Many are familiar with the story of the birth of Jesus, and the events that preceded and accompanied it. The Shepherds, the Angels, the full-to-the-brim inn. And there was something about a star…
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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. Matthew 2:1-4.
From this account by Matthew, it is clear the wise men “saw” the star, but nobody in Jerusalem did. Christians have attempted for years to identify an astronomical source for this star. Some have proposed it was Jupiter, or a combination of the visible planets aligned, or perhaps, a comet. But, none of these are striking enough, miraculous enough, unusual enough to herald the birth of The Messiah. And, none of them could have been seen by the wise men, yet missed by the ruling elite of Jerusalem. Astronomy was and still is an essential part of the Jewish calendar. We can’t claim Herod and his court weren’t paying attention to the stars. Yet, none of these give a satisfying answer. How could the wise men “see” it but no one in Jerusalem reported this?
There’s more about this star in the following verses. It tells us the wise men, upon leaving Jerusalem headed North toward Bethlehem. Any celestial object would have moved from east to west through the night sky. Yet, this star went before the wise men, moving from south to north. It stopped over the place where Jesus was. There is only one rational explanation – this was a miraculous event. Not natural, but supernatural.
The gifts of these wise men tells us more about their journey’s purpose. They had come from the east. It was while they were still “in the east” they saw the star. In the east was the ancient kingdom of Babylon and Assyria. The Jewish people had spent seventy years in captivity under those kingdoms. During that captivity, the wise men of Babylon and Assyria studied the writings of the Jewish people. And, a very prominent leader during both kingdoms during the captivity was a Jew. His name was Daniel. Daniel wrote extensive details about a coming king. A coming deliverer. A coming Messiah.
Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.
Daniel 9:25 ESV
Perhaps the wise men had read the detailed prophecies, and understood the timing of Jesus’ birth. Perhaps the star the saw while still in the east was the knowledge of the timing that is detailed in the prophecies. The star signaled the birth of a great king. So, they set out to find him. Perhaps it was a literal star. In either case, they knew what they were following. They new what they were seeking. The prophecies were precise and clear.
These wise men showed great knowledge of this king they were seeking. One gift they brought was the gift of gold – the sign of wealth, power, authority. The sign of a king. They gave the gold as an act of worship, acknowledging this was a king.
A second gift was frankincense – incense. This was a gift often reserved for a supernatural being. It was a precious sacrificial offering of incense. Why give it to a baby except to acknowledge and confess what they had learned in the east by studying the writings of Daniel and Moses, and other prophets? They knew this was no ordinary man. This was not just another king. This king was God in the flesh. They brought the gift of incense as an act of worship.
And, yet, they also brought myrrh. Myrrh was commonly used in funeral preparations of the dead body. Here was their third act of worship in acknowledging this child had come as the Lamb of God – to be offered for the sins of the world. This King Who Is God would be killed. He would die, willingly lay down his life. But, not without purpose. With extreme, Godly purpose. To justly pay the cost of my sin. Of your sin. And in so doing, to purchase or redeem us back to Himself.
Merry Christmas. May you find God’s Rest in celebrating the first advent of our Savior, Jesus, the Christ.
The prophecies given to Daniel are so precise, that critics of God’s word are forced to claim they were written long after the events occurred. The alternative is untenable to the secular mind. These prophecies could only be as precise as they are if God is God!
© Ronald C. Marks, Ph.D., 2016 All Rights Reserved