Verse of the Day 12-23-21

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 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.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah 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 shepherd my people Israel.’”
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 search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:1-12

In today’s passage we are introduced to the remaining participants in the birth of Jesus, and they are Herod the Great and the Magi. Herod the Great was a non-Jew who was appointed king over the region of Judea by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C. and he ruled from 37-4 B.C. He was a cruel and hard-hearted man who murdered many members of his family, including a wife and three sons, and who ordered the killing of all male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem. He was also remembered for the building or repairing and restoring of many buildings and monuments during his reign. For instance, he was responsible for rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, which he started in 19 B.C. (The sanctuary was finished in just 18 mouths, but the entire project was not completed until 68 years after his death.)

The Magi were probably members of a high educated religious class from the region of Persia or southern Arabia, now called Iran and were not kings as they are sometimes referred to. They likely specialized in natural science, medicine and astrology (the study of the positions of objects in the heavens with the belief that their motions influence and affect people). Since they were looking for “the king of the Jews”, they naturally came to the Jewish capital city of Jerusalem first. Their visit occurred when Jesus was between 40 days and 2 years old. The importance of the inclusion of the Magi and of Herod is to show two important things: (1) Jesus is worthy of royal honor from all of humankind and (2) Gentiles (people of all nations who are not Jews) as well as Jews are included in God’s plan to bring people back into a right relationship with God. For you see Herod did not want to worship Jesus as the Messiah, but rather he wanted to kill someone whom he viewed as rival to his throne. But that was still part of God’s plan, because Herod’s paranoia helped fulfill the promises and prophecies that God had made to the Old Testament prophets. Which means that Herod in spite of his wanting to limp this rival king to the bud actually played an important role in fulfilling God’s redemptive plan for the world, and God can and will use you wherever you are to fulfill his redemptive plan for those around you. Which is the true beauty of the Christmas story: God used the key players wherever they were and just as they were to bring about his plan.

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