Week 2, Day 2
READ: Matthew 2
BACKGROUND: Matthew, especially at the beginning of his gospel as he is establishing who Jesus is for those who don’t know him or haven’t heard, quotes the Old Testament with great frequency. His aim is to demonstrate how Jesus fulfilled all of the many prophecies about the coming Messiah, and he accomplishes this by lining up the story of Jesus’ life with the prophecies. Matthew actually quotes the Old Testament more than any other Gospel. Matthew – 93 times, Mark – 49 times, Luke 80 times, & John – 33 times.
Background by verse:
1-2 – The magi were obviously astronomers because they noticed a change in the stars after Jesus was born. And they very clearly expected to find a king when they saw the star that appeared. That’s why they went to the capital city – Jerusalem.
3 – Herod was afraid because he perceived that a King of the Jews would mean political and military takeover.
6 – Quoting Micah 5:2, a prophecy written 7 centuries before Jesus was born.
11 – They found Jesus in a house, not the manger. They didn’t take the red-eye overnight flight to Israel. They had to ride their camels. And, well, camels aren’t that fast. By the time they got there – long after Jesus had been born – he wasn’t still in the manger. But we can pretend he was for the sake of our nativity scenes. 🙂
15 – Quoting Hosea 11:1
18 – Quoting Jeremiah 31:15
23 – This one is not a direct quote from the Old Testament, but rather a combination of a few thoughts and themes. Notice here it says “prophets” instead of just “prophet.” Most Jews, especially in Jerusalem, looked down on people from Nazareth and so Nazarene became a synonym for despised or contemptible. This echoes the theme in prophecies from Psalm 22:6 & Isaiah 53:3
THINK: One of my favorite professors from college was also one of the most challenging. He had a habit of calling on people at random to answer questions during his class. Usually these questions had very little to do with what we were talking about – or at least not a whole lot – and they were never questions to which we already had the answers. He wanted people to come to the answers intuitively. But there was a catch: he was always looking for a very specific answer and he would publicly berate and make fun of anyone who got the wrong answer. He’d just start yelling and mocking you right there in class. Needless to say, when he asked a question it was wise to avoid making eye-contact with him at all costs. Inevitably, though, he’d call on you occasionally.
One day, he totally obliterated my friend Eric for stupidly answering “Milk?” to the question, “Since the water was polluted by refuse in Paris, what was the staple drink of Parisians in the 18th century?” I was cracking up as the professor responded, “Yes Eric! Brilliant! Like people in many urban areas today, whenever they got thirsty they would just walk into the hallway of their densely packed apartment building, and milk the cow who lived in the stairwell. Sharp thinking like that will really get you places someday, Eric. Of course, if you lived in 18th century Paris it would get you dead, because the answer to that question – the only one that makes sense – is wine!” As we were walking home after class, Eric was hanging his head in shame and laughing at himself for giving that answer. And I’ll always remember his explanation because it really made me stop and think. He said, “I knew as soon as the word was coming out of my mouth that it was a dumb answer and he was going to kill me. And I knew, right away, that the answer was wine. But he puts so much pressure on you that it makes you doubt yourself!”
There is a relationship between pressure and doubt. I wonder how often the pressure and the stress of our world cause us to doubt God. Do we begin to doubt God’s promises and his goodness when things go wrong and we experience difficulty and hurt and pain and frustration and we get stressed out? The Israelites went through some difficult times. They were conquered and exiled. The pressure and the frustration of their world caused them to doubt God’s promises. But we see in Matthew 2 that God delivered! He sent the promised Messiah to bring healing and forgiveness and restoration. He always delivers on his promises. And though trials in our lives might tempt us to doubt, we can always be confident of his faithfulness.
ASK: Are there areas in my life where I have a hard time trusting that God will be faithful to fulfill his promises? As I look back, are there times when God delivered me from trials and kept his promises that I need to thank him for?