Come and Worship

Read: Matthew 1:1-2:17

In reading a book by Darrow L. Miller, Emancipating the World, I was challenged by an idea that he shared. He stated that culture is based on or begins with what we worship. Indeed, there is a sense in which people are wired to worship something.

One technical word for religious beliefs and practices is the word “cult.” We often use the word to refer to religious groups that are considered promoting error, but the word has a more general meaning. The cult is our way of worship. A person or group’s cult or worship will be at the heart of their culture or lifestyle.

With this in mind, we as believers in Jesus Christ have to be aware of any other focus of worship other than our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We need to be aware of anything that would hinder our relationship with the Lord and invite us into a modern-day idolatrous cult. We know there are various false religions and cults in our world, but generally, in our culture, the cult of self is very prominent.

Our culture revolves around the cult of self, the belief in one’s self, self-wellbeing, self-rights, and ultimately self-glory. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are good aspects to individual freedoms and responsibilities. But, the dogma of the absolute self is dangerous, and this emphasis on self can influence us in so many ways.

The Christian message is that self and all that we are is to be surrendered to the Lord and we are to worship Him and Him alone. His will is what counts and our joy ought to be to do what He desires for us. As a statement in the old prayer book says, His service is perfect freedom.

Matthew’s Gospel presents Jesus Christ as one worthy of our worship and allegiance. The whole of Matthew’s gospel presents the majestic and authoritative messiahship of Jesus. The first two chapters are inseparably related to the rest of the gospel. I remind you that this gospel ends with our RIsen Lord Jesus Christ declaring that all authority has been given to him. And on the basis of that authority, His disciples are commanded to go and to make disciples now of all nations.

So, the one declared “king of the Jews” in our text by the wise men is now proclaiming to have universal authority. He is worthy of the faith, the obedience, the allegiance, indeed the worship of all peoples throughout the world. This is in keeping with the drama of redemption and the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.

In this message, we are considering the witness in these first two chapters of Matthew to the identity of this Jesus whom we worship. The reasons for our faith in Him, our obedience to Him, and our worship of Him are all tied to who He is and what He came to do for us. So, let’s consider this witness to Him that Matthew presents in these birth and childhood narratives. This witness will challenge us to follow the example of the wise men and to worship Him in a worthy manner.


1. The Genealogical Witness (Matthew 1:1-17)

We won’t have time for a detailed review of these amazing verses in chapter one. But, I have to make reference to the direct line between Abraham and David and through the deportation to the Christ. This account is a significant aspect of the witness to who Jesus really is: son of Abraham, son of David, the Christ. Ultimately, this genealogy and all of Old Testament history leads to and points to our Lord Jesus Christ.

What a glorious bridge Matthew provides to the witness of the Old Testament to Jesus. There is a sense in which Old Testament history has its ultimate significance in showing the legitimacy of and the need for God’s Messiah. He is in the line of Abraham the Jew. He is in the line of David the King. The deportation and exile reveal the great need for the Messiah to come in the light of the failure of God’s people to keep the covenant. Given His miraculous birth, which would cause questions for those who rejected His Messiahship, the testimony of His ancestry was significant.

But, this genealogical witness is supported further by:  


2. The prophetic witness

Throughout chapters one and two of Matthew, significant Old Testament prophecies are quoted as being fulfilled in the coming, and in the person of Jesus Christ. His virgin birth is connected prophetically to Isaiah Chapter 7 verse 14. In this “Son,” God is with us, “Immanuel.” The location of his birth is predicted by the prophet Micah (5:2). He is a Ruler and a Shepherd to His people, coming forth from Bethlehem. This prophecy was known by the chief priests and scribes and shared with King Herod. This must have been an understood prophecy although it didn’t impact for good anyone in our account except the wise men. The traveling to and from Egypt by the ‘royal family” is tied to Hosea 11:1. Again the Sonship of Jesus is affirmed through this text as well. King Herod's ruthless attack of the male children in Bethlehem is tied to the prophet Jeremiah (31:15). This is a fascinating prophetic reference that indicates an awareness of the suffering into which the Messiah would come. The settling of the family in Nazareth (2:17) is tied to the Scriptures. This is a challenging reference because there is little reason to connect Jesus prophetically to the place Nazareth or to the Nazarite tradition. Some have suggested, and It makes sense to me that Matthew may be connecting the word Nazareth to the  Hebrew word for “branch” (nsr). This was an important Messianic title and found in the prophecy of Isaiah (11:1).  

Within these few verses, you get a sense of the varied prophetic witness to Jesus and to who He really is: Jesus is Immanuel, Ruler, Shepherd, the Son, the One entering a world of suffering, indeed the long-expected “Branch.”. This matter of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy is not unique to these birth narratives. Indeed, you could use the word “fulfillment” as a central theme of Matthew's marvelous gospel. Right from the start, Matthew is declaring that this babe born in Bethlehem is indeed Jesus the Messiah, the Christ of God, the one coming in fulfillment of the expectations of His people. He is furthermore, the very beloved Son of God, Immanuel, God with us.


3. The Angelic Witness

Angelic revelation is a critical part of the birth account of the Messiah. This is true for both Matthew and Luke. Without such special divine intervention and revelation through the Angel of the Lord, the meaning and protection of the birth of Jesus Christ would not have been made known or taken place. It is interesting that in three cases the angelic witness came to Joseph specifically (1:20, 2:13, 19). As a righteous man, Joseph needed such revelation to understand the pregnancy of Mary. He is made aware of the special nature of this Child, the naming of this Child, and the purpose or ministry of this Child. That was a lot of information to receive as an engaged man! A wonderful part of the account is that Joseph responded obediently to what He was told. That should not be forgotten.

Isn’t it amazing that the sovereign God of the universe in bringing about His plan of redemption reveals a key aspect of that plan to one man via an Angel, and that man has an important role calling for obedience to the special revelation he receives? 

Now if you have problems believing the biblical account or believing in Angels, this witness may not strengthen your sense of the worthiness of Jesus to receive your worship. But, would it not make sense that the birth of the unique Son of God would receive such supernatural revelation related to details of His birth. On the other hand, for those fascinated with Angels, let’s remember that they were just messengers in this context, but necessary messengers doing the will of God at this strategic moment in salvation history.

But, let’s go further:


4. The Stellar Witness

By “stellar,” I mean - the famous star. Various studies have been made of this astronomical phenomenon. I enjoyed reading one recently, but I am ignorant of astrological phenomena in those years. At the same time, we have to assume that the wise men were providentially guided and given insight into the meaning of the star. They understood the rise and appearance of the star as pointing to the coming of the king. That is how the wise men interpreted this special astronomical feature. I am not an expert in these matters, nor does Matthew tell us concerning how they determined the meaning of the star. Numbers 24:17 is an OT text to consider and it certainly is possible that these wise men would be familiar with Jewish Messianic hopes, if not some of the Scriptures themselves. Matthew just does not give us that information, and I leave those matters to others, while we focus on what the text actually says. It is interesting that when the wise men leave the scene in Matthew 2:12, they leave and there is no mention of them again.

Let me just ask, would it not be appropriate that the One through whom the worlds were made that He would welcome Himself into his own creation and reveal His coming by some special act of creation?! And would it not also be appropriate that such a revelation through creation would lead some to worship at his feet?! And would it not be appropriate for the one who is both King of the Jews and Lord of all to point to His worthiness of worship by bringing gentiles from afar to bow before Him. I think so.  


5. The Gentile Witness

These wise men have come a long way in order to acknowledge the arrival of the King of the Jews. More than that, they are not just welcoming Him objectively as King of the Jews, they have come to worship Him (2:2).  What a remarkable event! In the backside of a very small country, and in an obscure village, an event is taking place that could have taken place without any real human attention. And yet certain Gentile wise men having received insight through astronomical phenomena and the Scriptures (Micah 5:2), end up seeking the one born in Bethlehem. God providentially led them, and they responded to the knowledge they received. The only group we know of who preceded them was a group of shepherds who didn’t have to travel so far!!  

Of course, these witnesses to the majestic messiahship of Jesus are only the beginning of witness to Him in Matthew's gospel. John the Baptist will confirm who Jesus is. The voice from heaven will come at his baptism. Then, Jesus will demonstrate his messiahship throughout his life by way of example, by way of teaching, by way of miracles, and by calling out His disciples. We know that this same Jesus as predicted will suffer and be crucified. But the grave could not hold Him and He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.  Then He commissioned His Jewish disciples to go on a worldwide mission to the gentile nations. Of course, He's ascended on high and is at the right hand of his father worthy of all worship and praise before He comes again to receive His own and to demonstrate His rightful rule. He is the one who saves His people from their sins.



As we approach these days of Christmas, let's be reminded of the majestic messiahship of Jesus our Lord. The witness is clear, thorough, and convincing. He is worthy of our worship. He is indeed the king of the Jews; He is indeed the Messiah. He is our Ruler and Shepherd, and the One the whole Old Testament points to through history and prophecy as the rightful KIng! He reigns and has been given all authority. He is the very Son of God, indeed God with us.

What kind of worship should we offer? We can take a few lessons from the wise men. Our worship should be appropriate in the light of Who He Is.  It should be a worship filled with joyful abandon and generous sacrifice. Our worship should be appropriate for a Divine King: full of awe, devotion, surrender, and sacrifice, directed to Him alone. Their worship was clearly the opposite of the cult of self. They were preoccupied with this King and wanted to show respect and reverence. Their search, determination, humble surrender, and acceptable offerings are a challenge to us. 

It would be good for us to take some private moments of worship during this season. It's a busy season. It's a bustling season.  There are probably more activities than usual, more phone calls than usual, more activities than usual. There are special events, lots of things to do. Take time to worship corporately, and especially take time to worship privately.

He is worthy!


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