Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lenten Devotional: Day Two, Thursday Feb. 7th "Worship First, Gifts Second"

Gospel Reading: Matthew 1-4
Devotional Emphasis Matthew 2:11 “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented gifts of gold, and of incense, and of myrrh.”

Matthew’s gospel provides us with a very interesting commentary on the life of Jesus. Notice the order of events in Jesus life as compared to the nation of Israel as recorder in the first five books of the Old Testament. (1) Moses was born at a time when the Pharoah had order children to be killed vs. Herod had ordered the death of children in order to kill Jesus. (2) Moses was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in Egypt vs. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to protect Jesus. (3) Moses led the Hebrews across the Red Sea (actually Reed Sea) vs. Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan. (4) The Hebrew people were in the wilderness for 40 years vs. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert and then was tempted by Satan. It seems Matthew is trying to make an important comparison between Israel and Jesus as if to say, “Jesus is the new Israel.”

In chapter two we meet a group of people known as “Magi” from the east. We do not actually know where they are from, how many of them there were, the exact date they arrive to see Jesus, what kind of star they were following. All we really know about them comes from this small text in Matthew. Matthew tells us they followed the start until they found Jesus and when they saw him, they first worshipped him and then the gave him three gifts, gold, incense, and myrrh. It has been said that these gifts correlate with who Jesus was: Gold for a king, incense for a priest (incense was used in offering sacrifices) and myrrh as a burial ointment to symbolize Jesus’ future death for the world.

What I find particularly interesting about Matthew 2:11, is that the first thing the Magi do when they meet Jesus, is worship him, then they offer him their gifts. I find the order of their actions important because it is our worship that we offer that makes our gifts meaningful. So often we want to “work” or “give money” without worshipping. I believe God really loves us and wants our worship and adoration first. After we have offered ourselves, then we can offer our gifts.”

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