The Two Kings

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (MAT 2:1,2)

  1. Israel was the Promised Land
    1. Ruled by God Himself
      1. Provided the people kept the their side of the covenant
      2. A land of milk and honey
    2. But the people became more and more external
      1. Ruled by prophets
      2. Ruled by kings (to be like the other nations)
      3. Civil war divided them into two nations
      4. Israel ceased to exist as a nation in 721 BC
      5. Judah was carried away into Babylon in 586 BC
      6. Although Jews continued to live in Canaan, they were ruled by others
        1. Babylon
        2. Greece
  2. Herod
    1. Rome installed puppet kings, men who were local by birth, but loyal to Rome.
    2. Herod was an Edomite, descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother
      1. Usually called “Herod the Great” to distinguish him from his son (the “Herod” of the Easter story).
      2. A cruel tyrant, willing to do anything to protect his own power
      3. He murdered members of his own family to protect his son’s right of succession
      4. He persecuted all who had even the slightest claim to the throne, especially the Royal House of David
      5. On the other hand, he did rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and began many other great building projects in Israel
        1. Another example of his love of the things of the world
          1. An illustration of the teaching in Divine Providence that the evil are permitted power and great riches because they cannot be further harmed by them, and in trying to appear good, they may use their riches to do great good for others! (DP 250:3)
      6. The Lord was born near the end of his reign
    3. We can understand why Herod was troubled by the Wise Men
      1. He was not the legitimate ruler of the Jews
        1. If the Jews became free of the Romans, they would remove him.
        2. It is said “All Jerusalem” was troubled
          1. meaning all those who depended on Herod for their power
    4. We know that Herod was a hypocrite
      1. because he said that he wished to find the new king to worship him.
      2. The sphere of Herod (and those he represented in Jerusalem) was such that they star could not be seen there, even by the wise men.
    5. The final proof of his character is the murder of many innocent children
    6. In spite of all his efforts to live forever, Herod died, while it is the Lord that lives forever.
      1. Herod represents the struggle to maintain natural life (and wealth) at all costs which will always fail.
  3. Jesus
    1. Of the Royal Family of David through both His mother and foster father.
    2. Born in Bethlehem
      1. Benjamin was born there
      2. Rachel, Jacob’s second wife was buried there
      3. David himself was born there
        1. Which is why Bethlehem is also called the “city of David”
        2. As is Jerusalem, which he conquered and made his capitol.
    3. All the prophecies showed that He was to be a king
      1. but by His choice of birth places, the stable, He showed what kind of king. It is said in the seventh verse of the same chapter that this was done “because there was no place in the inn,” an “inn” signifying a place of instruction. Because this was the state with the Jews, who were then in mere falsities, through the adulteration of the Word, this was signified by “there was no place in the inn;” for if it had pleased the Lord He might have been born in a most splendid palace, and have been laid in a bed adorned with precious stones; but He would thus have been with such as were in no doctrine of truth, and there would have been no heavenly representation. (WORD 19)
      2. In particular, by contrast with the kind of king Herod was
        1. The Writings teach that one of the reasons that evil is permitted in the world is that by means of it, good is seen more clearly.
        2. The rational mind requires data to work. It must weigh the value of different thoughts, compare them, and finally make a decision. But in order for it to function, there must be a variety of input, a selection of options that are genuinely different, so the differences can be clearly seen.
        3. For example, the picture that we have of Herod as king, and the picture we have of the Lord as king.
  4. The wonderful thing is we get to choose which king is to rule our lives
    1. In spite of all his efforts, Herod died, while the Lord lives forever.
      1. Herod as king represents the struggle to maintain life at all costs
        1. which will always fail
      2. The Lord as king represents the willingness to let go of the world
        1. and to gain spiritual life.
    2. When the Word speaks about the Wise Men, it does not only mean ancient Syrian kings
      1. But all those who wish to be wise will follow their example.
        1. Which king did they seek?
        2. Which king did they ignore?
        3. Which king did they worship?

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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” … And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. (MAT 2:1,2,11) Amen.

First Lesson: JER 31:15-17

Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.” {16} Thus says the LORD: “Refrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD, And they shall come back from the land of the enemy. {17} There is hope in your future, says the LORD, That your children shall come back to their own border. Amen.

Second Lesson: Mat 2:13-18

{13} Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” {14} When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, {15} and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” {16} Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. {17} Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: {18} “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” Amen.

Third Lesson: WORD 19

. …That the science of correspondences remained with many oriental nations until the coming of the Lord, may be evident from the wise men from the East, who came to the Lord when He was born. Therefore a star went before them, and they brought with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

It was also said to the shepherds, in order that they might know that it was the Lord Himself, that it should be a sign unto them, that they should see Him in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, because there was no place in the inn.

The star” which went before the wise men signified knowledge from heaven, for stars in the Word signify knowledges.

The gold” signified celestial good, “frankincense” spiritual good, and myrrh” natural good; all worship being from these three.

The manger” in which the infant Lord was found by the shepherds, signifies spiritual nourishment, because horses, which are fed from a manger, signify intellectual things.

The inn” where there was no place signified the Jewish Church, in which at that time there was no spiritual nourishment, because everything of the Word and thence everything of worship with them, had then been adulterated and perverted. Hence it is said that this would be for a sign to them that it was the Word (Luke ii. 12).

They do not acknowledge the Lord, although the whole Sacred Scripture prophesied concerning Him, and predicted Him they rejected Him for this sole reason, that He taught them of the heavenly kingdom, and not concerning an earthly kingdom, for they wanted a Messiah who would exalt them above all nations in the whole world, and they did not wish any Messiah who would provide for their eternal salvation.

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