GO INTO THE LAND

Matthew 2:19-20 – When Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.”

Christmas Eve is a wonderful time for celebrating the new life which was about to be birthed in the earth. The exact date is not all that relevant, but the reality of this occurrence changes the perspective of eternity. Our Scripture for today is filled with hope and encouragement that the Lord’s enemies will be silenced and the land is our possession. The early church experienced how the enemies of Christ became His footstool with the death of Nero and the destruction Jerusalem and the Jewish religious system that had persecuted the early saints.  

Life is a journey. Joseph journeyed to Egypt by divine direction. After Herod’s death, the Lord led him back to the place of his heritage. The enemy does all he can to hinder the purpose of God, but our God is sovereign and quiets His enemies so His people can accomplish their purpose. Joseph once again obeyed the divine leading and entered into a new season for his life, the life of Mary and the Child Jesus.

Even though Herod was dead, his son Archelaus was reigning over Judah. This caused Joseph to be afraid. I am certain that he sought the Lord to know what he should do. Many times, the Lord gives great victories to His people, but circumstances arise that can cause us to fear. Fear is natural, but must be overcome. God did not give us fear. “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, and love, and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Timidity is translated “fear” in the KJV. The spirit of fear or timidity has caused many to stumble and not fulfill God’s intentions. When fear raises its ugly head, we need to seek God’s help immediately.

God warned Joseph in another dream and he left for the region of Galilee to live in Nazareth. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, He was known as a “Nazarene.” Nazareth was an obscure, insignificant place. Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Thus the word Nazarene was a fitting title for the One who grew up “as a root out of dry ground, despised and rejected by men” (Isa 53:2-3).

Father, I thank You for how You lead each life chosen to fulfill Your will. Thank You for giving us the details of the birth of Your Son, Jesus of Nazareth. Thank You for Joseph, Mary’s husband, and the sold-out life He demonstrated. Help me, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, to also live a sold out life for You, reflecting Your will in all I do.

THE ENEMY IS ENRAGED, BUT RESTRICTED

Matthew 2:16 – When Herod saw that he was tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under.

For a devotional, this Scripture is not encouraging, but it is reality. God’s enemies hate Him and all that is His. God is good and gives good gifts to His creation man. For someone to hate God, they must be evil in their core. Satan’s nature is evil in its depth. Those that are filled with pride and hate to the point of mass murder are a manifestation of Satan’s core. Herod was evil as he sought to kill Jesus through the genocide of the male children less than two years of age.

Satan tried to stop the purpose of God through mass murder of Hebrew children twice in history, when God was providing a deliverer through Moses and when Christ was born. At other times, he has tried to kill the Jewish people through genocide. During the first century, Satan tried to kill off the Lord’s church through the Roman emperor Nero.

We know the history of the twentieth century as Hitler tried to exterminate the Jewish people prior to the Lord returning them to the holy land. The enemy has used numerous nations in modern times to murder God’s people to stop the growth of Christianity. In more recent times the enemy has used radical Islam to attack God’s people. The hatred of Jews and Christians throughout the world has grown in volume and incidents of murder.

The enemy is scared because he knows his time is short. “The demons believe and shudder” (James 2:19). All is not dark and evil. The Spirit of God is being poured out in these days in preparation for a great harvest of souls. Just as in the time of Christ, terrible things happened, but God overcame terrible things with His goodness through Jesus the Lord. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, a great awakening took place and multitudes were saved and set free from the devil’s power. “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).

This same Jesus is pouring out His Spirit with the same old time power around the world today. Rejoice, saints of God, for the devil is defeated and Christ is victorious! Light has come as Christ declared in the gospels and His saints are to be that light through the power of the Holy Spirit. Evil things may happen, but God is at work. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Father, I thank You for Your overcoming life that lives in me. I rejoice in Your Son who has defeated the evil one through His cross and in the power of the resurrection. Help me, Lord, to stand strong in the battles and also to overcome by the power of Your Holy Spirit who is in me.  

HEROD’S SECRET PLAN

Matthew 2:7 – Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

The magi came first to Jerusalem in their pursuit of finding the newborn King of the Jews. Sometime had transpired since the birth of Christ; remember they had traveled from Persia, east of Israel. The first thing they did was to seek out the present king. Herod was only a pawn of Rome and had no real authority. They inquired of Herod the whereabouts of the newborn King because they saw His star. I am reminded of what the Scriptures say, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1).

God’s first Bible was in the heavens. Consider the story of the gospel told through the constellations. The constellation of “Leo the Lion” speaks of the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” The constellation of “Virgo” speaks of the “virgin birth.” The constellation in the southern hemisphere known as the “southern cross” reveals the method of redemption. Adam and Abraham could see God’s story in the heavenly skies. The world and false religion distorted the meaning of God’s story in the heavens. The magi knew the stars from a distorted perspective, but God opened their minds to understand that “this star is different and speaks of the long awaited King of the Jews.”

Herod’s evil heart is revealed as the magi’s request and statement disturbed Him and he called together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, inquiring of them where the Messiah was to be born. These men told Herod that it was Bethlehem, reciting the prophet, “You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel” (Micah 5:2). Herod then used the magi as his instrument to locate Jesus. As they left Herod, the star they saw in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the child was. This was not an ordinary star. They saw it in the “east” while Israel was to their west. In other words, the star led them all the way to Bethlehem and the house where the holy family lived.

When the magi found Jesus with His mother, they worshipped Him. They then presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the child to destroy Him” (Matthew 2:12). Herod’s secret plan was not secret to the God of heaven. Again, the Lord was fulfilling His prophetic word: “Out of Egypt, I called My Son” (Hosea 11:1). It appears the gifts from the magi were used over the next couple of years to provide financially for the chosen family. The magi returned home without going back to Herod with their findings

Father, I thank You for Your great power revealed in the heavens through the star that led the magi. I thank You for Your awesome provisions for the holy family. I thank You for the protection You provided them until the evil of Herod’s heart was ended. I know Your Holy Spirit was mightily at work and continues to work with and through Your people today.

THE VISIT OF THE MAGI

Matthew 2:1 – After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?”

The magi were known as “wise men” from Persia. They were like the magicians or astrologers of the Prophet Daniel’s time.  These men were guided by a star in the east toward Jerusalem.  They suddenly appeared in the days of Herod the Great, inquiring for the new-born king of the Jews, whom they had come to worship.

The role of the star in Matthew 2 suggests a connection with astrology. These astrologers, pursuing their observations of the stars in the heavens, encountered a sign of God (Matt 24:29-30). God broke through their misguided system to make the great event known. The joy, rejoicing, worship, and gifts which mark the response of these wise men to the birth of Jesus is quite a contrast to the troubled state and murderous intent of Herod and his Jewish advisers in Jerusalem (Matt 2:1-12). (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

Why should the new star lead these wise men to look for a king of the Jews? Of all nations in the world, these wise men from Persia were more like the Jews, in their religion. They believed in one God, they had no idols; they worshipped light as the best symbol of God. Everywhere throughout the East, men were looking for the advent of a great king who was to rise from among the Jews. It had fermented in the minds of heathen as well as Jews, and would have led them to welcome Jesus as the Christ, had he come in accordance with their expectation. Virgil, who lived a little before this, wrote that a child from heaven was looked for, who should restore the golden age and take away sin. This expectation arose largely from the dispersion of the Jews among all nations. They carried with them the hope and the promise of a divine Redeemer. Daniel was a prince and chief among this very class of wise men. His prophecies were made known to them. The calculations by which he pointed to the very time when Christ should be born became, through the book of Daniel, a part of their ancient literature. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

Isn’t our God good? He prepared the entire world for the advent of our Savior, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. As we celebrate His first advent of 2,000 years ago, let us not forget His Second Advent is before us. The Lord is even now preparing the modern world for the next greatest event in all of history, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in bodily form to receive His redeemed people and judge all who have rejected His gracious offer of salvation and eternal life.

Celebrate the newborn King as the magi did, but keep your eyes on the east as they were doing, for He is coming again with great glory and triumph! The Holy Spirit not only witnesses in us the reality of His first coming and redemptive work, but also His return for His saints and the final judgment of systems that have rejected Him from the beginning of man, including the devil and all his angels.

Father, I thank You for the record of the magi who were also seeking the promised King. Thank You that today, as then, there is a hope growing in the earth for the return of King Jesus. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might be a strong witness of Your first coming that provided salvation, and of Your glorious return in Your chosen timing.

SO THEY CAME IN A HURRY AND FOUND HIM

Luke 2:15 – Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this great thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.

The shepherds did not hesitate to seek out Jesus once informed of what the Lord had done for them. The Scriptures tell us that they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary, Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

The Lord has many ways of informing people of what He has done. The shepherds responded correctly by immediately searching out the Christ child. Some people want to get more information, while others need to think about their experience for a while to decide whether to believe it or not. When the Lord reveals Himself, He expects an immediate response. The degree of the revelation is not the issue. Some may think if God revealed Himself to me like He did to the shepherds, I too would believe and immediately respond. Human nature is strange and sometimes hard to figure out in terms of how one might respond under similar circumstances.

There are many distractions in life to keep us from running hard after God and His purpose. Even supernatural experiences can be a momentary excitement. I have been in many gatherings over the years and have watched the power of God touch people dramatically. It has always been curious to me how quickly and easily the excitement of the Lord’s presence can be forgotten and the normal routines of life are simply picked up as if nothing had taken place. These shepherds were transformed by their encounter.

After seeing the babe in the manger, they immediately made known what the angels had declared to them about this child. Those who heard the shepherds wondered at the things told them. Mary treasured those reports in her heart. The shepherds went back to tending their sheep, but glorified and praised God for all that they had heard and seen.

The spirit of Christmas is in telling others the wonderful story of God’s love for man and His provision of salvation through Jesus the Christ. We give gifts as a symbolic gesture as we remember the greatest gift ever given. Reflect on the many occasions the Lord revealed Himself to you in some supernatural way. Ask Him to remind you of the times He has made His presence known. Like the shepherds of old, you knew the joy of the Lord’s presence. Glorify and praise God for He is altogether worthy.

Father, I thank You for the message of Your grand love for all mankind. Help me to run hard after You to discover Your treasures in Christ. Cause me to be as the shepherds, a witness of the things I have been told and have seen.