Falling on Our Knees

Advent 2023  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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The Lord Calls

The difference in the call between Herod and the Wise Men
Wise men
Matthew 2:1–2 (HCSB)
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem,
saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.
How much we know about these wise men?
The outline of the Wise Men -
We don’t know much. We know that they studied the skies and their purpose in the Advent story is clear - to worship the One who is worthy.
There are clues in this story about the timing though.
The word for ‘the child’ in Matthew 2:9 and 11 point to a child rather than a newborn infant. And, we also see that Mary and Joseph are in a house, not a manger or cave or whatever physical structure where Jesus was born.
Basic reasoning helps us draw this timeline. Imagine what they saw when they met this king - a toddler. Do you know a toddler?
In this context, read verse 3 -
Matthew 2:3 HCSB
When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
Why was he deeply disturbed? Was it because these wise men came and worshipped a toddler? Or, was it because they didn’t come to worship him?
Either way - it demonstrates for us just how worthy Jesus is of us being on our knees.
Jesus is worthy of our worship simply because of who He is, not simply because of what He does for us.
If these wise men were from the Persian empire, which is very likely, then we must also acknowledge the power and presence of God’s call in people’s lives in the past.
God’s word had been preached to the Persian people by Daniel and proven to be greater than the magicians there.
Even before that, Moses and Aaron confronted the Egyptian magicians and proved their superiority.
These gentile wise men show the superiority of King Jesus. Look who makes the connection between the King of the Jews and the Messiah - It’s not a religious leader, it’s not a Pharisee or a Saducee or even the High Priest that Herod called together -
It’s Herod himself.
Matthew 2:4 HCSB
So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.
Herod doesn’t call him the king of the Jews - he calls him the Messiah. He knows. He knows the story. He’s heard the Torah. He lacks the humility to realize that he’s not the King of Kings. He’s not the worthy king.
Matthew 2:8 HCSB
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.”
He wants to find anyone who’s a threat to his throne.
Herod had no interest in worshipping this King. He has no interest in following or responding to the news of this King. He’s not going to be found on his knees. But, he wants to give people the impression that he’ll worship this king. He wants to give the impression that he’s on his knees.
How about you and I? Who do you relate to in this moment? We never want to admit that we’re Herod, but we’ve all been there.
Notice Herod doesn’t want to find the king on his own - when you find him.
You can’t have an impersonal relationship with the personal King.

We Follow and Respond

Herod became reliant upon the abilities, intellect, and actions of the wise men in order to benefit his kingdom and his agenda. He wanted them to follow and respond.
The story of the wise men develops a powerful example for us of what it means to follow and respond to God’s call.
Matthew 2:9–10 (HCSB)
After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure.
This star is quite important. Ancient cultures believed that there was a strong relationship between the movement of the stars, the activity of the gods, and future events. Some believe that Matthew wrote based on his understanding that stars represented angels and they moved about across the sky as they were sent. Lots of questions.
But there is clarity in the Scriptures and how what the wise men saw was fulfillment of Scripture.
Numbers 24:17 HCSB
I see him, but not now; I perceive him, but not near. A star will come from Jacob, and a scepter will arise from Israel. He will smash the forehead of Moab and strike down all the Shethites.
The simplest and maybe best argument to explain ‘the star’ is nothing other than the Shekaniah glory of God. Provide a better explanation.
Christmas is shrouded in majesty and the magical. We hear of it being the most magical time of the year.
Yeah, we get it. It’s miraculous. But is it our posture throughout the year?
Following God’s call in our lives is more than a one-time event.
A beautiful part of the revelation and inspiration of these characters in Matthew 2 is that their determination to reach the Messiah was a testament of their faith and worship being lived out step by step. The response of the wise men shows four specific identifiers for living in continual worship.
First, God’s calling points us to the proper place.
Matthew 2:9 (HCSB)
After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was.
But, how do we know if it’s the proper place? Well, move!
Matthew 2:11 (HCSB)
Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him.
We’ve gotta respond - they entered the house.
Second, they responded with humility.
They fell on their knees. Understand they were bowing before a toddler. Being on their knees was a sign of submission and it showed that despite all their knowledge and study and wisdom, this King possessed even greater wisdom.
Third, they responded by giving. Famous part of every Christmas pageant is the wise men bringing the gifts.
Matthew 2:11 (HCSB)
Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
From their knees, they present gifts worthy of a king. And I will emphasize this point again - offered by Gentiles, an act which is meant to symbolize the wealth of nations one day completely given over to the Messiah.
Giving is an integral part of genuine worship.
Finally, they walked in obedience.
Matthew 2:12 HCSB
And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route.
They were told not to go, so they didn’t go. This passage is a fulfillment of 1 Kings 13, especially verse 9. In that story, the man of God, who comes from Judah, confronts the idolatrous King Jeroboam and prophesies that a son would be born to the house of David whose name is Josiah. Once again, these men responded in obedience by returning to their homeland without cooperating with Herod.
When we are on our knees in worship we gain the strength to stand in the fight for those are weak and hurting.
It’s really easy this time of year to miss where God is calling us.
The Magi are an inspiration for where our hearts and minds should be in this season. In the midst of the to-do list, the distractions, the shopping—all of it—we can’t forget that we should be seeking to have a Christ-honoring and centered Christmas. Each year it can seem like a challenge of missing these special moments because of all the responsibilities and distractions that sometimes blur the central message of Christmas, which is Christ.
CHALLENGE: Those wise men – their eyes were set on following that star that was leading them to something bigger, something magnificent. Where are our eyes?
Are we fully focused on the One who is worthy of our undivided attention and worship?
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