The Cover-Up Of The Messiah – Matthew 2:1-3

Who Forgot To Tell Herod?

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

Baby Born

When the Magi from the east strolled into town, they immediately sought out Herod to learn about the new baby who was born King of the Jews.  They wanted to worship the new king.  While little is known about these Magi, or learned ones, Matthew goes out of his way to tell us they were from the East.  Philo, a Jewish philosopher and historian, whose writings have survived to this day, praised a school of Magi in the east.  He didn’t praise all of the Magi (Simon the Sorcerer was a prime example of the other Magi), but he did praise this school.  They had intimate knowledge of the natural order, and could explain this order to others.  There is a possibility that this school of Magi may have been the descendants and progeny of Daniel and his friends.  They were also seeking out a Jewish king.  Who would want to worship a Jewish king?  Perhaps someone of Jewish ancestry?

Fred A. Larson*** has placed the birth of the Messiah on June 17, 2 C.E., based on the astronomical conjunction of Jupiter and Venus as the announcement of the birth of Jesus.  If the Magi were from Babylon (about 60 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq, home to Daniel and his friends), it would have been a long journey indeed to come to Jerusalem that would have taken months.  The Greek word for child in Matthew 2:9 is paidion, which means toddler, meaning that they arrived not when Jesus was a newborn, but rather some time after that.

Location, Location, Location…

The Magi asked Herod where the child was.  Herod then consulted with the chief priests and teachers in the law, who told him that Bethlehem would be where the child was born, based on the prophet Micah.  This was what was prophesied by the prophet Micah:

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.”

3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.

There are several notable things about this prophesy:

  • The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem
  • The Messiah would be (The Son of) God (“…whose origins are from old, from ancient times”)
  • Israel would be abandoned (there was no prophet in the land from Malachi until Jesus was born, about five hundred years)
  • The rest of the brothers would return to join the Israelites (the only reason that Mary was in Bethlehem, nine months pregnant, was due to the Roman census, which drew ALL of the Israelites back to their hometowns)

Devastating Destruction

Additionally, people remembered that when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. When the people had learned that Herod heard a that new boy king had been born, and he believed it, they feared for their own children’s lives. Herod, not knowing who the baby was, ordered all of the male children the age of two years and under to be murdered in order to try to secure his throne.

Talk of the Town

Back in that day, news traveled.  People talked about everything that happened.  And something spectacular happened when Jesus was born.  Shepherds watching their flocks at night were told about the Messiah by an angel – where to find him and how.  Once they found Jesus lying in a manger, they told everyone that they could, and the Bible records that the people were amazed.  The shepherds were faithful witnesses to what they had seen.

The Magi arrived in Bethlehem on December 25, 2 B.C.E., when the Star of Bethlehem stopped in the sky over Bethlehem, as reported in the Bible.  Since Jesus was now a paidion, there had been approximately six months from the announcement of his birth by the shepherds until now.  News of this should have spread far and wide, and have been the talk of the town.  Visitors to Bethlehem, especially during the Roman census, would have probably gone to the temple to worship God, and would have told others there what had transpired the night that Jesus was born.  But the news never got to Herod, the king, just five miles up the road in Jerusalem, because the Bible records that he had to ask about it.  Did the people of Bethlehem not believe the shepherds?  Or, did they cover up the news?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will I do when I have great news to tell others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your word, for it is truth.  Show me new things in Your word that I may grow in You.  Help me to dig deeper, investigate, and substantiate Your word, so that I would be prepared to give an answer to anyone that asks.  Help me to be like the Bereans, that I would greatly desire to verify all things in Your word.  Give me a hunger for You, and help me to satisfy my hunger in prayer and in Your word.  Strengthen me this day for all that You have planned.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes: This blog has been edited for date accuracy.  The originally reported date for the arrival of the Magi was December 25, 2 C.E.  The correct year was 2 B.C.E.

***Special thanks to Fred Larson’s website, www.bethlehemstar.net, and his movie, “The Star of Bethlehem”, for much of the research that went into this.

Trust in God – Matthew 1:18-25

Sometimes Trusting God Will Place You In Very Awkward Situations

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Social Scandal

In the birth of our Lord Savior, we have (yet another) scandal.  The seed of Abraham preferred that their line be “pure” – that all of their family be of the line of Israel.  Jesus’ line has some interesting bumps in the road:

  • Rahab, a prostitute in the walled city of Jericho who helped the spies of Joshua, was the wife of Salmon.  Together, they had a famous son – Boaz
  • Ruth, the Moabitess, was the wife of Boaz.  They bore a son, Obed, who also bore a son, Jesse.  And his son was none other than King David – a man after God’s own heart.

In just two generation of the family tree of David, who was anointed by Samuel at God’s request to be the second king of Israel, we see intrigue and scandal.  Talk about your “skeletons in the closet”!   But these were Godly women who feared God, and to them it was credited as righteousness.  God is able to use anyone for His purposes as He sees fit.

And now for the latest scandal.  Even just a half a century ago, it would have been major scandal for a young woman to be found pregnant out-of-wedlock.  The shame of it drove many women to flee their homes and stay hidden until they could have the baby, often giving it up for adoption before returning to their family.

But in this case, God had appointed this very awkward event in prophecy.  And Mary did not hide, but rather endured the social maelstrom that ensued.  Gabriel had announced that she had been chosen, and she was fully submitted to the will of God.  Sometimes that means great personal sacrifice and loss.  In this case, public opinion must have been fiercely harsh towards Mary.  Yet she endured it all in wonder, for God had ordained it, and she believed God.

Honorable Husband

Now, place yourself in Joseph’s place.  Traditionally, after getting engaged, the husband-to-be would go off and build the home where the newlyweds would live in anticipation of the blessed union.  Imagine at that time coming home, and finding your wife-to-be pregnant.  What to do!  Joseph had options at his disposal.  He could have her stoned for this “alleged” misconduct.  By being pledged as Joseph’s wife, Mary was effectively classified as married for the purposes of adultery.  Joseph could very publicly end the marriage.  But Joseph, being a man of God, in his heart determined that rather than cause Mary any more difficulty, chose to divorce her quietly (end the engagement).

Imagine if you were in the military and sent off to a foreign land, ready to be married, and come home to find your wife-to-be pregnant.  How would you react?  Imagine how you would feel.  Imagine the character and self-restraint that it took for Joseph to even consider handling this quietly.  This took great courage and character.

Angelic Announcement

But God…  Those two words are the source of great amazement.  Just as it seemed that all would be ruined, God sent an angel down to counsel and command Joseph.  Notice how the angel greets him:

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

In this, the angel invokes the royal line of David as the line of the Messiah.  Imagine his relief in finding out that what Mary has told him is true – this is of the Holy Spirit of God.  Imagine the relief in finding out that Mary has been faithful to him.  Imagine the dread of the social storm that is upon them.  Imagine his apprehension, being chosen by God to be the surrogate father to his Savior.  And imagine his joy and wonder, knowing that the time has come for God’s promise to be fulfilled, now in his very lifetime.  And imagine this happening all at once.

Faithful Father

And even in the midst of this, Joseph proved himself to be a man of God.  The angel commanded him to take Mary as his wife, for he was charged with naming his first son Jesus.  And as was the law, the firstborn son was to be dedicated to God.  How fitting that Jesus, the firstborn son of Joseph and Mary, the Son of God, be dedicated to the Father.  And Joseph, being the man of God that he was, fully embraced the responsibility that was placed upon his shoulders.  He passed the test with flying colors.

Now let’s take a look at a few of the events that transpired to make this blessed event come off at the appointed time and in the appointed way.  Imagine if Rahab had not protected the spies of Joshua.  Imagine if Ruth had gone back to Moab rather than stay with Naomi and later listen to the odd commands of Naomi (who now claimed the name Mara, which means bitter), as she carefully planned the circumstances of courtship between Ruth and Boaz.  Imagine if David had refused to be anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel.  Imagine if Mary had said “this is too much for me to bear” to Gabriel instead of announcing herself as God’s servant.  Imagine if Joseph had succumbed to social pressure and left Mary as a stay-at-home, unwed mother.  In each and every case, these people were tested by their circumstances, and their character triumphed as they chose to honor God.   Regardless of the scandals in our lives, and the circumstances that we find ourselves in, we too must exhibit great character.  Who knows what interesting things will come about as we submit ourselves to the will of God!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  How far am I be willing to go to endure great loss and scandal to be obedient to my Lord and Savior?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, with our lips we praise You, and with our lives we worship You.  Remember me that in every decision that I make, that You are always at the forefront.  May every word I speak, thought that I have and embrace, and action that I take reflect Your character, Your love, and Your sacrifice.  Help me when I feel pressure from anyone or any circumstance to deviate from Your express will.  Strengthen me, especially in my moments of weakness, that I would continue to honor and glorify your name, regardless of the pain, loss, or difficulty that I encounter.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?