-The magi see the star in the west from their eastern location and venture toward Bethlehem, which they know from the prophecies (perhaps revealed by Daniel and others in the Babylonian deportation). They arrive in Jerusalem looking for the Child because they have come to worship Him (Matthew 2:2). *Application* These were astronomers from a foreign land that came based on previous knowledge somehow to the place where God visited earth. Our God is so good He even places signs in the sky for the entire world to see His plan for the Messiah Savior. The King is announced in more ways than one!
-The magi from the east came to Jerusalem first and met up with King Herod. He was an apprehensive ruler who was extremely paranoid to anyone who might possibly usurp his authority. His inquiry with the chief priests, scribes, and magi reveal his fear and suspicion in the matter. He was not the rightful heir to the throne of David. He was ruthless, as we will see, and had many enemies causing his great paranoia. *Application* We see the true wisdom and revelation of the magi here in this passage. They were warned to go back another way to avoid this evil king and they obeyed. We should also heed the warnings God gives us in our lives. He will always make a way out when we listen to His voice.
-The magi find the Christ Child in Bethlehem just as was prophesied (Micah 5:2). They come before Him and worship giving gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). *Application* These gifts from royalty had symbolic meaning as well. Gold symbolized His kingship and worthiness. Frankincense embodied deity. Myrrh was foreshadowing His death on the cross for the sins of mankind. These gifts, some scholars have speculated, were the means for Jesus and His family to escape to Egypt when Herod sent his men to destroy all the children two and under in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). Where God guides, He provides!
-The other item of note from this text is the fact that they came to worship Jesus in a house (Matthew 2:11). This more than likely indicates some significant passing of time between the Messiah’s birth and the visitation of the wise men, contrary to some Nativity scenes we see at Christmas. Jesus could have been as much as two years old at this point based on the age that Herod set for his inquisition (Matthew 2:16).
-An angel again appears to Joseph supernaturally in a dream urging him to get up and immediately leave for Egypt to remain there until further notice. It was made plain that Herod was seeking the Christ Child’s life, and so Joseph arose with his wife and the Messiah and departed for Egypt that very night before the sun even came up (Matthew 2:14). They remained there until the death of Herod, which fulfilled Hosea’s prophecy that “Out of Egypt I called my Son (Hosea 11:1).” *Application* Here we see Old Testament usage by Matthew to give us a deep understanding and appreciation for prophecy. Just as the New Testament writers viewed the Law and the Prophets in the new revelation light of Jesus Christ, and so should we. This is just one example of the shadows of Christ in the ancient texts given for the hope of Israel and the world (Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). Also notice the immediate response of Joseph to obey and get his all important family out of danger’s way. Again, it is supposed that the gifts of the magi helped to fund this trip and stay in Egypt, which was obviously a foreign land and a new adventure. When God calls, our best response is quick compliance. It could save us our lives!
-Herod’s paranoia and lust for power are revealed in his reaction to the finding out that the magi had deceived (literally mocked, ridiculed, tricked, make a fool of) him (Matthew 2:16). He sends his troops and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity from two years and under in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 31:15). The weeping and great mourning heard all the way across the mountainous region to Ramah harkened back even to the days of Rachel, who died in childbirth in this region and had her heart much set on children (Genesis 35:16-18). *Application* It is terribly sad to think about the cruelty that was inflicted on the innocent children surrounding and in the region of Bethlehem by the tyrant Herod. We must always stand up for injustice and the rights of those who cannot defend themselves. I saw a sticker just yesterday urging the stoppage of abortion in our country. We think to ourselves, “how cruel they must have been back in those days to destroy life so cruelly like that,” but we easily forget the untold millions of lives that have been lost now to abortion in our nation and world. Be a defender of weak and innocent (Psalm 82:3, Proverbs 31:9, Isaiah 1:17). Value life!
-The passing of King Herod was great news for the Messiah’s family. The angel reappeared as promised (Matthew 2:13) and God’s salvation plan was continuing along just as predicted by the prophets of old.
-*Application* God is not slow about His promises as some count slowness, but He is patient and gives multiple chances for people to turn to Him in repentance (2 Peter 3:9). I believe God gave Herod every chance He could and time to come to know Him before his death. God has a plan and purpose for everything in the whole context of this world. He is sovereign and has all understanding. In the “fullness of time” is a great concept to contemplate when we read a verse like this one (Galatians 4:4).
-Joseph is reluctant to go back into Israel because Herod’s son Archelaus was reigning, but God warned him and once again he obeyed the Lord. The family left Egypt and ventured to the region of Galilee and settled back in their original hometown of Nazareth, which once again fulfilled the prophets word that “He shall be called a Nazarene (Isaiah 11:1. The word there is Netzar, which signifies either a branch, or the city of Nazareth; in being denominated from that city, he is declared to be that Branch).” This region was much calmer politically than other regions of Israel at the time. Philip was ruling in this region and was much more docile than Archelaus in Judea. Although Joseph was probably under the assumption, from his limited understanding of the Messiah’s life and work, that they would be in or near Jerusalem, God had other plans and somewhat secluded His Son for His upbringing and the bulk of His earthly ministry.
-*Application* Don’t despise the little things (Luke 16:10). Our lives at times can feel mundane, uncomplicated, and even boring. We yearn to do more and dream of extravagance and greatness even in Kingdom work. We must always remember God’s plan is higher than ours and let Him form and shape us just as He desires. The Messiah’s life is even reflective of that fact when we closely observe the Scriptures. Jesus lived a normal life for all we know until the age of 30 when His public ministry began. The preparation is important; allow the Lord to work in you even on the most normal of days.
Verses to Memorize: Matthew 2:11, 14, 16, 19, 23