Preached @ Anchor Community Church on January 5th, 2014
“Your maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn your mourning into joy instead of sorrow!”
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void…” Interesting; at the very beginning the earth was chaotic, but the Lord spoke and order was created. God is the life giver, while false gods are life takers. When we move away from what God created, chaos and enslavement is the result.
Often in our life, everything appears chaotic, and that chaos can and does cause confusion, depression and doubt. It’s in these moments that god often works.
In our passage today, we see Herod readying himself to kill of every Jewish baby in Bethlehem. While it may be true that Bethlehem was small, and that didn’t mean a mass amount of deaths, it was tragic none the less, and unfortunately in character with what we know about Herod who had killed his 3 sons, and left orders to wipe out more family members after his death.
The fact is, evil is a reality and this kind of senseless chaos goes on and can rock our faith, and we wonder why God allows so much senseless evil to seemingly go untouched.
Big Picture: God is in control as one who knows the future; we can only react in worship to His providence in our lives.
Remember, we are entitling this sermon series “The Messiah of Promise,” because it appears obvious that Matthew wants to highlight the reality that Jesus is the promised Messiah that would be a blessing to the nations. He is the answer to everything that was given Israel. He is the perfect sacrifice, He is the fulfillment of the law, He is the greater Moses, Melchizedek, etc. And He is the perfect Son, representing a fallen Israel, who was also called God’s son (Hosea 11:1).
From the Head…
All along the way, Satan has had a counter-plan, and has tried to thwart the plan of God. God created, Satan showed up and deceived, and caused confusion and chaos. Satan thought he’d crush the plan of God by sending Joseph to obscurity, and ultimately his death, but God used it to bless His people Israel. Stan then tried to imprison and crush God’s people Israel, and God sent Moses to deliver them. All along the way there has been a plan by Satan to crush God’s plan, and God’s counter-plan to use Satan’s plan for his own destruction.
Today we see that Matthew wants us to realize that God has sovereignly acted to bring forth His plan through His Son Jesus Christ.
God Providential Control Is Sovereignly Protected (Matthew 2:13-15)
God sovereignly made sure, through a dream, that Jesus was to be protected. The interesting thing in regard to this narrative is that Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 here. That text is clear that the “Son” intended is Israel; so how is Jesus like Israel? A better question is who is Israel? They are the “Seed” of the woman, the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who would be a blessing to the nations.
Interestingly enough the rest of Hosea states that God’s first son (Israel) was an unfaithful son (See Hosea 11:2). The children of Israel, though a “Creation” of the father for His purposes, failed, and it was another “Son” that would be called out of Egypt to be His true Son, and reverse the idolatry of His people.
God’s Providential Control Is Not Thwarted In Chaos (Matthew 2:16-18)
There is not any real extra-biblical for this chaotic destruction of little children, but that doesn’t mean it never happened. First, it is well in character for Herod. Second, Bethlehem was relatively small and there may have been no more than 20 babies killed. As horrible as that is, it didn’t compare to the cruelty of Herod and may have not been note worthy. You need to remember sacrificing children to the gods was somewhat accepted in those days, and in reality not much worse than abortion in our day and age.
Either way is was horrible for those that lost their sons, and Matthew once again chooses very carefully from the Old Testament. Verse 18 is a quote from Jeremiah 31:15. That chapter and those verses refer to Israel as those children who were in the Babylonian exile and were severely oppressed, but the verses go on to give hope to the children of Israel. It’s a promise that in spite of their pain, and their affliction “There is hope your future” (Jeremiah 31:17). In verse thirteen he tells them that he will “Turn their mourning into joy!” Our whole passage once again reminds us that God is faithful to His promise and that Jesus is the Messiah who has come as God to do just that turn our “Mourning into joy,” to save us from our sins, and give us life in the midst of chaos!
God’s Providential Control Is Often Seen In the Aftermath (Matthew 2:19-23)
Our text tells us that Jesus and His family moved to Nazareth because of the fear of returning to Bethlehem, because Herod’s son Archelaus was ruling (v.22). A lot of times we are paralyzed by fear, instead of trusting in Jesus. In this case, that fear and those circumstances moved Jesus to a place that fit with the “Prophets” (v. 23).
The problem is no prophets in the scriptures prophesied the Messiah coming from Nazareth. This is likely why Matthew uses the plural prophets. While no one directly indicated where the Messiah would settle down, it was prophesied by the prophets that Jesus would be of unknown, lowly origin, and Bethlehem was a larger city of the Kings, whereas Nazareth was a small, town of un-renown.
…to the Heart
It’s awesome to read passages like this and rejoice, but there are two things that often hold us back from rejoicing in God’s providence. One, we don’t like giving up control to anyone, and two, we don’t trust that God is in control when life appears chaotic.
I pray that in the New Year, we are able to trust Jesus for something big in our life. What is it that controls you? What addictions and idols run your life? What chaos is robbing your joy? How is Christ bigger and better than all of that? How do you have hope in this New Year?
Questions To Ponder
- Why does this story matter? Why did Matthew include it?
- In what way(s) do we rebel against this truth?
- Why do we desire control?
- How dies our desire for control fail us during hard times?
For Further Reading
A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener
The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins
The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti