Journeying In God’s Story—the Magi

Journeying in God’s Story—The Magi

Do you struggle with the after Christmas blues? The letdown after the hubbub, when all grows quiet again and family goes home and there’s no more presents to dream about under the tree? I do. Lured in by the excitement of all that Christmas entails, the weeks following December 25 can feel like a sullen ending as life slides back to normal and the kids go back to school and work comes calling my name.

But the story is long from over, right? The thread of God’s sovereignty and love is still weaving its way through this world, and His cursive penmanship is beautiful. Perfect in fact. It’s evident in story after story of Scripture. All of it is penned for God’s glory and our good.

We see it in the promise of a Redeemer and the birth of our Savior. We see it in the prophecy of a virgin and the fulfillment of the God-man conceived in Mary. We see it in the declaration of a census and the need of Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem. Over and over we see that hundreds of prophecies were fulfilled in the birth and death and resurrection of Christ, the thread of God’s sovereignty remains.

But do you know where else we see it? In the arrival of the Magi—the wise men of the east. Tradition is that they were three kings, but no where in Scripture does it say there were only three or that they were kings. Matthew 2:1 simply calls the entourage “wise men from the east” or Magi (magicians or astrologers or priests) and says they had been watching and waiting for the Jewish Messiah. Sounds crazy, right?

How would men from the east (believed to be from Babylon) know anything about the King of the Jews, and why would they care? It isn’t their homeland. The Messiah isn’t their king. To come so far just to bow at His tiny feet—it seems absurd.

Until we remember that the cursive penmanship of God is always invading the sinful course of humanity for the glory of His majesty. Once upon a time, God promised that if Judah did not turn from their evil ways they would be exiled to another land. And so it happened that a godly young man named Daniel was taken among the Israelite captives to Babylon.

God Was Still Writing His Incredible Story

While in Babylon, Daniel refused to let the idolatry of his people lure him into doing the same. He committed himself to, no matter what, worship the LORD alone in Babylon. God used Daniel in tremendous ways during those seventy years of Israel’s exile. In particular, God revealed graphic visions of the future to Daniel. Some of them made Daniel sick, while other visions caused him to fall on his face in worship.

It’s from Daniel 7 we learn of the Son of Man who is brought before the Ancient of Days (God) and “given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (v. 14). All people, no matter their nationality, will serve this great and mighty King, God said to Daniel.

God made Daniel “chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers” (Dan. 5:11). Chief of all the wise men from where? Yep, you got it, the east in Babylon.

It’s the Undeniable Penmanship of God 

It’s no accident that wise men from the east were watching and waiting for the birth of a particular Jewish king, not when Daniel had spent decades teaching the Word of God to the chief wise men of Babylon.

I wonder how surprised these wise men were when they arrived in Jerusalem and no one knew what they were talking about. I imagine that they expected Jerusalem to be a hubbub of excitement (much as Christmas is for us) at the arrival of Israel’s long-awaited King. Don’t you?

But there was no pomp and circumstance. No celebration. No one was even speaking of it and no one knew! Eventually, rumors of foreign visitors reached Herod’s ears. He of course was concerned if a true and rightful king had been born, for he knows he is not rightfully ruling. Thus, calling together all the high priests and scribes, Herod inquired about “where the Christ was to be born” (Matt. 2:4).

To which the scribes rightfully answer by quoting Micah 5:2. “In Bethlehem of course!” It is interesting that the chief priests and scribes knew the right answer, and yet they remained passive at the claims of the wise men. You would think at least one of Israel’s own so called wise men would have been intrigued enough to investigate for themselves. Could this be what we’ve been waiting for? But nope.

Then Herod secretly summoned the wandering-about-Jerusalem (and probably discouraged) Magi to launch his evil plan. “Go find this king in Bethlehem so I can worship him too” (my paraphrase). A bold faced lie.

Hooray, the Journey Isn’t Over!

So off they went to Bethlehem, only six miles south of Jerusalem (probably a relief after traveling so far). How thrilled the wise men were that the star returned! Verse 10 says that when they saw it they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” The redundancy in that phrase implies some serious exuberance. The star was back, and the God of heaven Himself was taking them to worship the King!

This causes me to pause and wonder, have I ever been that excited to worship the Lord? Just think about this scene for a moment. While a city filled with God’s own people remain passive about the long-awaited birth of their Messianic king, an entourage of Gentile foreigners can hardly contain their excitement. Only a sovereign God could sketch that incredible image for us.

When the star stopped and the wise men went inside the house and see the child with his mother, they fell down before him in worship. “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11). These were expensive gifts that likely provided ample provision for Joseph and Mary during their sudden God-ordained trip to Egypt (Matt. 2:13–15).

God’s Sovereign Hand Was at Work Again

It’s a beautiful scene, these Gentile men, set on worshiping the LORD while surrounded by the Hebrew nation, set in motion hundreds of years prior by a Hebrew man, set on worshiping the LORD, while surrounded by a Gentile nation.

Truly, these Magi were wise men, for they didn’t just know the truth but acted upon it (unlike the high priests and the scribes). Therein by faith alone, the wise men set out on the journey of a lifetime. They sought the Lord with not only their time, but also their talent and their treasures. The result? They were filled with joy!

Therein lies the gift they offer us: the confidence to do the same. The LORD our God is worth the journey, for He alone is the King deserving of all our worship and time and talent and treasures.

Though befuddled for a short time in Jerusalem, the wise men stayed the course, and their reward was exuberant joy in the presence of the eternal God. If we stay the course the result will be the same for us. So don’t give up—God’s cursive penmanship is still writing this story, and Christ our King is worth every step of the journey.

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