The Promise Fulfilled

Chapter 25

At the time of the birth of Christ, the nation was smarting under the rule of a foreign power. Though the Jews had been allowed to maintain the form of a separate government, nothing could disguise the fact that they were under Roman rule. The people were subjected to merciless demands and were also heavily taxed. There was widespread discontent, and popular outbreaks were frequent. Greed, violence, and spiritual indifference were eating out the heart of the nation.

Their hatred of the Romans, along with a fierce national and spiritual pride, led the Jews to strictly follow their forms of worship. They longed for a deliverer who would vanquish their enemies and restore the kingdom of Israel to its former national greatness. They had studied the prophecies, but pride clouded their vision. They interpreted prophecy in accordance with their selfish desires. Thus they overlooked those scriptures that point to the humiliation of Christ's first advent and misapplied those that speak of the glory of His second coming, leaving them unprepared and unwilling to accept a Messiah who came as a Saviour from sin.

Angels came to the land of the chosen people to announce the arrival of the Messiah. They came unseen to Jerusalem, to the appointed teachers of the Sacred Writings-the ministers of God's house. With amazement, the heavenly messengers viewed the indifference of the people whom God had called to give to the world the light of sacred truth. Hearts selfish and controlled by worldly interests were unprepared to receive the joy that thrilled all heaven. Only a few were longing and prepared to receive the Christ child, and to these heaven's representatives were sent.

In the fields where the boy David had led his flock, shepherds were still keeping watch by night. Through the silent hours, they talked together of the promised Saviour and prayed for the coming of the King to David's throne. "And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." The whole plain was lighted up with the bright shining of the hosts of God. Earth was hushed, and heaven stooped to listen to the song—"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

As the angels disappeared, the light faded away, and the shadows of night once more fell on the hills of Bethlehem. But the brightest picture ever beheld by human eyes remained in the memory of the shepherds. "And it came to pass,. as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger."

After seeing the child, they left, their hearts filled with great joy. As they went on their way, they told all whom they met the things they had seen and heard. "And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him."

The wise men had seen an unusual light in the heavens the night that the glory of God flooded the hills of Bethlehem. As the light faded, a bright star appeared and remained in the night–time sky. It was not a fixed star nor a planet, and its appearance excited their interest. They were impressed that the star was of special significance to them. They consulted priests and philosophers and searched the scrolls of the ancient records. Seeking clearer knowledge, they turned to the Hebrew Scriptures. The prophecy of Balaam had declared, "There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel." Numbers 24:17. Could this strange star that they had seen be the star referred to?

As by faith Abraham went forth at the call of God, "not knowing whither he went," Hebrews 11:8, as by faith Israel followed the pillar of cloud to the promised land, so these wise men went forth to find the promised Saviour.

News of the arrival of the magi in Jerusalem was quickly carried throughout the city. Their strange errand created an excitement among the people. The report of their arrival and their reason for coming was soon told to King Herod. The guilty heart of the monarch was filled with envy, fear, and hatred. Countless murders had stained his pathway to the throne. Being of foreign blood, he was hated by the people over whom he ruled. His only security was the favor of Rome. But this new prince had a higher claim. He was born to the kingdom.

Herod now invited the magi to a private interview. Hiding his true motives and emotions, he maintained a calm appearance and received the strangers courteously. He asked them at what time the star had appeared and pretended to receive the news of Christ's birth with joy. He told his visitors, "Go and search diligently for the young Child; and when ye have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also." He then dismissed them to go on their way to Bethlehem.

The wise men had not understood Herod's thoughts toward Jesus. When they had found the child Jesus and were preparing to return to Jerusalem, intending to share the news of their success with Herod, they were warned in a dream to have nothing further to say to him. Avoiding Jerusalem, they set out for their own country by another route.

In a similar dream, Joseph received warning to flee into Egypt with Mary and the Child. And the angel said, "Be thou there until I bring thee word." Joseph obeyed without delay, setting out on the journey at night for greater security.

Herod waited impatiently for the wise men to return to Jerusalem. As time passed and they did not come, his suspicions were aroused. Craft had failed, but there was left the resort to force. He would make an example of this Child-king.

Soldiers were at once sent to Bethlehem with orders to put to death all the children two years of age and under. The quiet homes of the city of David witnessed those scenes of horror that, six hundred years before, had been opened to the prophet. "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not." Jeremiah 31:15. This act of cruelty was one of the last that darkened the reign of Herod. Soon after the slaughter of the innocents, he died a fearful death.

Again Joseph was directed to a place of safety. He returned to Nazareth, his former home; and for nearly thirty years, this was the home of Jesus. Galilee was under the control of a son of Herod; but unlike Judea, the population living there had a much larger number of people who were from other countries. For this reason, there was less interest in matters relating especially to the Jews; and the claims of Jesus would be less likely to excite the jealousy of those in power.

Such was the Saviour's welcome when He came to the earth. There seemed to be no place of rest or safety for the infant Redeemer. God could not trust His beloved Son with men, even while carrying forward His work for their salvation. He commissioned angels to attend Jesus and protect Him until He could accomplish His mission on earth and die at the hands of those whom He came to save.

This chapter is based on Matthew 2; Luke 2