Star talk: it's true, believe it!
Matthew's account of the wise men, The Christmas Star, and the birth of Jesus moves us in several directions. The realization that Christ's birth was part of God's redemptive work in history certainly broadens the event in my eyes. God's eternal plan should give us peace and hope as we grapple with the exigencies of life. Today, let's note two other directional realities this star navigates for us. One is that the message of Christ's birth was troubling to Herod and the nation. And, two, Herod's religious leaders shaped the message of the Savior's birth to play to his ego. The Bethlehem Star reminds us that everyone will not receive the news of the Savior with joy. At the same time, the star points us to the truth God revealed, and not to an alteration of it.
Matthew's purpose was to convince the Jewish nation that Jesus was their long promised Messiah. His many quotations of Old Testament prophecy were attempts to prove such fulfillment. When King Herod and the people of Jerusalem heard about the wise men and their quest to locate Jesus, Matthew wrote that ",,,he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matthew 2: 3, ESV). He and the city inhabitants had heard their initial request: "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews" (Matthew 2: 2, ESV).
As the Roman appointed king of the Judea, he and the people he ruled obviously assumed threat. It's never specifically said in Matthew's account, but his comment about going to Bethlehem to worship Jesus (see Matthew 2: 8, ESV) most likely shielded his intent to kill Jesus. For Herod and his followers the Christmas Star would lead them destroy the king of kings and Lord of Lords. In anger because the wise men had not returned to them, Herod had all the male children under age 2 killed. You see, every human does not believe the good news.
Another twist was the translation of Micah 5: 2 that his appointed chief priests and scribes offered in explanation of the star. They said---
And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of
Judah; for from you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.
Matthew 2: 6, ESV
The text actually reads---
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is
from of old, from ancient days.
Micah 5: 2, ESV
Since King Herod had appointed the chief priests and scribes, it is obvious that they were playing to his ego as approval of his position as King of Judea.
This is a recurring theme of history, the rejection of the Gospel and the altering of Christian truth to play to the crowd. And, that's somewhat of a warning signaled by The Christmas Star. Right now, in 2020, there are false teachers who will bend the truth of Scripture to validate their seeming Christian beliefs in order to maintain their following. Jesus said, "For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24, 24, ESV). Earlier he had said---
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are
ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from
thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the
diseased tree bears bad fruit.A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased
tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown
into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Matthew 7: 15-20, ESV
The glorious Christmas Star and king Herod's response to it are also a warning. It reminds me that in 2020, and in every generation there are those who will distort the message for their own good. We must remember that The Christmas Star announced the birth of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, who will save the human race from their sins.
It's true. We must believe it and give witness to the truth.
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