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The Coming King-Makers

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
December 21, 2023 12:00 am

The Coming King-Makers

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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December 21, 2023 12:00 am

How did Persian dignitaries learn about the coming Messiah? Furthermore, why did they associate a star with His birth? Stephen brings us deeper insight into this peculiar yet profound aspect of the Christmas story. Access all of the messages in this series:



One of the key questions every person needs to answer is, who will be the king of your heart and life? Ladies and gentlemen, I want to stop just a moment to remind us all that the world is filled with Herod's, but people claiming to be king. They will inhabit the throne of their heart and no other. Tell somebody today that Jesus Christ deserves to be their master and sovereign and watch as they become visibly shaken. The question of who will be the king of your life is critical. That's why the implications of Jesus Christ being the creator, Lord and Savior of the world are so vast. At the time Jesus came, an earthly king named Herod struggled with this question.

He couldn't accept the fact that there may be a rival to the throne of his life. When some dignitaries came to visit, inquiring about the Messiah, Herod became alarmed. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey begins a series entitled, The Myths, Messengers and Mysteries of Christmas. Stephen's calling today's lesson, The Coming of Kingmakers.

I'm glad you joined us today and now here's Stephen Davey with today's lesson from God's Word. I happen to believe that Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to exalt Jesus Christ in our community. I recommend we take full advantage of it and we will. There will be on the day before Christmas hundreds of people on this campus we may not see again until Easter.

Let's take advantage of it. So we'll make sure the music is clear and the message is clear and it exalts Jesus Christ. We'll take every advantage of the opportunity and let them know why we celebrate and why they should too. Let's make sure we separate the myth from the message and there are plenty of myths even within the New Testament church as it relates to this Christmas story. And so much of the Christmas story is simply lost on the church because it's watered down and it's sort of trivialized away and it's pawned off on the church during the season. I want to spend the next few Sundays uncovering the scene delivering three messages along the line of the myths and the messengers and the mystery of Christmas. And so this morning I invite your attention to the Gospel of Matthew. I tried to find something in Romans 11 that would kind of fit this idea and I couldn't find it. Matthew 2 verse 1.

We'll probably look at this text only today. I think we'll probably go to another one next Lord's Day and we'll really only begin to skim the surface. We'll look at a few scenes here and in particular this morning one of the most mythologized participants of this scene which are these wise men. Look at verse 1 of chapter 2. Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king. Behold Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying Where is he who has been born king of the Jews for we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. And when Herod the king heard it he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him.

I'll bet they were. These were Babylonian king makers. Two they were and of all the things they could have said to upset Herod and the Jewish people for different reasons.

It would have been this question. Where is he who has been born not where is he who will be born who might be born in the future at some point. But where is he who has been already born. And then they add this shocking title to this newborn king of the Jews. Where is the one who's already been born who happens to be the king.

Let me kind of hit the pause button and shift the camera. The second scene could be called rather tongue in cheek the apprehension of Herod. If you could re-enter this scene we've seen it before you've read it before but kind of put on a set of new eyes here and watch Herod. If you did you'd see at this moment his face flush crimson red.

He would be biting his tongue so he wouldn't say what he was thinking. This was deeply troubling to the one who was called Herod the Great. He was appointed by his father as prefect of Galilee. His father had been appointed by Julius Caesar himself to be the ruler over this region and the son of this man Herod became known as Herod the Great. Everybody knew he was king of this region. By the time you meet him in Matthew Chapter 2 he is 70 years old and he has become insanely jealous of his power and his throne.

Let me give you some illustrations. One of Herod's 10 wives. He had 10 wives who bore him 12 children.

One of his wives was named Miriam. She had a brother Aristobulus. Aristobulus had been granted the position of high priest in Jerusalem by the time of Christ.

The high priest was pretty much an owned position by the Roman power and the Romans put the man into place that they thought would do their bidding and it had long ceased being a spiritual office of leadership. Well Aristobulus evidently had gained quite a reputation and popularity among the people and it intimidated Herod and so Herod had him drowned. And then he financed a huge funeral at which he pretended to weep. After the funeral he had his wife Miriam and her mother killed as well. In his final two years of life his paranoia became so great that he murdered his two oldest sons considering them to be rivals to his power. So he put them to death five days before he died.

He executed his next eldest son determining that he would have no rival to his throne. I want you to listen to a paragraph out of Josephus's works. He was a first century Jewish historian who gave us some insight into Herod and what it would have been like to live in this region during his reign.

And I quote him. He did not permit the citizens either to meet together or to walk together or to eat together. He watched everything they did exhorting them to always be working. He had spies everywhere. He would often put on the clothing of an ordinary citizen and mix among the multitude asking them what do you think about Herod.

If they answered with criticism they would be arrested and punished severely or even brought to the citadel of Harkenia both openly and secretly and there be put to death. One of the last things that Herod the great did before he died was imprison many distinguished Jewish citizens from Jerusalem. And he commanded his guard that upon the moment of his death they were to execute these citizens so that there would be mourning in Jerusalem lamenting and weeping even though he knew it wouldn't be for him. He just wanted to make sure at his death there would be weeping in the city.

Now from everything I was able to research it seems that this order was never carried out. I want you to know one more thing about him. As an older man he had gained favor with the Roman emperor to the point where he solicited them with a request of his that he had carried for years and the Roman Senate granted him his wish and they gave him his wish and it was the title king of the Jews. He was the king of the Jews.

That was his title. This was his throne. Now you need to understand that it was during this two year period when Herod was killing every threat to his throne that a group of Babylonian dignitaries arrived and said where is he who has been born. The king of the Jews that completely stunned him. It turned his world. The text tells us when he heard it. Verse three. He was troubled. The word means agitated.

He was visibly shaken. Somebody would dare take his title. He had killed people for much less than that.

Ladies and gentlemen I want to stop just a moment to remind us all that the world is filled with Harrods. Not in so far as going around murdering people though there are those as well. But people claiming to be king. They will inhabit the throne of their hearts and no other.

Nobody has a right to interfere with their career and their position and their power and their ambition and their plans and their lifestyles. They are not about to let anybody else be king in their lives. Tell somebody today that Jesus Christ deserves to be their master and sovereign and watch as they become visibly shaken. Suggest to someone that they should bow to the sovereignty of Christ's reign over their life and watch their faces flush red.

And they bite their tongues so they don't say to you what they want to say and sometimes they still go ahead and say it. I don't need saving. I don't need a king.

I am as it were the master of my fate. I don't misunderstand these may be very good people. Christ might be OK for a little Christmas caroling once a year. But he is best left in the manger or on the cross. Religion is comfortable with him in either one of those two places. But don't talk about the sovereign ascended Lord. Don't talk about his right to our priorities and our plans and our morals and our lifestyles. You're ruining my Christmas spirit with that kind of talk. Jesus Christ works for me at Christmas Eve party but I won't be inviting him to my New Year's Eve party.

Let's just leave him in the manger shall we. Herod of course took it physically to the extent that he would seek to exterminate this one. And it isn't just anybody who delivered the news.

Go back and look again. Behold verse 1 the middle part magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem magi comes from the Greek word magoi in its plural form. It gives us the word magic or magician or magistrate. The verse tells us that these men were from the east literally translated. It says they came from the rising a reference to the rising of the sun. They were from the kingdom of the rising of the sun.

In this era it would have been the kingdom of the Babylonians and the Persians. Now Matthew doesn't tell us hardly anything about him and that little frustrating. He gave us what we needed to know. Fortunately God allowed some historians who lived in the first century and before to write some things down to help us get a little bit clearer picture of what these men were like. Herodotus was one of them this ancient Greek historian who informed us that these men were a special cast of highly trained men in the arts and sciences. They were the high priests.

They were the university professors. They were the political movers and shakers of their world all rolled up into one. They were the leaders of the Persian religion which by the way was still in full force when Jesus Christ was born. Their religion was called Zoroastrianism. I know it sounds a little bit like the worship of Zoro.

Everybody wearing black masks and carrying swords. Actually the priests wore white robes and tall hats with flaps that covered their ears much like the picture you might have of a wizard. Their principal element in their worship was fire. They had an altar in their capital with a fire they kept burning.

They believed it originally came down from heaven and they practiced animal sacrifice. They believed in only one God. They were monotheists.

The name of their God as I mentioned earlier was Mazda. Historians also tell us that no Persian was ever able to become king without mastering the scientific and religious disciplines of the Magi. Literally taught and tutored by the Magi. Only then would the heir to the Persian or Babylonian throne be approved and crowned literally by the Magi. That's why the Magi were known as the king makers. Everybody knew that and so did Herod. And here they arrive, the king maker saying, where's the king? We know he's been born.

He's the king of the Jews. By the way, Matthew doesn't tell us how many Magi arrived. Church tradition originally said there were 12. But the number was later reduced to three.

We don't know why. Probably because you can't get 12 wise men into a Christmas play perhaps. But it was reduced down to three. During the Middle Ages, the number of wise men were, though reduced, their traditions and the myths about them were expanded. The church would later claim in the Middle Ages that these three men were named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. They were representatives of the three sons of Noah. Supposedly their skulls were miraculously preserved, discovered in the 12th century by the Bishop of Cologne.

And the great cathedral of Cologne today even still exhibits these skulls encased in jewel-studded glass encasements. The question remains, though, from the plain text of Scripture, why make a trip across the continent? A journey that would take at least a year, if not more. Why did the Magi assume when they arrived in Jerusalem, the text tells us they began to ask? They didn't go to Herod and originally asked. They asked the people. They showed up.

Where's the king? Why would they assume everyone would know? Why would they be willing to slip in the front door of Israel and then slip out the back door back into oblivion? And most importantly, why would they be interested in a Jewish Messiah, these Gentile kingmakers? Well, to begin to answer those questions, you have to travel back several centuries before this time to a time when the Jews were taken captive by this kingdom that came from the rising of the sun. Among those deported Jews were young men with conviction who traveled back.

They would be trained by the Magi in their university. You know several of them by name. The most prominent was who? Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel had such a profound effect on Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian empire that he promoted Daniel to be the chief leader of the Magi, Daniel chapter 2, verse 48. So powerful and so respected was he that when Darius conquered Nebuchadnezzar's son and Persia overwhelmed Babylon, that Darius just retained the leadership of Daniel.

You probably remember the story where the other political leaders of that Persian kingdom didn't like the idea and so they concocted a plot to ultimately throw Daniel to the lions, you remember? You ought to know that the Magi had nothing to do with that plot, only the political leaders. It would be 70 years of godly influence by the life and obviously the teaching of Daniel that would not only bring two kings to trust in Yahweh, but many of the Magi as well. And we're reading here in Matthew 2 about the descendants of the original Magi converts to the teaching of Scripture.

What did they mean in Matthew chapter 2, verse 2? We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him. Well, first of all, this would tell us that when the Magi arrived, they were already believers. They are already prepared to worship him. That's why they've come. They thought they were going to join a celebration.

The king has been born. They were ready. They already believed in the messianic, prophetic Scripture. They knew the Messiah had been born. In fact, as soon as Herod had the chance, if you look at verse 4, he asks where the Messiah has been born and the Magi then in fact said, we've come to worship the Christ that is the Messiah. So here they are, descendants of Daniel's original converts, prompted to begin a journey that would take them more than a year to accomplish. And you need to rewrite in your mind again the picture. This is not a few men. This is a large, impressive, imposing caravan with servants to cook and clean, servants to watch the herds that would be used for food along the journey, a large division of royal soldiers to protect them as they journeyed through foreign kingdoms, the soldiers also protecting the tariffs and also the gifts the Magi had with them.

These were Persian dignitaries and their entourage who were renowned for their power and their privilege in a long line of Gentiles that stretched all the way back to their leading Magi. Daniel, there's still another question. In fact, I'm not answering half of them, am I?

You just study ahead on your own. But I'll give you another one and I'll try to answer this one. Why would an astral sign prompt their journey? How would they connect a star with the Messiah?

Daniel evidently, and we know that other deported Jews had with them copies of the Torah, the books of Moses, the law, he and no doubt others living in captivity evidently taught them because these men knew of the coming Messiah. And I've just pulled one verse out, maybe two. Listen to this one from Numbers 24. This is the oracle of Him who hears the words of God and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty. I see Him, but not now. I behold Him, but not near. A star shall come forth from Jacob and a scepter shall rise from Israel. See, here's an Old Testament passage that links the Messiah with the rising of a star. Perhaps Daniel had at his disposal the prophet Isaiah's writing that had said years earlier, arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. The nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising, Isaiah 61 to 4. Same expression, same idea of a star rising in brightness. You remember in Revelation chapter 22 verse 16, Jesus is referred to as what? He's referred to as the bright and morning what?

Star. You need to understand that the Magi didn't just see a star like you would look up in the sky and see stars. This is a reference to this bright and morning.

It wasn't a comet, it wasn't a meteor, it wasn't an alignment of planets. This is a messianic sign. It was a star-like brilliance, in fact, the light of God's presence, his Shekinah glory, the Greek word in Matthew chapter 2, for star can be translated brilliance. They saw the brilliance in the heavens.

By the way, this has been around for some time, this light. It guided the people of Israel as they journey through the wilderness in Exodus 13. This was the light that caused the face of Moses to glow after meeting with God in his glory, Exodus 34. This was the heavenly brilliance that knocked Saul off his horse in Acts chapter 9 verse 3 and blinded him.

This was the vision of John the Apostle as he saw the light of Christ's face shining like the sun in Revelation chapter 1 verse 16. This was the same light that appeared to these Persian Magi and literally led them. How else do you explain that it seemed to disappear when they arrived in Jerusalem? How do you explain that it suddenly seemed to reappear after they left Herod's palace?

And more importantly, how do you explain it literally standing over, shining on just the one house where the child will stay? Only one way, they were being led by the Shekinah glory of God's light. And it also seems to imply in the text they were the only ones who saw it, which leads me to wonder some more things. Why would God bother with Eastern Magi? What's so important about Persians coming bearing gifts?

Well, I could try to answer that one. I agree with one author who suggested this revealed the birth of Jesus had worldwide impact and influence. It also implied that even though Jesus was born of Jewish kin, his birth was a gift to all the Gentile nations. And unfortunately it was an illustration that when he did come, when he was born and throughout his life the Jews would reject him and the Gentiles would embrace him. The Jewish leaders who told Herod here in verse 5 and 6 where the Messiah was to be born didn't care to even walk five miles to go check it out for themselves.

Can you imagine that apathy? And yet Gentiles will travel across the continent. And you notice in verse 6 that when Herod says, Okay, where's the Messiah to be born? He didn't care that it's the Messiah.

He just knows the man will have his title. And the scribes and the religious leaders don't even have to look it up. They've got the prophecy of Micah memorized. Oh, well, we know that he's going to be born in Bethlehem.

You would think they'd begin running there. They had the scriptures and they knew the scriptures but they didn't care for the Savior. The wise men on the other hand travel the great distance.

Persia was located in modern-day Iran. They traveled to the country of Iran and in and through the vast country of Iraq and down into Palestine. It took them probably weeks, perhaps months to prepare and months to travel as much as a year to make it there and now they arrive. And now you can understand that when they arrived with their entourage, it troubled all of Jerusalem.

You need to know as well, according to verse 11, look over there very quickly, that when they arrived, what does it say? They came into the what? They came into the house and saw the child with Mary. They didn't come to a stable or a lean-to or a cave nearby the inn or even the outer courtyard.

Those are all ideas postulated about this and they didn't go to any of those. They came to a house and they saw the child, not a braefos, the Greek word for baby, but it was the Greek word pydion, for teachable or learning child. By the time the Magi had arrived, Jesus is anywhere from one to two years of age. Verse 11, when they entered the home, they saw the child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. The expression that the Magi fell down is that oriental custom where they hit their knees and bowed with their foreheads and they stretched out their arms and they kissed the ground and they kissed his feet and they kissed his garments. Can you imagine? Here's little Jesus probably holding on to his mother's gown, just having learned to walk, wide-eyed, receiving worship from these Gentile kingmakers.

What a scene. And they brought gifts, gifts that had no use for the rearing of a little one, but gifts that were highly significant. They gave him gold. This was the gift for kings, gold for the one who would be heir to the throne of David. And that gold would come in wonderfully well because when they escaped and lived in Egypt, Joseph and Mary and this little boy, they would have the money to survive. They gave him frankincense.

This is a gum from the boswellia tree. It was used in our Old Testament scriptures many times by the priests in their priestly service. Frankincense is for the high priest who will intercede on our behalf.

He is not only the royal one who has the right to the throne of David, but he is our high priest. And then they gave him the strangest of gifts, myrrh. This was taken, this gum from the small thorny bush. This gum from its sap would be mixed with wine to serve as a narcotic to dead in pain. It would be offered to Jesus when he was on the cross and he would refuse it.

It was the substance that would be used in embalming a lifeless body. They gave him myrrh, signifying the suffering of Christ, signifying perhaps even his crown of thorns, the one who would suffer on the cross, the one who would be wrapped with this gummy substance in the tomb. These were gifts for the king of kings, for the high priest and the suffering savior.

Highly significant gifts. You have in these few verses three ongoing responses to the savior, don't you? Even though cultures change and clothing changes and methods of travel and lifestyles change from the first century to the 21st century, you have the same response. You have anger at the thought of this sovereign from Herod. You have apathy from the religious world. You have adoration. You have those who hate him, those who ignore him, and those who love him, and bow before him, this one who is Christ the Lord.

Well, I certainly hope that it's the last category that reflects you. As believers, we celebrate the wonderful news that Jesus has come and salvation is possible. Some of us likely came to Christ kicking and screaming, but now we willingly fall on our knees to worship King Jesus. Here at Wisdom International, we always enjoy hearing from those who listen to the broadcast. We recently heard from Sean, who wrote to say this, I want you to know how grateful I am for your ministry. When I first started listening, I knew very little about the Bible. I didn't grow up as a Christian. I became a Christian later in life.

I've tried to read the Bible, but I sometimes find it confusing. I'm so thankful that I found your ministry. Your teaching clarifies God's word for me. You've helped me understand so much. Thank you for making your Bible teaching available on the radio and online. Well, thanks for sharing that, Sean. We certainly believe that God's word is true and that by teaching it faithfully, it guides men and women in their relationship with God. Stephen's passion is helping people know what the Bible says, understand what it means, and apply it to their lives. Join us next time on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-21 01:14:33 / 2023-12-21 01:24:54 / 10

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