W I N T E R • 2 0 1 2
VOLUME 13, ISSUE 4
Every Christmas season we are directed back to the biblical accounts of Christ’s birth in Matthew and Luke. When we review these records, both new and old insights jump out at us with meaning and present day applications. Let us look at several from the first two chapters of Matthew.
The human genealogy of Christ
Matthew, writing to the Jewish people, starts his genealogy with Abraham, the father of the Jews. He makes no attempt to whitewash the record but includes even wicked people like Rehoboam “who forsook the law of the Lord and all Israel with him.”1 He includes the unsavory women who could have been left out such as Tamar who played the harlot;2 Rahab, the harlot who hid the spies;3 and Ruth, the Moabitess4 with an ancestry of incest.5 Remember, “No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the LORD,”6 yet, here she is in the ancestry of Christ! The insight for us today is that God’s grace and purpose are greater than our sin and the condemnation written in the law.
The sinless nature of Christ
Matthew, after listing the shadowy ancestry of Joseph, “the husband of Mary,” immediately shows that Joseph was not the father of Jesus. Rather, as the angel made clear, “the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”. The sinless nature of Christ is critical for a correct understanding of the gospel. We are to see Christ primarily as our sinless Substitute7 and not as one who had the same fallen nature of Adam that we do. We are saved by His perfect holiness imputed to us and not by any feeble attempt by us to perfectly follow His example.
Jesus, Savior; Immanuel, God with us—worthy of worship—deserving worship
At the birth of Jesus Matthew records in summary fashion the theme of the Christmas story. Jesus is to save His people from their sins. He is “God with us”, worthy of our worship. That this truth would be patently clear, Matthew records the visit of the Magi who came “to worship Him.” “When they saw the child they fell down to the ground and worshiped him.” Every Jew knew well the passage from the law: “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.”8 Therefore, here at the very beginning of the Gospel record there is no question regarding the identity of this child: He is YHWH of the Old Testament; He is the eternal God who has taken on humanity for us. These facts are enormous truths. Jesus is not just another son of Adam. He is the eternal God in the flesh. If we want to know what God is like, we look at Jesus, for “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”9 As we read through the gospel records, we will see the compassion Jesus had for the poor and the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd; we see His love expressed to the unlovable: lepers, lame, blind, deaf and even dead! We witness His anger over meaningless religious rules, focalized tradition and hypocritical religious leaders who pervert the gospel of God’s grace. We see His power over sin, sickness, demons, nature and death! When we look at the cross we understand that the love and justice of God have kissed each other. Then, when we read the epistles we realize that this Jesus not only did all this for us, but somehow we did it in him! We were crucified with Him.10 We were buried with Him.11 We were raised with Him.12 Now we who are “in Christ” are seated with Him at the Father’s right hand.13 The future has come into the now.
The reach of God’s grace is beyond Israel
That God would communicate to a few rich people from the East and supernaturally direct them to Bethlehem to worship the Christ child is worthy of note. The Jews of Christ’s day considered all other peoples inferior and outside of God’s love. Perhaps we, too, often fall into the same mode of thinking: that other races, denominations, or religions are outside of God’s love. They are not. In fact, we have been given the commission to take that Love to every nation and tongue and people.
Many believe that the gifts of the Magi of gold, frankincense, and myrrh may have provided the necessary funds for Joseph to take the Christ child and Mary to Egypt. This teaches us that God’s provision may come from unexpected sources at just the right time. We have seen this time and again at Life Assurance Ministries. It seems that God does not want us to get financially comfortable. Rather, it appears we are to pray as Christ taught His disciples, “Give us this day our daily bread.”14
God’s supernatural guidance
God can communicate His will to us whenever He feels it necessary. Through dreams God revealed to Joseph that Mary’s child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that he should flee to Egypt, that he should return to Israel, and that he should settle in the regions of Galilee. Joseph cooperated with God in this. He obeyed instantly when he knew God’s will. When he did not have specific guidance, he used wisdom. So for us today, we can rest assured that God will guide us. Our part is to (1) find His will in Scripture, (2) immediately do His will when revealed, (3) and trust God to give us His wisdom. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”15
Worshiping Christ brings the wrath of Satan and God’s deliverance
Worshiping the true God often brings the wrath of political leaders. It was true with Herod; it is true today. Many innocent children were killed in Herod’s mad attempt to destroy any rival. Today, there are thousands of innocent Christians being killed by political leaders who cannot stand to see the worship of Christ. In our own country, we see the outright hatred expressed for conservative Christians who believe that infanticide in the form of abortion is evil. If our culture continues its rapid moral degeneration, it may not be long before we may be the targets of wrath simply because we believe in Christ and support biblical values. But even in those times, whether we live or die, we know that we have eternal life. Just as God delivered Christ from the wrath of King Herod, He can, if He wills, deliver us out of any danger.
So as we read the Christmas stories again, let us read slowly, looking for insights from God’s word. See how many you can find. †
Copyright 2012 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Casa Grande, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised December 17, 2012. Contact email: email@example.com
Dale Ratzlaff is the founder of Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., and owns LAM Publications, LLC. He served as an Adventist pastor for 13 years, seven at Monterey Bay Academy where he taught Bible. He and his wife Carolyn left the Adventist church in 1981 when he realized he could no longer teach the investigative judgment in clear conscience. He has authored Sabbath in Christ, The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists, The Truth About Adventist "Truth", and Truth Led Me Out. These are available through his website. The Ratzlaffs reside in Casa Grande, Arizona.