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The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12

The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 6, 2019

A lot of folks were on the road, in the air, or taking trains and buses to go and be with family or friends during the holidays. Wherever they went they became visitors. Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Poor Richard’s Almanac that “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Franklin was usually only enamored with his self and found the company of others, unless they were female, dreary.

However, here we discover several wise visitors, a mad king, and a small child. It is interesting how all of these folks came together several thousand years ago and how we are talking about them in our day and age. These visitors of Jesus made an impact on his family; Mary probably pondered their visitation like she did over the other events that occurred around the birth of her baby boy Jesus. Let’s take a look at what the visitors of Jesus meant and how they affect our lives today…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

Some visitors are more welcome than others. We like it when folks bring gifts when they visit but we hate the late night visitation of raccoons going through our trash or mice running across our kitchen! Here we discover that…

I. These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! (Vv. 1-2)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

  1. Not everyone agrees with the timing of the visit of the Wisemen from the east in visiting Jesus. However “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem”. There are a lot of misconceptions and legends about these “Magi”. They were not kings, but simply wise men which suggest they were astronomers. There were not only three, but more than likely a great company and some suggest there were several dozen men! They seem to have not come on the birth night but many days (or even months) later. Some have named them but in fact it was only in the sixth century that their names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar) started to be specified as some now accept them. Before that they had other and varied names. Why did the later names Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar stick? Because in the sixth century the Emperor Justinian created the famous mosaics in various churches and in the church of Saint Apollinaire the mosaics of the wise men have their names beneath them in the form we now accept. These men came with a specific task in mind and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Perhaps the signs, writings, and legends of the time had led these men to this town in Israel. All of the things they studied pointed to a king being born: “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” They followed a star. Some suggest that since it moved that perhaps God used angelic beings or even his own Shekinah glory to direct these men to Jesus. When we look at God closely he always leads us to himself! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them!

  EXAMPLE: When I first became a Christian I was told by my mentor to “read the Bible”. When I first became a seminary student I was told by my professors over and over to “read the Bible”. We often learn in Sunday school and Worship to “read the Bible”. There is a reason for this; while Christian books, commentaries, and study helps are good for some insight the best and most important thing a believer can do is to read the Bible! It is there when we follow the words and instructions of God we discover who he truly is! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! Are you willing to follow the Lord wherever he leads you?

Some visitors can be disturbing. When we are sitting down to eat, watching a favorite TV show, or just enjoying a good nap, a knock on the door can be disruptive. Here in the following verses of Matthew we discover that…

II. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! (Vv. 3-8)

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

  1. Like I said before, not all visitors are welcome by those they are visiting. We learn that “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was not a Jew at all, but an Edomite and Rome recognized him as a vassal king over Judea. The Jews tempered their great hatred of him with admiration for his building projects, such as the magnificent improvements made to the second temple. He also built Masada and the Roman port of Caesarea. Motivated by his great paranoia and cruelty, he murdered the members of the Sanhedrin, his wife, his mother in-law, and his three sons. Herod was “disturbed and all Jerusalem” besides! Herod was known for his rages and so when these esteem men show up looking for a king, they are concerned as to what Herod would do. Herod therefore gets his own wise guys (chief priests and teachers of the law) together and “he asked them where the (Messiah) Christ was to be born”. Having studied the Scriptures themselves and having debated this topic often they knew full well what the answer was: “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” The prophecy was the answer of God to King David long ago. Herod was as crafty as he was insane and we read: “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’”  Not wanting any of his detractors to learn of the real reason the Magi had come and not wanting to give anyone a platform to usurp his power Herod had a secret meeting with them. I believe Herod had already determined to murder any child who would be seen as Israel’s true and rightful king. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others!

  EXAMPLE: There are folks and groups today that do not like it when others begin to consider who Jesus is. Groups like Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Islam all fear the truth of who Jesus is and what he came to do. Socialism and communistic regimes try to suppress the truth of Jesus as well. Atheists try to dispel Jesus as just a myth or fantasy. It shakes these groups to the core because if Jesus is truly who he said he was and what history testifies to then they are false and lost. Herod misunderstood who Jesus was and he was disturbed by the coming Wisemen. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! Is your faith disturbing to others?

Sometimes we have visitors that are unexpected but their coming and going do not affect us that much at the time while the news they carry or the particular job they do could. The mailman, package delivery person, or the water meter readers are some of these kinds of visitors. Lastly we learn that…

III. These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! (Vv. 9-12)

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

  1. These Wisemen were far smarter than king Herod could ever have imagined. The king they sought did not have an earthly kingdom or a throne built by human hands. After being wined and dined by Israel’s ruler and “After they had heard the king, they went on their way”. However their journey is not finished “and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” This is good evidence that the star was far more than just an astronomical phenomenon. It moved and “stopped over the place where the child was”. Some think the star could have been a comet, a planetary convergence, or super nova but whatever the “star’ was it is certain it was a means by God to lead these visitors on their journey! Better than Google Earth or Maps! “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” because it lead them right to the final place they needed to go and to the person they sought! We also learn that the individual they journeyed to find was someone special because “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” You do not humble yourself to worship just any ordinary kid, believe me, even though some parents do! This child was truly special. This child was important. This child was the Messiah, God in human flesh! Add to this the fact that after worshipping him “they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Over field and fountain, moor and mountain, they had carried their offerings. Treasures to place at the feet of the one they worshiped, the one they had sought for so long! Some think God gave these men the gifts ideas to being Jesus: gold to signify his kingship, incense to recognize him as the high priest, and myrrh to show his death for mankind’s sin. We find that God watches over those he sends because “having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever done something extremely nice for someone only to have them not say “thank you”? Perhaps you gave a gift to someone but got little in return? I have learned that it is our choice on whether or not we give a gift or do something nice for another and we should never expect anything in response. Little did these Wisemen know but their travel, their interaction with Herod, and their worship of a young boy would be remembered for thousands of years! Why? The reason is not just found in what they did but rather it is found in the focus of who they sought – the Messiah Jesus! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! What treasure do you seek in life?

Conclusion:

These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Christmas Is All About Love…

One of the things I have learned over the years is that Christmas is all about love. It begins with God who is love displaying himself in his love for all mankind. And this marvelous and mysterious love has infected all of mankind whether they want to believe in that love or not. The infection has manifested itself throughout the entire world. God’s love does that whether we want it to or not. It is manifested in the godly things we do to one another without asking for anything in return. It is seen in the trust little children have in the belief that God’s love is found in believing in a saintly man who loves children enough he is willing to share that love to those who are willing to be good for goodness sake. It is heard in the songs sung about that silent night when two people became parents for the first time a long way from home and their baby boy would be the hope of all mankind. Love is displayed in the red, green, and white decorations that celebrate the coldness of winter but the warmth of that Godly love. The wrapped gifts given are the shadow of the wonderful Wisemen who journeyed across stream and fountain, moor and mountain to an animal feeding trough outside of a tiny town in an obscure kingdom ruled by a mad king to set before the king of Kings their precious offerings of love. The love of God is reflected in the lights strung on houses, trees, and bushes and buildings; they blind us as Holiday Displays or warm us next to a fireplace as they twinkle on a tree. Each and every part of Christmas may be prepackaged or commercial for some but there deep inside of all the Christmas dress up is the love of God. And whether you like it or not there it is, his love sent in his Son and it is his birthday we celebrate. That’s what Christmas is all about.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled! – Luke 2:1-20

Fourth Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled! – Luke 2:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 22, 2013 AM

There are certain dates in life that stand out more than others do. I remember my parents and grandparents talking about when the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred and where they were and what they were doing. I remember the day the first American went into space and when we landed on the moon. I also remember when terrorists flew passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. However, on a brighter note, I also vividly remember the day I was married and the day we brought our daughter home. Is it any wonder then that as believers we should celebrate by remembering the day the love of God was fulfilled?

On this the fourth Sunday of Advent we should pause as Christians and remember together the day Jesus was born. Before we pass out the presents, drink the hot apple cider, or eat the first candy canes of Christmas perhaps we would do well to stop and remember why there is Christ in Christmas. It is the day the love of God was fulfilled! Let’s refresh our memories as we remind ourselves of the wonder of that day.

READ: Luke 2:1-20

We discover that the love of God was fulfilled when…

I. God’s timing was just right! (Vv. 1-7)
1. We often mark important events by what occurs in the world around us and Luke does this as well. He remarks that, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The Savior of the world’s birth is marked by what occurred in the world at that time, a government census. We know that Caesar Augustus was made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 BC and ruled to 14 AD and because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 BC, Jesus was probably born before that time. In fact, “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” However, the word translated “first” probably should be more correctly translated “before”, which it often is, Quirinius was governor which fits the timeline. During these kinds of tax censuses, “everyone went to his own town to register.” And, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Bethlehem was David’s ancestral home because he was a descendent of King David. “He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Both Joseph and Mary knew the importance of her pregnancy. She was carrying the Messiah, and so Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. The couple knew she would have her child during the time Joseph was gone, and they most likely did not want to be separated during the event. And, since they knew that the baby was the Messiah, they would have known the prophecy of Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. While unsuspecting Caesars and government officials had no clue about how their edicts would affect the lives of the most important couple in the world, God used them for His perfect plan. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!
EXAMPLE: Timing is everything, or so they say. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV) Joe Stowell, for the Radio Bible Class, writes, “A quick look at history reveals that the coming of Christ was at just the right time. Centuries earlier, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, bringing with him the Greek culture and language. On the heels of his demise, the Roman Empire picked up where Alexander left off and expanded the territory under the unifying influence of the culture and language of the Greeks. It was under Roman rule that the crucifixion took place, where the blood of Christ was shed for us. It was under the rule of Rome that conditions were made ready for the spread of the gospel across three continents: good roads, territorial boundaries free of “passport” restrictions, and a unifying language. The providence of God had put all the pieces in place for the perfect time to send His Son. God’s timing is perfect in everything.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

Luke shares that the love of God was fulfilled when…

II. God’s announcement was given! (Vv. 8-14)
1. What kings, Caesars, and governors cared about most was of no concern for God. In fact, God often uses the small things and the insignificant people to declare His ways and purposes. And here we discover “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Those who were considered the outcasts from their own society, because they worked with animals by touching them, feeding them, and caring for them, the shepherds are the common folk God announces the birth of His son. God goes to these “least in the kingdom” first to proclaim the birth of His Son. Imagine being one of these lowly folks, tending your flock, and suddenly God’s messenger suddenly comes to where you are in the fields. Luke writes that, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Isn’t it interesting that God chose to go to these who raised the lambs to be sacrificed in the temple to disclose the birth of the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed? The first words of God’s messenger would be the words His Son would often use: “Do not be afraid.” God’s angel brings them “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news of great joy was not just for the Hebrew nation but also for all people everywhere! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” The Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God! The shepherds would know what the angel declared to be true because they are given specific instructions on what they will find and how they will find him, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” A feeding trough would be the bed of the Savior and the simple dressings of a newborn would be his regal robe! Before the shepherds could completely digest what they have been told, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!
EXAMPLE: During Boy Scouts we used to sing the Announcements Song, it was to the tunes of Row Row Your Boat, What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor, Frères Jacques’, Have You Ever Seen a Lassie, and London Bridge. The ending was “Announcements, announcements, announcements! We’ve got a silly cheer, which you’ve just got to hear! It makes no sense we’re sure you know; the announcements have to GO!” However, not all announcements are bad or boring. Wedding announcements, birth announcements, and announcements of achievement are ones that tell us of joyous occasions that we should celebrate! The announcement given to shepherds long ago certainly wasn’t boring or bad; it was good news of great joy! The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

We finally learn that the love of God was fulfilled when…

III. God’s good news was shared! (Vv. 15-20)
1. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those simple shepherds? Surprise, yes, shock, certainly, and perhaps some incredulity or astonished skepticism! What’s a shepherd supposed to do with this kind of news? Luke relates, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Being the down-to-earth men they were known to be, they decide to go and see for themselves if what the angelic messengers spoke and sang about was true or not! “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Isn’t it interesting that neither the people’s chief priests, the teachers of the law, nor the great Herod himself had enough faith to go themselves, but these men do! I can just imagine that when they came to where the child and his parents were, they were even more humbled. They find everything exactly as the angel said it would be. And so, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” In the midst of this wonderful story is a simple truth of a mother’s heart, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While potentates schemed, Wisemen wondered, and shepherds saw for themselves; a mother ponders what it all means for the future of her child. Of all the mothers of Israel, she was the one who gave birth to the Messiah! Meanwhile, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!
EXAMPLE: Joe Stowell again for the Radio Bible Class writes, “I love the YouTube video of people in a food court of a mall, who in the midst of their ordinary lives were suddenly interrupted by someone who stood up and boldly began singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” To the surprise of everyone, another person got up and joined the chorus, and then another, and another. Soon the food court was resounding with the celebrative harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers.” He continues, “Every time I watch that video, it moves me to tears. It reminds me that bringing the glory of God into the ordinary situations of our world through the beautiful harmonies of Christlikeness is exactly what we are called to do. Think of intentionally interjecting God’s grace into a situation where some undeserving soul needs a second chance; of sharing the love of Christ with someone who is needy; of being the hands of Jesus that lift up a weary friend; or of bringing peace to a confusing and chaotic situation.” The same is true for those shepherds so long ago, for them the love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

Conclusion:

The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right, when God’s announcement was given, and when God’s good news was shared!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Hope: A path to fulfillment! – Micah 4:1-4; 5:1-4

Hope: A path to fulfillment! – Micah 4:1-4; 5:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 30, 2013 AM

Many years ago when I worked in a nursing home, there were folks who talked about the joys of years that slipped away too quickly. Some of them were Christians who raised their families, worked faithfully in their churches, and retired from their occupations. In some cases it was difficult for these folks to realize that they must depend on others to do for them what they once did for themselves. Some were discouraged, knowing the effects of aging and illness while others realized that God has given us a hope and a future that will be greater than all the joys of this life combined. Our greatest days await our arrival in heaven or the return of our Savior Jesus Christ!

We all must decide how we will deal with painful and difficult circumstances in this life. Some stoically try to tough out the difficult experiences, while others attempt to push the experiences deep into their subconscious minds. Some blame others and in moments of weakness may even blame God for their losses. Some develop negative attitudes and become bitter and pessimistic towards life. Wise Christians, however, know God has a wonderful future for us beyond this life. Questions we struggle with today either will be answered or they will concern us no longer because we are in His presence. We will leave behind the troubles of this life. We will be renewed with health, strength, and joy greater than anything we have experienced. We too can live in hope of God’s promised future blessings. Micah gives us a message of hope for the future, let’s discover how…

READ: Micah 4:1-4; 5:1-4

Micah encouraged the people of his day with positive truths. They were going to endure great hardships and discipline from the Lord. Eventually there would be a limited earthly restoration, but Micah promised a complete and wonderful restoration in the future for God’s people. In our journey in this life, we must…

I. Continue to seek God’s truth! (4:1-2)

1. Micah had described the future destruction of Jerusalem in the last verse of chapter 3. Here he followed that terrible prediction with a hopeful vision of a better future for God’s people and Jerusalem. The phrase “the last days” points to future events described by Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel. The renewal of Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile would have partial fulfillment in these predictions, but the complete fulfillment will occur at Jesus’ second coming. “The mountain of the LORD” refers to Mount Zion in Jerusalem. It will be “raised above the hills”, is a promise not only to Israelites but also to those living in all the nations of the world. Jerusalem will be the focal point in the future events Micah described. “Many nations” are the Gentiles, non-Jews, who will travel to Jerusalem in search of the “God of Jacob.” The house is the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and later rebuilt following the Israelite’s return from exile. That structure existed until Herod rebuilt it and the Romans destroyed it in A.D. 70 following Jesus’ prediction, because of the Jews rejection of Him. While no temple has yet been rebuilt, some anticipate it will, but others suggest that it has already been rebuilt through Jesus because of prophecies such as this one. The purpose of the visits also points to a future event rather than one in the past. People will come to learn of God’s ways so they can walk in His paths. While people from around the world have gone on spiritual quests to Jerusalem, the scope of this future event is far greater than any pilgrimage in history. Ironically, the Israelites were not seeking to know and obey God’s law in Micah’s day; but in the future Gentiles would. Micah described a turning to the Lord. At this time, many in the world will put aside atheism, agnosticism, and false religions. They will acknowledge the God of the Bible as the one true God. Believers need to continue to seek God’s truth!

EXAMPLE: Other than studying the Bible each week during worship or Sunday school, how diligent are you in seeking its message for your daily life? The truths of the Bible are acknowledged and followed today only by faithful followers of Jesus. Either the majority of people living now continue to reject or they are ignorant of the absolute truth of Scripture and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only hope of salvation. When Jesus returns, the whole world will have to acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Christians who suffered and died to spread the gospel will be vindicated and rewarded for their faithfulness. Christians today should be diligent in their study of God’s Word and obedience to His will in anticipation of Jesus’ return. We should continue to seek God’s truth!

Micah offered hope for the faithful remnant of Israel who would return to the land following the Babylonian exile. The prophecy was partially fulfilled when Cyrus of Persia allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem. The complete fulfillment of the prophecy awaits the second coming of Jesus Christ and the full establishment of God’s kingdom. Meanwhile Micah teaches us that…

II. We will enjoy God’s security! (4:3-4)

1. The peoples of the nations will come to the Lord to settle disputes and seek arbitration. “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.” What Micah said about these Gentiles’ actions condemned the attitudes and deeds of the Israelites in Micah’s day. The Israelites perverted justice and did not seek to judge according to the Lord’s will. In the glorious future of God’s kingdom, judgment will be righteous; and no one will be treated unfairly. The Lord will be completely impartial. The world will be submissive and obedient to the Lord’s rule and decisions. Micah also promised a universal peace in God’s future kingdom. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” This is a promise that was only a dream in Micah’s day and still is up to the present. The peace of the future will be permanent; on that day God’s people will never again train for war. The instruments of warfare, swords and spears, will be transformed into instruments of agriculture, plows and pruning hooks. Instruments of destruction will be redirected toward tools of production. The future kingdom of God promises absolute security, “no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken”! The picture of each man sitting under his grapevine is a portrait of provision and safety (1 Kings 4:25; Zechariah 3:10). There will be no one to frighten him because evil people will not take part in that perfect environment. The false prophets in Micah’s day, for a bribe, promised peace; but only submission to the Lord can provide true peace and security. The future kingdom of God in heaven promises that we will enjoy God’s security!

EXAMPLE: Many philosophers, writers, and so-called religious persons have offered the hope of utopia here on earth. Each has a theory of how peace and security can be obtained by all. They want to return to the paradise of Eden, but they have forgotten how Eden was lost. Adam and Eve lost the perfect world through disobedience to God. Paul said it correctly when he pronounced, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24 NIV) Paradise can be regained only through faith in Jesus Christ. All who put their faith and trust in Him will share in the perfection of the future kingdom of God. This promise enables Christians to live with confidence and assurance in today’s uncertain world. Believers know for certain we will enjoy God’s security!

How important are truths about security in God’s kingdom to you? Micah then turns to the results of the sins of the Israelites. They continually refused to listen to the true prophets of God and instead placed their trust in fine sounding words instead of the truth. They would reap what they had sown. Our nation today could well face the same results. We need to repent, turn back to the Lord, and…

III. Accept sin’s consequences! (5:1)

1. The context of this verse began in 4:9, in which Micah predicted the fall of Jerusalem and the coming of Babylonian captivity. Micah also may have had in mind the siege of Jerusalem by Assyria in Hezekiah’s reign. He tells his listeners, “Marshal your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us!” However, it was too late! In some translations, they use the term, “daughter of a troop” in referring to Jerusalem. The NIV uses “city of troops.” Micah is addressing the people of Judah who would come under attack. The suffering would be so severe that they would slash themselves in grief. Zedekiah, here called the judge of Israel, was king at the time of the Babylonian attack (2 Kings 25:1-7). The phrase striking on the cheek with a rod referred to humiliating punishments in the Old Testament, Lamentations related the willingness of those who were willing to humiliate themselves before the Lord, “Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.” (Lamentations 3:30 NIV) Some commentators believe the reference of Micah is about Jesus since He was struck on the cheek by His tormenters and is mentioned in the following verse. Jesus was not struck by an invading enemy, however; and the reference better fits the circumstances of Judah’s humiliation at the hands of the Babylonians. Just as believers need to do today, the Israelites needed to accept sin’s consequences and realize God was in the process.

EXAMPLE: People do not readily acknowledge that much of their suffering could be the result of their sinful choices. Those in Judah had no one to blame but themselves for their punishment at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Christians today often suffer as a consequence of their foolish or sinful choices. Disobedience has predictable results. These consequences may include physical illnesses and injuries. They also can include psychological and emotional distress. They always include spiritual consequences as a loving Heavenly Father intervenes to discipline rebellious children. Suffering also can be the result of the actions of others around us. A believing remnant was in Judah when it fell to Babylon, including godly individuals such as Jeremiah and Daniel. They did not suffer exile for their sins but for the sins of others. Christians living in today’s culture that rejects God can suffer when God’s judgment falls on their disobedient nation. We must be faithful in the midst of suffering, responding in a way that testifies of our confidence in God’s providential plan. Believers need to accept sin’s consequences and realize God is in the process!

Micah prophesied the birth of a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem in the land of Judah. The prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born some 700 years later. Micah declared one day Jesus will purify the land of idolatry and punish those who opposed the faithful remnant of Israel, and His greatness will be recognized “to the ends of the earth.” The fulfillment of this prophecy will occur at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Micah, meanwhile, teaches us…

IV. To keep holding on to God’s bright promise! (5:2-4)

1. Bethlehem Ephrathah was located about four miles from Jerusalem. Jewish scholars later quoted Micah 5:2 to the magi and identified Bethlehem as the birth place of the Messiah (Matthew 2:1-6). Bethlehem was a humble village described by Micah as “small among the clans of Judah.” The fame of this little town, however, would change dramatically. God promised that, “out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” The Messiah would be ruler over Israel for God. The total fulfillment of this prophecy awaits the second coming of Jesus when He will establish Himself as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16)! Jesus came first to provide salvation through His death and resurrection and promised to return to establish His kingdom. That His origin is from antiquity, from eternity points to the Deity of the Messiah. Jesus Christ is eternal, without beginning and without end (John 1:1). He was David’s Son (descendant), but He was also David’s Lord (Mark 12:35, 37). “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.” The Lord would abandon His people to their impending judgment in Babylonian exile. The “labor” relates the painful experience they would suffer. However, like childbirth it will be followed by a time of great joy. Micah said the Messiah “will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” The corrupt political and religious leaders in Micah’s day told the people they were secure. In reality, they were headed for war and destruction. Only the Messiah would bring lasting peace and security for citizens of God’s kingdom. God’s people need to keep holding on to God’s bright promise!

EXAMPLE: The angels first brought the message of the birth of Jesus Christ to shepherds keeping their flocks in the fields (Luke 2:8-12). “Peace on earth” was a promise associated with the birth of the Son of God (Luke 2:14). Jesus offers peace today for every believer (John 14:27). What He offers is peace with God through His death on the cross, and peace of mind, as we trust God to care for us in this world. The ultimate fulfillment of the promise of peace, however, will be realized only in the heavenly kingdom of God. We will finally live in the safe environment that all desire but that can never be achieved by human governments or armies. In the kingdom of God we will be in our Savior’s presence, we will be ruled by Him, and we will never experience danger or fear again. The return of Jesus Christ is the great hope that sustains us and encourages us as we face the uncertainties and struggles of our daily lives. We need to keep holding on to God’s bright promise!

Conclusion:
Believers need to continue to seek God’s truth! Believers know for certain we will enjoy God’s security! Believers need to accept sin’s consequences and realize God was in the process! God’s people need to keep holding on to God’s bright promise!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Careless Acts of Men – Today’s Thoughts…

The Careless Acts of Men – Today’s Thoughts…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 25, 2008

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:1-5)

Things do not change much in life or history. People still fall in love, parents have children, and the government often creates hardship when it interferes with people’s lives. Just like it did with Mary and Joseph’s. Of course being a Christian and believing in the predestination of God I could say it was predetermined that the government would interfere in the life of the parents of Jesus, but we all make choices. Including governments that are instituted by God.

I find it fascinating that one small stroke of the pen by an emperor somewhere off in far distant Rome, made the difference in where Jesus was born. I am sure he did not care and if it was brought somehow to his imperial attention that his signature on the decree for taxes would make a couple, the mother pregnant, travel across the Middle East, he would not have been concerned in the least. And isn’t this, I suppose, the way of all bureaucrats that have removed themselves from the people they are supposed to govern?

It also brings up another question: How far removed are we from influencing the lives of others around us? Keeping promises, following through on paying what we owe, keeping our word, or even by the mere fact we cut someone off on the road. Perhaps we treated a salesclerk harshly, or a waitress with disrespect, or a neighbor with contempt, and, we, could care less. There it is: care less. Careless living as a believer can cause others harm when we do not think before we act. To be careless is not taking care of how we live or how we act as a believer. At least Caesar August had an excuse! He needed more tax money and a proper census needed to be taken so that no one would be charged more, or of course less, than they should have been. After all Rome was at least consistent. What then is our excuse when we could care less when we do something that affects the lives of others, our families, or ourselves? Now do not try and let yourself off the hook by declaring, “Perhaps it is the will of God!” Be careful of such a careless attitude.

Joseph was obedient to the decree of Rome and he went dutifully to register his new wife even though she was pregnant. It was his duty. The signature of an Emperor put into motion the will of God where the Messiah would be born. He did not care whose life it affected. The outcome God meant for our good, but how do you watch your carelessness? Should we not all take care as to how we carelessly treat others,  especially this holiday season?  Oh I pray so! What do you think?
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This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

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