This week’s reading: Matthew 2:13-23
As Jesus begins to grow, His life is already threatened by the greed, jealousy and fear of Herod, the puppet king of the Romans, who was ruling over the area of Jerusalem at that time. Let’s pick up the story of the life of Jesus after the Magi leave. Our reading for this week is Matthew chapter 2 verses 13 through 23. Here is the first verse:
“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.’” Mt 2:13 NIV
Three lessons. As we think about this week’s readings, there are three things I want to point out here: 1- Joseph continues to discern God’s Voice, as well as be immediately obedient. 2- Evil is evil, yet God knows the depths of each heart and works with what He is given. And 3- Matthew continues to connect the old with the new, so his audience can come to know Jesus, our Christ.
Joseph’s discernment. How vital it is that we learn to discern, or tell the difference between, the many voices within us! Here we see in three different instances that an angel of the Lord comes to Joseph in dreams, to direct his path in order to protect and serve this special Child of God. (see v13, 20, 22) Not only does he listen in Faith and discern with wisdom, but then he immediately obeys what he is told. It takes maturity to be able to tell the difference between the voices of our three enemies and God’s. God’s Voice is a still and small voice because He doesn’t have to compete with the three enemies who are each very loud and try to grab our attention in whatever way they have to. Who are these three enemies, you ask? First we have our number one enemy, the devil and his cohorts. Not only are they real, but they are really evil. Their one and only agenda all day long, every day, is to kill, steal and destroy God’s creation, with His Children being a huge bullseye for all his torment and cruelty. (Jn 10:10) The devil is behind everything that is evil, but praise God he only has the power that is allowed him. (check out the Book of Job 1:12 & 2:6) As with everything and everyone, God is in control and will not allow anything that will ultimately destroy us. Will some things hurt? Absolutely! But they are meant for our good, to grow us to be more and more like Himself, so that we will lack for nothing. (Jas 1:2-4) Second we have this world, or more specifically, society. Every human is broken, so we will say things to one another that are not helpful, and many times, are hurtful. These voice tend to stick with us, unless by God’s Grace, we are able to dismiss and delete them. Yet many times we can hear those voices still, telling us things like, “You will never amount to anything,” or “There is no way you can ever accomplish such and such.” Fortunately we can also hear the good things that were spoken over us. For instance, “With your intelligence and determination, I know you can do anything you set your heart to.” Sadly though, some of us heard more of the first than the last. These are examples of personal encounters we have had that continue to speak to us, but then there is society at large. Not sure if you noticed, but this world is moving further and further away from godliness and towards hedonism. “Do whatever you want as long as YOU feel good” is the current philosophy…and it is deadly. And it also screams at us from every possible angle. We cannot watch TV for more than a few minutes before we are bombarded with its wicked agendas. Society seems to be telling us, that what is from God is no good, and what is opposite is good. This confusion keeps us away from the Abundant Life God desires for us. And third, this last enemy is probably the worst because everywhere you go, there it is! Our old MMI, prideful Self is constantly trying to drag us back into the corruption of who we used to be. We have to deal with our own selfish desires and illogical fears too, on top of having to filter out those past voices and be ever aware of the schemes of the enemy. Are you seeing now why discernment is so vital for the Christian life? So many voices to quiet down so only One Voice will stand out. I will say it again, God does not need to compete with any of those three enemies. We must quiet our world, spend time with Him so we can recognize His Voice, like Joseph did, and then obey immediately.
Herod’s anger. No one is debating if the horrific command that King Herod ordered was evil or not. It is plain to see the mass murdering of innocent babies is as depraved as it can get, right? These were boys from 2 years old and under in Jerusalem and its vicinities. Talk about overkill, both literally and figuratively! Herod knew the Messiah was supposed to be born in Bethlehem, but evil has no self control and desires to spread pain as much, and as far, as it can. This was a very wicked and selfish man whose only thought was his own position in the kingdom. Let me digress for a second. Two things: 1- From these verses we can surmise that Jesus must have been about that age when the Magi came to pay Him homage. 2- This should also bring to mind another story where a king killed innocent boys back in the Book of Exodus, when Moses was born. This is Matthew again connecting the Old and the New Testaments, but more on that in a moment. These events should break our hearts. It is always evil when innocent children are killed for whatever reason. Thank God He is a God Who knows all things. We can trust Him that these babies are safe in His arms, yet the wicked immorality of these acts are still to be abhorred. So no one is excusing these acts by foolishly saying, “Well, God has those babies in His arms, so it’s all good.” There is nothing good about it…but thankfully we have a good God. Evil is always evil, but what I am saying is that God knows the depths of each heart and knows what He must do, or allow to happen, in order to bring Salvation to as many as possible. Sadly, sometimes it is the pain, suffering and anguish of humans that stirs our own compassion to reach out and be a blessing. To shake us from our own little MMI world where our focus is only on Self. For instance, with all the hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes we have been increasingly experiencing, we also see an increase in volunteers who give up their time and go help those hardest hit. We see people just loving people, regardless of color or income. People just loving people…this is why Jesus came, to stir this deep brotherly love in our hearts, to make us one people. But where God is uniting and healing, the real enemy will use people like King Herod to divide and destroy. Does this sound familiar in our current climate? If we are people called by His Name, then we must be on the lookout for these deceiving leaders and influencers. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. We must sand up for justice and freedom…or we will lose them all. Just like Herod killed all those babies, are we allowing that injustice to continue now? None of this is political, stop allowing the devil to tell you it is! All these issues are a matter of human decency. They are a matter of loving one another the way Jesus loves us. And evil will always try to stop us. Will we let them?
Matthew’s connection. Recall that one of the purposes for writing this Gospel was so that Matthew could connect those of us living under the New Testament Grace, with those who lived in the Old Testament Justice. Here we read several points that should form these connections in the minds and hearts of Matthew’s readers. One we already talked about above, reminding us of the similarities of what happened to Jesus and what happened during the days of Moses. Also here we heard three prophecy references. See v15 pointing to Hosea 11:1, v18 quoting Jeremiah 31:15, and interestingly enough v23 that does not directly quote something from Scripture, but can easily be explained as a prophecy. If you want more information about this last one, check out this article from gotquestions.org for the possible explanations: https://www.gotquestions.org/Matthew-2-23-Jesus-Nazarene.html So we see that Matthew continues to point us to the continuity of the story of Jesus. Keep this in mind as you read this Gospel because Matthew does this throughout his Gospel. For Matthew it is all ONE story, but do we sometimes try to separate them? I’m going to go into some details here just in case you never saw this before. First, a covenant, or testament, is simply an agreement, or contract, between two parties. What we call The Old Testament was an agreement God made with His chosen people that would come from the lineage of Abraham. God promised Abraham that all the nations would be blessed because of his Seed, which we now know to be Jesus, the Savior of the world. (Gen 22:18) but then God made an agreement with Abraham that all males should be circumcised as a sign that they were set apart from the world and belonged to God. Second, later on God gave these chosen people the Law through Moses to show them how they were supposed to live the holy life, that would reflect God and this covenant. This testament was conditional, “If you obey the Law, I will bless you. If you don’t, I will allow the curses of your disobedience to fall upon you.” (see Dt 28) Needless to say, no one could keep these holy standards on their own, and so, the agreement was broken, but not the promise! Thus the New Testament where God sends Jesus to fulfill the Law and be our sacrificial Lamb of God, so that if we believe in our hearts and confess with our lips, we will be saved. (Ro 10:9) The promise came 430 years before the Law (Gal 3:17) and that promise was unconditional, “No matter what you stubborn children do, I will give you all the opportunity for Salvation.” We tend to think about these two testaments as completely different books, but they are not…it is the same God Who is central in this continuous story and praise God that His promise still stands for all of us. Matthew wants his people to see that Jesus is the fulfillment of all those Old Testament prophecies, as well as the Law, and points them, and now us, back to that original promise. Jesus is the only way to return us back to Eden, back to the beginning of life, where we can love one another the way we were always meant to do.
Our response. So what can we learn from this reading and implement into our own lives so that we can have a deeper sense of this Abundant Life Jesus came to give us? Well, let’s start with Joseph. While we can, and should, admire Joseph, just admiring without imitating will do us, and no one else, any good. May we grow spiritually to discern God’s Voice from every other one, and then, immediately step out in Faith and obedience. And if you are still not 100% sure that that is God’s Voice? Step out in Faith anyway, trusting God to lead you every step of the way. Second, understand we can learn from everyone, the good and the bad alike. King Herod was evil. His life was all about MMI and that led him to do some horrible things. We must stand up to all types of injustices, but I hope you sensed me pointing to one in particular. The killing of innocent babies must break God’s heart. I know I fought so hard to keep my Baby Girl alive, that to willingly end a life before it starts, makes me weep. Thank God for His Love and Grace for anyone who has undergone this procedure. God loves the potential Mommy just as much as He loves those potential children, never forget that. And yet we should be surrounding these ladies and lovingly sharing the truth with them. Pray for the unborn, and pray for these potential Mommy’s too. Lastly, from Matthew we can learn that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb 13:8) We must read both The Old and New Testaments to see the depths of God’s Love. The Old will show us how desperate we are for God’s Grace, which we receive in the New, through Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our Father loves us and wants us to be holy, like He is Holy. The more I read, study and apply the Word of God to my life, the more life makes sense, which increases my peace and joy. Do you want that too? Then won’t you join me?
Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.
<>< Peace, Diane