Joseph’s Third Dream

Matthew 2:19-21. ” But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, arise, and take the young Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel, for they are dead which sought the young Child’s life. And he arose, and took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.”

The picture below is an artist’s conception of the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, begun by Herod’s father and completed by Herod.  He must have had some pretty strong abilities and talents to accomplish so much.  Too bad he was more interested in his own rise to fame and power than he was in anything else!

Herod was dead.  His son Archelaus now occupied the throne, and it was safe for Joseph to take his little family back home. There has been a good deal of discussion and controversy about when Herod’s death actually took place.  I don’t know if it’s terribly important for us here, but if you’re interested, here’s a starting place for you to do some research: 

http://home.comcast.net/~murrellg/Herod.htm

And if, like me, you aren’t familiar with the B.C.E. abbreviation, it stand for Before the Common Era. It’s a politically correct way to leave Christ out of the equation.  We used to say B.C., meaning before Christ.  

Another interesting discussion involves the manner of Herod’s death. It was pretty gruesome, by all accounts.  Here’s another link, if you’re interested: 

http://agards-bible-timeline.com/king-herod-the-great-new-facts.html

Remember, as you read these sites, that the Christian calendar wasn’t invented until A.D. 525; that means the date we traditionally consider as Christ’s birth will not be consistent with some other historical timelines, so don’t be confused by what seems to be a discrepancy.  Different calendars count time differently. 

Again, God spoke to Joseph in a dream and told him to take his family back to Israel, because Herod was dead.  Joseph, obedient as always, once again packed up his family and headed north and east, heading to his homeland. 

For me, the take-away from this short passage is Joseph’s obedience.  Three times God spoke to him in a dream; three times he obeyed without hesitation.  He was a pretty amazing man, and we’ll see a little bit more of him in my next post.  Joseph tends to fade into the background fairly soon, but he leaves a powerful example for us to follow. 

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

Matthew 2:16-18. “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and 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 enquired of the wise men.  Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by  Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”

Sin always takes you farther than you intended to go.  It is like a whirlpool that is wide and slow-moving at the top, but it grows narrower and moves faster as it reached the bottom, and sucks into itself anything it traps on the surface.  I grew up in Minnesota farm country, and watched more than one funnel-shaped tornado pull up whatever was in its path.  That’s what sin does.  It destroys everything in its path, and there is very little time for escape.

Herod fell into a violent rage when he realized he’d been snookered by the wise men.  His anger at them was so great that he ordered the massacre of all the children (more accurately interpreted, all the male children) from two years old and under, in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas.

Herod, child, baby, boy, bethlehem, Slaughter, Killing, murder, Jesus, innocents, Christmas, children, babies, boys, murders, christmases

Imagine with me, if you will, this tiny little village about six miles from Jerusalem.  It was a quiet place, where families knew each other and many of them were likely related.  Going about their daily business, they are startled when someone comes running through the village yelling, “Soldiers! Hide the women and children!  Roman soldiers are coming, and they’re in a hurry!  Run!  Hide!”

But there are no safe places, and the soldiers come thundering into the village scattering people in all directions, scooping up toddlers where they find them, and killing without mercy.  Imagine the mothers who run screaming, carrying children,  unable to move out of the way fast enough to protect their precious babies.  Imagine a woman cowering inside her home, perhaps hiding behind a door or a curtain, heart pounding out of her chest as she hears the soldiers coming closer.  A tall, blood-spattered Roman enters her house and ransacks the place, looking for the child he suspects is there.  Finally, he discovers her hiding place, grabs the little boy from her arms, holds the baby by his feet and dashes the child’s head against the stones as the helpless mother screams in agony and hopelessness.

Too graphic?  Was it really that bad?

It sure was.  This was a massacre, and it came with very little warning and no defense available.  We don’t know how many little boys were murdered to appease Herod’s wrath.  We only know that in order to destroy one Child, he ordered them all to die.  Horrible, evil man that he was,  sacrificing many for one does not seem to have troubled him in the slightest.

This incident fulfills the prophecy in Jeremiah 31:15, which reflects on the Old Testament Rachel weeping for her son as well as the prophecy of this attempt by Satan to destroy  Jesus.

I think of other, more recent events in which children were slaughtered.  The evil behind these deeds is unspeakable.  And then I think of Jesus’ words,  in  Luke 17: 1-2. “Then said He unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”

An Award

Someone has very kindly nominated my blog for the 2012 Blogger of the Year award.  I am honored to be listed in the company of others who have put their hearts and souls into their writing.  Thank you, Anna, at http://godswordforwomen.wordpress.com. It has been a great pleasure to meet some truly wonderful people in the blogosphere. I would like to pass this award on to the following: 

The Shepherd’s Presence

Mustard Seed Budget

Morning Story and Dilbert

God’s Word for Women

Here is the link to a page that will tell you all about this award: http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/our-awards/blog-of-the-year-2012-award/

The ‘rules’ for this award are simple:

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award

2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.

3 Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award – http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/our-awards/blog-of-the-year-2012-award/   and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)

4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them

5 You can now also join our Facebook group – click ‘like’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience

6 As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

There’s more to see–you can add a badge to your bog if you like, and nominate your own favorites.  

I think it’s pretty cool to be able to honor other bloggers and introduce them to people who may not have found them yet!

Thanks, Anna 🙂

 

The Wisdom of the Wise Men and Joseph

Matthew 2:12-15. “And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.  And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.  When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt Have I called My Son.”

Did the Magi realize that Herod was an evil man, and that they should not trust him?  We aren’t told so.  Whether or not they would have returned to Herod, if left on their own, we can’t guess.  What we do know is that they showed their great wisdom when they obeyed the voice God in a dream, and used a different route to return home. 

Have you wondered if they all had the same dream?  Did God speak to each of them separately, and did they discuss it in the morning as the camels were being loaded for the return journey?  Was there hesitation in any of them, feeling they should honor Herod’s request?  Would you and I have analyzed those dreams, dissected them, and decided it was just a coincidence? 

Apparently they were in complete accord, because they didn’t go back through Jerusalem.  They didn’t report the whereabouts of the Child to the illegitimate king.  They circumvented him and quietly returned to their own land.  

In obedience, there was great wisdom. 

Joseph had a dream, too.  He must have been getting used to that by this time.  The angel of the Lord came to him again and instructed him to run away to Egypt because Herod was looking for blood.  Apparently,  Joseph didn’t hesitate.  He packed up his little family and left in the dark, heading for Egypt as he’d been instructed.  It wasn’t the first time a Hebrew had gone to Egypt to escape murder, was it?  The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is one of the most complete types of the life of Christ in the Bible.  There are many fascinating parallels. 

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The prophecy mentioned in the last line of verse 15 is from Hosea 11:1, by the way.  The prophecy is clearly concerning Israel, but as with many Old Testament prophecies, there is more than one meaning.  Hosea spoke these words about 700 years before the birth of Christ and His flight into Egypt.  In Exodus 4:22 we read that Israel is God’s first born Son; in Jeremiah 31:9 we read, “I am a Father to Israel and Ephraim is my first born.” Christ and Israel are closely identified in the prophetic Word. In Isaiah, we learn that Messiah is called the Servant of the Lord, and Israel is called by the same name.  It is through His obedient suffering and death that Israel becomes at last the righteous servant of Jehovah during the end times.  Israel disappears, it would seem, during the Age of Grace; the time is coming, and may it be soon, when Israel once again will become prominent  as God’s chosen people.  

Jesus’ life is a picture of Israel’s history. Israel  went to Egypt, the house of bondage; Jesus went to Egypt to escape Herod. Egypt was not a friendly place for Israel; in Jesus’ time, it was no different.  Jews were persona non grata. Israel was called out of Egypt to travel the wilderness to be tested and tried; Jesus goes through His own wilderness to be tested and tried, but He went through it all without sin, far different from Israel. 

There is victory in Jesus!

 

Gifts

Matthew 2:11. “And when they were 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 unto Him gifts:  Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

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I want to take a moment and look at these gifts that the Magi brought to Jesus. Every word of scripture is significant because every word was inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

When the Magi found Jesus, it is stated that they found the young Child, and Mary His mother.  The Child stands first because He was the more important of the two.  We are never instructed in God’s Word to worship the mother; we are to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him only. Philippians 2:10 tells us that at His Name every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; only at His Name.  None other. 

Before the Magi presented their gifts, they fell down and worshiped.  Surely there is a lesson for us here. God is much more interested in our obedience than He is in sacrifice (I Sam. 15:22).  That is, He values our hearts’ worship more than He does whatever other gifts we may bring Him, for without our true worship there is no true obedience. 

I can imagine, though scripture does not tell us, that there was a deep, profound silence for a period of time as the Magi gazed upon the One they had traveled so far to find.  What they must have thought and felt at this moment is, I believe, beyond our understanding.  To gaze on the face of the One they believed was God incarnate must have simply taken all words from their mouths. 

Their gifts to the King reflected the custom of bringing many gifts on a royal visit.  The nature of the gifts is important because they were in full harmony with the character of the King. 

The gold speaks of His divine and kingly glory, this One Who left the realms of heavenly splendor that is beyond our imagination.  Gold has long represented the beauty, wealth, and power of kings and kingdoms. 

The frankincense, of great price and value, spoke of the fine fragrance of the character of Jesus Christ. It is an aromatic resin, used in many applications today including perfumes and cosmetics. It was considered the holy anointing oil of kings for centuries, and was typically owned only by those of great wealth and  position. 

Myrrh is the balsamic juice of the Arabian myrtle, which is used for burial, and speaks of His death. 

Isaiah 60:6 tells us of the coming of many from the East to worship Messiah, bearing gold and frankincense.  Myrrh is not mentioned in this verse.  That is because this is a Messianic prophecy, speaking of the time when Messiah has come again in power and in glory, and is the King of Kings. The time of need for myrrh has long passed. Isa. 60 goes on to speak of a time of great darkness that will cover the earth, the time of the Tribulation.  This chapter tells us that there will be multitudes coming to worship Messiah, the King of kings, when the Tribulation is passed and Christ comes to set things right. Read it with this understanding, and you will be excited and blessed.  This old world will not always be in the mess we’re in now! 

So this passage in Isaiah is not a prophecy of the coming of the Magi to worship Jesus, but is instead a faint foreshadowing of things to come in the end times. The Magi were biblical types of the many who would come not to Bethlehem, but to Jerusalem to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Messiah, Lord. 

Isn’t it exciting to see how every word in scripture confirms and explains every concept in His Word!  There are no contradictions. 

 

A Little More on the Star; King Herod

Matt. 2: 4.” And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.”

I’m going to give you a link that will help you if you’re interested in a more in-depth study of the Star of the East.  You can read all about it here: 

http://lamblion.com/articles/articles_first2.php

This is an article that goes into much more depth than I want to do here.  Today, my main focus is on that dreadful man, Herod the Great. 

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(Someday I’m going to figure out how type around a picture!)

Herod the Great feared for his throne–which didn’t rightly belong to him.  The citizens of Jerusalem were troubled partly, I’m sure, by wondering what this bloodthirsty ruler would do to retain his power. Herod was a king who was the enemy of the rightful heir to David’s throne, and he knew his seat was precarious.

When the men from the East approached Herod, seeking the birthplace of the King of the Jews, he was indeed “troubled.”  That’s putting it mildly.  There was nothing at all that he would not do to protect his power.  He called all the religious leaders of the Jews together and asked what they knew.  They told him (v. 5-6) about the prophecies of Bethlehem, and the Governor Who would rise out of Judah. (Micah 5). 

My main resource, Gaebelein,  believes that the wise men were Gentiles.  I mentioned in my last post that they may have been descendants of the Jews taken into captivity in Babylon, but I will bow to a greater authority on this one.  His belief fits very well with the fact that Jerusalem had remained ignorant for months of the birth of Jesus, while these Gentiles were traveling across the deserts to see Him.  It was, then, Gentiles who introduced Jesus to the Jewish authorities, perhaps typifying the later rejection by the Jews, and the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles under Paul’s ministry. 

What strikes me at this point in the story is that these religious Jews had the manuscripts, knew the prophecy, and yet apparently walked out of that meeting with Herod and went about their own business.  Head knowledge, never reaching the heart.  How often do we recite well-known scripture such as, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10) and then busily tend to our daily lives, never really pondering the depth of meaning in such a well-known passage!

Herod had an unsavory history.  He was not even completely Jewish.  He was the son of an Idumean man named Antipater, and a woman named Cyprus who was the daughter of an Arab sheik.  He gained the throne in Jerusalem  by ruthlessly winning the favor of the Roman Octavian, who later became Augustus Caesar.  He gained the appellation “the Great”  because of his ambitious building programs in both Jerusalem and Caesarea, even restoring the Temple in Jerusalem.  That work didn’t last very long, being completely destroyed by Rome in 70 a.d. 

Now, faced with a very real threat to his position, we see the truly evil character of Herod. He piously–or impiously, really–inquired of the wise men exactly the time of the appearance of the Star, saying that they were to go to Bethlehem and find the Child.  When they would come back and tell Herod where He was, then Herod would also go and worship Him (Matt. 2:7-8).

The wise men, however, were not naive.  Next time, we’ll see what they did and how Herod reacted. 

 

 

More on the Wise Men

Matt. 2: 1-3. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, 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.”

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Tradition has the wise men  appearing at the stable in Bethlehem with the shepherds, worshiping the new-born Baby.  It makes for a lovely creche at Christmas time, but it is not likely to have happened that way.  It is much more probable that the Magi found Him later, when He was perhaps a year old, maybe a little older. Tradition also gives us three Magi, and sometimes labels them as kings.  The number is probably derived from the three gifts that the wise men brought;  the idea that they were kings is a little more obscure.  In all likelihood, they were not royal at all, but were scholars, astronomers/astrologers, men who had access to the Hebrew scriptures,  possibly from the time the Jews were captive in Babylon, and men who clearly understood and believed the prophesies of the birth of Messiah. So let’s take a look at the scripture and see what truths we can find there. 

The time of the appearance of the Magi in Jerusalem, not Bethlehem,  was some time after and not immediately after Jesus’ birth.  The correct translation of  Matt. 2:1 is not “when Jesus was born,” but “Jesus having been born.”  The verb tense is important, because it indicates a lapse of time between His birth and the appearance of the Magi.  Also, the Bible clearly tells us that the wise men appeared in Jerusalem  first, and did not go directly to Bethlehem.  There in Jerusalem, they did the logical thing and sought audience with Herod to find the One Who had been born King of the Jews. 

When they first saw His star, alerting them to the fulfillment of prophecy, they had to travel many miles over difficult terrain.  It took some time to prepare for the journey and to gather together all the people that would be needed to load packs on the animals, prepare food, and so on.  This was not a journey to be taken on the spur of the moment.

In Matt. 1:11, we are told that they found the young child, not the newborn, in the house, not the stable, with Mary His mother. Most important in this string of evidence, Herod asked the wise men exactly the time that the star had appeared.  We don’t hear their answer, but from verse 16 we can conclude that Herod had received a clear answer that let him know that the child could not be over two years old. 

Who were these wise men? How many were there?  In the Greek, they are called “Magi from the East.”  The term Magi  named a class of people who studied the occult.  It is the root word of our magic and magician.They were astrologers, interpreters of dreams, medical men, and necromancers  (those who communicated with the dead).  Among the Persians and Medes, they formed a special class of priests, and chiefly studied the stars to predict future events.  They also prepared medicines for the sick. Daniel had been made chief over these men when he was taken to Babylon. That he had such an important position, and influence over these men, makes it very easy to conclude that they had knowledge of Hebrew scriptures and prophecy.  They were not all evil sorcerers. It is apparent that some of them sought the truth.  They could even have been Jews, descendants of the Jews who had been taken into captivity in Babylon. 

We don’t know how many of them actually appeared in Jerusalem, but it is beyond doubt that the entourage consisted of much more than three men.  The passage we’re looking at today tells us that not only Herod was “troubled,” but all of Jerusalem with him.  It was not a large city by our standards, but still, it would take far more than three solitary men entering the city to cause the entire place to be troubled by their coming. 

Next time, we’ll discuss the star in the East, and Herod, who was an extremely important player in this drama.