Friday, December 30, 2011

Where Priceless Eternity Is Heading In 2012

It's that time of year again. The New Year is right around the corner, and people are reevaluating their lifestyles and thinking about what resolutions they should make for 2012.

This seemed like the best time to look back on the past year and let you know what's in store for Priceless Eternity in 2012.

A Look Back At 2011
I've wrote on a wide range of topics over the past year, from how humanity's diet changed after the Flood to Nero's persecution of early Christians. My main focus over the past year, though, was the worldwide flood described in the early chapters of Genesis.

In 2012, I will not focus nearly as much on the Flood. In fact, by the end of January, I will be finished going through Genesis 9, the chapter which marks the end of the Flood account in Scripture.

Coming In 2012: More Writing On Genesis
In this coming year you can expect to see more posts on Genesis. After spending so much time writing about passages from this book, I do not think that I will be able to take myself away from it once I'm finished with the chapters on the Flood.

I do not (at least right now) intend to write verse by verse commentary on all of Genesis, but I do intend to cover the main themes contained in the book. In the coming year you can expect a couple posts on Genesis 10 and several posts on the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

Coming In 2012: More Topical Writing
When I started this blog I wrote down a list of about 50 topics that I wanted to address, and since then that list has grown considerably. There is no common theme among these 50+ topics, so you can expect see some posts in the coming year on a wide variety of content. Some of the upcoming topical posts will be how-to posts (such as How To Study For God's Glory) and some of them will answer common questions (such as Will We Recognize People In Heaven?).

Coming In 2012: More Quotes
One of my favorite parts about this blog has been posting helpful quotes. You can expect more quotes from Charles Spurgeon, William Gurnall, and others in the coming year.

As a reminder, if you ever come across a good quote, feel free to send an email with the quote according to the guidelines listed here.

Thank You!
Finally, for all who regularly read Priceless Eternity, I want to say Thank You. If you ever have a question or suggestion, feel free to leave a comment or send an email. I always enjoy hearing from readers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quote of the Day #192 - William Gurnall

A quote from William Gurnall:
If the minister does not study and pray to increase his stock of knowledge and wisdom, he is the worst thief in town.
~William Gurnall (The Christian In Complete Armor Volume One, Chapter 4, Part 1)

This quote was taken from the book The Christian In Complete Armor Volume One - A modernized abridgement of the Puritan Classic by William Gurnall, published by Banner Of Truth.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Magi Worship Jesus, Offering Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh - Matthew 2:11-12 Bible Commentary

And going into the house they [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
After two years of intense travel, the Magi finally arrived. What the Magi longed for— what they yearned for and so desperately sought after, they finally obtained: a glimpse of the new King. All they could do was fall down in worship.

Had their worship been directed towards anyone else, it would have been blasphemous. But before them there was a sight that few in history have ever had the privilege of beholding: God Himself in human flesh— fully God, and yet fully man.

The sweet simplicity of it all must have fueled the Magi's adoration. God had humbled Himself, becoming a man. Though His face did not shine— for His glory was veiled— the Magi knew, to some extent, what was before them.

The Magi offered to Christ their precious treasures. They gave (to the One who owns all things) gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Never had these Magi been so in tune with divine, heavenly things. Never before had they so firmly set their eyes on eternity.

The Magi provide for us a picture of true worship. They bowed their knee to the young Christ, offering to Him the best of what they had brought on their journey. If the Magi rejoiced exceedingly with great joy (Matthew 2:10) when they saw the star appear, what words can describe their joy when they actually saw the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?
And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:12)
When that majestic, breathtaking day came to an end, the Magi laid down to rest. The dream that came to them from God Himself would scarcely have seemed out of place in light of all they had witnessed that day.

When the Magi awoke, they escaped from the hand of Herod by the grace of God. The Magi departed to their country, doubtless telling all those whom they met on the way all that they had seen and experienced.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Magi Rejoice Over the Reappearance Of The Star - Matthew 2:9-10 Bible Commentary

After listening to the king, they [the Magi] went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Matthew 2:9-10)
The star that the Magi saw had some rather strange qualities. No ordinary heavenly body would have had the ability to "go before them" and then come "to rest over" a certain spot. The star that the Magi saw, however, did have these abilities. It would be best, then, to interpret this star as something supernatural— something put into place by God Himself for a certain purpose, for a certain people, and a at a certain time— something that would not fit into the modern, narrower definition of a star (for more info on the nature of the star see Matthew 2:1-2).

When the Magi saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. This small statement seems to imply that the star, which the Magi had so curiously observed, disappeared sometime during their journey to Jerusalem. When the star finally reappeared, the Magi rejoiced at the sight.

If we assume that the Magi did lose the star for some time, this naturally leads to the question: Why? Assuming that the star was of entirely supernatural origin, this question becomes even deeper: why did God choose to hide the star that He had been using to guide the Magi? This is a question that delves into the very purposes and plans of God.

One possibility is that God hid the star from the Magi so that they would have to go to Jerusalem (and not directly to Bethelehem). While in Jerusalem, the Magi alerted Herod concerning the birth of the King of Kings. Without this key component of history, Jesus' family would have had no reason to flee from Bethlehem and into Egypt— and if Jesus had never entered Egypt, the prophecy that He would be called up out of Egypt would not have been fulfilled (Matthew 2:15).

The star likely reappeared after the Magi left Jerusalem. The supernatural sight brought joy to the Magi and also confirmed that Herod had spoke the truth when he said that the Child was in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:8). They Magi now knew where they were going, and they had a divine guide leading them there— who wouldn't rejoice exceedingly with great joy?

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

King Herod's Plan To Murder God - Matthew 2:7-8 Bible Commentary

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." (Matthew 2:7-8)
Since Herod asked for the time of the star's appearance, he may have been wondering just how hard it would be to destroy this new "King". What sort of rebel was he dealing with? It must have come as somewhat of a relief that the star had appeared only two years ago (for more info see When Did The Magi Arrive At The "Manger"?). This was not a fully grown man that he needed to track down and destroy. This was a mere child!

If there is one thing that God hates more than the man who refuses to bow his knee in worship, it is the man who bows his knee pretending to worship. Herod in verse eight quite literally demonstrates the heart of the false worshiper. Herod's intent was not worship; it was murder. The heart of every such pretender is the same.

When a man pretends to worship, he is demonstrating that he regards serving God as an unbearable burden. Such a man, if it were more convenient, would choose to forsake God all together.

In the presence of the Magi, it was most convenient for Herod to play the part of a false worshiper. It was the best way that he saw to carry out the true intent of his heart: attempting to murder God.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When Did The Magi (Wise Men) Arrive At The "Manger"? - Matthew 2 Bible Commentary

Many Nativity Scenes give off the false idea that the Magi (sometimes translated Wise Men) arrived at the manger immediately after the shepherds did. This is far from the truth. Scripture indicates that the Magi did not find the Christ until about two years after he was born.

The Gospel of Matthew (the only Gospel which includes the story of the Magi) explains that the Magi began their journey to find the Christ when they saw His star rise (Matthew 2:2). From Matthew 2:2 and Matthew 2:7, it can be concluded that the star first rose at the time of Jesus' birth. The Magi's journey lasted about two years, a duration which can be found by piecing together Matthew 2:7 and Matthew 2:16.
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. (Matthew 2:7, emphasis added)
Later, in Matthew 2:16, Herod orders all boys two years or younger in Bethlehem to be killed, which means the star must have appeared two, or perhaps three years from the time of Jesus' birth (I say "perhaps three years" because some of those killed who were two years old would have been close to three complete years of age).
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16, emphasis added)
Another false idea that many Nativity Scenes give off is that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were still in the manger when the Magi arrived. This idea, after a little thought, will quickly become absurd. Over the two years that the Magi traveled, surely Joseph and Mary would have been able to find a house! Thankfully, Scripture directly tells us that they found one:
And going into the house they [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11, emphasis added)
So the question, then, of when the Magi arrived at the manger, would be better asked like this: When did the Magi arrive at Jesus' house? The answer to which is, of course, (as already clearly shown) about two years.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Matthew's Portrayal Of Gentiles (The Magi) As The First Christ Worshipers - Matthew 2 Bible Commentary

There is something intrinsically fascinating about the story of the Magi: there's the bright, glowing star, the encounter with Herod, and then there's the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. One of the most interesting aspects of the story concerns the identity of the Magi.

The Gospel of Luke tells us the most about the events surrounding Jesus' birth. Specifically, it tells us of the worship Jesus received from fellow Jews (the shepherds in the flocks, Simeon, and Anna). Matthew's gospel, however, does not contain anything about the shepherds, Simeon, or Anna. Instead, Matthew chooses to focus on the worship that Jesus received from Gentiles— the Magi.

The story of the Magi, in a sense, foreshadows the salvation that was soon to come to the Gentiles. The Magi were not Jews, and yet they ask King Herod, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:2) Ironically, when the Magi's news of the new King of the Jews spread through the city of Jerusalem, all the people were troubled.

What a vibrant contrast Matthew chronicles! On the one hand, the people living in the heart of Judaism— the city of Jerusalem— are troubled by the news concerning their own prophesied Messiah. On the other hand, the Magi— likely wealthy, Gentile kings from many miles away— are filled with joy that this very Messiah has been born. Jerusalem is troubled by the coming of their Messiah, but Gentiles are painstakingly searching for Him out of a desperate desire to worship Him!

Matthew's portrayal of Gentiles as the first worshipers of the Christ is not something to be skipped over. We can only wonder what must have happened about two years after Jesus' birth when the Magi arrived at His house. What must His father, Joseph, have thought? Perhaps he was pondering those words he had heard from the angel so long ago: She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Maybe... just maybe, Joseph began to consider that the people whom his "Son" would save from their sins included people from every tribe, and nation and tongue— even Magi!

Let us never forget the graciousness of God in saving people from every nation on earth!

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Jesus Born In Bethlehem: The Fulfillment of Micah 5:2 - Matthew 2:5-6 Bible Commentary

Many years before the events of Matthew 2, God spoke through the prophet Micah. The chief priests and scribes of the Jews knew the words of Micah well and responded to Herod (for more info see King Herod Troubled) with a quote from Micah 5:2.
They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
"'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.'"
(Matthew 2:5-6)
The book of Matthew is filled with quotes from the Old Testament. The purpose of these quotes is to point us to the man who fulfilled them: Jesus Christ. By quoting from Micah 5:2, Matthew shows us that Jesus' birth happened just as the Scriptures say.

About seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, Micah walked the earth and prophesied. Seven-hundred years later, Micah's prophecy was fulfilled. Think about that for a moment: 700 years.

Think of all that has happened between now and seven hundred years ago! To put it into perspective: about 750 years passed between the death of the patriarch Abraham and the birth of King David. Seven hundred years is a long time.

Time, however, is not a barrier to God, not even 700 years. God can see all of history. He knows everything that will ever happen. He knows the when, the how, the where, and the why of every event that has ever happened or ever will happen. When God speaks, His words always come to pass.
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose'
(Isaiah 46:9-10)
Therefore, when God prophesied through Micah that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem, the prophecy happened exactly as He said that it would. That God's words came to pass should not, of course, be a surprise. God is always faithful to keep his word. He is the one who controls, guides, and governs history in order to accomplish His purposes.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quote of the Day #191 - Charles Spurgeon

A quote from Charles Spurgeon on backsliding:
Little by little, as a rule, backsliding leads on to overt apostasy and sin. No, no—so mature a servant of the devil as Judas is not produced all at once. It takes time to educate a man for the scorner’s seat. Take care, therefore, of backsliding because of what it leads to. If you begin to slip on the side of a mountain of ice, the first slip may not hurt if you can stop and slide no further. But, alas, you cannot so regulate sin! When your feet begin to slide, the rate of their descent increases, and the difficulty of arresting this motion is incessantly becoming greater. It is dangerous to backslide in any degree—for we know not to what it may lead.

It is a defiling thing to backslide, for a man cannot lose the intensity of his love to Christ and holiness without becoming thereby worldly and impure in heart. You cannot be less in prayer without being less like God. Sin is quite certain to seek a dwelling for himself in any heart where the Spirit of God is not actually present. Let your God withdraw His manifest fellowship, and sin is sure to come in to fill up the vacuum.
~Charles Spurgeon (Backsliding Healed 920)

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Many Magi (Wise Men) Were There? Three? - Matthew 2 Bible Commentary

About a month before Christmas, all across the world, nativity scenes begin popping up everywhere. These scenes contain many fictitious, invented elements that never appear in the Bible. The very presence of the Magi (also sometimes translated "wise men") at the nativity scene is a historical inaccuracy.

Sadly, even if the Magi were portrayed in the right way (hundreds of miles to the east when Jesus was born), there would still be a problem. Ever notice that whenever the Magi are portrayed there are always exactly three of them? The Bible never states that there were exactly three Magi. It is only an assumption, based on this text from the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew:
And going into the house they [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
The assumption is that since the Magi offered the Christ three gifts, then there must have been exactly three Magi. But is this really a good assumption?

The only information Matthew gives us regarding the number of Wise Men is that he refers to them as "they". From this, we can conclude that there had to be at least two Magi, but we have no way of making any firm conclusion beyond that.

Perhaps there were only two wise men, or perhaps there were twenty. We really have no way of knowing. It does, however, seem reasonable to conclude that, at the very least, the Magi would have brought along several servants. The wise men, after all, are thought to have been wealthy kings, and they were making a journey probably hundreds of miles long. It would have been almost unthinkable to not bring along guards and servants for what was likely a treacherous journey. This makes it all quite likely that the Magi's party had more than three people in it.

So the next time that you see a nativity scene with three wise men bowing down and giving gifts, know that the scene is mostly fictitious. The Magi were hundreds of miles away when Jesus was born, and in all likelihood, there were more than three of them.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quote of the Day #190 - Matthew Mead

A quote from Matthew Mead on the infinite greatness of Christ's sacrifice:
Alas! it is Christ's infinite righteousness which must atone for our sins--for it is an infinite God whom we have sinned against! If ever your sin is pardoned--it is Christ's infinite mercy which must pardon it! If ever you are reconciled to God--it is Christ's infinite merit which must do it! If ever your heart is changed--it is Christ's infinite power which must effect it! If ever your soul escapes hell, and is saved at last--it is Christ's infinite grace which must save it!
~Matthew Mead (The Almost Christian Discovered)

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

King Herod Troubled By The News From The Magi - Matthew 2:3-4 Bible Commentary

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:1-3)
As king, Herod must have been a master of disguise. He was a master politician. He acted in whatever way was required in order to get what he wanted. Morality was not a concern. When he heard the Magi's question about the new king of the Jews, he put on a mask and pretended to be someone who he was not (see Matthew 2:8).

On the inside,
Herod burned with a murderous rage.
On the outside,
Herod kept a kind, curious countenance.

The words of the Magi were troubling. Was not he, Herod, king over the Jews? There was not room for another king. And who did these Magi think they were? They were seeking a new king of the Jews to worship like a god... but why, then, weren't these Magi worshiping him?

Herod must have wanted to lash out at the Magi, but there was something holding him back. What if the Magi were speaking the truth? What if a new king really had been born? He knew that the Jews were anticipating the coming of Christ (and ironically all of Jerusalem was troubled by the news from the Magi that the Christ had come!). Where the Christ was supposed to come from, Herod had never bothered to investigate.

But now... now it was time to investigate. He desperately needed to know more about this new supposed king. Luckily, he knew exactly how he could find out more:
and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. (Matthew 2:4)

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Quote of the Day #189 - William Gurnall

A quote from William Gurnall:
The desire to resist death is not so strong in one who has long been ill and wasting away, as it is in the one who has been sick only a few days and still has strength to fight. The same tendency is found in the saint. That Christian whose love of this life has been wasting away for many years will more easily part with his earthly life then he whose love for it is stronger.
~William Gurnall (The Christian In Complete Armor Volume One, Chapter 4, Part 2)

This quote was taken from the book The Christian In Complete Armor Volume One - A modernized abridgement of the Puritan Classic by William Gurnall, published by Banner Of Truth.

Related Posts:
Quote of the Day #190 - Matthew Mead
Quote of the Day #186 - William Gurnall
Quote of the Day #187 - John Winthrop
Quote of the Day #188 - Charles Spurgeon
Quote Index

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Magi Search For Jesus, The King Of The Jews - Matthew 2:1-2 Bible Commentary

Near the beginning of our common era, a child was born. Actually, lots of children were born at that time, but there was one baby boy in particular that was different from the rest. This baby boy was the Immanuel. He was God with us (Matthew 1:23).

On the night when Jesus was born, angels appeared to nearby shepherds. The angelic host told the shepherds of the birth of the Saviour, crying out the words, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:14).

On that same glorious, angel-filled night, something else happened: a star appeared in the sky. Many, many miles away from the manger, a group of Magi saw the shining-wonder in the sky.

When we use the word "star" today, we often use it in a technical sense. We call massive, gaseous balls of energy flying around in space "stars". The world at the time of Christ would have been unfamiliar with such a definition of "star" (telescopes weren't invented until nearly 1500 years after the time of Christ).

It is important, then, not to import the modern meaning of "star" into the times of Christ. Doing so would only create trouble. Why? Because from the pages of Scripture, it's apparent that the star that the magi saw had some unusual characteristics that would not fit the modern definition of "star". The star that the magi saw was able to "go before them," and then eventually come to a rest in a certain place (Matthew 2:9).

When the Magi first saw the star appear at the time of Christ's birth, they began their long journey. The Magi, somehow, connected the appearance of the star to the birth of the King of the Jews. How they knew this, we do not know. Scripture tells us few specifics about the Magi, simply stating that they came from the general direction "east". The lack of specifics should not surprise us. Matthew's goal is not to give us a detailed biography of the Magi, but to give us knowledge of Christ.

Matthew tells us that the primary reason the Magi were looking for the King was so that they could worship Him. Since the Magi knew that they were looking for the King of the Jews, they logically traveled to Jerusalem, the city that was the world's center of Judaism. Perhaps they thought that out of all the cities in the world, Jerusalem would be the city that would know of this new King— and if they were lucky, perhaps the new King would already be in Jerusalem.

The Magi must have been shocked to discover that neither the king of Jerusalem nor the people of Jerusalem knew anything about the recent birth of their King. The simple, honest question that they asked when they arrived did not even bring joy to Jerusalem, but trouble— especially to King Herod.

Related Posts:
Isaiah's Prophecy - Matthew 1:22-23
The Messiah the Jews Expected and the Messiah that Came
Was the Virgin Birth Necessary? Why was the Virgin Birth So Important?
Summary of Matthew 1

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Quote of the Day #188 - Charles Spurgeon

A quote from Charles Spurgeon on the centrality of Calvary:
The hill of comfort is the hill of Calvary; the house of consolation is builded with the wood of the cross; the temple of heavenly cordials is founded upon the riven rock, riven by the spear which pierced its side. No scene in sacred history ever gladdens the soul like the scene on Calvary. Nowhere does the soul ever find such consolation as on that very spot where misery reigned, where woe triumphed, where agony reached its climax. There Grace has dug a fountain which always gushes with waters pure as crystal, each drop capable of alleviating the woes and the agonies of mankind!
~Charles Spurgeon (Justification By Grace 126.153)

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Quote of the Day #189 - William Gurnall
Quote of the Day #185 - Charles Spurgeon
Quote of the Day #186 - William Gurnall
Quote of the Day #187 - John Winthrop
Quote Index

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Herod, The Magi, And Jesus Christ On The Stage Of History - Matthew 2:1 Bible Commentary

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1)
In Matthew 2, the manger is gone from history's stage. The curtain had long ago closed on that scene, and we have no way of peeking around it and catching a glimpse of Christ in his earliest months.

The next scene from Christ's life does not begin until nearly twenty-four months after His birth, in Matthew 2:1. In this chapter, history's stage contains three main groups of characters: Herod, the Magi, and the Christ.

The scene opens in Jerusalem, the place where King Herod reigned. History has much to say about this wicked king's cruelty. The most famous of his cruel acts is the one that appears in the pages of Scripture: the time when he ordered all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem to be slaughtered.

The magi are the other figures onstage. We know only a few things about them from the pages of Scripture. For instance, we know that they must have been faithful to the one true God. How they came to know and love Him, however, is unknown. Perhaps they were familiar with parts of the Old Testament. After all, Scripture states:
For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues. (Acts 15:21)
Perhaps the magi— the wise men from the East— had come to know of the ways of God through Jewish influences in their own lands.

The final figure onstage is Jesus Christ Himself. Although Jesus in not physically onstage at the beginning of the Matthew 2, the plot focuses completely on Him. Both the Magi and King Herod are seeking to find Christ. The Magi seek Him in order that they might worship Him, but Herod seeks Him in order that he might slay Him.

Related Posts:
The Magi Search For Jesus, The King Of The Jews - Matthew 2:1-2
The Messiah the Jews Expected and the Messiah that Came
Was the Virgin Birth Necessary? Why was the Virgin Birth So Important?
Joseph's Obedience and Jesus' Birth - Matthew 1:24-25
Summary of Matthew 1