Friday, December 25, 2009

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday December 27, 2009
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LISTENING WITH AN OPEN HEART
(When searching for JESUS, one must listen to GOD)
(Matthew 2)

The Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible describes the “wise men” mentioned in Matthew chapter two as “astrologers” who came from the Persian Empire. In the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the term rendered “wise men” is “Magoi” (Mag-ohee), and it also translates as “Astrologers”.
The Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote in the fifth century B.C., identifies the Magi as a group of Medes who had priestly duties in the Persian Empire and were grouped with the likes of magicians and sorcerers who served as advisers in the Babylonian royal court. Their duties also included interpreting dreams for the kings.
In Matthew 2, it was men of this ilk that traveled to Palestine from the east in pursuit of a legendary star that had been talked about down through the ages as being the first sign of the coming of the long awaited MESSIAH WHO would serve as king of the Jews.
These particular astrologers, while pursuing their observations of the stars, had received an unexpected sign from GOD. Here, GOD has apparently broken through their misguided, evil system of forecasting through the stars, in order to bring attention to one of HIS OWN great events, which was the announcement of the eminent arrival of HIS SON, JESUS.
And while not all scholars agree on the timing of the arrival of these wise men into Palestine, it is generally agreed that their arrival came shortly after the birth of CHRIST in Bethlehem. And it is also generally agreed that these men, in spite of their backgrounds, had listened to GOD with an open heart and mind.
Also, the fact that, after their encounter with Joseph, Mary, and baby JESUS in Bethlehem, these wise men did not return to King Herod to give him a report as he had requested, concerning their whereabouts (Matthew 2:7-8), but instead, returned home a different way, shows that they were continuing to listen to the voice of GOD for guidance, even on their journey back home.
After the wise men had gone, an angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream instructing him to take his family and flee into Egypt and sojourn there and wait for further instructions. The angel informed Joseph that King Herod was going to try to kill baby JESUS. Joseph listened to the voice of GOD and immediately left and remained in Egypt until after the death of Herod in 4 B.C. (Matthew 2:13-19).
After Herod’s death, GOD called for HIS SON to come out of Egypt, just as the prophet Hosea had spoken, more than 700 years earlier (Hosea 11:1). An angel came to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to leave and take his family back to Palestine (Jerusalem). Again Joseph obeyed the instructions of the LORD, and baby JESUS, as a result, had been saved from all harm. However, Joseph still had some concerns that Herod’s son, Archelaus, would continue his father’s efforts to find and kill JESUS, and so, once again an angel came to him in a dream and instructed him to move his family to Nazareth. Joseph listened to the voice of GOD, and thus another ancient prophesy was fulfilled so that “JESUS would be called a Nazarene”.
Joseph continued to be consistent in his obedience to the LORD. He always trusted GOD’s voice, and responded positively to HIS guidance, and he followed GOD’s lead immediately, whenever HIS divine guidance was offered.
We may not know much about Joseph, because scripture doesn’t provide us with many details of his life. However, one can clearly see his commitment to obeying GOD, through those limited mentionings by New Testament writers. And we can take refuse in the thought, that GOD is still guiding men and women in this day, just as HE guided Joseph and Mary, who are prepared and willing to shrug off the pressures and gravitational pull of this world, to respond to HIM, with an open mind and heart. Everyone who trusts in GOD, will be guided by, and drawn to HIM. In fact, no one can even come to GOD unless HE draws them through HIS SON, CHRIST JESUS (John 6:44). And without faith…

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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