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News for Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sunday School Lesson: Bible Studies for Life - December 18
Dec. 18: Respond to God’s Gift
By Eric Smith
12/13/2011

Focal Passages: Matthew 2:1-15

The star over Bethlehem is not a sweet Christmas image: it is the fulfillment of ancient prophecy about God’s coming king. Centuries before, a prophet had said, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth” (Numbers 24:17). Now, against the dark skies of Bethlehem, this star announced that God has kept His promise. He has sent His gift, the world’s rightful King, to restore all things in His Father’s world. As our lesson title suggests, the arrival of this gift demands a response. Matthew shows us two responses here.

First, there is Herod, installed by Rome as a governor over Israel. Herod is no faithful Israelite, but a madman. He murdered a number of his wives and children, suspicious they would seize his throne. So when Herod hears that “the star has risen out of Jacob,” he understands exactly what it means: his days are numbered. Herod will soon be dispossessed by a greater King. But Herod clings to his throne with a death-grip, and plots to destroy this rightful ruler. Later, when the wise men do not report back to him, he demands the slaughter of every Jewish boy under the age of two in Bethlehem, so fearful is he of the arrival of this king.

This is not an uncommon response to King Jesus. The Bible tells us this is, in fact, the response of every sinful man and woman to the kingly authority of Jesus, apart from the renewing work of the Holy Spirit. Each of us wants to be the ruler of our own world, to be exalted and receive tribute from others. When a greater King threatens to topple our little kingdom, demanding control of our lives, we rage.

Second, notice the response of the wise men. We do not know their full story, but they possibly came from Persia, where some of the Jews were scattered after the exile. Perhaps they had that ancient prophecy about the star on file. Whether or not this is the case, they have identified the rising star with the birth of the King of the Jews. But unlike Herod who rages against God’s Messiah, these men travel a great distance to worship him. Herod wants to destroy this king; they bow before him. As they walk in the home of this poor carpenter, they recognize at some level that they share a room with a mighty ruler. They kneel and present Him with gifts. In doing this, they are not like ladies bringing cute outfits to a baby shower. When they lay gold, frankincense and myrrh before this child, they are paying tribute to a king. When you enter a king’s presence, you present him with gifts, in a display of honor and loyalty. Isaiah prophesied that God’s Messiah would receive such tribute from the nations 750 years earlier (Isaiah 60:1-7).

This is the proper response to God’s gift, King Jesus: worship Him, laying the costly gift of yourself at His feet. This King laid down His life on the cross for sinners, and rose mightily from the dead to secure their redemption from death, hell and the devil. Standing on the other side of the empty tomb, this King declares, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me,” (Matthew 28:18). He is a King who demands a response; lay aside all resistance and bow to His gracious rule!

— Smith is pastor of Curve Baptist Church, Ripley.

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