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 travelled 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.

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

Luke 2:14 – A multitude of the heavenly host appeared praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

At the birth of Jesus the whole of heaven’s hosts joined in the celebration. The angel of the Lord appeared many times throughout the Old Testament to bring to men messages from the throne of God. Daniel the prophet experienced numerous occasions when Gabriel the archangel appeared to him with messages from God. Never before did a multitude of the heavenly host come declaring words from God as recorded in the book of Luke.

The Scriptures can be so clear at times and this verse is one of those occasions, “Glory to God in the highest.” God is Spirit and His throne is in heaven. We cannot comprehend either God or His throne. God is mystery to man, so God revealed His nature by sending His Only Begotten Son in human form. Not only did He do this, He has made it possible, through Christ, for His Holy Spirit to live inside every believer. In this verse the angels say, “In the highest,” there is no height higher than the Throne of God.

The angels also made it abundantly clear concerning God’s will: “On earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased.” As we look back in Scripture, there was a time when God was not pleased. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). What an indictment against mankind! God’s heart is fully revealed in Luke’s record of Christ’s birth. He reconciled His grieving over creating man as revealed in Genesis with His “Great Love” revealed through His Son Jesus and the “new creation” in the Spirit He was bringing forth.

God the Father is pleased with man, not because man is good, but because of “the man Christ Jesus.” “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Now was the proper time. The angels began the proclamation that awesome night. The Apostles continued the proclamation as they preached Christ in “faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:7).

It is now our turn! As we celebrate His birth and remember what the angels declared, make sure you represent heaven well. God wants peace among men. God is well pleased with us as He sees Christ revealed in all men and women who have put their trust in God’s first new creation man.

Father, I thank You for Your declaration of peace and pleasure of man. Thank You for Your heart of love and mercy shown toward fallen man who had no hope. You have given hope to the world through the birth of Your Son Jesus. Help me to be joined with the angels in proclaiming Your great love.

A SAVIOR IS BORN

Luke 2:11-12 – Today, in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Heaven truly came to earth on the day of Christ’s birth. Not only was the Son of God born in Bethlehem, but a multitude of angels filled the skies and revealed themselves to many who were waiting for the expected Messiah. As shepherds were watching over their sheep, the glory of the Lord appeared as an angel spoke to the shepherds and those shepherds were filled with fear.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). Man is normally fearful of the supernatural. Angels appearing and talking certainly qualify for supernatural activity. The heart of the Lord is revealed through these angelic words, “Don’t fear.” The Father sent His Son because He wanted a relationship with man. You cannot have a healthy relationship with another if there is “terrible fear.” God’s word to mankind is “Don’t be afraid because I have provided salvation”.

The angel goes on to explain that he had come to bring “good news.” It was news of “great joy” and this news was “for all people.” The Gospel is the Good news of Jesus Christ. It starts with His birth, but grew to include His death, burial, and resurrection. As Jesus hung on the cross, He gave up His life for all people.

Real joy is found in a relationship with God the Father, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit whom the Father has given. Wouldn’t you love to have been around the fire that evening as the shepherds talked about what they had just experienced on their watch? Their minds must have gone back to the many passages of Scripture they heard from their religious leaders over the years.

Our God is the God of Victory! There had been no prophet to bring the Word of the Lord for over four hundred years. The religious leaders of Israel had become dull of hearing and filled with lust for power. Things looked rather bleak for the “covenant people.” But on this night, the sounds of victory rang through the skies. Declarations of “peace on earth” and proclamations of “goodwill toward men” rang out through the quiet stillness of the night. God is a God of the immediacy. “An angel of the Lord suddenly appeared” (Luke 2:9).

For over two thousand years, the message the angel brought to these shepherds has been ringing out in the earth. From Jerusalem, men began to carry the good news until the entire then-known world had heard “Jesus is Lord.” The message has continued down through the centuries to our day. Christmas is a wonderful time to be renewed in the Gospel through Christmas carols and Christmas plays. It is also a great time to be renewed in God’s will. Each of us can share the good news with another or perhaps with many.

The gift of God in Christ was never meant to be held privately, but is intended to be shared with as many people as is possible. Tell someone about Jesus before the year’s end. Pray for divine appointments and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you.

Father, anoint me with the Holy Spirit to share Your Good News to as many as You would lead me. Release through me the message of freedom from fear, and the blessing of peace and joy from the presence of the Lord.