D. Eric Williams Online

Fourth Week Of Advent
© 12.20.08 By D. Eric Williams


We have arrived at the fourth Sunday in Advent; as is usual - so it seems - Advent season has passed quickly. I hope that you have been able to make some connection between each week of Advent: prophecy, shepherds, Bethlehem and now wisemen. It has been my goal this Advent to weave these together to present as comprehensive introduction to the birth of the Messiah.

I suppose one of the most impressive points to be made this fourth week of Advent is the fact that even a year and a half after his birth – after the birth of Jesus Christ – no one seemed to know he existed. No one, that is, but a particular group of Gentiles from a foreign nation.

There is so much that we tend to overlook when we talk about the wisemen. We sang the song "we three kings of Orient are" and usually do not take the time to think about whether that is an accurate presentation of these wisemen, these Magi who came to worship Jesus Christ. Well, the tradition of calling these Magi Kings really belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. It is in the Roman Catholic tradition, as I recall, that these foreign visitors are considered Kings and their numbers are limited to just three men. However, we will see that they were not Kings but actually "kingmakers" who would have arrived in Jerusalem with a large entourage including a significant attachment of military personnel.

One more piece of trivia that I want to mention before we dive into this passage: when the region of Palestine was overrun by the Persians in the seventh century they razed many buildings to the ground, including many of buildings in Bethlehem. However, when they came to the basilica that had been built by Constantine some three hundred years before, over the supposed birth place of Jesus, they spared the building because they recognized the "garb worn by the Magi pictured in the mosaic as their national attire." Thus, the original building was spared - along with the many additions that had been built over the years. It remains today one of the oldest buildings in the world - one of the oldest that is still standing and in regular use. And we owe it all to the wisemen.

So then, let's take a look at these wisemen, these Magi from the east.

Wise Men
The word translated wisemen in Matthew 2:1 is the Greek word Magi which is the plural of magus. As you probably know, the English term "Magician" comes from this word. Yet the Magi were not really Magicians but a priestly caste which found its beginning as a Median tribe in the region to the east and north of Palestine.

The Magi were a hereditary priesthood who often possessed great political power in that Median, Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Parthian empires. They have an ancient history that extends back to at least the seventh century B.C.

The religious system of the Magi had to do with the worship of the primary elements. Of chief importance to their religious system was the element of fire. Apparently their worship centered about an altar upon which burned a perpetual flame that was believed to have been kindled from heaven. This flame was used to light the sacrificial altar upon which would be offered a variety of domestic animals - including horses. However, very little of the animal was actually burned up as most of it was consumed in the feast held as an act of worship after the initial sacrifice.

This priesthood, these Magi, dressed in white robes and would wear a tall conical hat which had long flaps on the sides. Their worship was primarily – as I have mentioned – of the elements and apparently they did not look to any particular god as the recipient of their adoration. Indeed, they had no personal god, no image or even temples as far as we know. They did believe that there were certain things in life which were unclean but generally speaking they had no well-developed theology. That is until the introduction of Zoroastrianism in the sixth century B.C. Zoroastrianism is a religion of dualism in which a powerful force for good is opposed by an equally powerful force of wickedness. Each aspect of reality is represented by a particular deity or the case of wickedness an arch demon. In this religion the whole of the universe is divided between these two cosmic forces. Beneath these representatives of good and evil is a vast hierarchy of spirits and demons. Apparently the Magi embraced the theology of Zoroastrianism when it was established as the state religion of Persia by Darius the Great. This syncretism did not bury the original concepts of the Magian religion. Instead the more developed theology of Zoroastrianism was simply added to the beliefs of the Magi. Indeed after the exile of the Jewish people to the land of Babylon the Magian priesthood found common ground with the Jewish religion as well. Both had a dependence upon the wisdom of the priesthood in divination of one form or another (the use of Urim and the Thummin on the part of the jews; obviously this wasn't divination but it would have appeared so to the Magi) . Also in each religion a hereditary priesthood was afforded considerable prophetic insight and authority. Moreover, both had a concept of clean and unclean along with a theology of good versus evil.

By the time of Daniel's activity in the courts of Babylon the Magian priesthood had become a fixture in the assembly of advisers to the Eastern Kings. Because of their close association with the Jewish people after the exile and an apparent tendency toward syncretism it seems that the Magus became aware of the prophecies concerning a Messiah or a world ruler who would arise in Judea. This coupled with their interest in astrology and the interpretation of dreams would have brought together the religious interests of both groups. From the Jews the Magi would have learned a system of interpretation concerning the heavens that nicely complemented their own. This is not to say that the Jewish people had been granted permission to practice astrology; they had been told that the heavens were created and the stars and planets set in place "for signs in seasons, and for days and years" (Genesis 1:14). Yet, as we have seen, by the time of Christ the Jewish people had embraced many of the occultic practices and beliefs of the surrounding pagan nations.

Thus these different elements came together and drew the attention of these eastern wisemen to a particular set of celestial circumstances that heralded the birth of the Messiah. I won't go into detail here concerning the different celestial phenomenon that took place - except to remind you that what the wisemen or the Magi of the East were observing over a period of many months was the conjunction of certain planets in a variety of groupings. So, it wasn't just a single star that they saw but the general activity of the heavens – unusual conjunctions and the like – which led them to understand that "A Star [had] come out of Jacob; A Scepter [had arisen] out of Israel, [To] batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult" (Numbers 24:17 brackets added). In other words they recognized the various stellar phenomena to be proclaiming the birth of a king. If you would like to know more about this I would recommend to you a book by Ernest Martin called The star that astonished the world. For that matter, you can take a look at my book The Christmas Season: Stories for each Week of Advent and Christmas Eve. In the story provided for the fourth week of Advent, much of the heavenly phenomena which led the Magi to Israel is described.

So, in the days after Christ had been born in Bethlehem, these wisemen came seeking the king of Israel. Although we celebrate wisemen Sunday the week before Christmas there is every reason to believe that they arrived in Judea about a year and a half after Jesus was born. Again, part of the reason we believe this is because of the stellar phenomena which we know about; another reason of course is the fact that they found Jesus as a young child at a home in Bethlehem rather than as an infant in a stable (the Greek word in Matthew 2:11 used to identify the Christ child is paidion and is typically used to describe a young child, a little boy, or a little girl. This isn't conclusive, since the word can be used to depict an infant as well.

They came to Jerusalem in order to discover where this king of the Jews was residing. It would have been appropriate for the Christ to be in Jerusalem; it was, after all the city of the great king. And so they arrived and began to ask around a little bit to see if anyone knew about this king of the Jews. In fact I have no doubt they assumed that the presence of the king of the Jews would be common knowledge.

It may be that before they had made contact with king Herod the wisemen tell the people in Jerusalem that they have come to see the one who is "born King of the Jews." It may be that they didn't have any particular interest in seeing King Herod. So, they tell their audience (and I can imagine they gathered quite a crowd upon arrival), that they had seen a star in the East that alerted them to the birth of the Messiah. In other words while they were still in the East they saw the star rising. It's interesting to note that the Greek term in Matthew 2:2 translated as East simply means rising sun or Morning Star. So these were people who came from the direction of the rising sun. And while they were still there in their home country they saw this conjunction of the planets. Now, I think that there was additional phenomenon coupled with the planetary movement which drew their attention. I don't know what that would be except that it was probably some kind of once in a lifetime even which had a particular characteristic - perhaps some sort of beam of light on the very spot which Christ was residing. We'll see that a little bit later when the text tells us that the Magi encountered the star a final time till, having come, it stood over where the child was" (Matthew 2:9).

So they have come to worship the King of the Jews. And this term for worship comes from a couple different Greek words which are used to describe a cringing dog. They are words that describe someone who falls down before a superior in fawning worship. And that's what these wisemen said they were coming to do. Fall down and worship before this "King of the Jews." And remember, these are men who had positions of tremendous power and influence in the Eastern kingdoms. There are some who think that these were simple Arabians who came from the east to worship Jesus Christ. Granted, Arabia is to the east of Judea. Nevertheless it is my opinion (and the opinion of many reputable scholars), that these wise men were from the Parthian kingdom - the kingdom that absorbed the Babylonian, and Medo-Persian realms. In other words these were no rag-tag Arabians they were true Magi who participated in the rule of the Parthian empire.

I should mention that the Parthian empire was the only power which stood against Rome in the East. In fact, it is not unlikely that Herod assumed this was an advance guard looking to extend the influence of the Parthian regime in Palestine. Indeed, even after Herod's father had been given the rule of Judea he was forced to flee the region because of a Parthian incursion into the area. So it was within the life time of Herod that Parthia had made the attempt to extend its rule into Palestine. In fact it was in 40 B.C. that Herod's Father Antipater had been forced to retreat before a Parthian invasion. The point is that in Herod's lifetime the rule of Palestine had been a matter of dispute between Rome and Parthia.

On top of this was the fact that the Magi were members of the ruling class in Parthia. Indeed rulers had come from among the Magi and it is thought that the rulers in Medo-Persia and Parthia were required to be instructed in the ways of the Magi before ascending the throne. I suppose we say that the Magi were king-makers rather than kings and for them to show up in Jerusalem claiming to be on a quest to find the King of the Jews would have been quite upsetting to King Herod.

So the first thing we see in this portion of Matthew's Gospel is a positive presentation of these foreigners coming to Jerusalem. There is no discussion concerning their religion or their fitness for this job of finding the Messiah. Matthew simply tells us that these foreign dignitaries came to Jerusalem because of their interpretation of certain celestial events - and undoubtedly prophecies as well: they came to Jerusalem looking for the King of the Jews in order to worship him.

There is no specific prophecy in the Old Testament which predicted this event. We have looked at the prophecies of Isaiah for instance witch spoke of the Christ as a banner to the Gentile nations. We have also touched on the prophecy of Amos (later quoted by James at the Jerusalem Council), which refers to the nations – the Gentiles – being brought into the restored tabernacle of David. Yet, there are no specific prophecies which predicted the coming of this priestly caste, this priestly and Royal entourage to worship the Messiah not long after his birth. This event should fill us with wonder. Jesus Christ, unknown to his countrymen, attracted the attention of these powerful and influential wisemen of the East.

So, we have looked at the wisemen; let's take a few minutes and look at the foolish king.

Foolish King
As I mentioned earlier it is not clear that the wisemen sought out an audience with King Herod. The text tells us that "when Herod the king heard this he was troubled in all Jerusalem with them." Perhaps Herod heard about the coming of the Magi through the grapevine. This is the position I'm going to operate from today.

With that in mind it would seem that the Magi were purposefully showing disrespect to Herod. To arrive in Jerusalem and ignore the king would be a glaring breach of etiquette. If this is the case then the point is that the Magi arrived in Jerusalem without the courtesy of an official meeting with Herod and didn't bother to ask for an audience. Thus, when Herod heard through the grapevine (apparently), about the coming of the Parthian nobles he was troubled – and all Jerusalem with him. This reason for this may have been that this arrival had every appearance of an attempt to unseat Herod, the Roman client king. There is no doubt that Herod would have understood the attraction that the Parthians would have to placing a Jewish king on the throne in Jerusalem - a king who would be sympathetic to their position.

You see, Herod was not a Jew by blood. He was of the offspring of Esau. He was an Edomite. The people of Edom had been forcibly brought into the Jewish religion during the days of the Maccabees. So he had the religious trappings but he did not have the royal bloodline that a son of David would have. Additionally Herod would not have had the sophisticated manner of the wisemen of the East. Additionally, the Parthian wisemen were well regarded by the Jewish people - due in part because they didn't worship any idol and because of their relationship to Daniel of old. If they had proclaimed the arrival of the long awaited Messiah and thrown their weight behind him as the rightful king of Israel, there is every reason to believe that they would have been successful in fomenting an uprising against Herod. This would have served the purpose of the Parthian empire and the Jewish longing for independence from Rome as well. In a nutshell this arrival of the Magi would have been a slap in the face to King Herod. It would have been an insult to his position and a threat to his continued rule.

So he was troubled. He was afraid that this was an attempt to unseat him. And all Jerusalem was troubled as well because it meant the possibility of more bloodshed. You see, that's how Herod dealt with any threat to his rule. He had no qualms about killing those whom he suspected of treasonous activities - or even treasonous thoughts – including his own family. So when the people of Jerusalem saw the Parthian cavalcade arrive in Jerusalem they would be thinking the same thing as King Herod. That isn't to say they wouldn't have welcomed a change; it was the process of change that they would have hoped to avoid.

Now, whether or not the Magi had an audience with King Herod right off the bat it appears that before any real conversation had taken place, Herod "gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together." He asked them where the Christ was to be born. In other words he had ascertained through the grapevine or in audience with the Magi that they were in Jerusalem for the purpose of finding the Messiah.

Herod should have known all about this Messiah. If he had any familiarity with the Scripture he would have been aware that the Messiah was supposed to arise soon. Indeed he it was a common belief throughout the ancient world that a world ruler would arise out of Judea. For instance, the Roman historian Suetonius in his history of the 12 Caesars says that "an ancient superstition was current in the East, that out of Judea at this time would come the rulers of the world. This prediction as the events later proved, referred to a Roman emperor, but the rebellious Jews, who read it as referring to themselves, murdered their governor, routed the governor of Syria when he came down to restore order, and captured in Eagle. To crush this uprising the Romans needed a strong army under an energetic commander, who could be trusted not to abuse his considerable powers. The choice fell on Vespasian."

Suetonius ignores the birth of Jesus Christ and claimed that this widespread belief pertained to Vespasian, the Roman general who crushed the Jewish uprising in A.D. 68 – 70 and later became Caesar.

The point is that it was commonly believed at the time of Christ's birth that the Messiah was about to come. This was based in part on an accurate interpretation of Daniels prophecy about the 70 weeks. It was understood that the Messiah would be born and then some time afterward begin his ministry of restoring the kingdom. This is why the religious leaders came to John the Baptist and asked him if he was the Christ. Everyone was expecting the Messiah. They're expecting the King of the Jews. The problem was that they did not expect the King of the Jews to be born in a stable and to live a life of obscurity.

So Herod asked the question, where is the Christ to be born? He probably had some idea but he wanted to get it straight from the horses mouth so to speak. The chief priests and the scribes gave him an answer. I doubt they even had to think about it. Anyway, they quote to the king the passage that we looked at last week found in Micah 5:2.

The rendering of the passage from Micah which is recorded in the book of Matthew is not a quote of the Hebrew text nor the Septuagint. This isn't to say that Matthew wrote it down wrong. Rather, it is simply a record of the paraphrase that the Jewish leadership presented to King Herod. Probably the biggest difference is the fact that they say that Bethlehem is "not the least among the rulers of Judah." This instead of Micah's words which are "though you are little among the thousands of Judah." Again, this was not a mistake on the part of Matthew. He is recording the paraphrase which came from the lips of the Jewish leadership. And what they are suggesting is that Bethlehem is not the smallest even though it is small among those who command the thousands. That's what they mean by the "rulers of Judah." Remember we talked about the military units of a thousand and each of those units would have had a commander. The Jewish leadership is thinking along those lines.

Once Herod discovered where the Messiah is to be born (and he didn't know his own religion very well if he had to ask), he calls the Magi to him. This is a secret meeting. He doesn't want anyone else to know when the Messiah was born. If word of the Messiah's birth date got out it would be likely that a popular movement to place this Messiah on the throne would result. Not only would they know where he was born but when. The process of finding him from that point would be relatively easy. Indeed, they would have the advantage of the Parthian wisemen as guides. Therefore, Herod is careful to keep everything under wraps. Once again the threat of violence would have gone a long way toward keeping this under control. Never forget that Herod was known for his brutality: that promise of violence would have gone a long way toward keeping a restless populace in check.

Herod's hypocrisy is astounding. Frankly, it is surprising that the wisemen would be so easily taken in. Indeed, their naivete was probably reassuring to the old king. Their inability to see his plotting probably set his mind at ease. It would have told him that they really were there to worship this king of the Jews and not as an advance guard preparing for an attempt to place a new pro-Parthian ruler on the throne in Jerusalem.

So Herod tells them that he wants to worship the child as well. He wants them to search carefully; of course he does; he wants them to do the dirty work. And once they find him insist that they "bring back word to me that I may come and worship him also."

Truly Herod is a foolish king. We shouldn't be surprised however. Everything we know about Herod the great (and his offspring for that matter), is negative. Yes, he built – or I suppose we could say remodled – the temple in Jerusalem but that was for political reasons rather than religious. Herod did not worship God he worshiped power. He was religious only in so far as its advanced his political agenda.

And yet it was not God's design that Jesus would ascend an earthly throne. Of course Herod didn't know this but if word had gotten out that the Messiah was actually born and living in Bethlehem then there would have been an effort made to place him on David's throne in Jerusalem. King Herod was a foolish man; a bloody and brutal ruler. But God did not intend to replace him with his son Jesus. In fact, God used Herod's foolishness for his own purpose. A righteous king would have been very open about the birth of the Messiah. He would not have been secretive about the birth of the Christ. Instead he would have been telling the whole world the news. But that's not what God wanted. God wanted this to be kept secret so that his son Jesus would be raised and brought to manhood in a fashion that best prepared him for his ministry.

So once again we see that all things work together according to God's purpose and perfect will. Even a foolish hypocritical king with murder on his mind is used by God to bring about His desired end.

Alright, we've looked at the wise men and we've considered a foolish king; let's spend a few minutes looking at the godly parents.

Godly Parents
Once the wisemen received their instructions from Herod they left Jerusalem and began the short seven or 8 mile trip southward toward Bethlehem. As they left the city (presumably in the morning) the same celestial phenomenon which attracted their attention while they were still in the East made his appearance and lead them to the place where the young child was. In my book of stories for the Advent season, I suggest that this was a retrograde movement of the planet Jupiter. However there may very well have been an additional event. Perhaps some sort of light or some other supernatural phenomena directed the Magi to the specific house were Jesus lived.

In any case when they saw the star "they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy." Upon seeing this sign they rushed to the house where Jesus was and saw "the young child with Mary his mother and fell down and worship him."

There is no mention of Joseph at this point. We may assume that he was out earning a living. It wouldn't have been typical for him to be hanging around the house if this was in the morning or mid day when the Magi arrived at the house. Thus we see Joseph - or actually we don't see him because he is doing what he's supposed to do. He's working. He is earning his keep so that he might care for this son of God he has been given charge over.

You may think that it is stretching it a bit to emphasize this idea. Yet the essential part that Joseph plays later in this story should draw our attention to the fact that he is not mentioned at all at this point. The wisemen see just the child and Mary his mother. Why? Because Joseph is doing what a godly man is supposed to do and that is earn a living for his family.

But Mary is there with Jesus. She's taking care of this son of God. And according to Matthew's account she did nothing to discourage the worship of the Magi from the east. They rushed in and fall down before him. They open treasures for him. Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh - gifts that were typical for subjects to offer their sovereign. All the while Mary the mother of Jesus looks on. Can you imagine what was going through her mind at this point? Matthew doesn't tell us but based on what we know from the other Gospels, Mary was very much a godly young woman. And as it was when Christ was born I have no doubt that Mary "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

At this point the wisemen leave the picture because God warned them in a dream that they should not go back to Herod. It's interesting that God uses a dream to warn them. This would have been a very satisfactory method to the Magi. In any case, they find another route back home. I've always wondered what that route would be. Remember, that Bethlehem is only 7 miles from Jerusalem. And it would have been an act of God which would have kept Herod from sending spies out to tail the wisemen. He was well schooled in the game of underhanded politics and I have no doubt that he would not have trusted the wisemen. Clearly, it was because of God's intervention that Herod did not (apparently), send spies to follow the Magi. Otherwise, it would have been nigh unto impossible for the Parthian visitors to make their way back to their homeland without being observed. So, as I say, I really don't know which route they took. Perhaps they dropped further south out of the region of Judea and then circled back to the east and north. That makes the most sense; the point is that this was possible only because of God's supernatural intervention.

Once the Magi left an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. I'm sure that Mary would have filled Joseph in on all the details once he came home from work. You can imagine him sitting there in his easy chair with a cup of coffee trying to take it all in. They say that women use about 40,000 words a day (or something like that), and men only 30,000. The thing is, men use the 30,000 words before they get home in the evening. On the other side of the coin, women only have the opportunity to use about 10,000 of their typical word count. Thus, you can envisage Joseph sitting there as Mary bombards him with a 30,000 word description of what happened. When it was all over I'm sure Joseph was well informed concerning the visit of the Magi.

Armed with this information Joseph goes to bed and it seems that that very night he is instructed by an Angel to "arise, take the young child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him" (Matthew 2:13).

Joseph, being a godly father, a godly parent, doesn't hesitate. Matthew's account tells us that he arose and gathered the Christ child and Mary "by night and departed for Egypt." It seems that Joseph woke up from the dream and immediately left for Egypt. He didn't even wait for the morning. He was a godly man who knew his responsibility. And think about the weight of responsibility he must have felt being the earthly father of the son of God. He understood that he was not the true – I would say biological – father of Jesus Christ; he recognized that his job was that of a foster father who was given the responsibility of raising the very son of God.

And consider God's provision for the trip and the stay in Egypt. I doubt that Joseph would have had enough money if it were not for the gifts brought by the Magi.

So this godly man doesn't waste any time. He gets out of bed gathers together his small family and his few belongings and lights out for Egypt. As if we needed any proof of Joseph's godliness here it is. In other words, this is proof enough that God chose the right man to be the foster father for his son. Joseph is a man of action. He works hard at his job like he should and when the time comes for sudden action he is equal to that task as well.

So they go to Egypt and Matthew tells us that they stay there "until the death of Herod." We don't know exactly how long they stayed in Egypt. There is an indication based upon the historical events surrounding the death of Herod and the celestial phenomenon that heralded the birth of Christ that they spent a year or less in Egypt. In any case, God sent Joseph, Mary and Jesus to Egypt "that it might be fulfilled that was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, `Out of Egypt I did call My Son.'" (Matthew 2:15).

In a way this entire story of the Magi is presented so that Matthew has the opportunity to reveal the intent of this prophecy from Hosea. Remember, Matthew's goal is to show the Jewish people that Jesus was the fulfillment of all of God's promises. His goal was to show his countrymen that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies and that it is entirely reasonable for them to accept Jesus as the Messiah. There is nothing else in this entire story which Matthew claimed as fulfillment of prophecy. Yes, he mentions the reference from Micah as it is spoken to Herod by the Jewish leadership. However, he doesn't draw attention to that as a fulfillment of prophecy. Certainly it is; but Matthew seem to take it for granted that everyone can see how it applies to Christ. It is a prophecy like this one from Hosea which needs explanation. There is no indication in the original prophecy that the Messiah is in view. There is no indication in this prophecy that Israel was a type. Nonetheless, Matthew wants to make it clear that Israel is a type and that Jesus Christ is the anti-type - the true Israel.

All of this depended upon the godly parents who had responsibility for Jesus. It all depended upon the godly response of Mary and Joseph to the coming of the Magi and Joseph's obedient reaction to the night vision instructing him to flee to Egypt.

Conclusion
I'm sure you all have heard the saying "wisemen still seek him" - wisemen still seek Jesus. I suppose that's a corny saying - but it is true. Wise men and women and children do seek after Jesus Christ. Yet just as the Magi from Parthia were drawn to Jerusalem and Bethlehem by a supernatural hand, likewise we are drawn into a relationship with Jesus Christ by a supernatural power. The truth is, there are no wise men (or women or children), apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Remember, wisdom is to think as God thinks. And we cannot think as God thinks without the intervention of the Holy Spirit. We cannot have wisdom unless we are a new creation. We have been talking about cultivating the new creation all year. Obviously that activity begins with the new birth – but it is a lifelong process of growing in Christ-likeness - a process that we are responsible for. True, we work out our salvation in the strength of the Holy Spirit: but we have been given the responsibility to learn to think as God thinks. As we learn to think in a godly fashion we will begin to live in a godly fashion. And this is what Paul is talking about when he says "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).

So, we want to seek Jesus. We should seek him in every area of our lives. That's the only wise thing to do.

The alternative is to be foolish like Herod. Worse yet is to be foolish and a hypocrite. That's what Herod was; a foolish hypocrite. He was not interested in the ways of God and in fact lived his life as if God did not exist. However, he wanted to be known as a devout king and so he did things to give the impression that he was interested in God and his ways. The fool has said in his heart "there is no God" and the conscious hypocrite both thumbs his nose at the creator and attempts to use him for his own purpose.

I hope none of us try to use our Lord our own purpose. I hope none of us are guilty of trying to get what we can out of our relationship with Jesus Christ without submitting to his demands. I hope none of us are calling ourselves Christians in the hope that we can avoid hell even while we have no intention of submitting to his word. Obviously this is contrary to the whole concept of cultivating a new creation. To cultivate a new creation is to evince the law written upon our heart. To cultivate the new creation is to manifest the rule and reign of Jesus Christ in our life and sphere of influence. Let's not be foolish like King Herod.

Instead our wisdom and our seeking after Christ will produce godliness. Just as the parents – the foster father and Mary the mother of Christ – were godly people, so we should be. We should be godly in our family life, at work, in our recreation - in everything we do. To be godly is to express God's ways in our life. And that should be our goal. Our goal should be to express Christ to others every day of the week.

The Christmas season is nearly at an end. That time of year when we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ will be over in just a few days. As we conclude this service in this fourth week of Advent I want to challenge you to continue to seek after Jesus Christ, to reject the foolishness of hypocrisy and to strive to live a life of godliness in everything you do.

Amen.





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