2021 Christmas Advent Day 19: The Object of All Worship visits His people
- Main Passage: Matthew 2:1-12
- 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, 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. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 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. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 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. 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. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 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. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
- In this passage, we see a stark contrast between the shepherds and the magicians of Media. Optionally, see the appendix for this day on the next page for background information regarding the wise men, which will give insight and depth into the passage.
- But what is most important here is not the magicians; what is most important is Jesus Christ. We have seen Jesus worshipped by the lowliest, and now we see Him worshipped by the highest. Two opposite ends of the spectrum, but what they have in common is that they are both brought to their knees by The Child: by Jesus. And kings of the earth are not where it ends, because “when [The Father] bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, He saith, and let all the angels of God worship Him.” [Hebrews 1:6] All the angels, every high and mighty and glorious cherub or seraph, must worship The Child, must worship Jesus. He is to be worshipped and adored above absolutely everything. He alone deserves worship and praise. As Psalms says, “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before The LORD our maker. For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand…” [Psalms 95:6-7a] And as God says in Exodus, “For thou shalt worship no other god: for The LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” [Exodus 34:14] God demands that we worship Him alone, and we are to do that through The Son Jesus. Jesus says that “all men should honor the Son, even as they honor The Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him.” [John 5:23] And The Father is jealous of our love as He says in Exodus. Our love and devotion is to be poured out upon one only: and that is Jesus. Just like Mary took “a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” [John 12:3] James also agrees to this when he says, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” [James 4:4-5] The Holy Spirit is envious and jealous of our love. It is a precious thing our free will, and our free will of love is only to be given to God. He wants our love. Even as in Song of Solomon it says, “How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights” and again, “I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is toward me.” [Songs 7:6; 10] So we see that He alone is worthy of adoration, praise, worship: for we are in a relationship with Him and to depart from that would be akin to adultery. “Let every thing that hath breath praise The LORD. Praise ye The LORD.” [Psalms 150:6]
- The great importance of this love is shown to us in Revelation, where Jesus says to the church at Ephesus, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” [Revelation 2:4] The church at Ephesus was very wonderful at doing things. Jesus said they “hast borne, and hast patience, and for My Name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” [Revelation 2:3] But devoted service and works are not enough, for we were “called unto the fellowship of [God’s] Son Jesus Christ our Lord”,” and “truly our fellowship is with The Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” [1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 John 1:3] We were created to love our God, to love Him with all our heart, strength, mind, and soul; and to worship and praise Him with all our being, for He is worthy, and from Him comes our very life.
- The term “wise men” here refers to Median magicians; it was the very sect which Daniel was placed as head. We read in Daniel, “Then the king made Daniel a great man…and made him…chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.” [Daniel 2:48] And again, it is recorded, from Nebuchadnezzar’s mouth, “O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians…” [Daniel 4:9] This sect has many interesting qualities. Here are just a few ones that are especially relevant. They were a hereditary group of priests who passed the customs down through the children; they had great influence in choosing new kings, playing an important role in the royal court and also engaging in administrative/economic activities; these were from the east, meaning Media/Persia/Babylon, which at that time was ruled by the Parthian Empire; they interpreted dreams; and they were familiar with the movements of the earth and stars.
- Something else of note is that Rome and Parthia were rivals at this time. They were rival kingdoms and Jerusalem was a hostile buffer zone. It had gone back and forth from Parthia to Rome; they had fought over this area before, and now Rome has loose control over it.
- The historical accounts of the Magi, and their relation to Daniel, really adds a lot to this passage. For example, notice verse three. “[Herod] was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Now ask yourself the obvious question: why? Why was the king and the entire city troubled? By “three” little men on camels? Hardly. No, that is a vain tradition received by our fathers. But what we see is that the enemies of Rome come with great parade into a hostile territory; the chief administrative counsellors/rulers who among other things engage in the choosing of new kings, come in droves to the city and inquire of “The King of the Jews.” Additionally, note that one: Herod proudly called himself King of the Jews, and two: influential and important rulers do not sheepishly enter hostile territory with no protection – especially when the journey from Media to Jerusalem is about one whole month of riding. Now we can clearly see the atmosphere and why everybody in the entire city was troubled. This scene is far removed from the nativity scenes of today.
- Additionally, take note that the magicians “were come into the house.” [Matthew 2:11] The magicians packed themselves into this house, which before, we remember, there had been no room. Luke says “there was no room for them in the inn;” inn there referring to a word which means “upper room” or “guest chamber.” It’s the same type of room that Jesus and the disciples had the last Passover in. We see now that it is cleared up; perhaps those family members which had also traveled to Bethlehem for the census have now left. Whatever the case, what matters is this: they are in the house, not in the area of the feeding trough, and this is at least two years after Jesus’ birth; for we read, “Then Herod…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 inquired of the wise men.” [Matthew 2:16]
Questions for Day 19
- The magicians gave very costly gifts to Jesus. So did Mary, who anointed His feet with perfume. They both offered love and worship to Jesus with what cost them. As did the poor widow whom Jesus witnessed. “And there came a certain poor widow, and shew threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” [Mark 12:42-44] And likewise David had the same attitude, who said, “neither will I offer burnt offerings unto The LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” [2 Samuel 24:24] Does the worship you give to Jesus cost you something? Or does it not, does it merely come from abundance? If we only give to Jesus that which doesn’t hurt nor cost, then according to the Bible it is not worth anything. God told the Israelites they were to bring good animals for sacrifices, and condemns those in Malachi who were not, saying, “…and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brough an offering: should I accept this of your hand? Saith The LORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificieth unto The LORD a corrupt thing: for I am a Great King, saith The LORD of Hosts, and My Name is dreadful among the heathen.” [Malachi 1:13-14] You see how those who offered what didn’t hurt them were not pleasing to God. He is a Great King and to be feared: and He deserves all of us, especially that which costs us: for if it doesn’t cost us, it isn’t accepted of God, for “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” [Hebrews 11:6a] Discuss.
- Reflect: Not only is The LORD fully worthy of all our devotion, adoration, affection, delight, worship, and praise: but He commands it. We cannot play both games, as Elijah said upon Mount Carmel, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If The LORD be God, follow Him: but if Baal then follow Him.” [1 Kings 18:21] And as The LORD testified to the elders of Israel through Ezekiel, “As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith The Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.” [Ezekiel 20:39] And as Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other: ye cannot serve God and mammon.” [Matthew 5:24] A definite choice must be made in the heart and mind: serve and obey and worship and pursue Jesus Christ with every ounce of your energy or don’t do it at all. We are not to play games with The Son of God, and He cannot be fooled: “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we must give account.” [Hebrews 4:13b]