- Sermon Notes
The Treasures of the Heart
We recently studied Revelation 12 and there is a direct connection between that chapter and the story of the birth of God’s Son whom He sent to be the Savior of the world.
In Revelation 12, there are two signs that appear in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. That woman is Israel and she was in labor to give birth to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
And another sign appeared in heaven; a great red dragon having seven heads and 10 horns. The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. That great red dragon is none other than the serpent of old who was called the devil and Satan. The symbolism of the Dragon standing before the woman so that he might devour her child is seen in the story of the Magi in Matthew 2.
However, studying about the visit of the Magi in Bethlehem as we celebrate the birth of Jesus is a bit of wrong timing. This is because all our nativity sets are incorrect. The common arrangement is for Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, farm animals, and the wise men all to be around the baby Jesus as he lay in the manger, just hours after his birth.
But the wise men came from the East a distance of perhaps 900 miles or more with a large group or entourage of people, which would have been the only way to travel safely in those days, and it therefore would have been several months before they arrived in Israel. And in fact, the account in the book of Matthew says that they visited Jesus at “the house,” which clearly suggests they were not still living with the animals by the time the wise men arrived.
Therefore, they probably arrived several months later. To keep our nativity scenes accurate, therefore, we would need to have the wise men across the room somewhere with them all heading toward Bethlehem.
Over time there have been several other myths that have developed around this story of the Magi coming from the East. For example, it doesn't tell us in the story that there were three of them. This is assumed because they came bearing three gifts, but maybe there were six or perhaps nine or 12. Maybe they all pitched in together to purchase these gifts, that is something men would definitely do.
It also doesn't say they came on camels; they might have come on powerful Arabian horses; although, with the journey of almost 900 miles, camels would have been a good option.
Of course, the origin of giving gifts at Christmas came from these Magi from the East. However, their gifts were not wrapped; which tells us two things: 1) they were wise; and 2) they were men. Men are terrible at wrapping gifts and why bother if they're going to just be opened anyway?
There are three different groups of people in this story and from each group you can learn a lot about the treasure within the heart. In other words, each of them are pursuing what’s in their hearts. That’s where the story also applies to us.
The King these Magi were seeking is the same King that God sent to pursue a relationship with you and me. How we respond reveals our heart just as it revealed each of theirs.
I. This King Deserves a Response
- It wasn't enough for the Magi to simply discern that the King of the Jews had been born in Israel, once they understood that the King of Israel was
born, they knew that they had to do something about it, they had to seek Him, they had to find Him.
- They wanted to do more than simply find Him, however, they wanted to give him honor. They wanted to recognize Him by giving gifts and by humbling themselves before Him.
- God also used the Magi to announce His presence to the world; the Magi’s visit stirred up the entire city of Jerusalem.
- Once it was known that the King of the Jews had been born, each person responded according to what was in his heart. This is where it gets personal.
A. Wise men still seek Him
- A straightforward reading of these verses suggests that the Magi were expecting the birth of the King of the Jews to already be well-known.
- You can imagine what a stir this entourage from Persia who were seeking the King of the Jews would've caused.
- But they made their purpose clear, they came to worship Him. They were responding to what God has done for the world.
- A day is coming when every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, how much better to confess that He is Lord of your life right now.
Philippians 2:10-11, At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Illus – It’s always encouraging when people with influence are unashamed of naming Jesus as their Lord. Tim Tebow was open about his faith, but so are others; Carson Wentz was making a statement about his injury and used it to say openly that Jesus is his Lord and Savior.
- We’re living in a time when it’s not politically correct to claim to be a Christian, but as we see in Revelation, I’d rather be on God’s side.
B. Give the gift of highest honor
- The Magi knew that a King born to the Jews would bring peace to mankind and would reign over all other kings. They therefore brought gifts appropriate to the degree of His honor.
- The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were very likely small tokens in comparison to their wealth. They were, however, very appropriate gifts because they recognized the purpose for which He was born.
- Gold; for a king
- Frankincense; an expensive element of the priest’s incense and anointing oil. It is obtained by slashing the Boswellia tree and allowing the resin to bleed out into tears. The tree has the unusual ability to grow on solid stone.
Myrrh; gathered from the cuts of Myrrh tree, used in embalming, mixed with wine it was offered to Jesus on the cross, although he refused it. It was also used in anointing His body after death. This gift recognizes His death, which was the reason He came.
- By their worship, however, they give him the greatest honor of all. They gave them the treasure of their hearts.
Illus – When Jesus healed ten lepers, only one came back and said thank you. Wasn't he giving a gift to Jesus by that thank you?
- Christmas is about exchanging gifts. What gift would you give in exchange for the gifts he has given to you?
C. Obedience is also a form of worship
- Another person central to this story is Joseph.
- After the Magi had departed, he was warned in a dream that he should immediately flee to Egypt. The point is; he did it. You can almost hear him say, “That's what God wants me to do, I will immediately follow his Word in my life.”
- Then later, after the death of Herod, Joseph was again instructed in a dream to go back to Israel.
Illus – Jesus would have been 4 or 5 years old at that time. Wouldn’t that have been an amazing trip with Jesus coming out of Egypt taking a leisurely walk to Israel. Would He have said, “Are we there yet?” Would He have asked “why” 100 times?
My kids used to ask why this or that over and over until I finally said, “Because God is God.” Then they would ask why is God God?
- In verse 22, Joseph was warned in another dream not to go to Judea, which is how he came to Nazareth. The point is that when God gave his Word, Joseph listened; that itself is worship.
- Many don't understand the importance of obedience to God; or what it means to recognize God’s authority in their lives. They want God on their terms, but God doesn't do terms. A King was born that day.
Illus - Do we say, “This is the way I want God to be! I want him to make my life easier, I want him to bless me with great financial prosperity, I want him to keep me from sickness and diseases, and I want him to give me honor and blessings.”
Or do we say, “Lord, I recognize that your ways are higher than my ways, I bow myself before you; teach me to walk as your Word instructs me to walk. You are the King; You are My King.”
Luke 6:46-47, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like:”
II. He will Reveal the Hearts of Many
- Through the Magi God announced the birth of the Messiah to the world; but people respond very differently to the news. For the Magi, it revealed their
desire to seek the King that God sent so they could give Him honor.
- For King Herod the response was deception and then fear and anger.
- The reaction of the Pharisees was also interesting because of what they didn’t do; this announcement would have aligned perfectly with the timing indicated in the prophet Daniel. But they did nothing.
- God reveals what’s in the heart…
Luke 2:34-35, And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed-- and a sword will pierce even your own soul-- to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
A. People live by what’s in their heart
- One of the key figures in the story is Herod the king. When he heard that the Magi were seeking the one who was born King of the Jews, he was greatly troubled by it, and all Jerusalem with him.
- We know a lot about Herod. His father was personal friends with Julius Caesar and because of his father’s close relationship Herod was given the title of King of the Jews, but he wasn’t a Jew. The Jews wouldn't even let him into the Jewish portion of the Temple, even though he was the one who had rebuilt it.
- Herod was driven by fear and insecurity. He had his own mother and mother-in-law killed, he had his eldest son and two other sons killed. In fact, Caesar Augustus said, “It's safer to be Herod's pig than his son.”
- When Archelaus, Herod’s son, reigned after him, he also was cruel and hateful. He hated his father, Herod, and he became the thing that he hated. He lived by what was in his heart.
Illus – Joseph was treated poorly and yet did not hate. He loved God and he became an example of the truth that you also become like that which you love.
- Are you stuck with whatever heart you have? Is it too late to change? Are you forever destined to live out whatever condition you were born into?
Illus – My father was an abusive alcoholic; was I destined to repeat the sins of my father? In other words, can hearts be changed? Can we start over?
- Jesus came to reveal the hearts of many, but He also came to do something about it.
- Matthew, who wrote this gospel, was a despised tax collector who became one of the disciples God used the change the world.
- Mary Magdalene had seven demons and all the troubles that came with it, but was given the honor of being the first to see the resurrected King.
- Paul was the greatest enemy of the church, being furiously enraged, he persecuted and pursued Christians to their death, but he literally had a ‘come to Jesus meeting’ and became one of the greatest evangelist and history of the world.
- Can hearts be changed?
Luke 6:45, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart.”
- Hard hearts can be broken, proud hearts can be humbled, broken hearts can be healed, fearful hearts can be strengthened, empty hearts can be filled, lonely hearts can receive love.
- God sent His Son not only to reveal what’s in the heart, but to change the heart. How?
- Open your heart and receive Him, He is the One who will change your heart and life.
Matthew 2:1-23 NASB
6 'and you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'"