Where do you expect to find God? Some people look to church buildings as special holy places where they feel closer to God, especially if the building is old and beautiful with lots of stained glass windows. For others, God is felt in the countryside as they enjoy the beauty of nature. But is that really any closer to God than in your front room at home.
Some of you may say that you are not particularly expecting to find God. You are not sure that such a thing as a real, personal, creator God exists. And yet, whether or not we believe in that personal, creator God, we all have a tendency to put something in that box labelled God. It might be a particular principle or ideal, it might be our hopes and dreams for ourselves, our children or our grandchildren, it might be search for happiness sought in sexual pleasure or for meaning found in a hobby or interest. Work, family, material gain, we all put something in the God box.
And yet the continued pursuit of those things is often our way of echoing Bono’s cry:
“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
As Christians we firmly believe that God is found and known in, and only in, the person of Jesus. So with that question “How do I find God?” in mind, let’s look at our Bible passage together. Here we discover people who may not immediately appear to be searching for God but they are searching for his true King. They are looking for Jesus.
I want you to notice where he isn’t found and then where he is found.
- Jesus is not found with the power-brokers and the elite
After Jesus has been born, Magi from the East turn up looking for him in Jerusalem (v1-2). Note, that we are not told how many there are and that these are not kings despite what some of the legends and carols might suggest. In fact, they are not necessarily “wise men” as we might understand wisdom today. Magos/Magoi is a Persian term, associated with those who practice astrology and magic arts. It is sometimes used pejoratively to describe pagans, for example, we are introduced to Simon the Magician in Acts 8:9-24 who wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Magi have come because they have seen the new king’s star in the East. The description of its rising seems to echo Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 of a star rising from Jacob who will crush his enemies. Balaam himself was a pagan prophet or magos who could be seen as a forerunner of the Magi.
The Star seems to fit the description of a comet which were both seen to hail good news and bad news and often associated with the emergence of new rulers.
The Magi know that a king has been born but the big question is, “where is the King’s home, where can we find him?” The obvious answer is “Jerusalem” of course. A fascinating contrast has been set up. Jesus has been born in Bethlehem, David’s home town but the Magi are looking in Jerusalem his capital city.
Our big question is “Where do we expect to meet Jesus?” “Where do you expect to meet God? The answer to that question will say quite a bit about what we think God is like. Is your God mystical, distant, remote, harsh even? Or is He the God who has drawn close and made his home with us?
Herod, the king in Jerusalem hears about this. he enquires where The Christ/Messiah will be born (v3-6) . Notice he knows exactly what this sign means. He isn’t just concerned about a rival claimant to his king. The one born king must be a true descendent of David, the longed-for Messiah.
This was important because Herod was not born as an heir to David. This is Herod the Great (74 BC – 4BC). He was an incredibly powerful ruler, famous for his grand building projects but he was only a client king who owed his title to the Roman emperor. One of his building projects was a lavish extension to the Jerusalem temple. He did this earn favour with the Jews because although his family had converted to Judaism he was actually Idumean, an Edomite
Herod gets the priests and scribes from the Temple to tell him where the Messiah will be born and so they turn him to Micah’s prophecy and answer “In Bethlehem.” They need the revelation of God’s Word to find Christ.
Now, here’s the challenge. We now have two types of person who know where Jesus is to be found but their motives and response is different. The king and his advisors with all the benefits of scripture and religion know exactly what, where and who they should be looking for. However, the priests stay put showing no more than intellectual curiosity and Herod’s motives are paranoid jealousy as we will see shortly.
It is possible to have an intellectual curiosity about Jesus and completely miss who he is. We can be incredibly religious and enjoy the ritual of prayer, Bible readings and church attendance but just be going through the motions.
Herod sends the Magi on their way to find Jesus. He says he wants to go too. He enquires about the time of the star etc. We are told later that this is all pretence. His aim is to find the child and kill him. No pretenders to the throne are permitted (v8).
This is the challenge for you and me. Is that promotion you are pursuing really because you’ll be better placed to help others or is it about ambition? The new, bigger house you dream of, is it really what your kids need or is it about status? Even in church, am I pursuing a ministry because it brings glory to God or because it feeds my sense of worth?
See again the OT imagery here. Like Israel in Egypt Jesus, the Son is in grave danger. All those years ago, a brutal King plotted to have the sons killed. Here’ he plots to kill the Son of God. It looks like Herod is the strong king and the baby Jesus like David pitted against Goliath looks helpless, insignificant, vulnerable.
The Magi arrive in Bethlehem arrive with gifts, gold, frankincense, myrrh echoing the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon with gold and spices. These gifts reinforce the message that the true heir of David is here (v9).
The Magi leave by another route after God warns them about Herod’s real plan in a dream (v12).
We find Jesus as the one who represents his people and takes their place (v13-18)
Joseph is warned in a dream that the baby’s life is in danger. The family flees to Egypt. The child is kept safe but in exile.
Matthew tells us that this fulfils Hosea’s prophecy “Out of Egypt I have called my Son” (v15)
Jesus represents the people of Israel and their exile and slavery in Egypt. The Hosea prophecy wasn’t a prediction of what was going to come, it was describing what had already happened. Matthew isn’t trying to make up a story to fit an obscure prediction. Rather, he sees in the life of Jesus echoes of past patterns. Just as Israel, God’s “son” in the Old Testament was in exile in Egypt, so too Jesus. Later, we will see Jesus in the wilderness and a baptism in the Jordan echoing Israel’s journey through the waters of the red sea and the Jordan to the promised land.
Jesus represents Israel, he takes the burden of their guilt and shame on himself He experiences their exile. But not just Israel. The New Testament tells us that Jesus took on our guilt and shame.
21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Where will you find God? The Bible tells us that in our sin we have turned away from God. We are dead to him and his love. We stand no chance of finding him through intellectual, religious and mystical searching. Nor can we find true meaning and hope through hobbies, work and relationships.
It is only through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that we can know god and find true life, forgiveness and hope in him.
Are you searching for God and a relationship with him? Are you looking for true meaning, satisfaction and hope in life? Here are some next steps.
- Pray -ask God to reveal himself to you in Jesus. Acknowledge your sin and ask him to forgive you and make his home in your life.
- There are different opportunities to find out more and grow to know God better each week including
- Church services why not try one of the Church Central churches?
- Small Groups/Community Groups as part of your local Church
- Courses including First Look, Christianity Explore, Alpha.