March 25, 2015

A Game of Thrones, Part II: A Tale of Two Kingdoms

This post is the second part of my study of Matthew 2 and the striking contrasts between kings and kingdoms. There is much more here than what I have written but I have attempted to remain focused on the theme of kings and kingdoms.

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

In verse 7 we see the dark calculated strategies of Herod to try and gain the upper hand in God's plans. Herod tries to actually piggyback his evil deed into the good deed of the Magi to eradicate Christ. The evil of Herod is folded into the gift-giving or a proper call to worship of the true King. He literally adheres to the adage: If you can't beat'em then join'em.

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 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, frankincense and myrrh.

Gold, frankincense and myrrh were the traditional gifts of homage to a ruler. They were prized for the delicious fragrance which they emanated.

12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The fate that would eventually befall Herod was brutally ironic in his last days and death. He died by what amounted worms in the bowels. His bowels were eaten away by parasitic worms. Do not tinker or fool with God.

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew quotes (Hosea 11:1). The quote is based in the idea that the bud for the New Testament resides in the old.

There are also echoes of infant Moses' escape from Pharaoh in Egypt when Pharaoh would slaughter children. Moses and Pharaoh who are another biblical example of an earthly adult king given power by men attempting to annihilate what appeared to be a defenseless infant who was in reality protected by God himself. This is perfect proof that you might appear alone and outnumbered in this world but if God defends you it is as if you have an entire army at your disposal (because you do). Moses was the one through which God would give man the Law. Jesus is the One through which God would save man from the condemnation of the Law.

It is ironic that God calls Moses out of Egypt to release his people from slavery and death. God's initially calls Jesus' family to Egypt to save Him from impending death to refuge.

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

The word "outwitted" actually means that he felt his authority had been mocked. His true fears were coming true. He was indeed powerless against God and this new King and it infuriated him. What ensued was called the "Slaughter of the Innocents". It is documented in non-biblical documents. Jewish historian Josephus also wrote of this atrocity. Instead of being angry at himself for being so stupid he flies into a rage and kills those that are innocent. Outwardly he appeared pious to the wise men but inwardly and out of the public eye he was a violent abuser.

My question is for us today. How many adults do this on their own home? A obedient religious image in church and an angry ogre at home. This is hypocrisy. This is a vivid indicator of anger left unchecked. Men are exceptionally guilty of this. I know at times I am.Years of dwelling in that sin or anger makes a person numb to their own stupidity. That which would be inexcusable becomes normal. Eventually abuse becomes the norm.

17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Here another prophecy of the Old Testament is fulfilled, Jeremiah 31:15. To understand this comment we must understand that Ramah was the border between (what else?) two kingdoms: Israel in the Northern Kingdom and Judah which was the southern Kingdom. We see a kingdom that contains God's true holy city and true temple in Jerusalem in the south and we see the impostor in the Northern Kingdom. Two Kingdoms from which all the prophets would either arise or go to.

Rachel in this passage was Jacob's favored wife who would give birth to Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim who represented Judah the southern Kingdom and Manasseh who represented the Northern Kingdom. Rachel is weeping because of the loss of her children Ephraim and Manasseh the Northern and Southern Kingdoms who are both destroyed in the 1st (northern) and 2nd (southern) exiles. The North would be destroyed by a kingdom named Assyria and the South would be killed off by a kingdom of the Babylonians.

Again, we see the concept of competing kingdoms here.

Matthew has drawn this parallel to Ramah and Rachel on purpose because it is repeating itself millennium later. God's children are again being killed. They are now both being killed in Herod's slaughter. The object of Herod's wrath is ironically driven into exile in Egypt, a former place of slavery for God's people. Jesus Himself is send to save us from the slavery of sin. It would be this child, the arrival of Jesus that would eventually reunite all of God's true Kingdom though so everything comes full circle as if it had been planned.

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Herod would then be replaced by another appointed nut-job King Archelaus. Jesus ending up in Nazareth in his youth would be the fulfillment of prophecies all over the books of the prophets in the Old Testament.

In the end we see a war between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. A war between the spiritual and the physical, the righteousness of Christ and the unrighteousness of man. It is a comparison/contrast of sinless and the sin-stained. It is a blatant picture of God's holiness and man's wickedness which shows man's obvious need for God...the very reason Jesus came in human form. Matthew 2 shows two kingdoms (actually more), one is temporary and the other eternal. One will win and reign due to the righteousness of it's King and the other will fail and fall due to the wickedness of its king. One King's actions and obedience bring glory to God the Father, the other king's actions and disobedience bring shame to all associated to him. In Jesus we see the righteousness of God and we see the Father. In Herod and those like 
Archelaus we see wickedness and other resemblances of their father...the Devil.

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