Our Hope and Peace.

Matthew 2

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
For from you shall come a ruler
Who will shepherd my people Israel.’’

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.’ After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy Him. And he rose and took the child and His mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’

Then Herod when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious and sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
She refused to be comforted,
Because they are no more.’

But when Herod died behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that He would be called a Nazarene.”

So, now as we get into the next few chapters, the pace will start to pick up a bit. However, we may cover a bit more text in some parts than we did when we were studying Matthew 1. After the birth of Jesus, we get into a stretch of longer narrative. I encourage you to read Matthew 2-4 in one sitting some time. Try to get a feel for the story Matthew is weaving together. It will help you see the bigger picture of each individual part better.

Matthew 2 contains more that is familiar to a lot of Christians and those who have been in church for a while. It’s hard to study not because the content is difficult to understand, but because it’s so familiar. To be honest, it’s hard to find something to write about that most people don’t already know.

But I think that’s ok. I talked about how important it is to not take anything in Scripture for granted. Just because you may have heard this story before over and over, doesn’t mean it’s not important. It may be the same old truth you’ve heard your whole life. But it’s good truth. Sometimes we need to remember the same old truth. And sometimes God shows us a deeper part of the same old truth. We may think we know all there is to know about a passage or a particular truth and then God goes and blows our minds. He shows us an angle of a story that we never saw before. And that’s the beauty of Scripture.

A Summary

I want to start by summarizing what I read. And as I summarize, I want to keep what I’ve already read in mind. I want to always be thinking about how this part of Matthew connects to the genealogy and the story of Jesus’ birth. 

After Jesus was born, a group of wise men came to Herod, who was king. They told Herod they were looking for the “King of the Jews.” Herod sent the wise men to visit this King of the Jews after finding out he was born in Bethlehem. Herod said he wanted to visit as well. The wise men found Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in a house in Bethlehem. They gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Instead of returning to Herod, however, the wise men found another way home after God warned them in a dream.

Herod realized the wise men tricked him and had every baby boy under the age of two killed. But, God warned Joseph through a dream and the family escaped to Egypt. After Herod died, God told Joseph to go back to Israel. However, Herod’s son was reigning in Judea and Joseph was afraid of him. God then told Joseph to take his family to live in Nazareth. 

What Is Matthew Saying About Jesus?

Throughout the whole Gospel, Matthew is trying to show his fellow Jews who Jesus is. He wants the other Jews to know Jesus is the Christ. He is the Messiah. He is the King of the Jews. And as always, when we are reading through the Gospel, we need to keep that in mind.

What is Matthew doing in this story to show us that Jesus is the Christ? And even further, what can we learn about what it means for Jesus to be the Christ? These are the types of questions we always want to be asking.

Jesus’ Parallel to Moses

One interesting thing about the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew is the parallelism between the story of Jesus and the story of Israel. The beginning of the nation of Israel becomes a shadow of the early life of Jesus. For example, when Herod kills all the infants in Bethlehem, we see a glimmer of Pharaoh’s actions at the beginning of Exodus. Both rulers were afraid of something. Pharaoh was afraid of the Israelites overpowering him. Herod was afraid of being dethroned by the future king of the Jews. And because of their fear, both men murdered innocent children. And like in the story of Exodus, God protected the one who would save His people.

Matthew is hinting here about who Jesus is. He is showing the Jews of his day, not only that Jesus is the Christ. He’s showing them what that means. He’s showing his fellow Jews what God has been doing since the Exodus and the beginning of the nation of Israel. And it’s bigger than any of them would have thought.

Old Testament Prophecies

Matthew also includes three references to the Old Testament. He points out three times the story of Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. The first comes from Micah 5, the second is from Hosea11, and the third from Jeremiah 31. I’ll deal with the first and the last one, and I encourage you to look at the second one on your own to practice.

He Will Be Their Peace.

The priests and scribes tell Herod that the Christ was supposed to be born in Bethlehem. And Matthew tells us how Jesus’ place of birth was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy:

“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
For from you shall come a ruler
Who will shepherd my people Israel.”

It’s helpful when you are reading the Gospels is looking up Old Testament references. Looking at them in their original context can help us see them in a different light. We want to try to read the Gospels through the eyes of the original audience, in this case, first-century Jews. Looking up Old Testament references helps us see what they saw when they read Matthew’s Gospel. And when you look up the references, take some time to read more than the couple of verses Matthew quoted. Read the chapter before and after. Try to get a feel for the story those verses are in.

So, let’s look up the verses Matthew quotes here. This prophecy comes from Micah 5. Micha, like many of the other prophets, starts out with a description of coming judgment from God for the sins of the people. But, then there is a turning point and we see God promise to have mercy on His children. Micah 5 starts out like this:

“Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops;
Siege is laid against us:
With a rod they strike the judge of Israel
On the cheek.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you shall come forth for me
One who is to be ruler in Israel,
Whose coming forth is from of old,
From ancient days.
Therefore He shall give them up until the time
When she who is in labor has given birth:

Then the rest of His brothers shall return
To the people of Israel.
And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD,
In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now, He shall be great
To the ends of the earth.
And He shall be their peace.

Matthew tells us that the Jews referenced Micah 5 to show that the Messiah was supposed to be born in Bethlehem. And here, Matthew shows his fellow Jews and us that Jesus’ birth fulfills what Micah prophesied. According to Matthew, Jesus is the ruler “whose coming is from of old.” And he would shepherd God’s people and be their peace.  

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

Matthew also includes a reference from the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
She refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Let’s take a look at Matthew’s reference to Jeremiah at the end of this story.

Matthew points us back to Jeremiah 31:5. Jeremiah can be a hard book to read. It primarily contains prophecy about Judah’s exile. God’s people had rejected Him, turning to worship idols and in turn oppressing the poor. Jeremiah started out by listing the charges against God’s people. He told them why the exile is coming.

Then, the book begins to turn a little. It turns from conviction to hope. From the pain of sin to the promise of salvation. Even though the exile would last a long time, God would restore His people. He would show them mercy. They would have joy again. The verses Matthew quotes come in the middle of this promise.

Here is Matthew’s reference the way it was written in Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
She refuses to be comforted for her children
Because they are no more.”

Then, Jeremiah goes onto say (this is the part that isn’t in Matthew, but I think it helps us get a powerful perspective on Jesus):

“Thus says the Lord,
Keep your voice from weeping,
And your eyes from tears,
For there is a reward for your work,
Declares the Lord
And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope for your future,
Declares the Lord,
And your children shall come back to their own country.”

The Promise in the Middle of Judgment

Of course, there is a lot we can learn about Jesus by reading these Old Testament passages. And I would love to see what stood out to you as you studied them. I want to share a little of what stands out to me. It’s something I’ve noticed a lot about the prophecies from the Old Testament that Matthew references. It’s something that I think captures the beauty of the gospel and the reality of why Jesus came.

Both of these Old Testament references are found in the middle of books where God is pronouncing judgment on His people. As we learned a few posts ago, God’s people had sinned against Him. They turned from Him and began to worship other gods. Their idolatry corrupted their hearts and they oppressed the poor in their communities. 

Their sin broke God’s heart.

“What wrong did your fathers find in me
That they went far from me,
And went after worthlessness and became worthless?

Jeremiah 2:5-6

He gave them chances to repent. He gave them a chance to turn back to Him.

“Return, faithless Israel,
Declares the LORD.
I will not look on you in anger,
For I am merciful,
Declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 3:12

But, they choose their sin. They don’t turn back. And so, God pronounces judgment.

Reading through Jeremiah and even Micah is hard to do. Because the truth is everything God says against Judah and Israel, is true for me too. I deserve the same wrath they received. I have sinned against God. I have turned away from Him. I deserve to die. And I deserve God’s judgment. Every word God speaks against His people in both Jeremiah and Micah He should also be speaking against me. And when I read these books I feel that deep in my heart every single time. 

And as I read these hard words, I feel despair. I feel the weight of that judgment. My heart cries. My eyes go searching through the pages of these books looking for some light of hope.

Every single person reading this post is in the same position as the people of Judah and Israel. We all deserve judgment from God. We have all been exiled from the presence of God. Our sin and rebellion against God have sentenced us to exile and death. 

And that’s where these prophecies in Matthew can be so helpful. Because even in the midst of calling out His people for their sin, even in the midst of His wrath, God is still merciful. In the midst of the pain of the coming exile, which God’s people brought on themselves, God promised salvation for His people. And salvation does come. It comes in the Gospel of Matthew.

And it doesn’t just come for the Jews. 

It comes for the whole world. 

It comes for you.

It comes for Kailynn.

There is hope for me. Even when I don’t deserve it.

Even in the midst of His anger toward our sin, God promises salvation. Even in the midst of our sin and the suffering we often face as a result of it, we can find hope.

Even as we weep in the middle of our exile, God says to you and He says to me:

Keep your voice from weeping
And your eyes from tears,
For there is a reward for your work,
And you shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope for your future.”

And that hope is named Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem.

He is the king. He is the promised Messiah. God’s people were waiting for a king. They were waiting for the Messiah who would be their peace.

But as we will see through the rest of the Gospel of Matthew and the rest of the New Testament, Jesus didn’t come to just be a good king for the Jews

He came to bring hope and peace to sinners like you and me. He came to bring us out of the land of the enemy, out of exile.

God promised hope in the midst of judgment and wrath toward our sin. And Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. And for everyone who trusts in Him will come back from the land of the enemy and He will be their peace.

​Next Week

Hopefully, this blog post was challenging and inspiring for you. If you have time, I encourage you to take a look at Matthew 2 on your own. Take a look at these prophecies for yourself. Look at the whole story Matthew is trying to tell hear. Pray for God to help you see more of who Jesus is. And I invite you to share what God is teaching you with the rest of us!

Next week we will jump into Matthew 3:1-12. So if you want to read ahead feel free!