In our study of Matthew chapter two, we see how it was necessary for God to act on mankind's behalf to provide for our salvation. This "great intervention" was predicted by the Jewish prophets and fulfilled in the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ. In this chapter, we will see the fulfillment of four separate prophecies.
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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.'
Matthew jumps right in by explaining that Jesus was born in Bethlehem which is about five miles south of Jerusalem. This was predicted by the prophet Micah (see Micah 5:2). The "magi" refers to wise men and they came from the east but we do not know how many there were. They had heard the prophecy of Balaam that a star would come out of Jacob (Israel) and a ruler would rise (see Numbers 24:17). When they saw the star, they immediately recognized that it was no ordinary star and so they headed to Jerusalem which was the natural place to find the king of Israel.
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.
Herod the Great was a superstitious man who had bought his position from the Roman authorities. He was not known for his desire to share things and he was certainly not willing to share his power with a "king of the Jews". When the wise men showed up asking about this other king, it bothered him but it also stirred up the religious leaders that were in Jerusalem. This "great intervention" by God was bound to change everything including their power and authority.
'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."'
The religious leaders answered King Herod with the quote from Micah 5:2. They were able to answer his question and it reminds us that you can have a "head knowledge" of Jesus without being saved.
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
There had been quite some period of time between when they first saw the star and when they arrived in Jerusalem. Herod called some of them in so that he could quietly find out when they had seen the star. He did this quietly because he did not want anyone to know that he was taking this prophecy of a new king seriously.
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.'
King Herod was a liar and he served the devil. He told the Magi to let him know where Jesus was so that he could go and worship Him. He had no intention of worship but instead was simply looking to eliminate the competition to his leadership.
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.
The star that had led them to Jerusalem now rises again and leads them to the house where Jesus was staying. Once again, we see the direct intervention of God so that they could find the child. This is a reminder to us that we do not come to Christ on our own but only through the drawing of God through the Holy Spirit.
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.
We notice that the Magi worshiped Jesus and not Mary. They did not bow down to her and call on her to pray for them. We also see that they presented three types of gifts to Him. The gold was in recognition of His divine birth; the frankincense as the fragrance of His life which was pleasing to the Father, and the myrrh which was used to bury people.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Once again, we see that God intervened in the affairs of men to keep His plan on track. We must remember that these men were not even Jews (the chosen people) but they still listened to God.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. 'Get up,' he said, 'take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.' So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'
God intervened again to preserve the life of His Son. This is the fulfillment of the second prophecy concerning the early years of Jesus. The quote is from Hosea 11:1 where Israel's exodus from Egypt was a picture of the return of the child Jesus from there.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 'A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'
Herod could not accomplish a targeted killing of Jesus so he ordered the killing of many boys. Ramah was north of Jerusalem while Bethlehem is to the south. The distance from Ramah to Bethlehem was 20 to 25 miles and all the boys aged two and under in that area were put to death. This ring of death was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah (33:15) and this is the fulfillment of the third prophecy concerning the early years of Jesus' life. How could God allow this to happen? We can take comfort in the fact that God knows what is best for each and every one of us. Those young boys will be in heaven with Jesus and that is far better than any time they could have had on this earth.
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead.'
Once again, God intervened by sending an angel to Joseph. It was necessary for Jesus to leave the influence of Egypt and to be brought up under the Law of Moses. He came to fulfill the Law and not to replace it so it was required for Him to follow the commandments from the start.
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
We see from this passage that Joseph and Mary knew that Jesus was the promised King of the Jews. Naturally, the King of the Jews would live in Jerusalem but, once again, God intervened and they went back to live in Nazareth which is where they were from. In Isaiah 11:1, it was said that a shoot would come up from Jesse (the father of King David) and this shoot is also called a Branch referring to Jesus. The old Hebrew word netzer means sprout and is probably where the city of Nazareth got its name. The fact that Jesus was raised in Nazareth would make Him a Nazarene and so this is the fulfillment of the fourth prophecy concerning Jesus' birth and early years.