God chose two groups of people who had the privilege of seeing the Messiah, the Savior, and the future King in person. It should be noted that it was not a king, a high priest, a religious Pharisee or Sadducee, or an emperor that received the invitation. It was not in the Temple or the court of a king or on the political or cultural stage. God chose cultural outcasts and Gentiles to partake in the greatest moment in history in a stable and a simple home. The world was too preoccupied to be listening and too prideful to be shown the glory of God. Christmas is truly a celebration of joy as God moved not in culture or religion or politics but in the hearts of common people who were humble to see and obey the heavenly vision from Yahweh.
Luke 2:7,8: And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
The irony is that shepherds with no name given were to hear the announcement of the coming of the Chief Shepherd whose Name would be above every name. Normally the birth of a prince would be announced to kings and other dignitaries, but this “princely” announcement was given to lowly shepherds, not to priests, rulers, kings, Pharisees nor Scribes, not to the great men of Israel but common shepherds, who as a class were actually considered as “outcasts” by the Jewish hierarchy!
John MacArthur on shepherds – The good news of the Savior’s birth came first to a most unlikely group of people. Shepherds were near the bottom of the social ladder. They were uneducated and unskilled, increasingly viewed in this era as dishonest, unreliable, unsavory characters, so much so that they were not allowed to testify in court. Because sheep required care seven days a week, shepherds were unable to fully comply with the man-made Sabbath regulations developed by the Pharisees. As a result, they were viewed as being in continual violation of the religious laws, and hence ceremonially unclean. That is not to say, however, that being a shepherd was an illegitimate or disreputable occupation. Two of the greatest figures in Israel’s history, Moses (Ex. 3:1) and David (1 Sam. 16:11–13), were shepherds at some point in their lives. Moreover, the Old Testament refers metaphorically to God as the “Shepherd of Israel” (Ps. 80:1; cf. 23:1; Isa. 40:11), while Jesus described Himself as the “good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14; cf. Heb. 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4). Shepherds were, however, lowly, humble people; they certainly were not the ones who would be expected to receive the most significant announcement in history. That they were singled out to receive this great honor suggests that these shepherds were devout men, who believed in the true and living God. Such people are later described as those who were “looking for the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25) and the “redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38).
Kent Hughes – According to the Mishnah, shepherds were under a ban. They were regarded as thieves. (Quoting from TDNT, Vol 6, pp 488-491) The only people lower than shepherds at that particular time in Jewish history were lepers. God comes only to those who sense their need. He does not come to the self-sufficient. The gospel is for those who know they need Jesus! There was the unbelievable appearance of a real angel to shepherds. In the eyes of many, an angel would never appear to a shepherd. Shepherds would seldom be found praising and worshiping God; as a result, they were looked upon as anything but worshippers. Their reputation was lowly at best, and religious people snubbed and ignored them. They were despised because they were unable to attend services and to keep the ceremonial laws of washing and cleansing. Their flocks just kept them too busy. What a beautiful foretaste of the salvation to come: God gave the first message of His Son to common shepherds, those looked upon as sinners.
Shepherding had changed from a family business as in David’s time (1 Sam. 16:11) to a despised occupation. Many shepherds were accused of robbery and using land they had no rights to. Shepherding was also a lonely occupation, particularly at night, as a shepherd stood his watch, making sure sleeping sheep did not wake up and wander and that prowling predators did not attack and devour the sheep. Only God would visit those in such a low occupation and raise them to witness to his salvation. Yet, shepherds had a tender side, counting the sheep constantly (Jer. 33:12-13), lifting the weak on their shoulders (see Isa. 40:11), and creating crude pens where the sheep could sleep (John 10:1). (Ibid)
Lenski adds “The question is still asked skeptically as to why these shepherds should have been selected for the angel’s announcement. The answer is as simple to the believer as it ever was: because God found them the kind of people to whom he could communicate such news.”
Have you ever considered why the text does not read (Luke 2:8), “Now there were in the same region scribes and Pharisees, keeping watch over their scrolls and religious rituals”? Nor does it say, “There were in the same region kings and princes keeping watch at the palace.” God chose to reveal the birth of the Savior to simple shepherds. Shepherds had not been schooled in the law and thus were considered ignorant. According to another Jewish treatise, help was not to be offered to shepherds and heathen (see Godet, Luke [I. K. Funk & Co., 1881], p. 81). God chose shepherds to show that…The gospel is for the simple, not for the sophisticated. God puts His cookies on the bottom shelf. Because of that, the sophisticated and scholarly sometimes miss the truth of it. They’re looking too high; it’s beneath them to stoop to the lowest shelf, and so they miss what God offers freely to all. If it were any other way, men could boast before God. If the gospel were some complicated philosophy that required a high I.Q. and years of study to grasp, then those who had attained it could congratulate themselves on how much more intelligent they were than the rest of the population. Those who were illiterate or not as intellectually gifted as others could never hope to qualify for salvation. But the beauty of the good news about Christ is that it was first announced to lowly shepherds. They probably couldn’t read and write. They weren’t leadership material. But God’s love in Christ extended to them. The danger is that we will miss the gospel because it is so simple.
2 Corinthians 11:3: But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Verse 9: And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
Shift the spotlight once more from earth’s lowly shepherds enduring a dark night to heaven’s most glorious messenger. With the angel came God’s glory, his shining majesty, the side of God humans can see and to which they can respond in confession, worship, and praise (see Isa. 60:1-3).
And the glory of the Lord shone around them – Can you imagine this? In this passage, the glory points toward the visible and manifest divine presence. One is reminded of John’s description which all believers will one day be privileged to behold “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Rev 21:23ff).
Glory in simple terms means to give a proper opinion or estimate of something and thus the glory of God expresses all that He is in His Being and in His nature, character, power and acts. He is glorified when He is allowed to be seen as He really is which is exactly what this angel did! To be where God is will be glory. To be what God intended will be glory. To do what God purposed will be glory. Glory refers to the majesty and splendor accompanying God’s presence (Ex 16:7; 24:17; Psalm 63:2; Isaiah 40:5). Glory of the Lord – this phrase occurs 38x in 37v most of the occurrences being in the Old Testament – the manifestation of God’s presence among His people. Utley observes that “This phrase is often used in the Septuagint to denote the glorious personal presence of YHWH
And they were terribly frightened – Fallen finite men are frightened by the sight of the normally invisible spiritual realm! NET Note comments that the Greek phrase (phobeo phobos megas) literally reads “they feared a great fear” which is a Semitic idiom that intensifies the main idea, in this case, their fear.” Those who experience the presence of the holy God are acutely aware of their sinfulness. Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5), This Christmas song captures the moment: “O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth; Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
Back then no one thought God would be interested in shepherds, or that shepherds would be interested in God. Shepherds were notoriously irreligious, ranked by the rabbis with prostitutes and other “habitual sinners.” They were outcasts, barred from the synagogue and polite society. They assumed that God would never accept them, and they feared Him. But God spoke to them. I think He knew that these shepherds, like so many people who appear indifferent to spiritual things, were quietly longing for God. All of us have a longing for something more. And no matter how hard we try to appear self-sufficient, sooner or later we run out of something essential—love, money, time, or life. Isolation, loneliness, and fear of death lead us to acknowledge our need for a Savior.
Luke 2:10: And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
They did not have to be afraid because the “Gospel is coming, good news. The Gospel elicits joy, not fear. Joy is the inward feeling of happiness and contentment that bursts forth in rejoicing and praise. Joy comes not just to lowly shepherds or isolated parents far from home. Joy comes to all people. In the most unlikely place amid the most unlikely spectators, God brushed aside the world’s fears and provided the world reason for joy (Isa. 9:3). Joy centers not on something you earn or possess. Joy comes from God’s gift, a tiny baby in a feed trough.
I bring you good news – We need not wonder at these words. The spiritual darkness which had covered the earth for four thousand years was about to be rolled away. The way to pardon and peace with God was about to be thrown open to all mankind. The head of Satan was about to be bruised (Gen 3:15). Liberty was about to be proclaimed to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind (Lk 4:18). The mighty truth was about to be proclaimed that God could be just, and yet, for Christ’s sake, justify the ungodly (Ro 3:26). Salvation was no longer to be seen through types and figures, but openly, and face to face (Col 2:16,17). The knowledge of God was no longer to be confined to the Jews but to be offered to the whole Gentile world.
I bring good news (I evangelize to you) (euaggelizo/euangelizo from eu = good, well + aggéllo = proclaim, tell; English = evangelize) Euaggelizo was often used in the Septuagint for preaching a glad or joyful message (1Sam. 31:9; 2 Sa 1:20; 4:10). Isaiah 52:7 How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news (Lxx = euaggelizo), Who announces peace And brings good news (Lxx = euaggelizo) of happiness, Who announces salvation), And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 61:1+ The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news (Lxx = euaggelizo) to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;
Euaggelizo/euangelizo in the NT refers especially to the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God and of salvation obtained through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Gospel is always good news of great joy.
Great joy: Joy comes from the word grace and is a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing. Joy in the NT is virtually always used to signify a feeling of “happiness” that is based on spiritual realities, and independent of what “happens”). Joy is not an experience that comes from favorable circumstances, but is God’s gift to believers. Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and his God. What is fascinating is that there is not only joy on earth but also joy in Heaven and both have to do with the Good News in some way, Luke recording “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance…..In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk. 15:7, 10ff)
Peter writes “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” (1 Pe 1:8ff)
Christmas should be a time of great joy and rejoicing. It should be a time of great celebration. All great joy is always rooted in Jesus Christ.
The good news is for all people, not just for the elite. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God” (1 Cor. 1:26–29). The beauty of the good news is that even an uneducated, illiterate tribal man in the jungle can understand that he is a sinner and the Jesus Christ is God’s Savior, and by God’s grace, he can believe and be saved.
Remember the words to the Christmas song “Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing.” The joy of Christmas is Jesus Christ.
Verse 11: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Do not miss the phrase for you – You is in the plural. Yes, Jesus came to the shepherds, to Israel, but also to redeem all humanity and for you. This personalizes this Good News of a Savior who in the crib had open arms just as He did on the Cross! God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to be born for you, for any and all who will call upon the Name Jesus, Savior, Christ, Lord!
The city of David “is vastly more significant to the shepherds than “in Bethlehem” would have been, for the king’s name and his ancient home recall all the Messianic promises made to David.
Savior (soter from sozo = rescue from peril > from saos = safe; delivered) refers to the agent of salvation or deliverance, the one who rescues, delivers, saves and preserves and in the case of Jesus, specifically rescue and deliverance from sin’s penalty, sin’s power and in glory from sin’s presence and sin’s pleasure. The name Jesus means “He will save His people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21)
Christ (Christos from chrio = to rub or anoint, consecrate to an office) means one who has been anointed, symbolizing appointment to a task. The Messiah had come to sit on the throne of David and deliver Israel from oppression, not from the Romans, but from sin and Satan. Sadly they wanted the former and were blind to the latter! Christos is the “Fulfiller of Israelite expectation of a deliverer, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ.”
The New Jewish Encyclopedia defines the MESSIAH as “a modified form of the Hebrew word mashiach meaning ‘anointed,’ applied in the Bible to a person appointed for special function, such as High Priest or King. Later the term Messiah came to express the belief that a Redeemer, that is a divinely appointed individual, will, in the end, bring salvation to the Jewish people and to the entire human race”
Luke 2:12: And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
The sons of kings and princes in the East today are still “salted and swaddled.” A tiny bit of salt is rubbed on the baby to indicate that the parents intend to teach the child to be truthful. The baby is then wrapped in swaddling clothes. These are fine linen strips about two inches wide which are wrapped round and round the baby’s body to straighten him out: arms and legs are all made straight as a ramrod. This is a sign to God that the parents will rear the child to be straightforward before the Lord, and free from crookedness. The child is left in this position from fifteen minutes to two hours, while the parents meditate and make their vows to God concerning their sacred trust which was given them when they received the child This was a common custom for babies born into royal families. Because Mary knew that her son was the Son of God, she treated him as the King he truly was.
Luke 2:13,14: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The angels praised God at Creation (Job 38:7), and now they praised Him at the beginning of the new creation. The whole purpose of the plan of salvation is “glory to God” (see Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). God’s glory had dwelt in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34) and in the temple (2 Chron. 7:1–3), but had departed because of the nation’s sin Now God’s glory was returning to earth in the person of His Son (John 1:14).
Luke 2:15-20: When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
So they came in a hurry – Don’t miss their reaction! No hesitation. No procrastination, like “We need to pray about this!” or “Perhaps we should seek the counsel of the wise rabbis.” No, they heard the divine revelation, they accepted it as a divine sign and they hastened to view the Divine Redeemer!
That should be our response when we read the Word of Truth and sense the Spirit of Truth “speaking” to our heart regarding some action we are to take in accord with the Word we have just read. God does not stutter! Are you in humility hearing and heeding like these lowly shepherds? They hurried off and found.…” The obedience of faith brings blessed results.
Shepherds were not permitted to testify in court, but God used some humble shepherds to be the first human witnesses that prophecy had been fulfilled and the Messiah had been born. Telling others about the Saviour is a solemn obligation as well as a great privilege, and we who are believers must be faithful.
Don’t celebrate Christmas without inviting the Guest of honor.
The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God – What irony, for in the religious center Jerusalem the leaders did not truly worship God, but here in the fields outside Bethlehem were the common, non-religious shepherds worshipping God! There is another observation and it is a sad one — even though the shepherds had spread the message of Messiah, Luke records that the shepherds alone were praising God. No one else is seen seeking or praising the Savior! What’s wrong with this picture? Don’t we see the same thing today! They had been changed by their “moment of grace.” As they stepped back into their real world, they carried the good news about Jesus in their hearts and voices. May we too take God’s grace into the real world this Christmas and every day of the new year.
Matthew 2:1,2: 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, 2 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.
Who were the wise men? They were Gentiles who saw his star-they had knowledge of God’s Word as written in the stars. How? Greek-Magi-a specific religious caste prominent in Near Eastern society especially in Persia. The magi from the east (the word literally means “from the rising” of the sun, and refers to the orient) who came to see Jesus were of a completely different sort. Not only were they true magi, but they surely had been strongly influenced by Judaism, especially that of Daniel. They appear to be among the many God-fearing Gentiles who lived at the time of Christ, a number of whom—such as Cornelius and Lydia (Acts 10:1–2; Acts 16:14)—are mentioned in the New Testament.
Many Magi adopted Zoroastrianism and became priests of that religion. There were several parallels between Zoroastrianism teachings and the Old Testament. Thet believed in a supreme God who created the heavens and the earth, who authored all that is good. They also believed in a spiritual adversary who authored evil. They believed in a coming Redeemer, a prophet who be sent by God to save all mankind. They strictly forbade the worship of idols. They believed in angels and devil spirits and the eventual triumph of good over evil. They set forth a system of laws and ethics stressing a strict code of moral behavior.
They were reputed for their knowledge of religion, astronomy, and the spiritual significance of astronomical phenomenon. The book of Daniel records that the Judeans like Daniel wielded great influence in the royal courts where the Magi served. Daniel was made master of the Magi (Daniel 5:11). Daniel fully instructed them in the accurate knowledge of biblical prophecy written in the stars. This knowledge was preserved by the Magi. Even Suetonius, the Roman Historian, said that it was a firm belief that long prevailed through the East that it was destined that the Empire of the world at that time would be given to someone arising out of Judea. Judean teaching on the celestial message in the stars was attentively listened to as the Magi set much importance on the celestial motions.
Psalm 19:1-6: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
God’s revelation of His Word is set in the heavens, the stars prophesy, they show knowledge, they tell of God’s glory, and set forth His purposes. The stars declare God’s plan of redemption and the coming seed of the woman which is Christ.
Genesis 1:14: And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years
Signs in Hebrew means “to mark” and is marking someone significant to come.
First written promise of the Messiah: Genesis 3:15: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Biblical astronomy is the true understanding of the names of the stars as they depict the coming of Christ.
Psalm 147:4: He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
God has named every single star in the universe and they all point to Christ.
Verse 2: “In the east” means “in the rising”-refers to the rising of a star shortly before sunrise called in astronomy the heliacal rising of a star. In ancient times all astronomical bodies were called stars even planets. So the Magi saw a celestial body in its helical rising above the eastern horizon.
Verse 3-12: 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;
Amazing all of Jerusalem was troubled also. Jesus Christ is always troubling to the unbeliever. Troubled means to shake back and forth, to be agitated, to stir up like boiling water. We never have to be troubled, for we have Jesus Christ and have His peace and His joy. John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 16:11: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. The world will never celebrate the birth of Christ. The world is only troubled by his birth. There is no joyous celebration.
John 3:16-21: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
So many people would rather sit in darkness than come to the light of the world, Jesus Christ. The world today loves darkness and hates the light. They do not want their evil works to be exposed.
Matthew 2:4: And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
Isn’t it amazing that the top religious leaders of Judah had not been aware a king of Judah had been born, but religious Gentiles from Persia knew this. Herod was mad at the religious leaders for not telling him, but they had no clue. Herod had the religious leaders as sycophants. They fawned his person for special favors. Therefore it was no trick for him to gather the religious leaders together to learn where the Christ-child was born. There are always those ministers who are more interested in political clout than they are in spiritual clout. They prefer the recognition of the powers that be to the recognition of the Power that is, namely, God. “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).
Matthew 2:5-7: They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘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.’”7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.
Herod demanded accurate, precise information on his star.
D A Carson says Herod “was wealthy, politically gifted, intensely loyal, an excellent administrator, and clever enough to remain in the good graces of successive Roman emperors. His famine relief was superb and his building projects (including the temple, begun 20 B.C.) were admired even by his foes. But he loved power, inflicted incredibly heavy taxes on the people, and resented the fact that many Jews considered him a usurper. In his last years, suffering an illness that compounded his paranoia, he turned to cruelty and in fits of rage and jealousy killed close associates.”
Matthew 2: 8,9: 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.” 9 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.
To rest over the place means when the star reached its apex, the highest point in relation to the observer, which is called the meridian. This is the second time they saw the star. Between December 4, 2BC to January 9, 1BC the Magi saw the star as revealed in verse 9 that led them to the house where the infant Jesus was.
Matthew 2:10-12: When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. The revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ always brings exceeding great joy. You cannot separate joy and Jesus Christ.
The hope (absolute certainty, not “hope so” but “hope sure”) that we as believers will one day (SOON) see our Savior face to face (the Goal of our life’s journey) ought to stir in our hearts exceedingly great joy today! Are you downcast, despairing? Then preach to your soul to hope in God (Ps 43:5). Ponder your future appointment with Jesus the Lover of your soul. Let that thought invigorate your heart. We need to heed Peter’s exhortation to “prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13) We need to obey Paul’s command to “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Col 3:2-4) And we need to heed the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews to fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2).
Matthew could have simply said “they rejoiced” and we would have understood him. Instead, he piles up words that literally read “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” It is almost as if they could not experience a greater degree of joy. So as stated above their “over the top” joy was because of their anticipation at their imminent meeting with the real “Star,” the King of the Jews!
Herod was not rejoicing (HE WAS TROUBLED. HE WAS SCHEMING). Evil people are too busy doing evil to rejoice and to know joy. Their joy is hallow, unreal, superficial, but when God gives joy, it supersedes anything the world has to offer. The wise men knew tremendous joy because Christ was their focus. He is the key to true joy. There is no true joy apart from Jesus. We rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Phil. 4:4. Joy is our lifestyle in Jesus Christ.
11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
The word “child” in Greek and Aramaic does not mean newborn babe which was the word used in Luke. Here they went into a house, the shepherds went to a stable. These two events are not simultaneous. but happened about 1 year and 3 months apart. This is why Herod ordered all children 2 years and younger to be slain.
King Herod was living at the time of Jesus’s birth. Josephus recorded that a lunar eclipse occurred shorting before Herod’s death. The lunar eclipse occurred on January 9, 1BC and it is estimated as he did some events after the eclipse that is death was around February 26th 1BC.
I do not have time in this article to get into all the details of the astronomical signs in the sky that the Magi observed, but from August 12, 3BC until August 27th 3BC, there were seven astronomical events in the constellation of Leo that represent His star. Leo was the Lion of Judah and represented the constellation associated with the tribe of Judah. All seven events involved Jupiter which was the King planet and the Hebrew name of Jupiter means righteousness and Christ was the righteous branch prophesied in Scripture. Venus is known as the morning star and Jesus Christ is referred to as “the bright and morning star”(Revelation 22:16). Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo and is often referred to as the heart of the lion. It was also referred to in antiquity as the king star associated with rulership and dominion. The last event in the heavens occurred on August 27th, 2BC, and was a massing of planets of Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus.
The birth of Jesus Christ as well as I can document this with much previous research is between 6:18PM and 7:39PM on September 11, 3BC which was Tishri 1 on the Hebrew Calendar (Rosh Hashanah). It is said in ancient Jewish literature that this was the day Adam was born. It also was the Day of Trumpets. Edersheim says during New Years Day horns and trumpets were blown in Jerusalem from morning until evening. Whenever trumpets were blown in Jerusalem it was a public acknowledgment that Yahweh was king. These trumpets heralded Jesus Christ as the newborn king. Tishri 1 was used in counting the years of a King’s rule. It is said Abraham was born on this day and Joseph became ruler over all of Egypt on this day.
Three gifts are mentioned in Scripture, but no indication 3 Magi. Probably large caravan, the astronomical elite of the far east. The Magi showed utmost respect and humility by falling down and worshipping him. God never had them return to the scheming Herod as they were warned by God to flee.
The Shepherds and Wise men-two unlikely groups that God chose to reveal the greatness of the birth of Christ and bring them to be eyewitnesses of His Majesty. The religious and political elite were not listening and were more concerned to consolidate and revel in their power than the birth of Christ. Jesus was a threat to them as is seen by Herod’s actions.
Matthew 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
We can condense all the truth of Christmas into three words “God With Us,” Immanuel is a transliteration of the original Hebrew word derived from Immanu (with us) and El (God), Indeed, Jesus’ Name IMMANUEL emphasizes His nearness, for His birth brought the infinite, holy God within reach of finite, sinful man. God came to live WITH US through the work of His Son us so we could live WITH HIM! The Son of GOD became the Son of MAN that He might change the sons of MEN into sons of GOD (1Jn 3:1), who can forever “draw near with confidence (boldness) to the Throne of grace” through Immanuel (Heb 4:16).Spurgeon declares “If GOD be WITH US, we are in ennobling company, even though we are poor and despised. If GOD be WITH US, we have all-sufficient strength (2Cor 12:9), for nothing can be too difficult for the Lord (Ge 18:14). If GOD be WITH US, we are always safe, for none can harm those who walk under His shadow (Ps 57:1). Oh, what a joy we have here!
In Christ, all depression ceases. In Christ, all fear and worry melt away. In Christ, all oppression is crushed. In Christ, all addictions are shattered. In Christ, all the chains of bondage are loosed. In Christ, all condemnation is obliterated. In Christ, we are made free from all the forces of darkness that plague mankind. No religion, idol, or god whether Islam. Buddhism or Hinduism can set a person free from the exercised kingdom of darkness and the clutches of sin and death. Only in Jesus Christ is our redemption, salvation, and liberation finished.
This wonderful Savior Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate is the Red Thread of the Bible! The thread that binds the Word of God together. You find him everywhere in the Bible, the Word of God! In Genesis, he is the promised seed of the woman. In Exodus, he is the Passover Lamb. In Leviticus, he is the high priest. In Numbers, he is the star to rise out of Jacob. In Deuteronomy, he is the two laws-love God and love your neighbor. In Joshua, he is the captain of the lord of hosts. In Judges, he is the covenant angel named Wonderful. In Ruth, he is the kinsman-redeemer. In Samuel, he is the root and offspring of David. In Kings, he is the greater than the Temple. In Chronicles, he is the king’s son. In Ezra and Nehemiah, he is the rebuilder. In Esther, he is the savior of God’s people. In Job, he is the daysman. In Psalms, he is the song. In Proverbs, he is the wisdom of God. In Ecclesiastes, he is the one among a thousand. In Song of Solomon, he is the bridegroom of the bride. In Isaiah, he is Jacob’s branch. In Jeremiah, he is our righteousness. In Lamentations, he is the unbelievers’ judgment. In Ezekiel, he is the true shepherd. In Daniel, he is the stone that became the head of the corner. In Hosea, he is the latter rain. In Joel, he is God’s dwelling in Zion. In Amos, he is the raiser of David’s tabernacle. In Obadiah, he is the deliverer on Mount Zion. In Jonah, he is our salvation. In Micah, he is the lord of kings. In Nahum, he is the stronghold in the time of trouble. In Habakkuk, he is our joy and confidence. In Zephaniah, he is our mighty lord. In Haggai, he is the desire of the nations. In Zechariah, he is our servant-the branch. In Malachi, he is the son of righteousness.
In Matthew, he is Jehovah’s Messiah. In Mark, he is Jehovah’s servant. In Luke, he is Jehovah’s man. In John, he is Jehovah’s Son. In Acts, he is the gift of holy spirit. In Romans, he is the believer’s justification. In Corinthians, he is the believer’s sanctification. In Galatians, he is the believer’s righteousness. In Ephesians, he is the believer’s heavenly standing. In Philippians, he is the believer’s self-adequacy. In Colossians, he is the believer’s completeness. In Thessalonians, he is the believer’s soon glorification. In Timothy, he is the faithful men. In Titus, he is the fellow-laborer. In Philemon, he is the love of a believer. In Hebrews, he is the high priest for sin. In James, he is the royal law. In Peter, he is the pastor. In John, he is as we are. In Jude, he is the beloved. In Revelations, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
He is the doom of the adversary as promised in Genesis 3:15 and accomplished in Revelation 20:10. He is the “no night” of Revelation 22:5, of which Genesis 1:1 is night. He is the light of Revelation 21:13, of which Genesis 1:16 and 17 is the sun and moon. He is the “no more death, neither sorrow nor crying” of Revelation 21:4, of which Genesis 3:16 and 17 is sorrow, suffering, and death. He is the “no more curse” of Revelation 22:3, of which Genesis 3:17 is the curse. He is the welcome home to paradise of Revelation 22:2, of which Genesis 3:22 to 24 is the banishment from paradise.
Who is this Jesus Christ?
He is Abel’s sacrifice, Abraham’s ram, Isaac’s well, Jacob’s ladder. He is Judah’s scepter, Moses’ rod, Joshua’s rams’ horn, Samuel’s horn of oil, David’s slingshot, Hezekiah’s sundial, Elijah’s mantle and Elisha’s staff. He is Job’s prayer, Isaiah’s fig tree, Ezekiel’s wheel, Daniel’s Jerusalem window, Jonah’s sea monster and Malachi’s storehouse. He is Peter’s shadow, Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons. He is the lily of the valley and the rose of Sharon in life’s desserts. He is the pearl of great price. He is the rock for pilgrims in a weary land. He is the believer’s justification. He is the believer’s righteousness. He is the believer’s sanctification. He is the believer’s redemption. He is the believer’s knowledge. He is the believer’s wisdom. He is the believer’s all-in-all in all. He is the believer’s completely complete completeness. He is the bright and morning star, and he’s my Lord and my Savior.
He is knocking at the door of your heart right now. He is inviting you this Christmas to open the door and let him into your heart. Confess him as Lord and believe that He is alive because God raised him from the dead. Repent and turn to him and receive the power of the gift of holy spirit and receive the new birth. This is the greatest Christmas gift of all. It is a new season, a new beginning, a new life. The past is gone. With Jesus you start with a clean slate and there is no limit to what he can do in your life. You belong to Him. He wants all of you. This is the message of hope and joy tonight. This is the true meaning of Christmas.
I appreciate the work of Precept Austin, Jesus Christ our Promised Seed by Wierwille, Ernest Martin, EW Bullinger, and many other sources that contributed to this article