that throughout the Old Testament, his goings forth have been from of old from everlasting. He has been active throughout all eternity. For he is not only the human son, he is also the divine Son, the second person of the eternal Trinity, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Our great God and Creator does rule over all these worlds that are about us. And he can even command a star and have a star as his messenger, and have a star to lead and guide some Wise-men to the place where the Son of God is lying in a home.
Vs 7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.” Herod calls another meeting, a secret meeting this time with the Wise-men. He desires that they become his spies. He wanted to know what time the star appeared. They probably told him its almost two years and maybe that is why Herod gave the order to kill all males under two years.
Herod the Evil Deceiver Plots Evil
Vs 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” Herod tries to engineer the situation with his lies and evil intentions. He deceives the Wise men into thinking he wants to find the child and worship him, but in reality he wants to murder him. He said I want you to bring me word again because I want to come and worship him, too. He’s is plotting evil. Behind this is the Satanic plot to destroy the child before he has time to go to the cross and die for our sins. Herod is saying if this infant is God’s Messiah, I will kill him. He’s a madman, he’s insane. That’s the policy of an irrational being. It’s the same today no king wants to loose his throne, no person wants to loose the rule of his own life. If Jesus is God’s Messiah, I will kill him.
Herod was unaware how small he was in God vast universe, he thought he was Herod the great and had no intention to worship the Lord Jesus at all. God would humble him and even use him in the Divine plan of redemption. The one who sat on the throne of Judea was eclipsed by the one who sits upon the throne of the universe. The Wise-men leave
The Wise Men Follow the Star
Vs 9-10 “When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” The Wise men watched and followed as the star moved in the sky towards Bethlehem. They were aware when the star came and stood just over the place where the young child was. It was a very low-moving star, something very unusual. God had created it for this reason. It was a miraculous thing.
Vs11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” God guided the Wise-men to the place where the infant is. Micah’s prophecy in the Old Testament became a particular revelation to these men. The invisible hand of Gods who created all the stars and planets, made this particular one for His Son. This star is concerned with Jesus Christ. He is heaven’s centre of attraction, heaven, it is concerned with the Lord Jesus. And when it reaches the place where the child is, it stops, it reached is ordained purpose.
Nothing could stop or hinder this star as it leads to Christ. Royalty could not stop it, political rulers could not stop it, religious rulers could not stop it, astronomers and scientists could not stop it, the indifference of the people could not delay it, the star leads the Wise-men to the Lord Jesus. And when it has come to the Lord Jesus, it’s ministry is over.
“When they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary.” The wise men opened their treasures and three in particular are mentioned. They lavished their gifts upon Him who was born king. They were full of adoration and offered their gifts. This young child is the centre of attraction. Pre-eminent in the story is the young child. It is not Mary the Virgin but the child who is foremost. The incarnation of the Lord Jesus is a spectacular event, God came in the flesh, IMMANUEL –GOD WITH US. God does care about this earth, and about its inhabitants of whom we are part.
The gift of gold is thought to signify the royalty of the Son. The gift of frankincense, since incense was offered to God, may suggest the divinity of the Son. And the gift of myrrh, which was often used in the burial of people, suggests his humanity. If we are to think of the myrrh as suggestive of his humanity, is suggestive of the fact that while he is human, he must also suffer and die.
Herod knew the truth, the chief priest and scribe, the religious crowd knew the truth, the Jews knew the truth, men and women today know the truth but they suppress it. Many are like that today. But no man can be neutral concerning Jesus Christ one must accept him as the Son of God incarnate, the only one who can save or choose another way.
When one has the knowledge of who he is they become like the wise men and worship him. They let nothing hinder or stop them when they realize who tis baby is. They believe Jesus Christ is the only Saviour until and enter into a personal relationship to him. The star stops over him and draws attention to him.
This tremendous account of the birth of the Lord Jesus is an historical fact. This babe who was the redeemer gave his life a ransom for many. He was there in eternity past, there in history, here today and is eternally the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Know that you have received the knowledge of who he is you can come to know him today when you repent of your sin of rejecting him and trust him as your Lord and Saviour.