Nazareth would furnish him with the name Jesus the Nazarene, and that would furnish him with the title of reproach, which God predicted would come.
He was despised, rejected, and finally killed the Nazarene. You see, every single location vital to the character of Jesus Christ. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Perhaps you're listening to this broadcast as you drive to see loved ones. Maybe you're tuning in from home while you prepare a Christmas meal or wrap presents. Or maybe you're about to watch a favorite holiday movie.
No matter your schedule, here's a question to keep in mind. How do you worship Christ the way He deserves and get the most out of Christmas? Consider that with us today as John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, continues his series titled The Birth of the King. Turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 2, and here is John. Take your Bible and let's look at Matthew chapter 2. Matthew chapter 2, and we're examining verses 13 to 23 in our continuing study of the book of Matthew. The first two chapters of Matthew are to solidify that He was born a King. Now the final way in which Matthew does this is by drawing out of the prophetic word, drawing out of the Old Testament age four prophecies that point to the King and showing how Christ fulfills each one. The first prophecy was that of Micah 5 2, that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem.
That was the first one that should have pointed them to the fact that this was the King. The second one we saw in verses 13 to 15, didn't we? And we call it the Exodus to Egypt, the birth of Bethlehem, the Exodus to Egypt. Now that brings us to the third prophecy, and we're calling that the ravaging of Rhema. The ravaging of Rhema. The birth of Bethlehem, the Exodus from Egypt, the ravaging of Rhema.
Verses 16 to 18. Let's talk about Rhema. Rhema was a city, now notice, five miles north of Jerusalem. Okay?
Not really a city, more like a village. Now I want you to notice something. Now watch. In Israel, there were two kingdoms, the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. Okay? The borderline, now watch this, the borderline between the two crossed right at Rhema.
Okay? Rhema was the border city between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. You can check that out in 1 Kings 15 17.
It was located five miles north of Jerusalem. Now Rhema was the place where foreign conquerors ordered the defeated multitude to be assembled for deportation to faraway places. When the conquerors came in to deport the children of Israel in the captivity, Rhema was the deportation town.
And because of its location, it became symbolic of the north and the south, both kingdoms. It was sort of like Rhema was the only place where Israel came together. Rhema sort of touched both. Rhema was always associated with weeping because it was at Rhema that the deportation into captivity took place. And so Rhema was a place of weeping. Now why is Jeremiah talking about Rachel?
Well, Jeremiah is really drawing a picture. It isn't that Rachel really went to Rhema necessarily and wept. Rachel is a symbol of the mothers of Israel. And Rhema is a symbol of the deportation of the sons and daughters of Israel. And the mothers of Israel are crying because they see their children taken away.
That's the idea. And most interesting, Rachel was Jacob's most cherished wife. And Rachel had given birth to Joseph. And Joseph was the father of Ephraim and Manasseh. And they represent the northern kingdom.
In fact, the northern kingdom is often called Ephraim. So the northern kingdom really, if we take that concept, is seen as Ephraim, was the son of Joseph who was the son of Rachel. So that Rachel from her womb bore the northern kingdom.
All right? She bore the northern kingdom. Secondly, Rachel also bore Benjamin. Rachel also bore Benjamin. And Benjamin went to the south and is identified with the southern kingdom. And so what you see here is Rachel is a figure. And Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31 sees it as if Rachel is alive.
And he sees Rachel standing at Rhema. And the northern kingdom is deported by Assyria into captivity. And the southern kingdom is deported by Babylon into captivity.
And both the north and the south have come from the loins of Rachel. And so Rachel is weeping as she sees both sides of her family taken into captivity. She is the symbol of the weeping mothers of the history of God's people as their sons and daughters are deported. She listens to their weeping and she herself begins to weep.
She mourns bitterly. First she's deprived of Israel and Ephraim. And then of Judah and Benjamin. When the population of the land was carried away it would have seemed as if God had deserted his children, Rachel's children.
As if God had deserted his people. But no sooner had Jeremiah presented the picture of Rachel weeping than he came right behind it and said, stop your weeping because there's coming a restoration. There's coming a restoration. There's coming a salvation message. They're going to come back. And they did.
And they did. In fact over in chapter 33 he even talks about the righteous branch, the Lord Jesus Christ who will be the agent to bring them back. And in the end the sorrow will be turned to joy in the salvation of the remnant fulfilled in the captivity and afterwards. Now listen, here's how Matthew comes in. Matthew shows us that the Holy Spirit also intended this imagery, this picture to reveal the time of the birth of the Christ. And as Matthew sees the slaughter of Bethlehem's babies, it's as if he sees Rachel beginning to weep all over again.
And so he picks up this fantastic analogy of Jeremiah. And he sees Rachel weeping for her children. And why Rachel? Because Rachel was like the mother of Israel. And Rachel's tomb market was right outside the city of Bethlehem.
It's even pointed out to you today as you take a taxi ride there. And some Bible commentators tell us, most interesting, the word rhema means height. And any place in Israel that's a height is a rhema. And Bethlehem is a height. And some believe that Bethlehem in those days was referred to as rhema. There were many rhemas incidentally in Israel's history.
Many places called height. And some believe that Rachel weeping at rhema, as Matthew uses it, is because of the proximity of Rachel's tomb to Bethlehem. And because Bethlehem became known as a rhema, a height, a high place.
So that that which Jeremiah used as a figure in his book was nothing more than a picture of what would happen again when the Messiah came. So Rachel weeps again. And this time she weeps not because Babylon or Assyria has destroyed her people, but because Herod has.
Herod has. And this time it isn't because it isn't because of some political foreign power. It's even the king of the very nation of Israel itself. But consolation follows immediately. Because even though the king has been exiled and the slaughter is going on, the king is going to come back, isn't he, from Egypt. And his gospel will be preached and a remnant will be saved. So Rachel, you don't need to weep anymore.
You can stop. The sorrow of the bereaved mothers of Bethlehem, babies murdered by Herod. Sure it was a sign of the coming doom. Sure it was a sign of the terrible spiritual captivity of Israel that's still going on today. But in the end there was a destiny and the destiny was blessing and salvation for the remnant who believe. Those little babies, they didn't know it, but those precious little babies in Bethlehem at that time were the first casualties in the warfare waged between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdoms of his Christ. They were the first casualties.
But ultimately the victory would be won. The babies surely, if I read my Bible right, the minute they died went instantly into the presence of God who gathers the little ones in his arms and says, forbid them not for of such is the kingdom. And the mothers, they could stop weeping because this very one who was now exiled in Egypt would come back to offer them a salvation. They could stop weeping because this very one who was now exiled in Egypt would come back to offer them a salvation that could unite them with their own babies.
How interesting. So the king, he has come to Bethlehem as Micah said. He has gone to Egypt as Hosea said. And he has caused weeping in Rhema by Rachel, the mothers of Israel, just as Jeremiah said.
Finally, finally, in Matthew's magnificent presentation of pictures of the coming king from the prophets, he includes one more, the name of Nazareth. Matthew chapter 2 verse 19, when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. And you remember the angel told him to wait until he did. Verse 13, he said, now you go to Egypt, you stay there. And I don't think it was very long after the family was there that he died.
Now he was dead. The next move, the angel came and said, the next place in fulfilling the prophetic word is Nazareth. Verse 20, arise, take the young child and his mother.
And again, I point out, every time you have the two together, the child comes first. Go into the land of Israel, for they are dead who sought the young child's life. Apparently, Herod wasn't the only one. There were some others involved and the Lord had set them aside also.
We don't have any word about that, but it's plural here. You can go back now. They are dead. Verse 21, he arose, took the young child and his mother and came into the land of Israel. Now you'll note that there's no specific place. They just came back to Israel, undoubtedly coming from the direction of Egypt. They probably came up through the south and they would have come to Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Perhaps in their own thinking, that would have been the place to stay. After all, they knew the child was the manual God with us. They knew he was to be the Savior, Jesus, for he shall save his people was his name. They knew he was the Messiah of God. They knew this because God's angels had told them. And they probably thought Jerusalem is the place or maybe Bethlehem where he was born in proximity since he is the king, we better stick around.
But that changed very fast. Verse 22, and Joseph it says, and when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. He was afraid to stay in the southern part, Jerusalem, Bethlehem area. And in agreement with that, he was warned of God in a dream, turned aside into the parts of Galilee.
Now I want you to know why they were afraid. When Herod died, Herod had pretty well ruled everything. But when he died, the kingdom was spread around. A man named Herod Antipas took over the Galilee area up in the north. Archelaus took over the Judea area, both of those incidentally were Herod's sons that weren't killed obviously. They were less powerful than their father and they weren't really kings.
They were more like governors or territorial princes. And so there was Antipas in the Galilee area, the north, and then there was Archelaus in the south. And when Joseph heard that Archelaus was in Judea, he was afraid to settle there and here's why. While Herod was still alive, Archelaus had gained his reputation. Herod had decided that he wanted to take a huge big gold eagle, which was the symbol that the Romans liked, a huge golden eagle and erect it over the gate of the Jewish temple, okay?
Which didn't go over very big to put it mildly. To the Jews it was an abomination. In fact, to them it was a violation of Exodus 20 verse 4 because it was having other gods. And the reason they believed that is because the Romans marked this, equated the eagle with Zeus and Jupiter. So the eagle represented one of their gods or two of their gods and they were literally putting an idol over the temple. Well, there were two famous Jewish teachers at this time by the name of Judas and Matthias, not to be confused with the Bible, those are very common names. Judas and Matthias, these two famous Jewish teachers, experts in the law of God, got their students together and said, are you going to stand for this?
Are you going to allow this? Are you going to let that guy put that eagle up there in the temple? And he got the students all stirred up and of course students are good for that to get them all stirred up. And they climbed the temple roof and they started to tear that eagle to pieces with their axes. They were up there chopping that thing to pieces. Well, they were arrested, brought to Herod to avoid a wholesale insurrection. He sent them to Jericho for their trial.
They received a mild punishment. The two teachers were executed. Now, Herod died and at the following Passover, a rebellion broke out in Jerusalem because of the murder of these two teachers. This is right after, just before the time when Jesus comes back from Egypt.
This tremendous insurrection because of the murder of these two great teachers. And Archelaus, who was now in control, quelled the revolution by slaughtering three thousand Jews. He just lined them up and slaughtered them.
Many of them were pilgrims attending the Passover. So, it was an incredible time when Israel's religious consciousness was so high to move in and just create bloodshed and slaughter three thousand. So, they hated the man and they feared this Archelaus. In fact, he was so rotten, he exceeded his father in being rotten like some of those Old Testament kings. The Romans even removed him.
And you know, one of the guys they replaced him with was a man named Pontius Pilate. Now, that's why Joseph had second thoughts about going to Judea. And his thoughts were confirmed because he was warned of God, verse 22 says, in a dream and turned aside to the parts of Galilee. The angel said, go to Galilee.
Then verse 23, here's the reason. He came, dwelled in a city called Nazareth that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene. Now, here's the fourth element in the prophecy surrounding his birth to show he was born a king. He was to go back to Nazareth. By the way, this was Joseph and Mary's original home, wasn't it?
According to Luke 2, 4, they were from Nazareth. They were to return to live out the prediction of the prophets who said he would be a Nazarene. The term Nazarene, now watch this one. This statement, he shall be called a Nazarene, appears nowhere in the Old Testament, okay?
Now look at it again. To fulfill that which was spoken by the prophets, plural, he shall be called a Nazarene. Well, if you're looking for the prophets who said it, you won't find them in the Old Testament. You say, what do you mean?
They're not there. We have no record of it in the Old Testament. We have no record of any prophet ever saying this. Some people want to connect it up with Isaiah 11, 1 where it talks about Christ being a branch, netzer, which is Hebrew, and they say netzer and Nazareth. It's a bad connection. It really doesn't make it for me. It's not good etymology. Besides, you've still got to deal with the prophets, plural, not just Isaiah 11, 1.
It seems so obscure to me that it would never be a connection. Now, Matthew says the prophets. You say, well, how do you explain this? Very simple.
It's very simple to explain. The prophet said this. It just never got written in the Old Testament until now, and it finally got written by Matthew. Well, you say, well, he says the Old Testament prophet said it. Did they say some things that didn't get written down?
I hope this doesn't shake you up too much. Yes. By the way, there are plenty of things that were said very significantly that weren't written down in the Old Testament. For example, Jude, verse 14, and Enoch, also the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with 10,000 of his saints. Enoch said that.
You want to know something? He didn't say it in the Old Testament. It isn't there. How do you know he said it? Because Jude said he said it. How did Jude know?
Because Jude was what? Inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. You know who said that he would be a Nazarene? The prophets said it. It just didn't get written down until here, but it did get written down here.
But you want to know what's so beautiful? Matthew doesn't even give a big explanation. He just says, the prophet said he shall be called a Nazarene, which tells me that it must have been common knowledge that the people knew the prophet said that about the Messiah.
That was common knowledge, I believe. Our Lord, his birth, Bethlehem, exodus into Egypt, ravaging at Ramah, and the name of Nazareth. The place was so despised, now listen, the place was so despised that Nazareth and Nazarene became a synonym for somebody despised. When somebody said to you, oh, you Nazarene, that was a term of derision. In fact, when the early church was started, they used to say that to the Christians as a kind of a knock, kind of a joke. In Acts 24, 5, we found this man, they say, Paul, a pestilent fellow and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and he's a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.
It's used in derision, and I think that's part of the reason the prophecy is here. Beloved, the Old Testament said again and again about Jesus. He would be despised. He would be despised. He would be despised. He would be rejected. He would be hated.
He would be looked down upon. That's what Psalm 22 says. That's what Psalm 69 says. That's what Isaiah 49 says. That's what Isaiah 53 says.
That's what Daniel 9 26 says. The Talmud, the Jewish rabbinic writings calls Jesus Yeshu Hananatsri, which means the Nazarene. They never call him the Bethlehemite, never, even though he was born there.
They never call him that. They call him the Nazarene because that's derisive. Jerome reports the synagogue prayer in which Christians are cursed as Nazarenes.
They say, may they be blotted out of the book of life and not be written with the just these Nazarenes. If Jesus had been raised in Bethlehem, if he had been raised in Jerusalem, he would not have been despised in the same way. But God said he would be despised and being from Nazareth just intensified that. It was to be Nazareth. Nazareth would furnish him with the name Jesus the Nazarene and that would furnish him with the title of reproach which God predicted would come. He was despised, rejected and finally killed, the Nazarene. You see, every single location vital to the character of Jesus Christ.
Matthew paints a masterpiece of a picture. Micah, he said the king would come to Bethlehem and to Bethlehem he came. Hosea, the king would come through Egypt. Through Egypt he came.
Jeremiah, there would be weeping like Rachel and Ramah of old in the picture of Jeremiah and there was as the mothers wept over the babies beside the tomb of Rachel in the Ramah of Bethlehem. And the prophets of old said his name would be Nazarene and he would be from Nazareth and so it was. And at each point he fulfills a prophecy that solidifies his right to reign. And so says Matthew, this is the king. By genealogy, by birth, by worship, by the jealousy of hatred and by the fulfillment of prophecy, this man was born a king for this cause came he into the world.
Let's pray. Father, we realize that nothing can hinder him putting on his head crown after crown in comparison to all the other petty monarchs who've come and gone. We see in the story, Lord, three reactions. The reaction of those who were indifferent, who ignored it all, the chief priests and the scribes.
The reaction of Herod and those who resented and hated, wanted this child dead, the antagonist. And the reaction of the wise, the magi who worshiped. And we know that what Matthew was calling for Israel to do as he wrote many years ago and what he is calling for men down through the corridors of history to do is to acknowledge Jesus as king, not to be resentful and not to be indifferent. And so Father, we pray that we may see him again as king of kings and Lord of lords. We pray in his wonderful and glorious name.
Amen. The God of the universe bringing salvation to mankind. I trust that profound truth will be your family's focus this Christmas. You're listening to Grace to You, the title of John MacArthur's study, The Birth of the King. Well, tomorrow is Christmas Eve and then the big celebration on Sunday, and there's so much anticipation for Christmas, particularly for children. So John, what advice would you have for parents and grandparents who want to help the younger members of their Christmas celebration focus on the most important part of Christmas, maybe something you and Patricia have found helpful with your family over the years?
Well, I think obviously we've been aided immensely by the life of the church. As our children grew up and our grandchildren grew up in the church, they were exposed to Christmas in a very prepared and thoughtful way for weeks leading up to Christmas. The curriculum, the children's ministries were always driving at the birth of Christ and significance of Christmas, and that's been aided also in our church life because there are special events around Christmas. We have Christmas concerts, and those are always family events, and the Word of God and the story of Christmas is told again.
And we also find ourselves having a little more free time, so we wind up collecting in various segments of our family. So Christmas is just, it's really a month rather than a day or even a week of focusing on the coming of our Lord. We always get together on Christmas and read the story again so that we make sure that on that very day that we celebrate, we're reminded that this is not about us.
This is about expressing our great love and gratitude to the Lord for the gift of His Son. Patricia and I have always focused away from anything artificial. Santa Claus doesn't play any role in our Christmas. It never really has. You know, I'm not anti that.
I think, you know, it's a fantasy as long as people know it's a fantasy story, but it's always about kind of clearing that away. I would have to say we don't talk about Easter bunnies at Easter either. I mean, you know, we want them to focus on the reality of this day and the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we want to direct their thoughts toward Him.
And we've used a lot of means to do that. Singing Christmas carols always takes us in that direction. In fact, one of my sorrows is that we don't get to sing those anytime but around Christmas, but it's a great time to refresh our commitment to the glories of the birth of Christ. Yep, that's right, John, and thank you.
That's a good point about Christmas carols. And friend, if I can ask a favor, if you're grateful for today's lesson on the birth of Christ, or if you can point to some specific way that you've benefited from Grace to You this year, we would love to hear your story. When you have time, jot a note and send it our way. You can send an email to letters at gty.org. That's our email address, letters at gty.org.
Or if you prefer regular mail, you can write to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. Well, as the busyness of your Christmas celebration winds down after the weekend, and you perhaps have more time to read God's Word and meditate on biblical truth, let me encourage you to download our Study Bible app. It's a free app that gives you the full text of Scripture in multiple translations, and it lets you quickly link to study guides and blog articles and sermons from John MacArthur, all of them related to whatever particular passage you're studying. And for a nominal price, you can add the notes from the MacArthur Study Bible. To download the Study Bible app, visit gty.org.
That's our website again, and the app is available for your Apple and Android devices. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson wishing you and your family a joyous Christmas celebration. And then be here on Monday when John motivates you to evangelize effectively and with a sense of urgency. The Great Commission, that's our focus, when another thirty minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time comes your way on Grace to You.
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