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Matthew’s Contest of Kings

Author: Andrew Sargent Ph.D., Contributing Author for Foundations by ICM

 

This is Matthew ‘the Taxman’ Apostle, coming to you live and ringside, bringing you blow-by-blow coverage for this evening’s main event. We’ve got quite the bout for you tonight, folks… a real David and Goliath struggle for power that promoters have dubbed “the Contest of Kings.”

 

The Contestants

Introducing first, the reigning, defending, heavyweight champion of Israel, King Herod ‘the Great’; builder of cities, fortresses, and yes, even our very own beloved Temple in Jerusalem. He is a dangerous enemy, a powerful warrior, a world-class political maneuverer. Herod stands tall as the pseudo-Jewish Hellenizing usurper… a tyrant ruler if ever there was one. 

In his corner with him, we not only have the entire body of leading citizens, Priests, and Scribes but the full backing of the Roman Empire itself…. Stop that booing, folks, the soldiers might hear you! Herod is no Moses… certainly no David… but he intends to hold on to power no matter what it takes.

In the other corner, the challenger… Can this be right? A baby? His name is Jesus, and today he will be fighting out of the little town of Bethlehem. But don’t let his age fool you, he has the pedigree to back up his challenge. David, his ancestor, also fought out of Bethlehem. Rumor has it that Jesus is the virgin-born Son, and the promised Immanuel, the God-King, comes to take up David’s long-abandoned throne. Could this baby be his true heir? We’ll find out tonight. 

In his corner we have… well, it looks like only his parents; they are more than a little nervous. Just moments ago I asked his mother, “Mary, did you know that your baby boy would someday rule the nations?” She pondered and said, “The angels sang when the baby was born.” We also have Joseph ‘the Dreamer’ – a righteous son of David in his own right – embracing the newborn child. 

 

The Referees

And now, here come the wise men stepping into the ring between these two would-be champions… Magi from the east! When power and authority are recognized, these are the priests who seal the deal. These gifted astrologers have seen a star of wonder with royal beauty bright announcing the one born Kings of the Jews, and they have come to worship him. Their arrival to referee this bout should come as no surprise.

And should we be shocked that it is gentiles who have seen this star and wandered far? Was it not the gentile Balaam who first spoke of this star in Numbers 24:17? “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” Powerful words, Folks! Powerful words!  

 

Round One

The Magi have turned to Herod. They’ve made their way to the center of power… was it a son of Herod born under this star? I don’t think so! King Herod is troubled by news of the Star that led the Eastern Sages. His whole corner is buzzing over his disquiet. 

This reminds me of 2 Samuel 4:1. When Saul’s son, clinging to his doomed throne, lost all his courage in the fight, Scripture says, “all Israel was dismayed.” Well, Déjà vu, Folks! Here we go again. Herod is looking shaky and his corner doesn’t like it.

 

Round Two

Herod comes out ready to fight, but the Magi are looking for another… one born to the role. But what’s this? Herod is putting on a brave face. This man who killed his own sons when he felt threatened, is promising to help the Magi! The Scribes bring forth the news from sacred prophecies. They’ve gone for Micah 5:2,  “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Ouch! That has to hurt, and the Magi know it. Herod is no shepherd king. No, not at all. In the whole rich tradition of Shepherd leaders like Moses and David, the promises are clear. Ezekiel 34 spells it out. God is a Good Shepherd and He and His Messiah will wage war against the false shepherds of Israel for what they’ve done to the flock of God. Herod is on the ropes and he looks afraid.  

 

Round Three

The bell rings and Herod comes out looking like a new man. He’s making nice with the Magi. What a ploy! He’s got his arm around their shoulders. He says he’s excited by the news. He says he wants to worship this newborn king as well. All they have to do is tell him exactly where to find the little Lord Jesus when they locate him. Don’t believe it Magi! It’s a trick! 

 

Round Four

And now the Magi are off, following that star westward leading straight across the ring through field and fountain, moor and mountain, straight to where the baby lay. And what is this?! I can hardly believe my eyes! The great promises of Scripture are dancing like fireflies. The Magi who passed by Jerusalem for Bethlehem, and passed up Herod for Jesus, have also passed up Herod’s empty shell of a temple to worship at the feet of this babe! They have presented him with temple offerings—Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh… Yes! presents made famous in 1 Kings 10 and 1 & 2 Chronicles 9… presents of renown from ancient tales like Seleucus’ visit to the temple of Apollo at Didyma. 

And there it is, the knockout blow! With those gifts, the Magi have sealed the deal: the young Jesus is our promised King! What a fight, this is certainly one for the history books! 

This is just like Solomon said it would be in Psalm 72:9-15, “May desert tribes bow down before him… May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him…Long may he live; may gold of Sheba be given to him!” 

Isaiah said it too, in chapter 60:1-6, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. … And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.”

 

And the Winner Is…

It’s all over, Folks! Herod never stood a chance! O Come, O Come Immanuel! Ransom captive Israel from the false shepherds. Let weary souls rejoice! Sing Choirs of Angels! They are all going down for the count. Oh, come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace.  Hail the Sun of Righteousness. Come, yes come to Bethlehem!

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