Sun, Jun 24, 2001

DECISIONS! MATTHEW 2:1-12, 16

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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DECISIONS!
MATTHEW 2:1-12, 16
 


Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 2 as we look at the decisions that three groups of people made that had eternal consequences in their lives. Now some like to argue that the message was confusing, it was not clear, like the following story: The story is told of a rather old fashioned lady, who was planning a couple of weeks vacation in Florida. Being quite delicate and elegant with her language she wrote a letter to a particular campground and asked for reservations. She wanted to make sure the campground was fully equipped but didn't know quite how to ask about the "toilet" facilities. She just couldn't bring herself to write the word "toilet" in her letter. After much deliberation, she finally came up with the old fashioned term "Bathroom Commode," but when she wrote that down, she still thought she was being too forward. So she started all over again; rewrote the entire letter and referred to the "Bathroom Commode" simply as the "B.C.". Does the campground have its own "B.C.?" is what she actually wrote. Well, the campground owner wasn't old fashioned at all, and when he got the letter, he couldn't figure out what the lady was talking about. That "B.C." really stumped him. After worrying about it for several days, he showed the letter to other campers, but they couldn't figure out what the lady meant either. The campground owner finally came to the conclusion that the lady was and must be asking about the location of the local Baptist Church. So he sat down and wrote the following reply:


"Dear Madam:
I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take pleasure of informing in that the "B.C." is located nine miles north of the camp site and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit it is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly but no doubt you will be pleased to know that a great number of people take their lunches along, and make a day of it...They usually arrive early and stay late. The last time my wife and I went was six years ago, and it was so crowded we had to stand up the whole time we were there. It may interest you to know that right now, there is a supper planned to raise money to buy more seats...They plan to hold the supper in the middle of the B.C., so everyone can watch and talk about this great event...I would like to say it pains me very much, not to be able to go more regularly, but it is surely not for lack of desire on my part...As we grow older, it seems to be more and more of an effort, particularly in cold weather...If you decide to come down to the campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time you go...sit with you...and introduce you to all the other folks...This is really a very friendly community..."
-Pastor Ed, Calvary Chapel Aurora

As misunderstood as this lady was, producing confusion also in the lives of others, God is very clear in what He has to say to us. At the close of the book of Malachi God was silent for some 400 years until John the baptist came on the scene preaching the repentance of sin and he was preparing the hearts of the people to receive the Messiah, Jesus Christ!

And thus, the first Gospel, Matthew, presents Jesus Christ as the Messiah the king, that He is the one who has fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah. Matthew, writing to a primarily Jewish audience, presented very clearly, Jesus as the Lion from the Tribe of Judah, the King!
In Matthew chapter 1 we see the heritage of the king, showing us His genealogy linking Him to the throne of David. Now, in Matthew chapter 2 we see 3 groups of people that have a chance to pay homage to the king, each group having a choice to make, and as we shall see, only one group took that step and recognized who He was and bowed before Him! 
The three groups we will be looking at this morning will be: the wise men or magi, the religious leaders of Israel, and Herod the king. So we will look at each group and see what the Lord has for us as we go through this portion of Scripture, beginning in Matthew chapter 2, starting in verse 1.

1. THE MAGI CAME TO WORSHIP HIM - MATTHEW 2:1-2, 9-12
These wise men or magi have developed a legend over the years that goes way beyond what the Scriptures have to say. By the Middle Ages the legend developed that they were kings, that there was only 3 of them, and we even have their names; Casper, Balthazar, and Melchior. These are legends and traditions for which the Scriptures do not support!

What we do know is these wise men were skilled in astronomy, astrology and dream interpretations. They also probably came from the area of Babylon, which should remind us of the Jewish captivity in Babylon and a man by the name of Daniel who was a Jewish captive and elevated to a position of overseeing all the wise men in Babylon. And I can't help but think that Daniel shared his love for the Lord and the coming of the king, of Jesus. Thus, from generation to generation this information was passed on until God got these star gazers attention by placing a supernatural star in the sky to guide them on a journey that may have taken months to travel!
And as they arrive in Jerusalem they begin to ask where this king of the Jews was to be born. And Herod the king catches wind of what is going on and he asks the Jewish religious leaders where this king is to be born, and they tell the king, "In Bethlehem of Judah...", and he tells these wise men this information. 
As they start towards Bethlehem this guiding star reappears and leads them to the house where Mary and Joseph are now staying with their young son, Jesus, who was probably a year old or so at this time. Again, another tradition shattered!
Now I want you to notice the heart of these gentile men. They came to "worship" the king of the Jews. It is a word that is rich and deep with action. It speaks of falling down before someone, prostrating onself, and even kissing the feet or the hem of the garment of the one being honored.
And as they arrive, they rejoice with exceeding joy! All the months of traveling by faith have now come to fruition and they are about to see the king and are so excited they are jumping up and down, shouting for joy! I don't know how you can keep from rejoicing when you see the King! He should bring a fullness of joy into your life when you come to bow before the King!

I like the way that John MacArthur puts it. He says:
Right worship is always, and must be, the only basis for right giving and right learning and right service. Giving that is generous but done apart from a loving relationship with God is empty giving. Learning that is orthodox and Biblical but is learned apart from knowing and depending on the source of truth, is empty knowledge, like that of the chief priests and scribes. Service that is demanding and sacrificial but done in the power of the flesh or for the praise of man is empty service.
- The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Matthew 1-7, pp. 35-36 

Thus, these wise men, as they worshiped the Lord out of love, now present Him with gifts, not looking to get anything in return, but out of love, out of worship, they gave to the new born King!
And please understand that worship, true worship is always costly! These magi came to worship with costly gifts: the gold speaking of the Lord as a mighty king, the frankincense as Jesus being our ministering priest, and myrrh which is used in burial and speaks of a martyred prophet. Thus, we see the three-fold office of Jesus as king, priest and prophet in the gifts that were given to Him.

But what about your life? Does your worship of the king cost you anything? It should! Turn to II Samuel chapter 24 and let's begin looking at verse 20, "Now Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming toward him. So Araunah went out and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. Then Araunah said, `Why has my lord the king come to his servant?' And David said, `To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.' Now Araunah said to David, `Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him. Look, here are oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing implements and the yokes of the oxen for wood. All these, O king, Araunah has given to the king." And Araunah said to the king, "May the LORD your God accept you.' Then the king said to Araunah, `No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.' So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver." II Samuel 24:20-24.
David recognized that true worship is costly, it is not free or empty. You see, it might cost you your dignity as you bow before the King, honoring Him. You may give up all to serve the Lord and the world just can't understand that. It might cost you financially as you give to the Lord in tithes and offerings. It might even cost you your family and friends as you serve the Lord! True worship does cost, and these wise men were not afraid or ashamed to bow before the King and neither should we!

2. THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS WERE INDIFFERENT TO HIM - MATTHEW 2:3-6
This is not only amazing but sad and tragic. Herod, who was paranoid about someone removing him as king, when he heard the news that the king of the Jews was born, he wants to know where, he wants to find out more information. So where does he go? He goes to the religious leaders, for if anyone was going to know where the king of the Jews was to be born, they would know this information!
And as these religious leaders gathered together, they all came up with the same answer,"...`In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel."'" Matthew 2:5-6. They knew the Word of God, they knew what the prophets had said, they knew the prophecy of Daniel, and they knew the Messiah was coming and yet it did nothing for them.
You see, the magi traveled through the desert for months to get to Bethlehem, the religious leaders only had to travel some 5 miles to get to Bethlehem and yet they would not be moved! You see, they were indifferent to the things of God. Yes they knew the Word of God, but it didn't move them.

And the idea here is this, it is not only knowing the Word of God, it is doing the Word of God. James tells us "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."James 1:22. And again in James we are told, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, `Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, `You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." James 2:14-18.
These men knew the Word of God but it did not move them at all, how about you? Are you moving for the Lord, going where He is calling you, even if it is a dirty, smelly stable with cow-pies and flies all around? For these religious leaders, it was too much for them and they missed out on that exceeding joy that the magi had in seeing the King of the Jews! May you not miss out because you are indifferent to God's Word, not willing to take those steps of faith!

3. KING HEROD WAS HOSTILE TO HIM - MATTHEW 2:7-8, 16
Herod was a little guy, only 44, and placed as king of the land of Israel, even though he was an Edomite, by Octavian and Antony with the concurrence of the Roman Senate. And he built big and beautiful structures, like the fortress of Masada by the Dead Sea, the port city of Caesarea, and he expanded the temple.

But Herod was also very cruel, very merciless and very paranoid. He was constantly afraid that someone was going to take his position of king and his power away from him. In fact, he was so paranoid he killed some of his wives, he killed some of his sons because he thought they were conspiring against him, to overthrow him. It was so bad that Caesar Augustus said "It is safer to be Herod's pig than his son."
And you can see his cruelty and bloodthirstiness in what he did shortly before he died. He had his men arrest some of the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem and he imprisoned them. The reason he did this was simple, he knew when he died no one would mourn his death, so he gave his men orders to execute these prisoners the moment he died so that there would be mourning in Jerusalem! But, no one carried out that order when Herod died.
Herod, by asking the wise men when they saw the star and began their journey, figured out that the king of the Jews was under 2 years of age. And when Herod found out that the wise men were not returning with the news of exactly where this king was, he sent orders to have all the male children in Bethlehem from 2 years old and under to be put to death!
Herod did not want to lose his ranking in society, he wanted to be king, and thus, he tried to put to death the King of the Jews. And by trying to exalt himself, he was brought down. Herod thought of himself as being so great and yet, in his death, listen to what Josephus has to say as he describes it.
Josephus tells us that Herod "died of this, ulcerated entrails, putrefied and maggot-filled organs, constant convulsions, foul breath, and neither physicians nor warm baths led to recovery." Not a pretty picture, but it was the result of not bowing before the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Paul, in speaking of Jesus said, "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."Philippians 2:9-11. Herod refused to bow, he tried to put to death the Lord, remove the king from the picture, and in the end it was Herod that was brought down and removed from the picture. As James says, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:10. If you want to be lifted up you need to bow yourself before the King!
Where are you at with the Lord this morning? You see, the message is clear, it is understandable, just as it was for the wise men, the religious leaders, and for Herod. Thus, you can worship the Lord, be indifferent to the Lord, or be hostile to what the Lord has to say, but understand this, each one has eternal consequences. As Jesus said in Matthew 21:44, "And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." In other words, if you are broken over your sinful condition and come before Him, bowing before Him and asking Him to come into your life, that broken condition will allow the Lord to lift you up. But, if you refuse to be broken over your condition, you will be crushed by the Lord. Again, the choice is yours. 

Many if not all of you are aware of the execution of Timothy McVeigh on Monday, June 11, 2001 for the blowing up of the Oklahoma City Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people including 19 children, and injuring over 500 others! And in his death, he showed no signs of remorse for what he did but only anger, hatred. His last written statement before his execution was from a poem from 1875 titled "Invicuts" by William Ernest Henley. This is what was read before he was put to death for this heinous crime: 
Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud, under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
- William Ernest Henley

It appears from this and his actions that he refused to bow the knee to the Lord, he was hostile towards the Words of God, or maybe he was just indifferent to what God had to say. But, whatever the case, he now has a eternity to think about his mistake of rejecting the King!
It was interesting to listen to some of the people who watched this execution and had family in the building that were killed in the explosion or they themselves were victims of this bombing. And these people were disappointed in the ease in which he stepped into eternity!

It just tells me they don't know what God has to say regarding this issue. You see, in Luke chapter 16 Jesus gives us a description of Sheol or the holding area until the Great White Throne judgment for all those who refuse to bow the knee to Jesus, to ask Him to be their Lord and Savior. And in this temporary place there is consciousness, thirst, pain! Not a pretty picture.
Then, Gehenna or the Lake of Fire, the final resting place after the Great White Throne judgment spoken of in Revelation chapter 20, we see Jesus tell us that it is the place "where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'Mark 9:44. 
And I tend to think of it this way. Your eternal flesh these worms, or literally maggots will consume night and day! Your eternal body will fuel the fires! Listen carefully to what the Lord tells us in Revelation chapter 20 about this final place of torment called the Lake of Fire or Gehenna. We read "The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:10-15. Not a pretty picture, nor is it intended to be!

Thus, won't you come to Bethlehem, the house of bread, and bow before Jesus. Make Him your Lord and Savior. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins. And if you are saved and you are struggling this morning, return to Bethlehem and partake of the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.
Jesus said in John 5:24, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." 
The message is clear, won't you receive it into your life? Don't be like the religious leaders who were indifferent to the things of God even when the truth of God was right before them, they refused to be moved. Don't be like Herod who was hostile to the Lord, not wanting to give up all that he had to worship the true king and now he is king of nothing!
But, instead, be like the wise men who not only heard the call of God, saw the things of God, but then took the step forward and bowed before the King of kings and Lord of lords! And their lives were filled with the joy of the Lord. You can't worship the king without receiving His joy. Won't you come?

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