An Intentional Question
Perry Duggar |
The wise men and King Herod asked similar questions for very different reasons. The meaning of questions—theirs and ours—are determined by their intention.
An Intentional Question
Christmas Questions – Message 4
December 22, 2019
- Introduction: We continue our series, Christmas Questions.
- A. The questions children ask at Christmas are often entertaining and quite insightful.
- Ex.: “How do the toys for all of the world’s kids fit into Santa’s red sack?”
- Questions often reveal more than answers, because they expose what the askers are thinking about or interested in, what’s on their minds and in their hearts.
- This morning, I will deal with two similar questions from two different sources asked for two very different reasons.
- Matthew 2:2 (NLT)—Wise Men: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?… ”
- Matthew 2:4 (NLT)—King Herod: …“Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
- The true meaning of the questions—and ours—are determined by their purpose, which is why the title to this message is An Intentional Question.
- My intentions toward Jesus are revealed by my…
- #1 - Resolve to seek Him. (Matthew 2:1-8; C/R: Psalm 10:4; Proverbs 8:17; Jeremiah 29:13; Hebrews 11:6)
- Matthew 2:1a (NLT)—Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. …
- Herod (also called Herod the Great) ruled Israel and Judah from 37–34 B.C.
- He was not racially Jewish; he was an Arab from Idumea, the southern part of Israel, a descendant of Esau (referred to as an Edomite). (Gen. 25:19–34)
- Herod was Jewish religiously, but only because the Idumeans were conquered and forced to convert to Judaism in 135 B.C.; but he did not practice the Jewish faith.
- He was despised by Jews who identified him as a representative of Rome, since he was appointed king of the Jews by the Roman senate and confirmed by Caesar Augustus.
- Herod treated the Jews ruthlessly and mercilessly taxed them to please the Roman Emperor and to finance construction projects throughout the Roman Empire, including rebuilding the Temple to gain Jewish favor, but they continued to resent him.
- Matthew 2:1b (NLT)—…About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, …
- Eastern lands likely refers to the land of the Medes and Persians (modern-day Iran) or Babylon (modern day Iraq).
- These wise men, also called magi, were learned scholars who were a blend of scientist and sorcerer, practicing both medicine and occult magic.
- They combined the science of astronomy with the superstition of astrology as they studied the sky searching for signs foretelling the future.
- They were not kings (despite Christmas carols and cards), but they did serve as advisors to Babylonian and Persian kings, providing counsel on matters of science, law, mathematics, philosophy and religion, also interpreting dreams and divining wisdom.
- Matthew 2:2 (NLT)—[Wise men asking], “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” [Didn’t follow.]
- They may have come to Jerusalem because it was the governmental center of Israel.
- How did they know about a star that would announce the birth of a new Messiah?
- Remember that Daniel a Jewish exile in Babylon 600 years before Jesus’ birth, interpreted a king’s dream and became chief over the kingdom’s wise men. (Dan.2:48)
- Perhaps Daniel informed other wise men about the prophecy in the Hebrew scriptures that predicted the appearance of a Messiah, a new king in Israel. (Num.24:17)
- In any event, God sent these magi astronomers a sign they would not miss, calling them to come, to seek, the Savior of Israel. [God does to us as well; how did He call you?]
- Matthew 2:3 (NLT)—King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.
- These magi presented a great political threat to Herod, because they were seeking a newborn king of the Jews, but he was the king of the Jews!
- They may have also represented a potential military threat, if accompanied by soldiers, which they likely were, since they traveled 800 miles or more, across vast stretches of desert and lands occupied by hostile peoples and controlled by the Romans.
- Since these magi needed provisions and protection, it is certain that they traveled with a large caravan or even a small army, riding camels or Arabian horses, or both.
- Herod was protective of his power, paranoid of anyone who might threaten his position—and he responded to such perceived threats with cruelty and murder.
- Matthew 2:4-6 (NLT)—4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you [Micah 5:2] who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’ ” [2 Sam.5:2]
- Notice these Jewish religious leaders knew where the birth of the Messiah would be (as did the people; John 7:42), but showed no interest in seeking Him themselves.
- Matthew 2:7-8 (NLT)—7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
- Herod had no interest in worshiping the newborn king—and didn’t intend to seek Him.
- He was only interested in the time of the star’s appearance, to know the age of the threat to his throne so he could identify—and eliminate—this potential rival.
- Some seek information about Jesus to help them find Him, so they can believe; others, with a bias against faith, study only to confirm their rejection of Jesus!
- The wise men sought the Messiah, expending time and money to locate the Savior, but the king only wanted to know about Him to end a perceived threat to his throne.
- APP.: Do you seek Jesus to believe in Him or to know Him in more a intimate way?
My intentions toward Jesus are revealed by my…
- #2 - Response to Jesus. (Matthew 2:9-11; C/R: 1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 95:6; Romans 12:1; Hebrews 12:28)
- Matthew 2:9-10 (NLT)—9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem [6 mi. south]. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!
- A light the magi referred to as a star reappeared and guided them to Bethlehem, then to the place where Jesus’ family now lived. (So it couldn’t be an actual star.)
- The Greek word for star (aster) was also used figuratively to represent any great brilliance or radiance; perhaps this was the brightness of God’s glory. (Shekinah; Ex.40:34; Ezek.10:4), possibly the same light that surrounded the shepherds (Lk.2:9).
- The wise men received the assistance they needed to reach the Messiah, so do we.
- God gives us friends, churches, books, even unusual circumstances to lead us to Him.
- Matthew 2:11 (NLT)—11 They entered the house (not stable or guest room) and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
- By the time the wise men arrived, Jesus’ family had moved into a residence.
- Nothing about this child’s appearance or circumstances indicated that He was the future king of the Jews, but these wise men bowed down and worshiped Jesus, then presented Him with expensive gifts that were appropriate for a king.
- The magi recognized the true identity of the baby by revelation from God, so they responded appropriately—with worship—humbling themselves and bestowing gifts!
- King Herod didn’t come, wouldn’t worship, and offered this baby nothing but death.
- APP.: Do you recognize Jesus, not simply as the baby born to poor parents in a charming Christmas story, but rather, as the Son of God, the divine King of Kings, and Lord or Lords, who came to earth as human to save us from our sins?
- If we know Jesus is our Lord and Savior, we will worship Him and offer Him our lives.
My intentions toward Jesus are revealed by my…
- #3 - Reaction to God’s direction. (Matthew 2:12,16-18; C/R: 1 Samuel 12:15; John 8:44; Acts 5:29; James 1:22)
- Matthew 2:12 (NLT)—When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
- When God directed the wise men, they obeyed, even at great risk to their lives![Ac.5:29]
- Matthew 2:16 (NLT)—Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.
- The star must have appeared up to two years before.
- Enraged by the magi’s defiant refusal to facilitate his plan to assassinate Jesus, Herod reacted with violent fury by sending soldiers to slay all of Bethlehem’s infant boys.
- Herod had murdered numerous people regarded as rivals to his throne, including three of his sons, his favorite wife (of 10), two of her brothers and her mother.
- Matthew 2:17-18 (NLT)—17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” [Jer.31:15; likely 10-30 boys, based on the population of that small village]
- The wise men’s Christmas Question was asked to find the newborn king so they could worship Him!
- Herod’s Christmas Question was intended to enable him to execute a threat to his throne.
- APP.: The wise men obeyed, the king rebelled, what do you do when confronted by God’s direction?