When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. —Matthew 2:10
22 Dec, 2020
The word ‘selah’ throughout Scripture is used as an exclamation mark at the end of a verse to help us pause and reflect on its meaning. Today, in day 22 of our Christmas devotional series we are resting on Matthew 2:10. Selah.
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Guiding Lights and Compassion this Christmas
by Dr Denise Powell
Long ago, when Matthew’s gospel was written, stars were thought to be living creatures, a type of angel. So, it would not have been surprising for Matthew’s readers to hear that a star guided the Magi to pay their respects to the new king of the Jewish people.
What was surprising was where the star led the Magi.
Surely, the successor to the throne would be found in the sacred city of Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish power. Making this assumption as they entered Judea, the Magi headed first to Jerusalem and began looking for the new king. But they did not find him.
Instead, they encountered the current king, an aging, unwell but still brutal tyrant, Herod the Great. Herod’s response to the possibility of a successor was fear, and Herod’s fear caused “all of Jerusalem” to fear as well (2:3). And for good reason. The only thing more dangerous than a tyrant is a frightened tyrant. When the powerful feel threatened, things do not go well for the powerless.
What a contrast to the reaction of the Magi when the star pointed them to the house in Bethlehem where Jesus and His family were living: “And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”
And for good reason.
This new king would not use His power to tyrannise the powerless but to help them to their feet. He fed the hungry instead of turning them away, healed the sick instead of ignoring them. He welcomed children, cared for widows, and stood up for those who could not stand up for themselves. King Jesus shows there is a different way of ruling than through fear and control; He rules His Kingdom through love and compassion.
And that is cause for “exceedingly great joy”.
Dear Jesus, As we look around our world, we still see fear and violence being used to rule and control people. We thank you, O God, that our King is the great King Jesus whose love and compassion is the most powerful sceptre of all. Amen
Dr Denise Powell
Dr Denise Powell lectures in New Testament at Malyon Theological College and the Australian College of Ministries. Her family have sponsored children through Compassion for many years and love receiving letters from them.
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At the Table Conversation Challenge
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