Monday, December 17, 2007

Matthew 3


1 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, primarily along the Jordan River Valley to the Dead Sea saying, 2 ``Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew uses "kingdom of heaven" in place of "kingdom of God" 32 out of 36 times. This kingdom is not a place, but a rule-a presence of God on earth.

'' 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, ``THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, `MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!' John's ministry was announcing the end of the old and introducing the new that is to come through the coming of the Messiah. '' 4 Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

Who were going out to be baptized? Those who went out from Jerusalem must have heard of John's preaching and were interested enough to check him out. They must have had some discontentment with what they were experiencing. When they heard John's preaching to "repent", they submitted themselves to be baptized in this new way, confessing their sins of rejecting the way of the Messiah.

NOTE "repent" means to change your mind about what you believe or are doing and turn around in your thinking or behavior. The Jews had more reason to REPENT-to turn around and back to a personal relationship with their God.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ``You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 ``Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 ``The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

John wasn't easy on the religious who came out to the wilderness to be baptized. He pointed out that they were so close to the axe and/or fire of judgment before making this decision to repent.

11 ``As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 ``His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.''

John came to open the door of change-to repent-to make way for God's Messiah. John baptized with water to move people into repentance. Jesus will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus' baptism will be an inside job by His Spirit and will be a purifying work of fire.

13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ``I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?'' 15 But Jesus answering said to him, ``Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'' Then he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ``This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.''

John didn't want to baptize Jesus, the One he spoke about earlier as mightier than he. However Jesus was determined that John would baptize Him to fulfill all righteousness. Why is it that Jesus was determined to submit Himself to this baptism?

1. Example to follow-Jesus set the way for all those who will live out the Kingdom lifestyle. 2. Identification with sinners-Jesus wanted to identify Himself with sinners. This is very interesting. He identified Himself with sinners, so that we sinners would trust in Him and identify ourselves with Him. 3. Affirmation of John's ministry/teaching-Jesus wanted to give affirmation to the teachings of John to prepare the way for the Kingdom of Heaven.

BAPTISM-The meaning of baptism is identification. The root meaning of "baptize" is to immerse or dip something into something else. For example, if you take a cloth that is identified by "white" and dip it (baptize) into a bucket of "red" dye, the white cloth will have a new identification-RED. When a person is baptized into Jesus, he is identified as a follower of Jesus-in one with Him.

I see water baptism as the "kingdom ID card" for all of those who want to walk with Jesus in His kingdom. New Testament baptism seems to be believer's baptism and not infant baptism. There are all kinds of good reasons given for baptizing babies, but this "kingdom ID card" is for those who have made a willing decision to be identified with Jesus in His kingdom.

So, have you picked up your "kingdom ID card" yet?

Matthew 2


1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 ``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.

NOTE they referred to "His star" as being identifiable. I believe the heavens declare the story of God-the message of creation, the Fall and the story of salvation through God's Messiah. Psalm 19:1-2 says: The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech and night to night reveals knowledge. Those astronomers who have studied the stars can learn God's plan from beginning to end. This is not the modern day astrologer or the fortune-telling astrology in the newspapers or from a "spiritually gifted" person reading your lifeline. The astrology of today has picked up on a real truth about the stars, but it is a counterfeit to what God is really saying through the heavens. One of the best known sources of the genuine message of God's plan revealed through the stars is E.W. Bullinger's Witness of the Stars.

'' 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, ``In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6 `AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.' ''

NOTE there are location prophecies regarding the Messiah given here in this section. First, the God's Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. The reason this is important to note is that there are all sorts of attacks on the story of Jesus' birth and place of origin, but these 4 location prophecies clear it up.

7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared

Apparently the star had been noted by the magi quite some time ago, probably over a year earlier. They analyzed the meaning of the star and made their way to Jerusalem by camel, not by plane.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem Just as God had the king of Nineveh gather the people to hear Jonah's message from God, so does the Lord use another non-believer king to point the way to Bethlehem for the magi. and said, ``Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him Yeah, rightW'' 9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star which they had seen in the east went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was

NOTE the star they first saw sent them to Jerusalem and not Bethlehem. Now, having learned where to go from Jerusalem, the star reappears and directs them right to where Jesus was living. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy Their journey had been made complete as this star that they had followed rested over the place of the Messiah. Their faith was rewarded coming all this way and now what they believed was true was true. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother

NOTE that the Messiah was no longer in a stable, but in a house. He is well over a year old at this time. and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him

NOTE that the magi knew that they were dealing with God's Messiah, worthy of worship, because this is the promised gift to the world, testified in the stars. Also, note that this would have been a great time to worship Mary, if that would be appropriate. But they didn't. Their entire focus of worship was upon Jesus.

Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh How many "wise men" were? This is where we get that there were 3, because of the 3 types of gifts, but we don't really know. It's just another Christian rumor.

12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way God first guided them to Jesus through Herod and now is directing them to avoid Herod.

Now, given Herod's great desire to come and "worship" the new King who was born and that Herod knew where He was, it was time to "get out of Dodge" to protect God's Messiah.

13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared* to Joseph in a dream and said, ``Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.'' 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ``OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.'' Here's the 2nd location prophecy. The Messiah will live in Egypt for a time.

16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18 ``A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNIN, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED, TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.'' Here is the 3rd location prophecy associated with the Messiah's birth and early days. Apparently, in Herod's rage and determination to destroy this new King of the Jews he ordered that all babies under the age of two (just to be safe) be killed. Rama was within a circle of about 10 miles that included Bethlehem and its vicinity. Jeremiah, the prophet, noted that this mass killing of children by the jealous, evil Herod would be felt all the way to Rama. What a horrible tragedy!

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 ``Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead.'' 21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there Archelaus had been mentored by his father and was just as bad. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: ``He shall be called a Nazarene.'' Here is location prophecy number 5. Jesus will live and grow up in Nazareth. Some today who are prone to attack the validity of the bible point to Jesus' being from Nazareth as the place He most likely was born and not Bethlehem. They make this assumption, because people were not prone to move about that much. However, Jesus and His family were moved about by God for His protection.]

NOTE: Who were these Magi? They came from Babylon or Persia. They weren't sorcerers or magicians, but astrologers/astronomers. They knew what they were looking for as they had searched the stars. They seemed to know something about the Messiah who was to come. Some believe that these men were of the religious persuasion of the Zoroastrians, who believed that God would someday send His Messiah to redeem the earth and its inhabitants. Note that they were non-Jews from a foreign country. How could they know such things to look for? The answer is that someone told them. It was Daniel. Daniel had been in Babylon and was made the head of the "magicians" (Magi). He no doubt taught them God's ways and Daniel is the prophet whom God used to pinpoint the exact timing of the birth, presentation of Him as King and the death of the Messiah. What Daniel had taught had been passed down from generation to generation.

What does this say to us? 1. The supernatural birth of God's Messiah, Jesus, was a most monumental event in history worthy of divine direction even to non-Jews. 2. God will guide those who are interested in searching out the Messiah. I especially have seen this of the Jewish people. God seems to give them more clues and indicators than He does the rest of us. All God requires of any of us is that we be interested, then He directs the path to truth. 3. If we are willing to search out God's Messiah, then the greatest joy imaginable will be the result. He is the way, the truth and the life! This is not a search in order to defend Christianity, but to search for the Christ-God's Messiah. Searching to know a religious system is worthless, unless you want to win debates. Searching for a relationship with God's Messiah will bring you joy, peace and the fullness of life that only God can give.