Many people base their idea of what the Bible says upon traditions of men. The story of the “three kings” is one of those events where Bible fact and man’s tradition differ.
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1).
Nativity scenes show the baby Jesus surrounded by Joseph, Mary, shepherds with lambs, and more than likely an angel or two. There are also three kings bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Though this makes for nice Christmas plays and nativity scenes, the facts are a little off. These men weren’t kings. The Greek word for king is basileus which means “leader of the people, prince, commander, lord of the land, king.”
Matthew describes these men as mago, defined as “the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.”” They came from the East and many scholars believe that these men were members of a sect that began in Babylon with Daniel, who took prophecy seriously and never turned from his Jewish faith.
The wise men were looking for the one who was born to be King and their first stop was Jerusalem. That’s where the search for the one born King of the Jews would logically begin.
“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’” (Matthew 2:2).
The text doesn’t say that the star had led them to Jerusalem, just that they had seen His star and came to worship.
“When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born” (Matthew 2:3-4).
When Herod was troubled, quite often someone would die. He had no problem killing family members, so it’s no wonder all Jerusalem was troubled. He went to those who should have known where Christ was to be born, but these men weren’t very different from us today. They read Scripture, but didn’t pay attention to it. Even though they lived only a short distance from Bethlehem, they made no effort to find Christ.
The wise men traveled hundreds of miles to worship Him, yet the priests and scribes could not be troubled to go 5 or 6 miles to find Him. What about us? We don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to find Him, nor do we have to make a short 6 mile trip. Christians have God’s Word within reach and we can always pray…we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Many who claim to be Christians don’t seek after Christ. These in-name-only Christians may have read Scripture and have some head knowledge of it, but when it comes to seeking Christ they are like the chief priests and scribes. Everything else comes ahead of truly seeking Christ and they certainly don’t worship Him.
A prophecy in the book of Micah disclosed where the Messiah would be born.
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
Oh, little town of Bethlehem! We sing the song about this City of David, but seldom search out the prophecy surrounding it. We are very much like the Jewish leaders who read Scripture but just didn’t believe it was meant for their time in history. We need to study prophecy today to see what God tells us to look for in our time in history. It might cause you to be more like the wise men and diligently seek Christ.
Herod began plotting.
“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” (Matthew 2:7-8).
What a guy. He said he wanted to worship the young child, but he lied. Herod didn’t want to worship, he wanted to destroy. How about you? Do you claim to be a Christian and say you want to worship Him, but do your actions show otherwise? If you claim Christ as your Saviour, then your life should reflect His truth. If you love Him you will seek Him and your life will show Him living in you.
It’s clear that when the wise men arrived Jesus was not a newborn baby (brephos) but a young child (paidion).
“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” (Matthew 2:9-10).
After their meeting with King Herod they saw the star again and were filled with joy. This time the star led them. It led them to the house where Jesus was. God wanted these wise men, who many scholars were believe were Gentiles, to find Jesus. Jesus was born King of the Jews but salvation through Him is for all people.
“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” (Matthew 2:11).
There were three gifts so it is assumed there were three wise men, though God’s Word doesn’t say how many there were. It makes for a nice song, but Scripture is silent as to how many there were. Notice, too, that they found Mary and Jesus in a house (oikia), not a manger (phatnē). We don’t know how much time had passed, but this was not the very night when Jesus was born and the shepherds found Him in a manger. The wise men did worship Him.
This young child hadn’t performed any miraculous healings or raised anyone from the dead, nor had He died on the cross to purchase their redemption, yet the wise men worshipped Him. They recognized who He was and knew they had found the One they had sought after. Today we can look back on all that Christ did, but do we worship Him?
Herod wanted the wise men to return and tell him where to find the young Child, but worship was far from his heart. He had murder planned. God warned the wise men in a dream not to return to Herod, and they wisely listened to Him.
Through prophecy, God reveals what will happen. Since God is not constrained by time He sees our future and warns us. Those who listen to Him find comfort and protection, but those who do ignore prophecy get caught off guard. God sent an angel in a dream to Joseph telling him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt.
God always provides for us, and the treasures the wise men brought probably financed the trip to Egypt. Joseph was an obedient man and acted immediately, thus Herod’s plot to kill Jesus failed. Sadly though, he killed many young children and babies in his fury.
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men” (Matthew 2:16).
Yes, when Herod was troubled, people died. Herod wanted to be sure he killed Jesus so he ordered the mass murder of every child 2 years old and younger. This murderous madman fulfilled prophecy.
“Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matthew 2:17-18).
Herod was an evil man, but he could not have accomplished his wickedness if there hadn’t been men willing to follow his directions. God’s Word discloses that times will get perilous as we near the end of time. Hitler was a murderous madman, as are those Muslims who torture, behead, and mutilate Jews and Christians. Wake-up brethren and study prophecy.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1).
We are living in perilous times.
After Herod died, God once again sent an angel to tell Joseph that it was safe to return to Israel. The escape to Egypt and the subsequent return to Israel fulfilled prophecy.
“And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son” (Matthew 2:15).
Writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew’s Gospel confirms that the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus which fulfilled numerous prophecies. The entire Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and we can trust the prophecies for our time to be fulfilled just as God discloses in His Word.
Some thirty-three years after His birth, Jesus was nailed to a cross of wood, and as Dr. Chuck Missler likes to remind us, “He made the hill on which it stood.” I’ve often wondered if I’d lived during the years of Jesus’ incarnation would I have been a disciple of His or would I have been a skeptic? Would I have been one of those in the crowd screaming “Crucify Him” or would I have hid with Peter.
If I had been a student of prophecy at that time, I would have understood the times in which I lived, and would have been watching for the Messiah. I didn’t live then, but I am thankful that God chose to humble Himself in order to redeem His creation from sin. Prophecy reveals that He will soon return to take His rightful place on the throne of David as King of kings. His reign will be eternal.
“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. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
The angel confirmed this prophecy when he spoke to Mary about the Child to which she would give birth.
“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
This prophecy is still waiting to be fulfilled. Christians have a place in God’s plan, but the nation of Israel does, too, and one day the Messiah will sit on the throne of David and reign eternally. God is not through with the nation of Israel and every Christian needs to be in prayer for her.
Prophecy is the key to understanding what God did in the past, and to open our eyes to what He will do in the very near future. The wise men searched for Him because they saw His star and they wanted to worship Him. King Herod wanted to find Him to kill Him. Soon our Lord will return to take His rightful place on the throne of David as King of kings. If you are wise you will diligently seek Jesus Christ and worship Him.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham