Christmas is approaching, and so is the time when verses regarding the birth of Christ will be read throughout churches and Christian households. Undoubtedly the first three verses of Matthew 2 will be part of the seasonal reading:
These three verses are rich with meaning – a meaning that derives from the history of Israel recorded in the Old Testament. For it is written that God gave Israel David as king. David was then promised an eternal throne by God, and David’s descendants ruled for a few hundred years. Due to perpetual sin, God exiled His people to Babylon and ended the Davidic dynasty. From that time until the birth of Jesus, God did not allow a son of David to sit on a throne as king. In fact, via the prophet Ezekiel, God told Zedekiah, the last Davidic king, that there would be no more Davidic kings until Messiah.
The last sentence from this Ezekiel quotation is an allusion to the Messianic prophecy in Genesis 49: 10.
Although God had ended the Davidic rule over Israel, it was because of God’s promise to David and because of the words of the prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and others, that there was great anticipation for the Messiah. People believed God would send Messiah and establish David’s eternal throne.
Moving ahead now to the birth of Jesus, we understand why Herod, an Idumean and not a son of David, was king – because God had ended the rule of the Davidic kings and allowed for Israel to be subjegated to Rome. And because of the people’s anticipation for the coming Davidic king, the illegitimate king Herod was terribly troubled upon the arrival of the magi, who asked him about a baby born as “King of the Jews”.
It is fascinating that Herod, a king appointed by Rome, an Idumean and not a Jew, believed enough in the possibility of a coming king to inquire of the scribes and priests as to where the Scriptures say the Messiah would be born. And yet it is obvious he did not believe in the hope of the Messiah, for it was his will to kill the baby who was born.
When asked by Herod to tell of the place where the Messiah would be born, the scribes answered with the words of the prophet Micah.
That prophecy from Micah was given seven centuries earlier – the Jews kept note of it for seven hundred years, for they did believe God would keep His word. What is fascinating about the fulfillment of Micah’s words is that the only reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem is because Caesar Augustus decreed that a census would be taken, and this census required people to travel to their own city. As a result, Joseph and Mary, from Nazareth, descendants of David, went to Bethlehem to register, for that was the city of David.
God used the decree of a Gentile ruler to bring to pass Micah’s prophecy – that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Over thirty years later, God would use the decree of Pontius Pilate to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy – that the Christ would suffer and die.
So Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem in accordance with the words of the prophet Micah. He was born to be king, but not a normal king. For what king offers himself as a propitiation and sacrifice for sins? Only one.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1: 30 – 33