Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Dangerous Mission

It was an incredible sequence of events.  Interweaving His plan from far back in the Old Testament and finding completion in the narratives of Luke and Matthew, the amazing sovereignty of God is on full display.  In Luke through a census arranged by Caesar Augustus and in Matthew through the likes of King Herod; from common people to powerful people, God moved to bring us salvation through Jesus Christ.  And due to humans being involved, this entire operation was extremely dangerous.

I recently read, “Luke shows God influencing the entire Roman Empire so that the census comes at the exact time to get an insignificant virgin to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy with her delivery.  Matthew shows God influencing stars in the sky to get a handful of foreigners to Bethlehem so that they can worship the Son." 

But did the Magi actually go to Bethlehem?  We don't really know.  There is not evidence of it in Scripture:  "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was . . . On coming to the house, they saw the child." (Matthew 2:9, 11).  We don't know exactly where "the house" was!  From Luke 2:4, regarding information about the census, we could conclude that Joseph and Mary naturally returned to Nazareth.  Might the events of Jesus' presentation at the Temple in Luke 2:22-39, simply have been planned as a stop on their trip back to Nazareth, as verse 39 seems to suggest?    

When the Magi arrive things get very interesting.  Here we see the action of God, on a more covert level!  Do you suppose that Jesus birth in Bethlehem - quoted in Matthew 2:6, from Micah 5:2 - was intended from the very beginning as a diversion, protecting Jesus from being later discovered by Herod?  I believe so.  What records were there of births during the census?  What knowledge was there of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem?  (Yes, there are the shepherds in Luke 2:17 who, "after seeing him, told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child."  However, that information did not make the intelligence briefing at Herod's office.)

Matthew 2:16 says "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."  Herod had an approximate time for Jesus' birth, but never knew His real location!

God protected Jesus from Herod, not allowing him to know that Jesus was in Nazareth - or wherever "the {safe} house" happened to be.  To further protect the Holy family - and the world's salvation - God arranges a sudden and surprising night-time extraction (Matthew 2:13-15).  And by the sequence of events in Matthew 2, this took place before Herod even realized what happened. 

Wow!  #MindBlown

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Psalm 19:1
"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed." Matthew 2:10

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you." Isaiah 60:1
"Being confident of this:  He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6