December 12, 2016
Matthew 2:1, 2
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
We learned last Friday the reasons why the wise men could not have come to the stable when Jesus was born. But they arrived at a house in Bethlehem up to two years later. Now let’s examine what led them to the One born King of the Jews. Here again is Matthew 2:1 and 2:
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.”
It says they had seen His star in the East and followed its leading light. But why did the wise men follow the star in the first place? We have to consider what is written in some of the Old Testament Scriptures:
• Six hundred years before Christ, Daniel was taken captive and deported to Babylon in the first deportation of the Babylonian captivity. Although only a teenager of about 15, Daniel was a godly young man, steeped in Jewish religion, culture, and history. He, and other godly Jews brought with them the Hebrew Scriptures. These Scriptures included the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses 800 years before – plus the early Jewish written history (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I and II Kings) and the writings of the prophets up to 605 B.C. (in chronological order – Jonah, Joel, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah). So from that time of Daniel, the Hebrew Scriptures were available in Babylonia and Persia for hundreds of years thereafter!
• Within those Scriptures was the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers 24:17:
I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come
out of Jacob; a scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of
Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.
A Scepter refers to a king. And this One will be a very powerful King because He will conquer Moab (a militarily powerful enemy of Israel for centuries) and any other nation or tribe that causes tumult! In other words, this King would be a potent world Ruler!
• The birth of a king, especially one destined to be a great king, was often associated with astronomical/astrological signs! And the wise men (also called magi – from which we get our words magic and magician) were astronomers/astrologers who observed the heavens for signs and portents. By the way, Daniel was a magi!
So now we come to the wise men of Matthew chapter 2. They had studied the stars and were drawn to the bright heavenly phenomenon called the star of Bethlehem. Believing this to be a sign of a significant happening, they searched the ancient writings of many cultures in their extensive libraries. And then they found it – the centuries-old Hebrew Scripture recording the prophetic utterance of Balaam: “…a Star shall come out of Jacob; a scepter shall rise out of Israel….” So they took their finding to their king, convincing him of the star heralding a very significant happening, and received permission and funding for a long trip to Palestine to discover who it was to whom the Judean scepter belonged!
The wise men logically first came to Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Judah. But the king they found on Judah’s throne – King Herod – certainly could not be the ruler prophesied in Numbers 24! So they queried, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? ” And the Jewish scribes, who knew all the Old Testament Scriptures, gleaned this further information from Micah 5:2:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thou-
sands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler
in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
And so the wise men followed “…the star which they had seen in the East…till it came and stood over where the young Child was.” (Matthew 2:9).
What lesson does this have for us today?
• The wise men closely followed the star until they found the One born King of the Jews! In the prophecy from Numbers 24:17, the Star is a Person, obviously the Lord Jesus Christ! How closely are you following Him?
• Matthew 2:11 – “…they…fell down and worshiped Him.” How often do you “…worship the Lord your God…” (Matthew 4:10)? We attend Sunday morning service (if, indeed, we do!) and we call it worship. But do we really worship our Lord? See Psalm 108:1-5 and Revelation 7:9-12 for ideas of what it means to truly worship God!
• Matthew 2:11 – “…they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” These were perhaps the most rare and expensive gifts that could have been offered at that time in history! And they were given both freely and gladly! What is it that the Lord wants from you and me? The answer is found in Mark 12:30: “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength….” He wants you! This is the best gift you can give Him – your heart and life!
So take new meaning from Following The Star, and follow closely Jesus Christ!