The Scriptorium

Good News for the Nations

The nations came to worship. Matthew 2.1, 2

Matthew 2: A King is Born (1)

Pray Psalm 72.18, 19.
Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel,
Who only does wondrous things!
And blessed be His glorious name forever!
And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen and Amen.

Sing joyously Psalm 72.18, 19.
(Martyrdom: Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed)
Now bless the God of Israel Who wondrous works performs!
And bless His Name, His glory tell both now and forevermore!

Read Matthew 2; meditate on Matthew 2.1, 2

1. What did the Magi intend in coming to Jerusalem?

2. What does it say about the “King of the Jews” that these Gentiles came to Him?

Luke makes the important point that the Good News of Jesus’ birth is for lowly, faithful people – like shepherds (Lk. 2.). Matthew takes a different tack in a passage which reaches back to the Old Testament and forward to “all the nations” (Matt. 28.18). Here the nations are coming to Jesus; by the end of this gospel, Jesus will command His people to go to the nations.

As he did in chapter 1 by introducing God Who is “with us” (cf. Matt. 28.20), so here he bookended his gospel again by making it clear from the beginning that Immanuel is not just for “the Jews” but for all nations. The Good News of Jesus is Good News for the world!

We don’t know how many magi made this journey, though we traditionally think of them as three – each one bearing a different gift (v. 11). Magi were “wise men” and would have had access to a royal court. Further, they would have required the permission of that court to take such a long journey and be away for some time. We can only wonder about the anticipation that would have taken hold in that Gentile court upon their return. The Magi probably were alerted to the star from pondering Numbers 24.17, which promises a Star to rise and rule in Israel, Who would destroy the enemies of God’s people. But how would they know that text? They must have had the Scriptures which the Jews brought with them to Babylon. My sense is that this star was a special star – neither a comet nor the close juxtaposition of two planets, as is supposed by some. God could make the star and the light it emitted as surely as He could turn water to wine by merely thinking (Jn. 2); and He could just as easily have faded these out when their work was done. There is no need to try to shoehorn this star into a secular and scientific mindset. We wouldn’t do that with the angel which appeared to Joseph in chapter 1, so why should we feel compelled to do so with this star? God made the star, and He took it down. Greater wonders lie ahead in this gospel, and we need to consider them from God’s perspective, not man’s.

The Magi came “from the East” – where they were, not the star – to Jerusalem, for this was the capital of Israel, where they might expect to find the newborn King. Matthew pinned their visit to the historical record, following accepted historiographical protocol, by referencing the ruler current at the time. They came to worship the King – literally, to bow on their knees before Him, a sign of honor and submission. Perhaps they read Psalm 72 as well?

In chapter 1, a Son was born, and Immanuel came among us. In chapter 2, a star is born, and a King has come for His throne. This is really getting good!

1. What should we learn from the Magi to guide our own relationship with Jesus?

2. What do we learn from them about paying close attention to every word of God in Scripture?

3. Why would a star be an appropriate way of announcing the birth of Immanuel?

We must ask what it means that when our Redeemer was born, an angel appeared to the shepherds in Judea, but a star and not an angel guided the magi from the east to worship him. This was the reason: It was a reasoning being, an angel, who preached to the Jews as persons capable of using their reason. But a sign and not a voice guided the Gentiles, who were not prepared to make full use of reason to know the Lord. Gregory the Great (504-604), Forty Gospel Homilies 10.1

Lord Jesus, You are the Light announced by the star. Let Your light shine through me today as I…

Pray Psalm 72.7-17.
David foresaw what God intends for the Kingdom of His Son. Pray that God will use you today to realize more of His glorious rule on earth, as it is in heaven.

Sing Psalm 72.7-17.
Psalm 72.7-17 (Martyrdom: Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed)
Let righteousness abundant be where Jesus’ reign endures;
let peace increase from sea to sea ‘til moonlight shall be no more.

And let the Righteous rule the earth, and let His foes bow low;
let nations praise His matchless worth, and all His bidding do.

The Lord the needy rescues when he cries to Him for grace;
all they who suffer violence find mercy before His face.

Let Christ be praised and all the gold of Sheba be His right;
let blessings to His Name be told, and prayers made both day and night.

And let the earth abound with grain, let fields His fame proclaim;
and may our King forever reign and nations bless His great Name.

T. M. Moore

The Gospel of Matthew will help us grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Two companion books can supplement our study of Matthew. To Know Him examines what it means to belong to Jesus and to love and serve Him (click here), while Be Thou My Vision enables us to gain an even larger perspective on Jesus (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore