God Always WinsMatthew 2:13-23
P.G. Mathew | Sunday, January 19, 1997
Copyright © 1997, P.G. Mathew
After the Fall in Genesis 3 we are told of the enmity that was created between the offspring, or seed, of the serpent and the offspring of the woman. It is a hatred between Satan and Christ which God himself created. He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” It is an enmity between the people of Satan and the people of Christ Jesus.
In the second chapter of Matthew’s gospel we see this enmity manifested clearly. When they learned of Christ’s birth, King Herod and his men did not want to bow down and worship him as others did. No, they determined to destroy Jesus Christ. Herod and his cronies, who are the seed of the serpent, sought with all their ingenuity to kill the seed of the virgin Mary, Jesus Christ the son of David, the Son of God, the King and Savior of the world. But let me assure you, all Herods fail. The God of the Bible, who works out all things in accordance with the counsel of his own will, always wins. Heaven and earth may pass away but our God shall never fail.
The Frustration of Herod
In Matthew 2 we find Herod waiting for the return of the wise men. Verse 8 tells us that Herod sent the Magi, the wise men, to Bethlehem with the royal instruction to diligently seek out the newborn King of the Jews. Why did Herod ask the men to report back to him? He was trying to use them as spies. The unsuspecting wise men trusted in Herod the serpent and planned to fulfill his request. But Herod and the wise men were in the hand of God, as is every finite creature, including Satan, and in a dream the sovereign God warned the Magi not to return to Herod. He instructed them to go back to their homes another way.
When Herod learned that the wise men had outwitted him, he concluded that they had mocked him and he became very angry. But the Magi did not mock Herod. Who did? The sovereign God. As we read in Psalm 2, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.” God Almighty mocks and scoffs at the rebellion of every man, woman, and nation.
What happens when we mock God? Do you remember the Assyrian king Sennacherib? He mocked Hezekiah and his God and threatened Hezekiah with total destruction. But in Isaiah 37 we read what God said about this mighty Assyrian king. Look at verses 21-23: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says. . .” Hezekiah had heard what everyone else said, but now he was hearing from God. “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word the Lord has spoken against him: ‘The Virgin Daughter of Zion despises and mocks you. The Daughter of Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee. Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!'”
Look at verses 28-29: “But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.” And verses 35-37 say, “‘I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!’ Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning–there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there” where he was murdered by his own sons. It is a futile attempt to raise our heels against the Almighty God. Herod also would fail and die.
The Bible tells us that God is long-suffering. Amazingly, he tolerates men’s insolence, pride, arrogance, spitting at him and throwing his word out into the dirt. But God will not be mocked. At his appointed time he will put down all rebellion. God has already crushed the head of the serpent through Christ’s work on the cross, and when he comes again, he will complete the job. That is the story of the whole Bible, and particularly the last book, Revelation.
God Guides Joseph
God the Sovereign One would not allow the infant Jesus Christ to be destroyed by Herod, so he warned Joseph in a dream. Just as the Magi were given a revelation by God not to return to Herod, Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream of the hidden hatred of Herod and of his plan to destroy Jesus. You see, people do not know very much about others, and Joseph did not know what was in Herod’s heart. But there is a God who knows every person’s heart. He is the omniscient One before whom all are naked.
Why did Herod want to kill Jesus? The Herods of the world do not tolerate any competition. Herod wanted to kill Jesus because he was called the King of the Jews. The problem is, God also does not tolerate any competition, and in this determination God alone wins.
Joseph had been guided before by an angel. When he was told in a dream to receive Mary, he immediately obeyed the counsel of God and took her home as his wife. Joseph was a righteous man who believed in God and always rendered instant obedience to divine revelation. So now the angel warned him of the imminent danger of which Joseph was totally unaware. What did God tell him? “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you. . .” (Matt. 2:13). Why did God say this? He not only commanded Joseph to leave but he gave the reason: “for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” God knows and understands all things. And God has a plan.
Righteous Joseph immediately obeyed the word of God. I was talking to a young girl recently and received a blessing by speaking to her. This girl wants to be baptized and I asked her, “How is your obedience to God?” She confessed, “You know, I don’t obey God instantly. I delay and my mother has to tell me again.” I told her, “If you are interested in baptism and want to live as a Christian person, then you must obey immediately, exactly and delightfully, in view of the great salvation God has accomplished for you.”
What do we notice about Joseph? He gave instant obedience to God. In John 13:17 Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them,” and in John 14:15 he said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Love serves and obeys. Blessing comes, not just in the hearing of God’s word, but in hearing it and doing it.
Have you ever wondered why you are not blessed even though you have heard God’s word so many times? Perhaps you are only hearing God’s word but not doing it. Let me assure you, hearing alone can only increase our guilt. Hearing alone can only increase our depression, our fear, and our anxiety. Only by doing the word can we have great blessing.
Joseph hurried to obey God’s direction. Matthew 2:14 tells us “he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.” The same night! He didn’t have much to pack, of course, because he was a poor man, but that same night Joseph, Mary and Jesus left Bethlehem under the cover of darkness for Egypt.
The King’s Business Requires Haste
The King’s business requires haste. In Psalm 119:60 we read, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” That is why some of us are not blessed in spite of all the hearing. To obey is better than sacrifice.
While it was still dark Joseph left Bethlehem for Egypt and traveled in a southwesterly direction. Centuries earlier his forefather Jacob made a similar journey. In Genesis 46:2-4 we read, “And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, ‘Jacob! Jacob!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father,’ he said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.'” By divine direction Jacob also went down to Egypt.
The Flight to Egypt
Why did God direct Joseph and his family to Egypt? Perhaps because Egypt was near to Israel and was a friendly country to Jews. We are told that roughly one million Jews lived in the city of Alexandria at this time. In the second chapter of Acts we see people from Egypt coming to Jerusalem to observe the Pentecostal feast. Egypt had served as a place of refuge for many Israelites in the past, and it was particularly safe from the rule and dominion of Herod, the cruel king who wanted to kill Jesus Christ.
There had been no room for Jesus in the inn of Bethlehem. Now there was no room for this one, the true son of Israel, in the whole land of Israel. So the angel told Joseph, “Get up! Take the child and his mother! Flee to Egypt! Stay until I tell you! Don’t worry about leaving Israel, Joseph. God is not only the God of Israel, but he is the God of all the earth. He is also in Egypt. He is everywhere at the same time in all his fullness.”
What provisions could Joseph take with him as he fled Israel? Remember, he was a poor man. But, notice, the wise men had just visited Joseph’s family. God himself brought these people from the east so that the poor Joseph could have some substance–some gold, frankincense and myrrh–to take with him to Egypt. Let me assure you, if God sends you, he will provide for you. You can follow wherever he leads you without worry. Why? He delights to feed his people, especially in the wilderness.
Slaughter of the Infants
Why did Joseph and his family have to flee from Herod? Because Herod was a cruel king. He would kill any and all to secure his own power. During his rule, he killed three of his sons, his wife and his mother-in-law. Only five days before his death in 4 B.C. he killed his son, Antipater and it was his desire to kill all the leading citizens of Palestine on the day of his own death to generate maximum mourning.
This cruel monster of a man became very angry when he realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi. Quickly he made plans to kill all the male babies two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its vicinity. Why? He wanted to ensure the death of the King of the Jews.
The Herods of the world will take no chances of allowing the King of the Jews to live. According to Herod, he and he alone was the king of the Jews. In his eyes, he was the highest authority, at least in Israel, and he would come against anyone who threatened his authority.
Opposition to God’s people is nothing new. We read in Exodus 1 that a new king who did not know Joseph declared war against the chosen people of God. Do you remember that? It was his plan to kill all the male babies of Israel. Had he succeeded, Jesus would not have been born. But God always wins. Pharaohs, kings, Caesars, presidents–all must fail and will fail. If you are resisting him, let me guarantee that you will also fail.
The Slaughter Continues
In their war against God, Pharaoh of Egypt and Herod of Palestine killed many male Jewish babies. But were they the cruelest people who ever lived? No. The people of today are more brutal than the rulers of all previous centuries. Modern rulers have killed many more people, including male and female babies, than these ancient rulers. In this enlightened country alone over twenty million babies have been killed since 1973.
We must acknowledge that this century is the worst of all centuries in terms of cruelty. Look at the killing of people by Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. Look at the slaughter of Armenians, Jews, and those in the killing fields Cambodia, among others. Millions and millions of people have been killed in this century, and this with the approval of presidents and the rulings of mere, fallible men and women of the Supreme Court and Congress. Why do you think the slaughter is continuing? All of these killings demonstrate hatred for a sovereign God and his laws.
But we can take comfort in one thing. In the end the enemies of God shall not win. In the end the God of the Bible alone wins. He is long-suffering, but he will act in his own appointed time.
Herod’s agents killed the male babies of Bethlehem, maybe about twenty or more, and on December 29 the Greek church commemorates this slaughter with a festival called the Feast of the Holy Innocents. I do not agree with the words “holy” and “innocents.” It should be the Feast of Infants. The Latin church celebrates the same festival on December 28.
But God won. The infant Jesus was not killed, although Herod thought he was. Jesus was destined to be killed, but only at the appointed time. In God’s time, God himself would deliver Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus would freely go to the cross for our sins but not as an infant.
The Mysteries of God
You may ask, “Why did God not prevent the killing of these babies in Bethlehem?” or “Why does God not prevent the killing of these millions of babies who are aborted every day?” This is a mystery. God is good and able, yet he does all things according to the purpose of his own will which, at times, is inscrutable. For example, he spared the life of Isaac when he was about to be killed by Abraham. Do you remember that? But he did not spare the lives of these male babies of Bethlehem. And although Jesus’ life was spared temporarily, ultimately he was handed over to die on the cross.
Unlike Jesus, we all are born sinners, subject to the wrath of God and we deserve to die. To me it is no mystery that sinners, including infants, die and deserve to die. Yet the mystery of mysteries is that Jesus, who did not deserve to die, died for his people.
God did not prevent the killing of the male babies of Bethlehem and he does not prevent the human brutality of abortion today. He does not prevent the killing of his own people by the seed of the serpent throughout history. Enmity against God and his ways, let me tell you, will continue until Christ comes again.
Those who are now alive must remember that the purpose of this temporal life is to obtain eternal life through Jesus Christ who alone is the way, the truth and the life. Now we are given an opportunity to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ that we may have eternal life. (PGM) Soon we also shall die or be killed, but death does not matter to those who possess eternal life. We must keep this in mind: the murderers of this world shall not win in the end. Their victories are very, very temporal.
God Intervenes Again
As they stayed in Egypt, God intervened again in the life of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. As he was with Jacob and Moses and his people in Egypt, the God of the covenant was also with Joseph and his family in Egypt, and he guided them there.
We are told the angel of the Lord appeared again to Joseph in a dream. Joseph had been instructed to stay in Egypt until he heard from God, and now God told him, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. . .” and then the reason was given, “for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” This echoes what God spoke to Moses in the wilderness as we read in Exodus 4:19, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.” Dead! Pharaohs, kings, Caesars, presidents, judges, legislators–they are all dead, as we read in Hebrews 9:27, “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” So God was telling Joseph, “Not just Herod, but all those who were trying to kill Jesus are dead, Joseph. Do not be afraid. Go back to the land of Israel.”
Herod the great fox, the cruel monster, died in Jericho of a loathsome disease just five days after he had killed his own son in 4 B.C. Let me assure you, God alone is from eternity to eternity. He is the one who said, “I am that I am.” He alone has life in himself. He alone is sovereign. He alone laughs and scoffs at the puny attempts of the world rulers to overthrow him.
Return to Israel
The angel assured Joseph that everything was all right. Joseph got up and, again, we notice that he was setting a good example for believers by his response. He immediately obeyed and left Egypt with the child and his mother. Jesus, in whom the history of Israel is recapitulated, was called out of Egypt as he called Israel of old under the leadership of Moses.
Where did the family go? Joseph probably desired to settle down in Bethlehem, knowing that Jesus was the king of Israel, the son of David, the Savior of the world. No doubt he thought it would be good for this child to grow up in the city of David. Joseph had friends and family in Bethlehem and the city of Jerusalem was nearby for the religious life of this child.
But when Joseph heard that Archelaus, the brother of Herod Antipas, was ruling Judea, he did not know what to do. Archelaus was a son of Herod the Great and he had his father’s cruel nature. As soon as he got into power in 4 B.C., he killed three thousand pilgrims as they were worshiping in the temple. The Romans banished him within ten years because of his ruthlessness.
God Guides Again
While Joseph was in this quandary, God’s guidance came to him a fourth time. Let me say this: If your desire is to follow God in his path of righteousness, I guarantee and assure you that my God will guide you. Do you want to follow in his way? He will guide you. But we must remember that he guides in his way, not in our way, and his ways are not always easy.
God guides us even today by his infallible Holy Scriptures, his Holy Spirit, and his fallible yet holy church. But if we are rebels, we shall not receive his guidance. We shall walk in a way that seems right in our own eyes, and what does the Bible say about that? “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12, 16:25). That end is not shown to the rebellious individual.
The Shame of Nazareth
God guided Joseph to go north to Galilee and settle down in Nazareth. Nazareth was not a city of great prominence at that time. Many Roman soldiers lived there, and because of that, Nazarenes were looked down upon by others as being compromisers and those who consorted with Gentiles and enemies of the Jews. Nathanael from Cana expressed the common opinion of Nazareth when Philip told him the wonderful news,”We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” What was Nathanael’s response? “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:45-46)
Nazareth was not mentioned at all in the Old Testament. It was a despised town, and Jesus the despised one, a little green shoot from the tree stump of Jesse, came from this despised town, Nazareth. Although Jesus was born in Bethlehem, God in his providence ordained that he grow up in Galilee in the despised town of Nazareth. It was part of his humiliation. God became man, lived in Nazareth, and was crucified as a criminal. He was despised for our sakes, as we read in Isaiah 53.
Not only that, when Jesus was crucified, someone wrote a superscription above him which said, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.” That is reductio ad absurdam . How could a man from Nazareth be king of the Jews? It was laughable, in other words. In Acts 24:5 Paul was called a ringleader of the Nazarene sect, meaning a despised sect. Even as I was growing up in India, I was called a Nazarani because I was a Christian. The shame is still there.
He Humbled Himself for Us
In Isaiah 53:3 we read, “He was despised and rejected by men. . . he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” We must realize that Christ’s humiliation was for our exaltation. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we read, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
In Isaiah 9 we read these wonderful words: “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan–The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder” (Isaiah 9:1-3)
God in Christ dwelt in Nazareth. He dwelt among us and we beheld his glory as light in darkness. He dwelt in Nazareth to dispel our gloom, fear, and death. God sent Jesus with a purpose, to save the despised, and he accomplished it.
God Always Wins
Let me ask you: Did God win in his purpose to save his people? Yes. God protected our Lord Jesus Christ until the time when he said, “My hour has come,” and he moved toward the cross to die. And because he died, good news has come to us. He will take us out of our gloom, our misery, our darkness, and our death. This despised one will get rid of our humiliation.
God always wins. He outbids all of us. Go ahead, all Herods, presidents, Caesars, and kings of the earth. Go ahead, resist him. One day he will say, “Those who opposed me are all dead.”
Do we think we can win against God? Are we like the child who, at seven or eight or ten or fifteen years of age, tells his father off? And then experiences a tremendous surge of power within him and goes and hangs out with others, and tells them, “You know, let me tell you something. This morning I told the old man off.” Can we do that to God and get away with it?
No. God prevented the Magi from going back to Herod. God directed Joseph to flee to Egypt and provided for him by men of the east. God directed him to return to the land of Israel and to settle down in Nazareth. God kept his Son Jesus Christ safe until the moment that he died on the cross for us. God saves his people and he always wins.
Let me assure you, Jesus is coming again to deal with every rebel who is even now feeling such a surge of power in his resistance against Almighty God. The King of kings and Lord of lords is coming and he will rule with a rod of iron. But what does he say to us who believe in him? He tells us not to worry about death. “He who believes in him possesses eternal life. Be faithful till death and he will give you a crown of life.” Not only does he win, but he makes us winners.
May God help us to not resist him and then rationalize our resistance. May we be like Joseph, not Herod. Better still, may we be like God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. And may he forgive our sins, our rebellion, our stubbornness, and all our puny attempts to bring him down from his throne. May we forsake our evil, our arrogance, our wanting to tell God off, our mocking of his infallible word, and our wanting to believe in the New Age philosophy that we are gods and creators of our own reality. All those who believe in such things shall fail and become losers on the last day. May we be brought down before it is too late and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God and be saved. Amen.
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