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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2005-12-25

Text: Matthew 2:1

Whenever the Christmas story is retold, these wise men are also remembered. In fact many legends have become associated with them. In nativity scenes, they are often depicted as 3 kings, complete with crowns and flowing royal robes. Their names are supposed to be Caspar, Baltazar and Melchior, and they were allegedly rulers of 3 eastern nations. Where did the idea of 3 kings come from? Perhaps from the 3 gifts that were presented to Christ. Actually, the Scriptures do not state how many wise men there were. It only says that they were a group of wise men from the east (Matthew 2:1).

The true account given in the Scriptures is that the wise men from the east had seen a new star in the night sky. This caused them to travel to Jerusalem to worship the newborn King of the Jews. By the time they arrived, Jesus may have been about 2 years old. He was no longer living in the stable where He was born, but in a house in Bethlehem. The wise men however, could not find Him. When they came to the court of King Herod they learnt about the prophecy that Christ would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). They went there, and the star guided them to the place where the young child Jesus was found. There they worshipped Him and presented their gifts to Him.

Let us learn some lessons from these wise men on the kind of worship that Christ deserves from us.

1. Christ was honoured by those who did not belong to Him.

Jesus was the Messiah of the Jews. But these wise men were Gentiles from the east. Should not the Jews have been the first to come and honour their very own Messiah and King with expensive gifts? When the wise men came to the court of King Herod, the Jewish chief priests and scribes showed that they knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judaea (Matthew 2:4-6). They were even able to quote accurately the Old Testament Scripture that foretold this. And yet they did not seem to be interested at all in looking for their Messiah. They all knew that these wise men had traveled many months from afar, claiming that He had been born, and making enquiries about Him throughout Jerusalem. But that did not arouse the least interest or excitement in them. None went along with the wise men to Bethlehem to see if their Messiah had arrived or not. 

Such indifference boggles the mind. John 1:11 says that "He came unto His own and His own received Him not." Although there were some godly Jews like Simeon and Anna at the Temple who were looking forward to the Messiah's advent, most of the Jews were not excited about it. Perhaps it was because they felt no great need for Him. They were apparently doing quite well without Him. 

Dear Reader, are you excited about the coming of Christ? How excited are you to hear the signs of His second advent (cf. Matthew 24:3-14)? If you truly want to honour Christ like the wise men, you must have an earnest longing and excitement in your heart to see Him come (1 Thessalonians 1:9,10; Titus 2:11-13). Honouring Christ means being excited about Him. He must be the One you desire most of all!

2. Christ was honoured by their response to the Word of God.

When the wise men saw the star, they believed that this was the sign that the King of the Jews was born (Matthew 2:2). What made them think that the star has something to do with the birth of the Messiah? Six hundred years earlier, when the Jews were brought into captivity in the East, they had brought their Scriptures with them. Through Jews like Daniel the predecessors of these wise men might have received copies of the Holy Scriptures. From these copies handed down to them, the wise men might have read some passages which foretold the coming of the Messiah. One such passage is Numbers 24:17 "I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth."

In this prophecy, the appearance of a star will signal the appearance of a king in Israel (since a scepter is a symbol of a king's rule). But it mentions nothing about his birth. The wise men probably had to link this verse to Isaiah 9:6 "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." The word "government" in this verse clearly implies the rule of a king. And as they read this together with Number 24:17, the wise men might have recognized that a king was to be born, and that the appearance of a new star would signal his birth. But how did they know that it was this particular new star they saw that signaled his birth? 

Perhaps it was because of the time when the new star appeared. They might have known Daniel's prophecy of the time when the Messiah was expected to arrive "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times." (Daniel 9:25)

Through this, they would have been able to calculate the precise time when the Messiah's birth was expected. And when they got the answer, they realised that they were living right at the time this event was expected to happen! Every night these wise men searched the sky, looking for the prophesied star to appear. On one clear night they finally saw it. How excited they must have been to behold the star! And so they left their homes to find the newborn Messiah-King. 

What greatly impresses us about these wise men is that they fully believed everything that was written in the Scriptures. And they decided to act upon what they believed. Dear Reader, if you want to honour the Lord the way they did, you too must be willing to act upon all that you believe from the Scriptures. Have you been doing this consistently? Or have you stopped doing this?

3. Christ was honoured through their perseverance in the journey.

It must have been very difficult for the wise men to make their journey of about 2,000 km from the East across many rivers and hot desert areas. Camels were the only means of transport in the desert, and it was dangerous to travel through that area at that time. They were easy targets for robbers since they were carrying very costly gifts. 

The least time they would have taken to complete the whole journey was 3 months, but together with the time taken for all the preparations they made, and some prolonged stops along the way, it may have been as long as 2 years between the time that they sighted the star, and the time when they found Christ in Bethlehem.

There may have been times of discouragement when they felt like turning back. The burning heat of the noon-day sun, cold nights without a proper place to rest, moments when food or water became scarce, the fear of being killed or captured and sold as slaves - any or all of these would have provided sufficient grounds to abort their plans. But they kept themselves true to their quest, and plodded on until they reached their destination. 

What motivated them to do this? It must have been the supreme worth they ascribed to the One they were looking for. To them, He was worthy of their very best efforts. For Him they were willing to cross over hills and mountains, rivers and deserts. For Him they were willing to brave every danger.

Dear reader, the Lord Jesus is worthy of your very best efforts. If you consider Him to be your Lord and Master, will you show it now by your commitment and devotion to press onward despite your own difficulties and trials?

Christ was honoured by the costly gifts they presented to Him.

The gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the wise men brought were presents fit for a king! They were a very timely and useful provision for Joseph and Mary, who would need them for their journey and stay in Egypt in order to escape from King Herod's evil plot to kill Christ (Matthew 2:12-16). The gifts provided sufficient funds for all their needs until they could safely return back to Israel. 

Dear Reader, as God used the gifts of the wise men to keep the infant Jesus safe in Egypt, He will also use whatever you offer Him to accomplish the needful work of His Kingdom. Are you willing to give of your gold, frankincense and myrrh - the things that are most precious to you? The most precious gift you can offer to Him is your life. 

Jesus Christ is no longer that harmless little newborn child lying helpless in a manger. He is no longer a baby but the almighty King of kings and Lord of lords, who demands your full allegiance to Him, and deserves only the very best that you can give to Him! Will you honour Him as you should?

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25