Matthew 2:1-12 (New American Standard Bible)
The Visit of the Magi
1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
6'AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"
7Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.
8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."
9After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
In all probability the magi were royal astrologers of the Zoroastrian religion. They would have definitely been considered as "outsiders" or "heathen" by the pious religious leaders of Israel, God's "chosen-frozen" people at that time. Yes, they were looking for the Christ child and the religious hierarchy seemed oblivious to fact that one was being born in Bethlehem to whom all the prophets had pointed. They knew the scriptures about where the Messiah was to be born but evidently they only knew certain information and didn't know God personally or they would have been the ones who were earnestly inquiring about the Christ-child (see John 5:39, 40). Their knowledge of scripture was a matter of the intellect and not the heart!
Why were these "heathen astrologers" looking for the Messiah? How did they learn about Him? What did they believe His coming was for? Were they also searching the sacred Hebrew scriptures and somehow had hearts more open than the leaders of the Jews? I think one could profitably meditate upon all these questions and many more, but suffice it to say the Jewish leaders were not ready to accept Messiah Jesus and certain "heathen" were ready and receptive. That is what is important. Evidently they had open hearts to receive the Holy Spirit and follow His leading, even though their "head knowledge" of the Jewish religion was probably very limited.
"After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was." (v. 9)
The most essential lesson from this story is that to those who are earnestly seeking for truth and light "a star in the East" will appear. They will indeed be lead to the "Christ child" in whatever form that may take that meets the need. This may happen many times and in many ways and we need to be in prayer and watchfulness that we may discern and follow that star of guidance. God is available at all times and in all places to those who have hungry hearts and who are earnest seekers. Notice these words of the Apostle Peter that he preached at the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was a sincere seeker for light even though he was outside of the chosen nation:
34Peter fairly exploded with his good news: It's God's own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! 35 It makes no difference who you are or where you're from--if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. (Acts 10:34, 35, The Message)
"When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" (v. 10). So it will be with all those who are sincerely seeking God. Each little sign of God's leading and guidance will bring "exceedingly great joy" to such seekers. What a thrill it is to find some precious insight about God's love as we meditate upon scripture and God's workings in our lives and those of others, whether past or present. The joy of spiritual discovery is probably the greatest that we could ever experience.
"And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way." (v. 12)
Sometimes when God speaks to us we must go "another way" than the one we had planned. In fact, more often than not this is the way it works. So we always need to have an open heart and open mind to discern not only what God is revealing to us in more truth and light but also how to apply it and be willing to make necessary changes in our lives and realize that "another way" might be God's way instead of ours. Most of the time it is very fearful to launch out into unknown territory at the urging of the Holy Spirit but if God so leads, then it is only ours to follow.
Written January 9, 2005 by Tom Durst of Spokane WA
All emphasis in the scripture quotes is supplied.