“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
A journey taken to worship. Last Sunday, I did not want to get out of bed and drive less than ten miles with 240 horses under the hood to worship. Pathetic! I cannot even believe I am owning this! These wise men were anticipating worship. I was dreading worship. They sacrificed for worship. I sacrificed nothing. Truth is truth and it is sad and convicting and if you do not read another word I write I would not blame you one bit! But I hope you will, for there is a key here we all need as we begin this season of celebration.
Every year, I take a part of the Nativity and try to learn as much as I can. This year these wise men caught my attention and as you can see for good reason.
Who are these wise men? Iconic men on camels chasing a moving star across the sky? Who believes this stuff?? All Scripture says is that they are from the east and headed to Jerusalem. A look at the map shows east of Jerusalem is modern day Iran/Iraq formerly Persia and Babylon. Not exactly God’s territory. This is the land of many gods; a land constantly trying to invade Israel. The people of Babylon, Persia, and Median destroying Israel’s temple, holy city, and hauling her people into slavery. Scripture tells us these people are the descendants of Ishmael (Genesis 25:6). So why are they traveling across the desert to worship???
These wise men are called Magi. Followers of Zoraster, a prophet in Iran. This “religious caste of Medes” influenced much of Asia Minor. They are first mentioned during the time of Darius the Great from Persia and are still in existence today. Many theologians believe this is the group Daniel and his three friends were attached too during the Babylonian captivity. (Daniel 5:11) They were according to John MacArthur in his sermon, “Who Were the Wise Men,” a priestly order who could trace their origins back to “the time when Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees,” men with knowledge of astronomy and astrology. Their influence was vital to the nobles, rulers, and kings. In fact, they were called the king makers because the “law of the Medes and Persians was defined by the Magi:” Educated men, of nobility, influential, men of integrity and wealth. Some theologians believe these Magi were from the “Eastern school” which Philo the Greek historian holds in high esteem. It is thought these wise, learned men may even have been of Jewish descent (Esther 2:5) more interested in the astronomy than the astrology for Scripture tells us the Lord put the stars in the heavens for “signs and seasons.” (Genesis 1:14) This could be why these “kings traveled so far.”
So, if Magi are kingmakers, no wonder Herod was unglued when they rode into Jerusalem and started asking, “Where is the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2) Israel is the battleground of the Middle East with Rome to the West and China to the east. These kingmakers rode into Jerusalem according to John MacArthur’s study not as a small entourage but “in full force with all their oriental pomp, …. on steeds and not camels like a Persian cavalry.” They had come to worship a new King they hoped to join in an alliance against Rome. They were looking for the one Daniel called the Anointed One (king) but also Messiah. From the beginning, Jesus is sought more by Gentiles than Jews.
The Jews knew the prophesies. These wise men, whether Jews or Gentiles, who centuries after Daniel had influenced them by sharing God’s Word still knew the prophesies and were knowledgeable enough to know the time was near and to look for the STAR. When they saw it, they immediately, saddled up and rode quickly to pay homage. Herod the Roman consulted his learned men and determined a baby would have been born in Bethlehem according to Jewish Scripture. All had studied and followed the trail of clues in Scripture: Numbers 23:17, Micah 5:2, Daniel 9:25-26, Psalm 110:4, Isaiah 7:14, Genesis 49:10, II Samuel 7:12-13, Psalm 45:6-7, and all understood a king was coming!
Wise men came to worship. Others did not. Some sought to destroy the One to whom worship is due. The unlikely came and humbled themselves before an infant and gave extravagantly to Him. Those who should have been first in line to worship, stayed in the “comforts of their own home,” and those only interested in their own interests lay in wait to be a tool in the hands of God’s arch enemy.
These wise men of the east, traveled well over one thousand miles. Whether on camels or horseback it was not a day trip. It was an arduous journey into a land ripe for war, hot and arid. They came in full regalia to align with the new king. They came offering spoils of their own previous wars: Gifts of great value. Gifts with significance for this infant king and the life he would live: not as a king but as a servant and a sacrifice. They came in anticipation and haste. No procrastination. No worry of previous agendas. No thoughts for their own comfort. A journey with the intent to worship. All previous plans tabled. The time was now. To delay would be to miss the opportunity.
I owe these men a debt of gratitude for they teach: Worship is about HIM not me! Worship is for HIM not me! Worship is to acknowledge who HE is and that means I bow and bring my riches and lay them down. Worship is for NOW not when it is convenient. Worship is due HIM!
These kingmakers, came and proclaimed a KING! These men “fell down and worshipped” a baby!!! They recognized who HE is and what He would do. It mattered not that He was only beginning His incarnate life. God has written His story in the stars and these wise men had read it, believed it, and made sure they showed up. (Psalm 19:1-3, Genesis 1:14, Revelation 12:1-2, Mark 15:25-37)
Was this a vacation trip? Yes, in many ways it was. It was long planned and anticipated. When the time was right, they were prepared. They were excited to go. The journey was intentional. It left them exhausted and refreshed and filled with memories. They left as kingmakers and returned as king worshippers. They departed for their journey in a blaze of speed and returned more slowly, savoring, discussing, and pondering all they had seen, heard, and experienced. The Spirit of God was on them as they returned home. They were forever changed.
Worship can be a mini vacation if we will approach it as these WISE MEN did. We go in anticipation, prepared, excited, intentional. We will return home exhausted physically, refreshed mentally, and with the Spirit of God filling our spirits–forever changed. Worship is a timeout with a purpose. Remember the Sabbath and keep it HOLY. Six days shall you work, but the seventh is a day of rest--holy unto the Lord (Exodus 20-8-10): Not lazy, in the bed rest, but rest from the mediocre to focus on the magnificent. Not unplugged but plugged into the Source of Life. Not done in but undone by grace.
Christmas. A time of remembrance. A time to worship. A time to focus on the miraculous work of Almighty God. A time to give my best and most expensive gifts not to others but to Him. I need to ask Jesus what He wants for His birthday. Not just honor Him with a shoebox, or a Gideon Bible, or meal for a shut in. I need to ask Him what He wants from me in the coming year. Somehow, I think all He wants is my undivided worship: Time where He is all I want see!
These men were truly wise men. Oh, that I too might be wise in the coming year and seek Him first!
Take a Walk Through Bethlehem Trisha Yearwood
I shared this web site last year but for those who may have missed it I promise it is worth the hour!! I watch it every year and continue to glean and retain more information.
Bethlehem Star by Rick Larson gives dates of events based on science of the conception, birth, and arrival of the wise men. Conception as determined by the signs in the sky was in September of 3BC; the birth would have occurred in June of 2BC (the shepherds do watch flocks at night during this time of year); they arrive in Jerusalem in late Nov to early Dec 2BC and worship the newborn king on 12/25/2BC (this is when the star stopped over Bethlehem).