Obedience – The Highest Form of Worship :: by Sean Gooding

Matthew 2:11-23:

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.’

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, ‘Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”

The Magi (Wise Men) have come to meet Jesus the new born King of the Jews.They had traveled a long way and brought expensive gifts to the new King. In these first verses we see three different responses to Jesus.These three types of responses are still prevalent today; one group—the Magi, sought him out at great expense and came to worship Him and offer Him gifts.

The second group were the Scribes or religious scholars who knew of Jesus, they had knowledge of Him. But they really had no desire to know more about Him or to pursue Him in any way. The last group is represented by Herod; who worked to seek out Him out and destroy Him. Today these very same attitudes exist and are in men and women all around us.May the Lord lead us to be Magi, wise men and women diligently seeking the Lord with honest worship and the gift of ourselves (Romans 12:1-2).

Let’s explore Joseph’s flight to Egypt and the fulfillment of prophecy.Jesus’ earthly ministry was shrouded in prophecy. So many prophetic statements were made about Jesus’ birth, life, His work and death that we can say with extreme certainly that He is the Messiah. There were prophecies fulfilled that Jesus had no control over, and so we see that God was reporting the future hundreds of years before it ever happened as He is won’t to do.

Heavenly Protection Through an Earthly Father, Verses 12-13:

Both the Magi and Joseph are warned by God in dreams to get out of Bethlehem. The Magi are warned not to return to Herod and tell him where Jesus lived at the time and Joseph was warned to leave and take his young family to Egypt.Both groups obeyed immediately, and with a sense of urgency that portrayed the dire situation with which they found themselves.

The Magi were foreigners that were at the mercy of ruthless king if they had been caught.But God in His grace warned them and they took another traveling route placing a buffer between them and the raging king, Herod.

Joseph also was warned by God in a dream, and he IMMEDIATELY got his family up and made haste to get to Egypt. He did not wait a second, but that very night he obeyed God.It is easy to see why God entrusted him as an earthly father for with His Son.In Egypt at that time there was still a large Jewish population so it would have been easy to get lost in the crowd, but at the same time maintain the culture that Jesus had been born into.

Anyone who has moved or even gone on a long vacation knows how hard it is to move, to pack and to get going; and even more so with a young child, a toddler really, and a young wife.In this move Jesus gave God the chance to fulfill a prophecy made about Him in Hosea 11:1: “..out of Egypt I have called my Son.”

There is some dispute as to when Herod the Great died, but he died somewhere between 1BC and 4BC.So Jesus could have been in Egypt as little as one year or along as four years, we are not completely sure. But when Herod died God sent Joseph a message via a dream and once again we see him acting right away to obey God and to move his family.

We also see his paternal protective nature toward his young son in verse 22, when he did not want to return to Bethlehem. So instead, God leads him to live in a city called Nazareth.Once again God fulfilled another prophecy, and it is almost certain that Joseph did not know that prophecy, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” This was a prophecy that was not recorded but was well-known amongst the prophets.

The Ruthless King Kills Small Children, Verses 16-18:

Herod is very angry that the Magi did not come back to tell him where Jesus was.He orders his soldiers to go into the city if Bethlehem and kill all the children who were 2 years old and younger.What a ruthless man, he did not even spare the girl children.He simply killed everyone.Even in this heartbreaking action there was the fulfillment of prophecy from Jeremiah 31:15, in this verse Rachel is picture of all the mothers in Bethlehem weeping for their children.

Nations and peoples have been seemingly trying to eradicate the Jews from their very beginning. But God has His hand of protection on the nation and in this case, His Son.They were killing boy babies in Moses’ day; in the Holocaust they killed 6,000,000 Jews, men, women and children and daily Jews are killed all around the world for being Jews.Herod is just one of the many kings who have tried to kill off the Jews, and there will be more pain and suffering in the future for them from the Antichrist.

I cannot imagine what it is like to live as a target.But as Christians in we are starting to feel like target, but we should find our power and strength in Jesus.Stand fast we are told, Jesus is coming to get us.Herod died, Hitler died and the nation of Israel is still here. The God who has preserved them and who watched over Jesus’ young life is the same God who watches over us every minute, every moment of each day.

The one thing I want to emphasize in this article is the importance of obedience.Obedience is defined as doing what you are told, when you are told—with the right attitude. Both Joseph and the Magi are awesome examples of this to us as fathers and as members and servant in the Lord’s churches.We are called to be obedient.This is the highest form of worship. In the book of Jeremiah I we can see that God constantly reminds the people that all the sacrifices and pomp of their worship were of no value to Him as long as they lived in disobedience.In Jeremiah 7:21-26 we see this from the Lord:

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.’

But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers.”

In John 14:15 Jesus’ words proclaim: “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

Obedience is what God is looking for.He needs men and women, boys and girls who will obey at once, and do so joyfully. I must admit that I fall short of this mark way too often. BUT I am learning to listen and obey.What is the point of singing “How Great is Our God?” if we have no plans to obey Him. Or if we make a mockery of our worship and God is not amused nor moved to help us. Let us be like Joseph and the Magi, let us obey and trust God implicitly in all things.