John the Baptizer; Herald of the King Matt. 3:1-6
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 3:1–3:6
Matt. 2:12-23 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
13Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
14So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”
16Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
18“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH,
WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING,
RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN;
AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED,
BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.”
19But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20“Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
We talked a few weeks ago about men who tried to make the Bible more palatable to the modern educated science based population.
Get rid of the passages that have no rational explanation beyond the miraculous intervention of God.
Move all of the authorship way up so that prophecy was written after the fact. Clean it up and make it believable to modern people who can't believe in fables.
This passage in front of us would read something like this: Now, and, when he arose, then, and he, then, "a voice", Now when Herod was dead, then he arose, But when he heard, and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth.
In this section including parts of the story from last time, we have God intervening - miraculously, by angels, in the protection of His Son, 4 times. We also have 4 of 332 prophecies concerning Jesus - fulfilled.
4 places, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Ramah, Egypt, 3 mentioned by name in history past that have a part in the birth of one person. Fulfilled.
The odds of just 4 prophecies all coming together are staggering. Any Las Vegas book maker could tell you the odds against 4 prophecies that name places coming together in one persons birth - impossible. Something like 1 in 10 with 15 zero's after it. A quadrillion to one, just for these 4. But not impossible for God.
So we've got miracles and prophets and angels all working overtime in this passage. It makes this passage pretty short if you don't believe in any of that non-rational explanation stuff.
Do you want the short version, or the long one? I thought so! You're good sports.
We want to re-visit vs. 12 because it fits so well with the miracles throughout this section we're looking at this morning.
Vs. 12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
This is going to be a busy angel. Why? Well, it turns out that after man falls into sin in Genesis 3, and Satan becomes the god of this world, the cosmos - the world becomes a hostile environment - especially for the righteous.
In Revelation ch. 12, we can get a cosmic pre-history view - of these events.
1A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
The dragon is Satan.
The woman is Israel.
The child is Jesus.
Satan's plan is: kill Jesus. As quick as He's born, kill him.
Herod thought he was the master planner - but he's nothing but a dupe. A patsy. In service to the dragon. Herod is slave to Satan - the murderer.
(We will make a note here, that nothing has changed. This world, this cosmos that Satan is the current tenant ruler of is controlled by men, by goverments with men in control, who ultimately are doing the bidding of Satan, no different at all than Herod was 2000 years ago) United Nations? Entertainment for Satan. He laughs at men who say Peace Peace, when there is no peace.
Do you recall what Jesus said to the Pharisee's about their father, the devil? John 8:44 You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.
Satan is a murderer. We'll see that in this passage - and nothing has changed. Satan is still hostile to believers. He still wants to murder them as often as God permits.
Romans 8:36 Just as it is written, "For thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
Ask the woman in the Iraqi jail who just had a baby, and is on death row. Her crime; she's a christian.
Are we exempt? Maybe. but if we are, it isn't a good thing. It's because we aren't causing Satan any heartburn.
My prayer before I die is to cause Satan some heartburn. I'd like to be a real pain in his neck. A real cause of concern.
So that's the stage set for the drama that's going to unfold in these verses before us this morning. The dragon is poised to strike as soon as the child is born - but it isn't going to work out his way - thanks to divine intervention.
Matthew 2:12, back-tracking just a little bit to get the context, it says; And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
having been warned by God in a dream...How does that work?
We don't know. I think they all had the same dream! And it isn't a normal dream.
However it worked out - there's no questioning that it was real, and it was from God. They, plural, obey. This is miracle no. 1 here. God communicates to these men, a direct order, and they change direction and go home another way.
Here comes miracle no. 2; 13Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.
This is a notable miracle. A remarkable miracle. I don't think this is like normal dreams. I think it's more like what Paul tries to describe; I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. 2Cor12:2
Paul says, I don't know the mechanics of how it worked, all I know is it was real, and I was there.
It reminds me of Peter, in the jail cell, Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. Acts12:7
Not identical, but there are similarities. The angel gives Peter a kick. Get up! he says. And that's what happened to Joseph.
Get up! Grab the Child and His mother, and get out of town. Flee to Egypt and stay there, until I tell you the coast is clear.
It's about 75 miles down to just the border of Egypt. Egypt at this time had a large jewish population partly because they didn't want to be under the rule of Herod. Alexander had built a safe haven city for the jews. Alexandria, Egypt.
We don't know if this little family got that far or not, but it was a haven and a place of learning. and most of all, it was out of Herod's jurisdiction.
for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
This is at the end of Herod's life. He's old and sick and he'll do anything to protect his dynasty. He wants his name to be a kingly line, and this 'King of the Jews' has to go. He's a pawn of Satan, doing his bidding.
14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt
We don't know much about Joseph, really. Here's what we do know though. Every time we see his name, we see him immediately moving to obey God.
Joseph gets the family up in the middle of the night, and they flee Bethlehem for Egypt. They probably had the donkey they rode in on. 4 legged pickup truck for the gold and frankinsense and myrhh that would perhaps have to keep the family going for a while.
That's all just colorful conjecture. What's important is unquestioning, immediate, obedience.
15He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”
Matthew has this formula. He'll say over and over again, this was to fulfil. Matthews audience is jews and his unfailing apologetic is this. Your old testament, of course it wasn't old testament to them, so he's saying, your Holy writings, the law and the prophets, are being lived out in the life of Jesus. It all points to Him.
We modern evangelicals don't pay enough attention to the closeness of the story of Israel, and how all of those pictures are completed in Christ.
In Exodus 4:22 Moses is instructed;
Then say to Pharaoh, 'This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son,
Jesus is His firstborn Son. The parallels are amazing if we scratch just a little below the surface.
The prophecy Matthew quotes is from Hosea 11:1. And if you go back and read that chapter in Hosea, it isn't looking forward to Jesus at all, it's an historic recounting of God's dealing with Israel.
Matthew puts the 2 together for us as a "type".
Now, Matthew has some license as an eye-witness of His glory and an author under inspiration.
Otherwise people go wonky finding "types" all over the place. We don't do that. But Matthew was present during the 40 days after the resurrection when Jesus himself opened the scriptures and taught these things.
Luke gives us one little glimpse into one of these sessions in the final chapter of his gospel. You'll recall that 2 of the disciples were walking along on the road to Emmaus and a seeming stranger engages them in conversation about the recent events. It was Jesus in His resurrection body, and He says to them; vs.25 “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26“Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
All of these things were fresh in Matthews mind, and he keeps bringing us these treasures from his treasurehouse.
God called Israel, His failed son, out of Egypt, and now He calls His glorious perfected Son out of Egypt.
This is the second of four major prophecies. The first one was the prediction that Messiah the prince would be born in Bethlehem.
16Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.
History tells us that Bethlehem at this time was pretty tiny. It probably was a village that covered about 60 acres. Maybe 300 - 400 people lived there. From that we deduce that perhaps 20 - ish babies were slaughtered.
Maybe more. That's a guess. For a man as wicked and infamous as Herod, it wasn't even front page news.
Now, someone will ask; Why does God only save one baby. Why does He allow the other babies to be slaughtered. He could have saved them too.
There's a new movement among atheists, called the New Atheists, and you'll hear this more and more. They boldly claim to hold no belief in God, but they go beyond that and claim that if Yah Weh, the God of the old testament is real, He's a moral monster.
So, the question quickly becomes, is God moral, if He could have saved these other babies from Herod's axe men, and didn't.
First, I'll point something out. The folks who would bring this charge against God are the same folks who are shouting the loudest for women's reproductive rights. Abortion on demand. Baby murderers busy saying God is immoral.
And second, the answer to their question is found in Revelation 16. 4Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. 5And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; 6for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” 7And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”
That final statement bears repeating. “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”
Men don't get to hold court over God, the Almighty. Proverbs 25: 2 says; It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, . . . . think about that.
We don't get to question why God does it the way He does it. It is enough that we know "true and righteous are Your judgments.” His reasons are above us. They are His glory.
Vss 17Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
18“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH,
WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING,
RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN;
AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED,
BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.”
One little note about this 3rd prophecy. Ramah is about the same distance north of Jerusalem as Bethlehem is south. Does that mean that the slaughter of the innocents reached all the way through Jerusalem and beyond.
A 15 mile radius would have included Jerusalem and Ramah as well as Bethlehem. We can only speculate.
The prophecy about Ramah is also a type. Ramah was at the southernmost tip of the Northern kingdom. When Assyria took the northern kingdom in captivity, Ramah was like the point of departure where the jews who weren't massacred were marched out of their land.
Rachel is seen as the mother of Israel, weeping, weeping, because here people are gone.
We talked about Satan persecuting and murdering the righteous, and Rachel's weeping is a picture of Satan driving the people of God out of this world and into eternity since the fall.
Satan murders. Rachel weeps. That's the history of God's redeemed people in this no-man's land that Satan rules. We haven't seen anything yet.
19But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20“Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
This is yet another notable miracle. God intervening. Same angel probably. He kicks Joseph in the side again. "Get up!"
I was chuckling to myself as I studied this. You can just picture Joseph, he's traded the myrhh for 40 acres of corn that's just about ready to be picked, and this angel shows up, whacks him awake, and says, grab the child, and the wife, and go to Israel.
Let me point something out in this arrangement that God has with His people, His chosen ones. Us included!
The whole tone of the story is that of slave owner and slave. God doesn't offer Joseph an option package. He sends his angel, wakes him up, and says, the folks who wanted to kill Jesus are dead. Get up, take the Child, and Mary, and head for Israel.
21So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
That's how it works. The master gives the orders, and the slave gets up and does it. No muss, no fuss, no complaining, Joseph just got up, gathered his little family, and obeyed.
Joseph is really the star of this story, but note something. It isn't about Joseph. It isn't about Joseph being successful and having a happy successful life and prospering under his fig tree.
Joseph is just a slave carrying out his Master's bidding. He is under authority, not of the ruler of this world, but of the ruler of heaven. Hold that thought. You'll hear it again next week.
22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee,
Archelaus was at least as vile as his father, and maybe worse. When he began to reign, he had a golden eagle hung over the temple. And of course the Jews went nuts and had riots because it was an idol defiling their temple.
Archelaus slaughtered 3000 jews, many of them pilgrims who didn't even live in Jerusalem, who were there for the feast and the passover.
So Joseph's fear was well founded. He was such a mad man that Rome finally deposed him and replaced rule in Judea with appointed governors. Pontius Pilate was one of those governors.
Our final notable miracle in this portion. Yet another warning in a dream. And Joseph turns northward for Galilee. This is the 4rth angelic message from God dictating the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Vs. 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Luke tells us what Matthew does not, that Nazareth is home town. That's where they began their journey, and now Joseph returns. Luke tells us that Joseph is a construction worker. It'll be fun to meet him some day. He sets a pattern of unquestioning obedience that should be the mark of every believer that follows in his footsteps. He's believer no. 1
And finally, prophecy number 4. “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
This is the most difficult of all the prophecy's. Here's why. It isn't found in the old testament. Nowhere in the Jewish writings does this appear.
Yet Matthew tells us this is a fulfilment of the "prophets" plural. That's an important clue. prophÄ"tÅn. Noun-Genitive Masculine Plural. Many prophets indicate this.
Next is the word 'called'. Spoken of. klÄ"thÄ"setai Verb-Future Iindicative Passive -3rd Person Singular The word indicates that the prophets are indicating that someone will undergo name calling that is of a derisive manner.
Now we have to establish that calling someone a Nazarene fulfils these prophets who indicated that this person is thought of as lower class, despised, worthy of ridicule.
In the first century BC if God had asked His angels, where should the messiah live and work so that the folks in Jerusalem will think of him as a nobody, they would have said, Galilee. Then if the angels and God had gone to galilee and asked the folks there, where do the real backwoods folk, the ones with front teeth missing and one suspender and a corn cob pipe hang out? The Galileans would have said, that's easy. Nazareth.
You see where I'm going. Calling someone a Nazarene, in Jerusalem, was a derision. You roll your eyes a bit and you say, Can anything good come from Nazareth? You remember the story when Jesus calls Philip and Nathaniel. It goes like this. . .
Jn. 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote-- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 46 Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
Does anyone here listen to Rush Limbaugh? Liars. Anyways, years ago when he broadcasted from Sacramento, he would get some laughs by deriding the people who lived in Rio Linda. So he'd make a statement, and then he would break it down to 3 and 4 letter words in Dick and Jane language for the folk from Rio Linda. The joke of course was that the folks who lived there were too stupid to understand a 2 syllable word. That's the idea. A Nazarene. Roll eyes, yuck yuck.
John 19:…18There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, "JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS."
Pilate meant that to be rediculous. He meant it as derision both to Jesus, and the Jews who he hated. Here's your king, you idiots. And he's from Nazareth. He's rediculous, like you.
Isa. 53:2For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Psa22: 6But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
7All who see me sneer at me;
They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
saying what? (Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews)
This is a complex fulfillment. Just the very act of wagging their heads and calling Jesus "a Nazarene" fulfills multiple prophecies, multiple times. It probably turns our quadrillion to one into an octizillion to one.
People, the evidence is overwhelming. Jesus is Messiah the Prince. King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
To dis-believe that, is hard work. It gives real meaning to what Paul says in the first chapter of Romans.
Ro 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
The evidence just through 4 fulfilled prophecies out of 330 is so overwhelming, you have to work at NOT believing. You have to put your hands over your ears and say Lah Lah Lah loudly over and over so that this evidence doesn't get to you. And that's what people do.
It isn't that they can't believe, it's that they won't believe. The evidence is piled up against them.
Even as a tiny baby, easy for us to imagine as new grandparents who got to enjoy holding a precious tiny little baby last weekend, even tiny, and helpless, Jesus was already demanding a response.
The whole universe was responding to His presence. Tiny. Helpless. Suckling at Mary's breasts.
Satan was responding, trying to kill Him.
The angels were responding, visiting righteous men in their dreams, warning them which way to go to protect this infant.
Herod was responding, doing his best to get at this baby, and then when he had been bettered, lashing out at all the babies in the immediate area.
Joseph was responding, carefully and quickly obeying the orders coming at him, as faithful slave to master.
The lesson couldn't be more obvious! We need to respond like Joseph did. As humble submissive slaves to a loving master who has all the authority of heaven and earth to reign over us.
I hope you'll give yourselves . . . to Him.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2