Anger (Matthew 2:16)

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God is always kind and always gracious. But Scripture reveals that there are also times   when God gets angry.  Numbers 22:22 speaks of how God was angry at Balaam for pursuing Balak’s promise of wealth. 1Kings 11:9 notes that God was angry at Solomon for disobeying the Lord’s command to avoid idolatry. Psalm 78:56-64 talks about how the Lord was angry at Israel for rejecting Him after He brought them into the promised land. Jeremiah 10:10 says, “When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.” Notice that it does not say if God gets angry, but when He gets angry. From these passages and more, we can know that anger can be a holy emotion. For God gets angry and yet is holy – so much so that the four living creatures closest to Him constantly watch Him with eyes all over their bodies and, “Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”” Holiness is so much part of His character that even in His most severe anger He cannot sin. 

But for fallen humankind to be angry and at at the same time avoid sin is quite unnatural. To this end, His Word specifically counsels us not to sin in our anger, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” The wise and the godly heed that, and give space for their anger to subside before making key decisions. The foolish and the unwise do not heed God’s counsel. In their anger, they immediately take regretful action. Matthew tells us of one such case after the Magi leave Mary and Joseph:

Herod had told the Magi to return to him when they found the King of the Jews. But God warned them in a dream not to return, so they went another route home after worshipping the Christ-child. “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” There is no doubt Herod had ordered the Magi to return so he could destroy the Christ-child where He lay. Frustrated and angry that his evil order was disobeyed, he unleashes the full perversion of his sin in a vengeful and horrific edict. In so doing he causes irreparable harm to the very people he is charged with governing.  

It is a very sad outcome. Over his lifetime and in spite of his anger issues, Herod had actually done much. He had rebuilt the Jewish temple, he had commissioned many large projects and provided employment for many. If there is any metric by which we judge our leaders, surely this is it – a leader must benefit the population they are governing. If they do so, the population grows and is enriched.  This ultimately benefits the leader too, as a larger and better off population is more able to bring blessing to the king (in the form of taxes and labor) and better able to defend the land – to the betterment of both king and population. Herod’s hasty decision does the opposite, to his people’s great anguish. It might even be said that this single foolish act undoes all his accomplishments, for this pivotal and obviously evil command is not just noted in the government records, but forever marked in Scripture. King Herod will forever be known as a failure – the king who exterminated infants. 

It is said that every decision is an emotional decision. The decisions we take either move us closer to God (wise decisions) or further away (poor decisions). But nothing moves us further away from Him than a poor decision fueled by unchecked anger.

Anger is simply passion in search of an appropriate focus.

Mike Murdock

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Look back at the last major life decision you made. Was it made in love?

What decision are you facing today?  How will that decision differ if you make it in love and compassion instead of anger or bitterness?

Promises Made (Matthew 2:13-15)

Joseph’s Dream by Rembrandt van Rijn

An angel had appeared to Joseph to tell him to go ahead and marry his virgin yet pregnant bride. As a result, and with Herod’s command to return to the city of his birth, Joseph and Mary had arrived in Bethlehem, where Mary has now given birth. Matthew made it clear that this was to fulfill the prophetic Word of God in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” 

Now another angel has appeared to Joseph. This one tells him to “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”  Joseph was faithful to obey God’s instruction through the angel before, and if anything, he is all the quicker to obey now, “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”” 

Whereas Matthew quoted Micah before, here he quotes Hosea 11:1. Micah spoke to the southern kingdom of Judah, but Hosea prophesied largely to the northern kingdom of divided Israel. Like Micah, Hosea’s a message was one of indictment and judgment mixed with hope and instruction. The two prophets were contemporaries, ministering some 700 years prior to Matthew and well over a hundred years before the exile. This particular verse from Hosea was given in the context of God’s remembrance of His original call to Israel, in a stanza dripping with melancholy, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.” 

Although the original context speaks of Jacob’s descendants in the Exodus from Egypt hundreds of years before Hosea, Matthew correctly applies the prophesy here to Christ, hundreds of years after Hosea. 

God’s Word is true, whether heard in its entirety by the original hearer, or as single fact of prophesy addressed to a reader hundreds or even thousands of years later. This is an unavoidable truth of our timeless God: Originally fulfilled prophesy still has application in the life of a believer, no matter the timeline

What is even more, He uses the actions of simple ordinary believers – sometimes as unlikely a man as Joseph, sometimes as unlikely a woman as Mary – to fulfill that same word – sometimes in a greater manner than when it was originally given! So great are His promises! Truly it is written, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

I believe the promises of God enough to venture an eternity on them.

Isaac Watts

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

What has God asked of you? What has He promised you?  Thank God that He would use you to fulfill His promise to bring the blessing of Himself to all peoples.

Danger (Matthew 2:12-13)

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Leaving Mary and Joseph’s residence in Bethlehem, the Magi had been personally  instructed by Herod to return to him and report. But Matthew records their next action, “…having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” 

The language does appear to indicate that they had a common dream, but the content of that dream we are not told. We are however bluntly told the content of another dream – in the next verse; ”When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”  

God warns the Magi about Herod, and then (and it is a separate occasion, at least one day apart) warns Joseph about Herod. Both Gentile and Hebrew are given specific instructions through a dream to avoid crossing paths with Herod. That is something worth thinking about. 

Quite aside from the significant missiological implication discussed in the previous study, there is a huge theological implication – for what we are reading is that omnipresent, omniscient and omnipowerful God is supernaturally warning His followers that Herod is bent toward wickedness – even to the degree that God wants His followers (or at least these particular followers) to avoid him. One might even say that God is aware that Herod is destined to shed blood, that He does not intend to stop him, and that God is likewise determined to also save these few out of all who will suffer. 

That is a lot to take in, and how it all fits in alongside God’s compassionate nature and His expressed mercy is a mystery. Certainly is head-scratching to us, who do not think as He thinks. But it is no more a mystery than the reality that He has saved and is saving some, but not all. As Paul wrote in Romans, “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

That which God does, does not always make sense to us. Perhaps it should not, because we who are limited could not possibly figure Him or His plans out. As Isaiah wrote, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  What we do know is that in light of all He has revealed and all He has done and all He is doing – our ways are to consider and to worship, to take heed and obey. We certainly cannot second-guess Him, for to us has been given a greater salvation than rescue from Herod. Indeed, the Word says to us, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  And for us, that is enough.


Once a man has truly experienced the mercy of God in his life he will henceforth aspire only to serve.

Charles Spurgeon


Meditate on the great and wonderful mercy God has shown you. How are you showing mercy to others?

Dreams (Matthew 2:11-12)

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The Magi have traveled a very long way to see the Messiah. Now they come to the climax of their trip. As usual, Matthew is concise and to the point. The story of the Magi concludes in a staccato burst of information, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”  All of this information is easy to grasp, for it involves real people doing physical things (seeing, bowing, opening, presenting) with very tangible items (house, child, treasure, gifts). 

But then Matthew notes, “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”

The dream is different. It is not like the other components in the conclusion of the Magi’s story. Dreams are internal and private and not tangible at all. Dreams are about ideas. Matthew is making sure we know that just as the story of the Magi started with supernatural communication (the very public and tangible star leading them to Christ), so it ends with a supernatural communication. 

What the Magi experience is actually common in the Scriptures. The Lord spoke to Abraham while he was sleeping (Gen 15:12), He spoke to Jacob in a dream (Gen 28:12, 31:8). He spoke to Joseph repeatedly in dreams (Gen 37:5,9). All through the Scripture we read of Him speaking to His people in dreams and visions. And actually, not only His people! We also read how God speaks to Gentiles through dreams. He spoke to Abimelech (Gen 20:3), Laban (Gen 31:24), Pharaoh (Gen 41:1) and Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:1). God speaks in dreams to all manner of people. In fact, it is no secret that in our day, God is speaking to many of the lost children of Ishmael (the Muslims) in dreams and visions, telling them of Jesus, that they might think twice about Jesus and ultimately be saved by Jesus.  

In his book, A Wind in the House of Islam, David Garrison asserts that in our day, God is speaking to Muslims around the world through dreams and visions of Jesus Christ. As Muslims seek out what the experience of their dream meant, they find themselves interacting with Christians and being introduced to the Kingdom of God through Christ. 

When Garrison’s book came out in 2014, it sparked a wave of wonder. It wasn’t that no one thought God could speak through dreams – He’s been doing that since the patriarchs – but that no one thought He would speak to multiple people through dreams with a common meaning to a common cause. It was as though people were astonished that Joel 2:28 could have application on non-Christians, even though no less than the apostle Peter applied it to non-Christians in Acts chapter 2.

We should not be disturbed by that. God is gracious to all who honestly seek Him. Perhaps He uses dreams and visions only because they are a means that people think twice about. This is one way we can know God is speaking to us – He speaks using different media over time, that we might “get” the message and not overlook it.

Such is His way. First God speaks in a public way to “everyone who has ears” – perhaps a sermon preached to dozens or hundreds of others, or something you hear broadcast on the radio, or a passage in His widely available Word – and then there is the very personal application that His Spirit gives to you. Always, what starts as a publicly communicated message ends in deeply personal application.

Dreams are just dreams – they are no substitute for God’s written Word. But when a dream lines up with what God has told you in His Word and by His Spirit, you know you ought to pay attention.

Marcus Verbrugge

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Has God ever spoke to you or to one of your friends in a dream?  How did you know it was God and not just a wild dream or a demonic influence?  How did you respond then?  How will you respond if He does speak to you in a dream? For in Joel 2:28 the Word says, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” 

Giving (Matthew 2:11)

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Human life is more than physical existence. It is also spiritual, and at the same time mental/emotional, and at the same time, highly relational. Our worship ideally reflects that. In fact, it could be argued that it must be a two or more faceted act, involving both your body and your mind, or your spirit and your emotions, or some other permutation of the various aspects of your humanity. We see this in the Scriptures all the time – someone is bowing at the same time as they are confessing, or standing and singing, or deeply moved emotionally while spiritually focused. If our worship only involves one aspect of who we are, one must question if it is truly worship, or if it is mere blind and unthinking obedience to tradition and expectation.

Matthew records the Magi following the supernaturally moving star until, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

Although it is the first  time we read of it, the Magi actually were actually  worshipping the whole time they were on the journey. For the journey itself meant both their physical movement to follow the star and their constant mental focus on enduring the hardship of travel for the opportunity to see Christ the King. This culminates not only in their bowing down, but in their sacrifice of costly gifts. 

And they were costly gifts, not tokens. Gold we all know the value of. One commentator adds, “Frankincense was a luxury import, the rosin of a tree which grew in Arabia, India, and Somalia. Myrrh, similarly, was the rosin of a tree which grew in Arabia and Ethiopia. These rosins had a wide range of uses from ritual use in cultic practice and in magic, to use at wedding ceremonies and for cosmetic purposes, to consumption as spices or medicinally.” Such things are never easy to obtain and always expensive. This is reflected in Matthew’s narrative, which tells us they opened something (the Greek word for ‘treasure’ indicates a place where something – usually something of value – is kept), and then presented gifts to Him. 

One always sacrifices for what one loves – be it time, talent or treasure. In the Magi’s case, their worship is particularly meaningful because it is the climax of a long journey of worship, and because it involves both their spirits (rejoicing at having found Him), their bodies (bowing down and lifting treasure) and their minds (purposing to give valued possessions). It is the giving of something acquired through the use of their talent(s) and a sacrifice of both time and treasure. 

They loved much, and they were blessed much, so they gave much.  

In all of my years of service to my Lord, I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised. That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability to out give God. Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him, He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.

Charles Spurgeon


Giving is a willful act of worship. Worship God, and give of what you have generously.

Worship (Matthew 2:9-11)

Adoration by the Magi – Albrecht Dürer 

The Magi were following the star, and the star did not fail them, ”the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.”  It was not a fixed object in the sky – it moved. It was not shining during the day, but as all stars do, it shined in the dark. It went ahead of them, allowing them to travel in the cool of the night and leading them to the very house they sought, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” 

That this is a period of time after Christ’s birth is clear – Mary and her child are now in a house instead of a stable. That it wasn’t long after Christ’s birth is also clear – Joseph and Mary had started their journey in Nazareth (see Luke 2:4), but they are still in Bethlehem. Whose house they are at we are not told. But we are told that the Magi found it by God’s miraculous grace to them. We are also party to what they did when they saw Mary and Jesus. They bowed down, and worshipped Him. They had come to God’s elect – the real king of God’s people. Recognizing that, they humble themselves by bowing down, and they lift up their souls in worship of Him.

This is the first time in Scripture we read of anyone worshipping Jesus. One would’ve thought that Jesus’ first worshippers would be from His own people group – the Jews.  But they are not– they are men from the east. The fact that the worshippers are Gentile is highly significant. Jesus is – as the late Don Richardson once pointed out – a Messiah for all people, not only the Jewish nation. Exactly how many nations the Magi represented is unknown, for we are never told specifically that they are all from the same ethnic region, nor are we even told how many of them there were. Everyone only assumes it was three because of the three different types of gifts mentioned. It matters not. He was promised long before the Hebrew nation was even founded (see God’s promise of a conquerer over Satan in Gen 3:16), and He was spoken about as a light for all nations hundreds of years before His physical entry on the world stage in Isaiah’s prophesy: “Darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”  Now here He is – and a light actually guided the Magi to His birthplace!  

One thing is sure. Jesus is worthy of worship from all people. Before He dies on a cross, before He completes His ministry, even before He speaks a single word. He is God’s own Son, born into our world to welcome all – from every people group – to become God’s children! 

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

King David (Psalm 2:10-11)


Today, spend time with the Lord in worship of Him. Seek to practice humility.

Noticing (Matthew 2:9-10)

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Matthew’s story now shifts back to the Magi, who had traveled from their homeland in the east, following the star. On arriving in Jerusalem they stopped and asked Herod – who was king of the Jews by Roman decree – where the new king would be born. After he consulted others, Herod told them, expecting them to later return and report what they’d found. Armed with the missing piece of information (that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem), they left to narrow down their search. 

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”

Understanding the background to the above verse, it occurs to the reader that the arriving Magi must earlier have come to a point or place where they either couldn’t discern exactly when they were directly under the star, or where they couldn’t find it in the sky any longer at all. Why else would they have even thought to ask Herod for directions? But after that interaction they go back on their way, and the star again appears. This, more than any other fact, leads one to conclude that the star was not a convergence of planets (as some have suggested) or some other kind of natural but infrequent phenomenon. It was a supernatural sign, appearing, disappearing and moving according to the will of God, entirely for His purposes. 

Those purposes included motivating the Magi in the first place, leading them to Herod to ask a heart-proving question, overwhelming them with joy and guiding them to the exact place Jesus was. That is a lot to ask of a simple star. But it is not too much to ask of God’s personal leading. 

God is always faithful to lead those who want to see Him to Himself. Along the way, He will use all manner of circumstance and signs – be a dream or an overheard phrase or a bizarre set of coincidences or even a supernatural star in the sky – to do so. And all along the way, He uses the faith of those He is leading – however small and incomplete it may be – to accomplish things for His glory. 

Some of those things are wonderful and elusive – like looking up and seeing the star  or hearing/noticing something in His Word we never noticed before. Some are confusing – like suddenly not seeing the star, and some – like speaking to a foreign king – are fraught with danger. All of them require action on the part of the believer, be it starting a journey or asking an authority for direction. But this we have to know: whenever we ask for God’s leading and then take action as He leads, it always ends in our joy, for such action always lead to worship of Him

Many say they can’t get God’s guidance, when they really mean they wish He would show them an easier way.

Winkie Pratney

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

How has God lead you in the past? How do you expect Him to lead you today? Thank Him for the many ways He does lead.

Selfishness (Matthew 2:7-8)

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Selfishness takes many forms. One of the most destructive of those forms is the passive-aggressive manipulation of others. On the scale most live their lives, we excuse that as mere office politics. It’s true of course that we are not all political animals, and we can do our level best to avoid such manipulative mind games. Yet by nature of life in society, we will experience them. We all live in a fallen world, and when rulers and those in authority play ‘office politics’, it is no longer a game. Lives and livelihoods are at stake. 

Herod had met the Magi searching for the new king of the Jews. He had consulted with the chief priests and teachers of the Jewish law, and found that Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”   

Here we see Herod’s true character revealed. He calls them secretly, for he does not trust even his closest advisors. He collects their knowledge – the exact time the star appeared – so he can plan accordingly. He gives them what they are seeking (the location of Messiah’s birth), but with a caveat topped with a lie. A most offensive lie, for its subject is not another person or even a political figure. Herod looks to deceive God Himself! 

This is classic fallen human behaviour – a passive aggressive play with unwitting strangers under the guise of the purest of motives. Herod opens his mouth and lies pour forth. No doubt can remain as to who is Herod’s god. But while Herod is revealed as a disciple of hell in these verses, we can also see God’s character revealed. 

For his part, Herod thought to outsmart the ‘wise men of the east’, and to do so by himself. He called a secret meeting, and issued his secret order. How characteristic of his inflated ego! At the same time, God was outsmarting Herod in a grand way. God had his servants follow a very public star in a very public sky, and had the Magi publicly enter the palace to make a public request. What men do in private so no one can see, God does in public without anyone knowing. 

The funny thing is that all the while, Herod had only his own ego preventing him from encountering the Lord. The occasion of meeting the Magi should have been seen as an invitation to bring him into the presence of God. It would’ve allowed him to personally see the extent of God’s great love for all people. But instead, his own sin cuts him off from God and his fallen nature is put out on display for everyone to know. 

Herod thought to play the Magi to the advantage of his own twisted thinking. Instead, God providentially orchestrated all, to the advantage of His own glory.

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

Jesus (Luke 12:2-3)

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Today, take time to not just hear, but truly listen to those God sends to you. How can you impart something of His grace to them?

Significance (Matthew 2:6)

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In telling us how they replied to King Herod’s question about where Jesus would be   born, Matthew quotes the chief priests and teachers of the law (Matt 2:5-6). The chief priests and teachers themselves are quoting Micah, who is himself quoting the Lord, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

What Micah actually said is a bit more comprehensive in it’s entirety; “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” 

Knowing the fuller context of what Micah said is key to understanding the full impact of what is happening in Matthew’s account. The King of the Jews to be born will not be a regular king. Micah is announcing that this king will appear after a time of apparent abandonment (and at the time of Matthew’s day, there had not been a prophet in Israel with God’s words for some four hundred years) – a king who will gather the rest of Israel (that is, the dispersion) back, and will then rule not only Israel, but the whole world. 

Of course, that’s all a revelation to Herod, and quite likely to most who read Matthew’s account. It was always there, but anyone who didn’t know all that God had said would’ve thought that Bethlehem was a small town with no real significance. Anyone who did know what God had said would’ve understood that this small place would become the birthplace of the King of Kings. That’s a widely different viewpoint – a viewpoint that can only seen with God’s words in mind.  

People sometimes think their lives are meaningless and small. But we are made in His image, and He did not design us for an eternity of small things. What we do is significant, because who we are is significant. The very fact that we are made in His image is testimony to that. 

We might not think we are significant at the present moment, because we have not yet understood all that God has spoken over us or about us. But such things will be revealed in His good time. Just as God once said to a young man named Jeremiah, “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.”  If we know Him, we can know that He likewise chose us, for “from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“There is no one who is insignificant in the purpose of God.”

Alistar Begg


Spend some time in quiet worship of Him.

Negligence (Matthew 2:4-6)

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Looking back through the years, one can see that there are certain seasons in life when one spiritually grew significantly as a person. There is a commonality to all such seasons.  They are always times when one realizes the huge delta between knowing what one believes and actually acting according to said belief. Times when we restructure our habits and/or lifestyle and/or finances to match what we say we stand for. 

Unfortunately, those times are rare, not normative. It is the human condition to say one thing and do another, to believe one thing and act different to said belief. It has been so since Adam fell, and it remains so even today. Unrealized hypocrisy is common to every fallen human being. It is not a surprise then to know that it was also common to the learned men of God’s Word in Herod’s day. For though they knew exactly where Messiah was to be born, they were not looking for him, or for signs of his coming.  

“When he [Herod] had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” 

The chief priests and teachers of the law evidently had something that the Magi did not – they had access to the book of Micah. Micah had prophesied that Bethlehem – and not the Bethlehem in the north (Zebulun) but the Bethlehem of Judah, the city of David’s line – would be the birthplace of Messiah. Just how common was that knowledge at the time in Israel is unknown, but it had been seven hundred years since Micah was written, so one expects that most every worshipping Jew had heard it, even if such news had not reached the far east where the Magi originated. 

The fact is that the spiritual authorities knew this and yet evidently had neither understood the prophesy of the star as a sign of His appearing (Numbers 24:17), nor looked up during the night sky (things that the Magi must have done, even though they were Gentiles). That tells us that they were not looking for Messiah at all – let alone searching for His coming in Bethlehem! Truly, it is a sad state of affairs when spiritual leaders are not putting their faith into practice, and when those who do not have access to the whole of Scripture sacrifice more time and energy into searching out God and His Kingdom than the people of God do! 

It is all a stunning indictment of their spiritual negligence, and it makes Jesus’ later condemnation of Israels’ spiritual leadership all the more striking. For here at His birth is God’s indictment, but His judgment is put off for at thirty years until Jesus starts ministering in the flesh. That meant that Israel’s spiritual leadership had three full decades to realize how they missed the greatest event in all of human history. They had literally all of their careers to repent.

They did not. 

It is no wonder Jesus would be so harsh with them. 

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?  I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.

Jeremiah 17:9-10

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Have you been putting off something the Lord been speaking to you about? 

Do so no longer.