'AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"Matthew 2:6(NASB)
Each of the four Gospels has its own emphasis, and Matthew's target audience are the Jewish people. Throughout his Gospel, Matthew makes numerous references to prophetic Scriptures in the Old Testament. He skilfully introduces people and prophecies in his writings, to show that they have their fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ, His ministry, and His mission.
As if to lay the foundation for his specific focus, Matthew begins his Gospel with the earthly genealogy of Jesus Christ... the descendent of the great king David and his son, King Solomon. He showed that Christ's ancestry went back to Abraham who was the forefather of Isaac and Israel, through whom was to be born the Messiah of Israel and King of the Jews.
Matthew traces this genealogy up to Mary, the virgin whom the Lord chose to be Christ's earthly mother and her husband, Joseph - the legitimate, adoptive, earthly father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is early in chapter 2, that we hear about the visit of the majestic, eastern magi who arrived in Jerusalem demanding, "Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
King Herod was an illegitimate, puppet king of the Jews who became deeply concerned when he discovered his throne was in jeopardy. And so he feigned enthusiastic interest, while plotting in his heart to exterminate this rival to his authority.
Herod made his eager, yet deceitful enquiry to the chief priests and teachers of the law who were well able to quote the appropriate Scripture. He is to be born in Bethlehem of Judea, they told him, and this is what the prophet wrote: "And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel."
The chief priests and rulers of Israel were well equipped to accurately quote from the book of Micah. They knew the letter of the Law and were able to recite, parrot-fashion, the various prophetic Scriptures that foretold that the Messiah would be born in the little town of Bethlehem - within the tribal boundary of Judea where David the king had been raised.
Although they smugly displayed their extensive knowledge of the prophetic Scriptures, they did not rejoice to discover that this ancient prophecy was coming to pass! They did not enthusiastically accompany the Magi to Bethlehem to discover the wonderful fulfilment of this ancient Scripture!
The head-knowledge of these Jewish leaders was of no value to their spiritual well-being, nor was it significant to them because they did not mix their knowledge with a trusting heart of faith in the Word of God and the prophetic writings of holy men of God.
What a lesson for us to learn... that it is not what we know about the Scriptures that is important, but knowing the God of the Scriptures intimately. It is not what we know intellectually that returns us into fellowship with the Father, but simply trusting in His Son for the forgiveness of sins and abundant, everlasting life.
It is not knowing about the Lord Jesus but believing in His sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection for the salvation of our soul that is necessary. For He is the seed of David, the Son of Abraham, and the Child born to Mary, according to the flesh. He is the same One "Who is declared the Son of God with power and great glory, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."
He is Jesus; the Word made flesh and God incarnate Who came to earth as the Sacrifice for sin and to give His life so that by faith in Him, we too might live.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the Word of God and the truths that it contains. Thank You for this Gospel of Matthew and the wonderful way that he uses the prophetic Scriptures to demonstrate that Christ, Who is declared the eternal Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, is the Son of Man according to the flesh - through Whom all the families of the earth may be blessed by faith in His sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection. To Him be all praise and glory, honour and might, majesty, dominion and power, for ever and ever. In Jesus' name, AMEN.