The Doctrine of Faith According to Paul…

It is in Paul’s letters that the meaning of faith is most clearly and fully set forth.  In essence, faith is trust in the person of Jesus, the truth of his teaching, and the redemptive work he accomplished at Calvary, and, as a result, a total submission to him and his message, which are accepted as from God.  Faith in his person is faith in him as the eternal Son of God who died in the sinner’s stead, making possible justification with God, adoption into his family, sanctification, and ultimately, glorification upon our death.

His death brings redemption from sin in all of its aspects, which is verified when God raised Jesus from the dead.

Faith is NOT an intellectual assent to Christianity albeit this is necessary.  Faith is a radical and total commitment to Christ as the Lord of one’s own life.

Unbelief or lack of faith in the Christian gospel, appears everywhere in the New Testament as the supreme evil.  Not to make a decisive response to God’s offer in Christ means an individual remains in sin and is eternally lost.  Faith alone saves.

Taken from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C Tenney

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BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 5, Day 2: Romans 3:21-23

INTRODUCTORY NOTE:  This lesson is PACKED with the crux of Christianity: righteousness, justification, atonement, and redemption–all through Christ.  Some have called Romans 3:21-31 “the central theological passage in the Bible” (BSF devotes 2 weeks to this!).  I spent over 10 hours on this lesson.  Take your time and absorb it.  BSF gives us a whole week.  Use it.  Pray over it. Ponder.  Meditate.  Because if you get this lesson, you get Christ!  What is more important to spend your time on than this?!

Summary of passage:  Paul now explains how righteousness is attained only by faith in Jesus Christ, which the Law and Prophets testify to. All are sinners and equal before God.

Questions:

3)  According to Webster’s Dictionary, righteousness means “acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin.” Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary states it as “morally right behavior or character.  In general, any conformity to a standard.  God always acts in righteousness or has a right relationship with people and His action is to maintain that relationship.” It comes from God and is received by all believers through faith in Christ.  That’s how I understand it.

Zondervan has an amazing explanation of righteousness in the gospel:  “Paul tells us in Romans 1:16-17 that ‘a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.’  The gospel is effective because a righteousness goes forth which is the provision of a right relationship with himself through the saving work of Jesus. To receive this gift is to be justified by faith.  Those who receive the gift then are to live as righteous people, devoted to the service of what God declares to be right.”

4)  Before Jesus, all those who obeyed the law had righteousness.  Here, Paul says apart from the law, meaning the law cannot save us nor can keeping the law save us, but God reveals a righteousness that will save us, which is  God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is a salvation that is offered apart from the law, apart from our own earning and deserving, apart from our own merits.

5a)  God granted righteousness to those He deemed worthy, which is apart from the law.  He made a covenant with Israel and put the law in their minds and wrote it on their hearts.  He forgave Israel’s wickedness and remembered their sins no more.  God granted them cleansing from their impurities and gave them a new heart and spirit and saved them. Israel was chosen to be in God’s covenant, in right relationship with Him through faith and were expected to live in right relationship with others.  It matters because it was the only way to God before Jesus.  It also shows God’s faithfulness to His people and how He keeps His promises to us.

Other OT references:  Psalm 32:1-2.  Paul actually will quote this in Romans 4:6-8 as he continues to explain how God must credit righteousness based on faith.

Habakkuk 2:4 which Paul quotes in Romans 1:17.  This OT verse quoted by Paul is the verse Martin Luther read that changed his life and righteousness by faith became the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation.

b) Part personal question. My answer:  Anyone who believes in their heart Jesus died for their sins and God raised him from the dead and confesses Jesus as their Lord.  Gratitude is my response.

Conclusions:  I love how Paul packs a lot of power into few words.  And it’s simple. Righteousness is easy:  believe in Jesus.

End Notes:  Paul just spent the first part of his letter showing us how all (Jews and Gentiles) are unrighteous (1:18-3:20).  Now, he will show how God provides us with a way to be righteous.

“But now”:  This either means 1)  Time.  And the now is the period righteousness from God has been made known or 2)  Logical.  Between the righteousness gained by observing the law (which is impossible v 20) and the righteousness provided by God.

Paul didn’t invent righteousness; it’s been around since the Prophets as always part of God’s plan.  We can’t earn merit before Him by following the law.  This is apart from the law.

Righteousness is something not earned, but received, through faith in Christ.  There is no other way to obtain righteousness.  It’s all trust.

Everyone must receive this gift because all sin and fall short.  We fail in so many ways: fail to give Him glory in our words, thoughts and actions.  We reject His glory.  Thus, justification through faith and grace is offered….

Introduction to the Book of John

The Book of John (written by John the Apostle scholars believe at the end of the first century AD in Asia Minor) spells out clearly who Jesus is, why he was sent here by God, and what we must do a) to be saved b) once we are saved.  John states his purpose near the end of the book: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

John skips the baby Jesus images and instead focuses on 20 days in Jesus’ life and the important words Jesus said during those days from his baptism to his resurrection.  We will read 7 miracles, best read in units (although I’m sure we’ll break it up in BSF to analyze them in pieces).  We will read some of the most famous words in the Bible (John 3:16) and see familiar verses and phrases such as Jesus “I am” sayings.  We will read more teachings on the Holy Spirit than any other gospel.

From the beginning John asserts Jesus is God and came from heaven.  John tells us no one knew Jesus better than he did.  He walked with Jesus.  Stood by the cross.  Entered his tomb.  This is the spiritual gospel, different from the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), which are commonly known as the Synoptics.  Synoptics means “common view”.  The first three have a view of the whole and go over the same stories, themes, sequence, and wording.

The emphasis in the book of John is on the King, not the kingdom.  Christ’s work in Judea is highlighted.  Time and place of events are in the forefront.  It focuses on great length of 24 hours of Jesus life (chapters 13-19) and of the Holy Spirit.

Evidence shows this gospel was widely read from the second century on and therefore probably influenced Christian thought more than any other New Testament book.

The first half of this gospel shows how Jesus revealed his glory to the world and was still rejected (chapters 2-12).  The second half of the gospel (chapters 12-21) shows Jesus’ last hours on earth, his death, and his resurrection (perfect for Easter when we get there!).

You will note John explaining Jewish customs throughout this book and where places are located.  This is because his target audience was Gentile Christians living in and around Ephesus.

Major themes from the first sentence to the last:  Jesus as the Word, light, life, regeneration, grace, forgiveness, and truth and the revelation of God the Father in Jesus His son.  Jesus has come to reveal the Father to all and bring eternal life to all who believe in him.

John is essential reading for all Christians and gives us tools to explain to others (using Jesus’ own words) who Jesus is and what he does for us.  Understanding the book of John is the key to understanding Jesus and therefore God.  This study will change lives!

OUTLINE OF THE BOOK OF JOHN

A)  Jesus’ public ministry (John 1-12)

1)  Revealing himself to ever-widening circles, rejected (ch 1-6)

2)  Making his tender appeal to sinners, bitterly resisted (ch 7-10)

3)  Manifesting himself as the Messiah by two mighty deeds (the raising of Lazarus and his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem), repulsed (ch 11-12).  This is the turning point in the narrative.

B)  Jesus’ private ministry (John 13-21)

1)  Issuing and illustrating his new commandment (ch 13)

2)  Tenderly instructing his disciples and committing them to the Father’s care (ch 14-17)

3)  Dying as a substitute for his people (ch 18-19)

4)  Triumphing gloriously (ch 20-21)

(Outline taken from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 24, Day 3: Numbers 23-24

Summary of passage:  Numbers 23:  Balaam builds 7 altars and prepares 7 sacrifices.  He speaks with the Lord who puts words in his mouth, blessing the Israelites instead of cursing them.  Again, Balak brings Balaam to a different spot to curse the Israelites.  God again puts words in Balaam’s mouth, saying He is with His people who will devour those who oppose them.  Balak, not giving up his quest to curse the Israelites, drags Balaam to a third location in Peor and builds 7 more altars and offers 7 more sacrifices.

Numbers 24:  Balaam, now at his third location, finally realizes God will not curse his people.  As a result, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he utters more blessings upon Israel:  they will live abundantly, their king and kingdom will be exalted, and they will devour hostile nations.

Balak, angry at the three blessings instead of the three curses, sends Balaam away with no riches.  Balaam reminds Balak that he told him he would only speak God’s words and then he utters a prophecy against Moab, telling Balak that Israel will crush them along with Edom and Seir.  Salaam utters more oracles:  Amalek will be ruined along with the Kenites, assure, and Eber.

Questions:

5)  First Oracle:  Numbers 23:7-10:  God tells Balak that He cannot curse the Israelites for He has set them apart.

Second Oracle:  Numbers 23:18-24:  God tells Balak that He will not change his mind, that He the Lord is with them, that He brought them out of Egypt, and that the people shall rise like a lion and devour their victims.

Third Oracle:  Numbers 24:3-9:  Balaam utters more blessings upon Israel: they will live abundantly, their king and kingdom will be exalted, and they will devour hostile nations.

Fourth Oracle:  Numbers 24:15-19:  Balaam tells Balak that Moab, Edom, and Seir will all be crushed by Israel.

Final Three Oracles:  Numbers 24:20-24:  Balaam says that Amalek, the Kenites, Asshur, and Eber all will come to ruin.

6a)  He is taking Balaam to different places in order to physically see the Israelites and in a vain effort to find a place where God may curse His own people.  Balak strikes me as a man who doesn’t give up easily.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Nothing lately but usually when I do this I don’t like the answer the first person gave me so I go to another person hoping they will give me answer–and it’s usually the answer I want to hear, not a different one.  I haven’t done this in quite some time.  I think I’ve learned my lesson from doing this.  I ask God and my husband.  That’s about it.

7)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Balaam is a pleaser.  He takes the path of less resistance and finally bows to God’s will only because he realizes he is defeated and is out for own self-preservation.

Conclusions:  Surprisingly, I liked this lesson.  It was fun to watch God have fun with Balaam, uttering blessings instead of curses each time.  You can almost see the frustration on Balaam’s face, knowing with each utterance he was getting less and less of an earthly reward.

It was fun to watch Balak be frustrated and to see him moving Balaam from place to place as if that would make God change his mind.  It is very comical, and you can almost see God from up above laughing at them!  I like to think God has a sense of humor like his creation, man, does.

End Notes:  Numbers 23:  Oracle means prophecy.  We tend to think of oracles as false prophets as the word was popularized by the Greeks who uses oracles to tell the future as indeed this is the first definition of the word in Webster’s Dictionary:  “a person (as a priestess of ancient Greece) through whom a deity is believed to speak.”  Another definition:  “an answer or decision given by an oracle.”

Interestingly, this is a latin word meaning “to speak.”  Well, the Greeks didn’t speak Latin so they themselves didn’t use the word “oracle”.  As most Bibles were written down in the Middle Ages which used Latin as the language of writing, this word is not all that old.  In my opinion, this is not a great translation here and prophecy would be better (which by the way is a Greek word meaning “the inspired declaration of divine will and purpose”) which fits here much better as indeed some bible translations use the word prophecy and not oracle.

Here we see God speaking through Balaam, obviously not a godly-man.  But God uses all for His purposes.

Note how Balaam would like “to die the death of the righteous” but not live like the righteous.  He wants the good life but not the work that goes along with the good life.

Both men are exasperated!  Balak wants a curse and Balaam wants money but neither gets what they want for God is in charge here.

God educates Balak about who he is dealing with and who His people are and that Balak has no chance against them.

Wild ox here is translated different ways:  unicorn, ox, rhinoceros, or goat.  The Hebrew word here which occurs 9 times in the Old Testament (twice in our readings–24:8) means one horn.

Balak is frustrated, saying at least don’t bless them if you won’t curse them!  Funny how God works.

Numbers 24:  Three times Balak offered up rams and bulls in an effort to have the Israelites cursed.  This would have been quite the expense at the time.

We see that Balaam did try to evoke sorcery  (24:1) to curse the Israelites, but it didn’t work so seemingly he gave it up.  Hence, Balaam and Balak are cursed by God in the third oracle.

The oracles are progressive:  first, Balak does not receive a curse, next he gets a blessing instead of a curse and finally he himself is cursed.  You’d think he’d learn his lesson!

The fourth oracle is a bonus per se.  Balaam, realizing he won’t get paid, just keeps speaking.  This is about Jesus as he is the start and the scepter and will rule over all nations.  This prophecy was also fulfilled by King David (2 Samuel 8:2,14).

Without the curse, Balak realizes he cannot defeat the Israelites so wisely he does not attack like he wanted to back in Numbers 22.  Instead, he returns home, defeated.

Balaam:  His name possibly means devourer or glutton.  He was evidently a professional magician of a nomadic clan.  He obviously had a reputation of getting gods on his side.  God spoke through him 7 times!  Was Balaam converted to God’s side?  No.  Next we hear of him is Numbers 31:8 where he dies.  He is condemned in 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, and Revelation 2:14.  He is credited with suggesting the tactic of using sex to defeat the Israelites, resulting in 24,000 deaths (Numbers 25:9; 31:16).

He has been called by scholars the Judas of the Old Testament as he seems faithful at times but greed turns him to evil.

Seven books of the Bible mention Balaam.  This shows how important these events were in Israelite history.  God uses a pagan and a magician in a land full of pagans and magicians as a warning:  He is coming and He shall win.

Summarized from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney:

Balaam is held up as an example of pernicious influence of hypocritical teachers who attempt to lead God’s people astray.  No bible character is more severely excoriated.

We see three things of God’s rule in the world through the story of Balaam:

1)  God overrules man’s sinful rule and his desire to bring his own purposes to pass.

2)  God’s promises prevail no matter the odds always.

3)  God guards His people from threats even when they are not even aware of them (like Balak who wanted to attack them).

Overview of BSF’s Study of The Life of Moses

We will begin our story like every good sequel:  a brief review of where we left off (Joseph dying and God’s people in Egypt from the book of Genesis), some background information about what’s happened since to the characters left (all of whom have died and a new tyrant has taken over), and the ‘inciting incident’ as it’s known in book writing–the event that sets everything in motion–Pharaoh’s order to kill every Israeli born-boy.

Exciting, right?  The book of Moses contains some of the most well-known stories (and subsequent movies) in the Bible.  Classic stories of good versus evil (Pharaoh versus Moses and God).  Awesome miracles.  Triumphs and tragedies.

Should be a good year!

In fact, one-eighth of the Bible is devoted to the Story of Moses (so probably a lot of reading this year).  That is nearly two-thirds the length of the New Testament.  Should be a clue on how important Moses is to God.

Time period?  Ancient Times.  Exact dates differ from scholars but probably either 1520 BC or 1225 BC can we place Moses’ birth.  350 years since we left Joseph.  God’s people are now slaves, working on Pharaoh’s vast building projects.  Oppressed.  God has been silent all those years. Now is the time for liberation and God chooses Moses.  To him has fallen the task of uniting God’s people, telling them God is with them and they must flee, and leading them through it all.

Moses will not be alone (although he may sometimes feel like he is like we all do); by his side will be God.  (After all, Moses is the first person recorded in the Bible to work miracles).  He talks with God, sees God, is the closest to God.  He wrote many of these books we will study.  He is revered by Jews as the liberator.  He is indeed special.

Moses’ name is said to mean “drawing out” (Exodus 2:10) from a Hebrew word but some scholars speculate it was Egyptian.  Note how no one else in the Bible has the name of Moses so many other great OT leaders.  Little is known of Moses’ childhood but as an adopted son to Pharaoh’s daughter, he would have had the best education of the times.

The Book of Moses is divided into two parts.  The first 20 chapters will fly by as they describe the exciting events of Israel’s flight from Egypt.

Rembrandt_-_Moses_with_the_Ten_Commandments_-_Google_Art_Project

Moses by Rembrandt Courtesy of Google Art Projects

The last 20 chapters focus on the laws and regulations given to God’s people for how to live: moral rules, civil and social rules, religious and ceremonial rules.

This second half is just as important, if not more so, than the first half for all of God’s laws will point to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and we must look for Jesus in this half.  This part may be difficult to read and boring but if you have Jesus in mind, you will power through it along with Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers.

Hebrews 7-10 will help us connect the Old Testament to the New and Moses to Jesus.  It should be read along with this study.

Exodus 32-35 is where Moses speaks to God.  This will probably be my favorite part for I often wonder what it would have been like and what it will be like when I get to heaven to speak with God, hear His voice, see His face.

We will cover a lot of God’s history this year but for me this will be about Moses.  How God chose a man who was far from perfect, gave him incredible abilities to do His will, how Moses succeeded and failed when he obeyed God and disobeyed God, how he sinned and how he was punished, and how God still loved him and forgave him in His mighty grace.

All this applies to everyone of us.  We will be able to see parts of ourselves in Moses and see how God is always there, loving us every step of the way.  Moses was born a Hebrew slave but rose up to be God’s right hand man.  He was chosen by God for a purpose and he accomplished it.  This is true for us all.  With faith, we too will accomplish our purposes as well.

This will be an exciting yet challenging year to say the least.

If you have Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary or a similar one, you can look up “Moses” and read a short summary of all that happens in his life.  I highly recommend this before class so you have an idea of where we start, where we are going, and where we’ll end.

Please feel free to share this post with your friends and family who are on the fence about BSF and are wondering what we will learn this year.  At the end of this post is a share button which you can click on and share via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  So invite your friends and family for one of the most colorful and impactful characters in the Bible and for an in-depth study of some of the most well-known stories in the Bible as well!

God bless and many hugs and kisses from the bottom of my heart!

Side Note:  Did anyone else know Rembrandt painted Moses?  I didn’t until I did this post.  He is most well-known for his self-portraits and portraits of others that I had missed this one.  Cool stuff in my book!!

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 18, Day 2: Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36

Summary of passages:  Matthew 17:1-8:  Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up on a mountain where he was transfigured before them.  Moses and Elijah appeared, talking with Jesus.  Peter offered to build each a shelter.  God enveloped them in a cloud and said “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!”  The disciples were terrified.  Moses and Elijah had disappeared.  Only Jesus remained.

Mark 9:2-10:  Same exact story except here BSF has us reading what happens next (which they don’t in Matthew) and we learn that Jesus tells the disciples not to speak of what they have seen on the mountain until he rises from the dead, an expression which baffles the disciples.

Luke 9:28-36:  Same story except Luke says it was 8 days and not 6 days and does not use the word “transfigured”.  Instead, he says how Jesus’ face changed.  Jesus, Moses, and Elijah spoke of Jesus’ departure.  Peter seems to be confused.

Questions:

3a)  A mountainside

b)  Jesus, Peter, John (the brother of James), James, God, Elijah, Moses

c)  He had been teaching his disciples about his death for the people and saying how some of them won’t face death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

4a)  Jesus was a ball of light and his clothes were the purest white.  He dazzled and sparkled and was probably a most incredible sight.

b)  Peter saw firsthand the majesty of Jesus and God.  He received honor and glory in that moment in the cloud.

c)  Both.  Why else bring the disciples if it was just for Jesus?  The disciples needed to see it as much as Jesus needed to experience it.

5)  Matthew 24:30; 26:62-64:  In the future at the Second Coming, we will all get to see Jesus in his power and glory coming on the clouds in the sky.  He will sit at God’s right hand.

John 1:14:  John says how he has seen Christ’s glory who came from the grace and truth of the Father.

John 17:1-5:  Jesus asks to be glorified in his presence with the glory he had before the world began. I am assuming to become a man then Jesus wasn’t in all of his glory until the transfiguration.

Acts 26:13-14:  Paul recounts how Jesus appeared to him in a light from heaven that was brighter than the sun.

Philippians 2:9-10:  God exalted Jesus to the highest place (like in the Transfiguration) and gave him the name that is above every name so that every knee shall bow.

Revelation 1:13-17:  Jesus is white and his face was shining like the sun in all of its brilliance.  He was dressed in white and his eyes were blazing.

Conclusions and End Notes:  There is a TON here and I will do my best to explain it.

Transfiguration means “a change in form or appearance.”  The term is used specifically in the Bible here to only mean this one occasion.  It was an actual physical change as we read.  It was from the inner soul though and not dropped from heaven.  The radiance had always been there just now it is shining forth, taking on characteristics of the resurrected body.

Why now did the transfiguration occur?  For both Jesus and the disciples.  For Jesus he was encouraged for he was about to go to the cross.  For the disciples it confirmed the necessity of the cross and Jesus’ death.  Here the suffering is linked with the glory.

Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C Tenney says this:  “It was the crowning with glory of the perfect human life of Jesus, God’s stamp of approval on his sinless humanity.  This established his fitness to be our sinbearer on the cross and an entry for Jesus into the glory in which he would reign–a manifestation of the king coming into his kingdom (Matthew 16:28).”

Scholars believe this fulfills Jesus’ prediction in Matthew 16:28 right before this that some of them will see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.  Luke calls this in 9:27 “the kingdom of God”.

Why only John, James, and Peter?  Well, we’ll never know but scholars say either to keep the word from getting out since Jesus tells them to tell no one or because these three needed to be watched.  I would say he chose these 3 out of God’s grace to witness such a moment.

The discrepancy in days is a matter of translation details again.  The Greek word means “about a week” so it was translated as 6 in Matthew and Mark and 8 days in Luke.

Again, the Greek verb for “transfigure” suggests a change in the inmost nature.  Scholars believe Jesus hid his glory until this moment.

Also, we can’t read this chapter without remembering what happened just before.  Scholars say this must fulfill Jesus’s words in 16:28.  When the apostles wrote, it wasn’t broken up in chapters and verse.  This only occurred beginning in the 16th century, a full 1500 years after these words were first written.

Why Moses and Elijah?  Scholars say because Moses embodies the Law as the first great lawgiver and Elijah represents prophecy as the first great prophet.  The Old Testament meeting the New Testament so to speak.

Some say Moses represents those who have died and are going or will go to heaven (Jude 9) and Elijah represents those who won’t face death at the Second Coming but will go to heaven as well (2 Kings 2:11).

Note Elijah and Moses only talk with Jesus, not the apostles.

It is pointed out by Mark and Luke that Peter has no idea what he is saying.  Would you?  You just saw Christ in all his glory.  I’d be dumbfounded as well.  It probably would have been best for Peter to remain silent but as we saw when Jesus walked on water, that wasn’t him.

Yet the effect of Peter’s words put Jesus as equal with Moses and Elijah which as that time was important.  As we all know, he is above them but back then the Jewish people revered Moses and Elijah as right under God.

The cloud is the same as in the Old Testament when God speaks.  This is to shield man who cannot see God’s glory.

Here, God interrupts Peter and rebukes him [can you imagine?  being rebuked not only by Jesus but by God himself?  I’m pretty sure I would have soiled my pants!  Poor Peter!  Not something I want to be remembered for.] once again, saying that Jesus is above Moses and Elijah, above the Law and the Prophets.

Note that God uses the Word here:  Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Deuteronomy 18:15.  It’s so cool how God is the Word and has been since the beginning and that is all that is needed.

God says to listen to Jesus.  It’s all about Jesus.

The disciples fell in fear at God’s voice once again.  We are to be in awe of Him and have a healthy fear.

The disciples needed the reassurance of who Jesus was (the Messiah) right after Jesus told them of his forthcoming sufferings for their sake.

Only Jesus remained.  He is sufficient.  He is enough.  He is all we need now.  We have no need of Moses and Elijah.  Jesus is enough.

Fun Fact:  This was the only time Jesus appeared different than a normal human being. He had none of the glory usually associated with God (Exodus 40:34).

Fun Fact:  The title “Son of Man” is used about 90 times in the Gospels for Jesus.  It was first used in Daniel 7:13, which introduced the Messiah who would rule all of history.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 2, Day 2: Matthew 2:1-8

Summary of passage:  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Magi (or Three Wise Men) came to Jerusalem to inquire where the king of the Jews was born at so they may worship him.  King Herod was disturbed by this news.  He asked all the chief priest’s where the Messiah was to be born and they responded with the words of the prophet Micah:  In Bethlehem in Judah.

Herod called the Magi to him secretly and asked them for the exact time of the appearance of the star.  He then sent them to Bethlehem to search for the child and then to report back to him so that he too may go and worship the child.

Questions:

3a)  King Herod (ruler of Judea under the Romans), Magi, Jews, chief priests and teachers of the law (Old Testament law), and Israel or the Jews.  The Magi are seeking to worship Jesus.  King Herod and the Romans are disturbed and threatened by the news.  If we include the Jews in “all of Jerusalem” we can presume they are more afraid of what Herod might do upon this news than disturbed.  However, we are not told what the response is of the Jews or the priests and teachers.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  All.  I see indifference, glory, fear, hatred, hostility, and annoyance.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Well, God hasn’t exactly told me personally how I myself am doing but the Bible says I’m supposed to be obedient to His word and obey Him and give myself to Him fully, which is what I try to do every day of my life.

4)  Christ’s deity:  “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”; “will come for me”

Christ’s humanity: “out of you (clans of Judah) will come for me”

Christ’s kingship:  “ruler over Israel”

Conclusions:  Anyone else not trust Herod here?  He obviously has ulterior motives here.  The guy was hated by all and I’m sure was only obeyed out of fear of punishment or death.  Note the wise men did not say they would actually report back to him.

Interesting that the priests quoted Micah out of all the Old Testament verses that speak to Jesus’ coming.  I like the subtle differences in translations as well.  It shows the differences in terminology and word usage in the 400 years that passed between the Old and the New Testaments.  I personally like “shepherd of my people”.

This passage is packed full of interesting notes so bear with me:

Notice Matthew glosses over Jesus’s actual birth and jumps to “after” right away.  He is more interested in recording the reaction of others than the actual birth.  He leaves that for Luke to describe.

There was another town named Bethlehem; hence, the Bethlehem in Judea and Micah’s description of Bethlehem Ephrathah, which was what Bethlehem used to be known by.

The wise men were not kings but probably astronomers.  There were probably more than three that came and they made their journey a significant time after Jesus’s birth–some scholars say up to a year after his birth.  Hence, Herod’s order to kill all boys 2 years old and under (Matthew 2:16) as Jesus was probably over a year old by then.  They were probably exiled Jews from the East.

So why the Three Kings misnomer?  It’s been around since the third century and probably derives from the Old Testament prophecies that say kings will come to worship the Messiah (Psalms 68:29, 31; 72:10-11; Isaiah 49:7; 60:1-6).  Supposedly the skulls of the three kings are housed in Cologne, Germany.

Notice that the wise men came to Jerusalem, NOT to Bethlehem as commonly depicted. The shepherds made it to the manger; the wise men did not.

Jesus was born a king; not a prince as is most often the case.

God uses a star, something the astronomers would have recognized instantly.

Background on Herod:  Known as Herod the Great as there were quite a few rulers before and after named Herod, Herod ruled Judea, which was a Roman province at the time, for 34 years until his death in 4 BC.  Yes, Christ had been born by that time.  Blame the ignorance of the Middle Ages and a monk named Dionysius for missing the division between BC and AD!

Herod was a ruthless fighter, a subtle diplomat, and an opportunist.  He was hated by the Jews for his unrelentless pursuit of hellenization yet courted their favor by re-building their temple.  However, he did bring order to Palestine through his ability to manage so complex a situation and thus an opportunity for economic growth.  Many of his family members he had put to death and in the end he disintegrated into madness.

For a much thorough background on Herod, see Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney.

This website HERE has great information on the miscalculation of dates and even a discussion on Jesus’ real birthday.