This series of devotionals brings us through the book of Matthew in order. Each devotional focuses on a passage in the book, with a Scripture Highlight that you can commit to memory. We hope these devotionals serve to edify and encourage you, driving you to love and enjoy God’s Word more and more!
The promised Messiah had come - the true king of the Jews. And of all people, the leaders of Jerusalem would have been in the best position to know of His coming. However, we are taken by surprise when the first people who paid tribute to the king of the Jews were not even Jews - they were pagan wise men from a distant country.
Their job was to search and interpret the stars for heavenly signs for their country’s royal court. It was through that pagan practice that they found out about the birth of the king of the Jews. Ironically, Herod and his officials had no clue the Messiah had even come, although they had the Scriptures!
As we examine the meeting between Herod and the wise men, we see two contrasting responses to the news of the birth of the King. What did their responses reveal about each party, and what do our own responses to God’s good news tell us about our own characters?
REVERENCE VS ARROGANCE
To the wise men, they saw a great king worthy of worship. This King was worthy enough for them to prepare the entourage and costly goods required for such a long journey, even though he was not even the king of their own land (v 1)!
On the other hand, Herod was more concerned about his own political power. Herod would not give up his position to anyone, not even the true king of the Jews promised in all Scripture. The possible threat of losing his earthly throne deeply troubled Herod. A more accurate translation reads, "he was greatly agitated".
The wise men revered the true king with much sincerity. They took great effort to come from a faraway land to pay their tribute. This contrasts with the arrogance of Herod, who thought himself more worthy of the title “king of the Jews” and thought nothing of the true king of the Jews.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
FAITH VS UNBELIEF
Herod heard the news of a lifetime, but instead of having true faith, he expressed false “desire” to worship the Messiah king (v 8). He did not even bother to search for the Messiah king himself, but instead got pagans to do it for him.
The wise men, on the other hand, did not wait around for the Messiah king to reveal himself. As soon as Herod gave his instructions, they immediately left to search for the Messiah king (v 9).
The lack of faith is often passive. There is no personal desire to seek after God to worship. We brush aside God's word as foolish and irrelevant, and we do not study it rigorously. We see this after Paul preached the gospel in the Areopagus: some mocked Paul, and some said “We will hear you again about this.” (Acts 17:32). They did not even bother to investigate further the claims of Paul through further discussion. And Acts recorded that Paul “went out from their midst”.
Lack of faith does not always simply look like an obvious, outward dismissal of God’s word. People can claim to hold God’s word in high regard, but in reality, do not allow God’s word to change how they think and how they live. There is no active submission and obedience in their lives to what God says.
Who then, were the ones who truly believed? Acts goes on to say that “some men joined [Paul] and believed” (Acts 17:34). These men’s faith led to an active decision to join Paul. True faith will lead to active worship. No one can say that he truly worships God but yet sits around without responding. As the author of James puts it, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas 2:17) Worship is the natural outcome of faith, therefore faith cannot just remain as a mental state of belief, but is fully expressed in active worship.
JOY VS MALICE
The good news left Herod a bitter, malicious man. Many people rejoiced at the good news of the messiah king, but all Herod could think of was the threat of losing his power as king of the Jews. He only wanted to preserve his own power, no matter what it took. Herod’s evil ambitions resulted in the massacre of all males who were 2 years and younger in Bethlehem (v 16).
For the wise men, the good news of the Messiah’s coming left them only with joy. And not just any joy, but exceedingly great joy (v 10). Here was a group of people who had minimal knowledge of Jewish Scripture. But whatever knowledge they had, paired with faith, produced within them much joy. Their joy was made complete as they worshipped the child King Jesus and offered their kingly tributes to him (v 11).
THE THINGS OF GOD VS THE THINGS OF THE WORLD
Here we see two contrasting pictures: a man who desires the things of the world, and another who desires the things of God.
The man who desires the things of the world thinks highly only of himself. All his achievements are to his own credit and all his possessions belong only to him. He says to himself “All these things are mine because I worked hard for them, I don’t need God’s help.”
He does not think that “spiritual” things are important, and does not see any point in knowing more about it because to him they are just foolish. “Church and Bible stuff” are just good moral teachings to him, but ultimately he decides for himself which values are acceptable and which are not important.
When God’s demands for righteousness threaten his possessions, fame, power or way of living, this man is filled with bitterness and anger. Even when outwardly he looks like he is obeying God, inwardly he resents following God’s commands.
As for the man who desires the things of God, he recognises that Jesus is the true ruler of his life. He says to himself “All things ultimately belong to God. All that I am and all my possessions are only mine because they were given to me by God. They are for me to use for His purposes and glory.”
He understands that only God, and not himself, is worthy of worship and full obedience, so much so that nothing is too much effort when it comes to worshipping and obeying God. He is actively concerned for his own spiritual growth as well as that of others, and does not just think that membership, participation or serving in church and doing “Christian activities” means that he is “spiritually okay”.
God’s demands for righteousness only drive him to act in repentance and obedience with a sincere heart. He desires to live according to God’s commands in Scripture instead of insisting on his own values. Such faith and works only serve to produce great joy inwardly and true worship outwardly.
WHICH MAN ARE YOU?
Let us then examine ourselves with all honesty: which man are you? How do you think of your own achievements and possessions? Do the things of God even appeal to you and do you act on it? What are your attitudes towards Scripture, especially when it speaks against certain sins in your life, or even your way of living? Honest answers to these questions will reveal our true desires.
If we are found to desire the things of the world, it is never too late to turn away from such desires. The apostle John writes that whoever confesses his own sin, God is faithful and just to forgive that person (1 John 1:9). Confession involves a heartfelt, sincere understanding of the sin, resulting in the desire to turn away from it. The next step is to make all efforts to live in obedience to God’s commands, and God promises to work on our will and desires from within (Php 2:12-13).
If we find ourselves desiring the things of God, praise God! Let us then strive to build up the body of Christ by guiding, correcting and encouraging other fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to desire and obey the ways of the Lord (Eph 4:15-16).
As we continue to grow in our desire to please God and our understanding of His worthiness, may we find exceedingly great joy as we respond in worship and obedience to God, just as the wise men did.
With richest blessings from the Lord our God,
The B-read Team