Sunday, December 30, 2007

How Wise Are You?

The story of the wise men is a story of mystery, for it presents questions that we cannot answer.

"Where did they come from?" We don’t know.

"How many were there?" We really aren’t sure.

"How did they know to follow the star?" We’re not told.

They just seem to come mysteriously out of nowhere to pay homage to the newborn king, and then just as mysteriously they are gone.

Scripture doesn’t give many details, but tradition has had a heyday!

Tradition says that they were 3 in number, and that they traveled on camels across the desert.

Tradition gives their names as Casper, Melchior, Baltezar.

Tradition tells us where they came from, what they did, and where they went.

Tradition has told their story in its entirety. The only problem is that all of this is just tradition.

There is no proof for any of what tradition tells us.

It never states in the Bible an exact date for when the Wise Men, came to see Jesus. It has often been assumed that they came just after Jesus birth while he was still living in the stable. According to scripture, it was not the night He was born. It was a few years later when Jesus was not a newborn anymore.

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,

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 2:12

Later in the same chapter Matthew states that they came to His house:

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him... Matthew 2:11

Herod had all the children two years and under slain, according to the time he learned from the wise men.

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 inquired of the wise men. Matthew 2:16

Therefore it is likely that Jesus was 1 to 2 years old.

I am certain about one thing. The number of wise men and women increases in every generation as more and more people follow what we know about the wise men, rather than what we don’t know. As we are thinking about the new year let's concentrate on what we do know about the wise men.

They were willing to step out in faith and follow wherever God led them.

In 2008 we have no idea what will happen, but if we follow the Star we will not get lost.

Why were they following the star? How did they know of its importance?

Since the Bible doesn’t tell us, we can only guess. The Bible does tell us that the wise men came from the east. The major empires to the east had been the Babylonian and the Persian empires. We know that the Babylonians specialized in studying the stars. We know that during the Jewish exile that Daniel, a faithful Jew and prophet of God, rose in such prominence that he became chief of the wise men of Babylon and the third ruler in the kingdom. Then when the Persians conquered Babylon, Daniel became president of the presidents under King Darius. Therefore, many scholars suggest that the wise men of the east had ample opportunities to know the Old Testament scriptures and prophecies.

I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel. Numbers 24:17

Perhaps when they saw the star come from Israel (Jacob), they were ready to go and worship Him who was to be the King of the Jews - the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Whatever the case was, the important thing for us to realize is that they were ready to go - to follow wherever God would direct them.

God has always been faithful in His leading. He led the children of Israel across the wilderness, providing a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. He provided them food when they were hungry, drink when they were thirsty, and clothing when they were naked. Now he was providing a star to lead these wise men to the place where the Christ child lay.

God may not lead us in quite as dramatic a way today, but God promises to lead us... if we will let Him.

"The eye of faith is one that is willing to take the next step, and trusts God to direct that next step."

We don’t know what tomorrow holds - or next week - or next year. But we know that when we are in His hands, He does lead, and He will guide each step if we will let Him. What will this next year bring to you and I? We don’t know but if we trust and obey God, we will be blessed!

Jesus said, "I will not leave you alone. I will send you the comforter, the Holy Spirit, to guide you into all truth." This Christmas season I seemed to run across this scripture a lot. What a wonderful promise! We have God’s Spirit to lead us day by day, and in every moment of the day, dwelling within us - on the throne of our lives - leading and directing and guiding each step.

Even so, wise men of every generation have been divinely led, listening to and heeding the Word of God day by day. Did you catch that day by day? Don’t live tomorrow until tomorrow comes!

I don’t Know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day;
I don’t borrow from its sunshine,
For the skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said;
And today I’ll walk beside Him.
For He knows what is a-head.

Every step is getting brighter
As the golden stairs I climb;
Every burden’s getting lighter,
Every cloud is silver-lined.
There the sun is always shining,
there no tear will dim the eye;
At the ending of the rainbow,
Where the mountains touch the sky.

I don’t know about tomorrow,
It may bring me poverty;
But the one who feeds the sparrow,
Is the one who stands by me.
And the path that is my portion,
May be through the flame or flood,
But His presence goes before me,
And I’m covered with His blood.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow,
and I know who holds my hand.

--Ira Stamphill

Let us go back to the wise men as they were preparing to leave their homes and follow the star. Let's interview these men!

Reporter: Are you going on a journey?
Wise men: Yes, we are.
Reporter: Where are you going?
Wise men: We don’t know.
Reporter: Well, how long are you going to be gone?
Wiser men: We don’t know.
Reporter: What are you going to do when you get there, wherever it is?
Wise men: We are going to worship the king.
Reporter: What king?
Wise men: We don’t know.
Reporter: Why are you going?
Wise men: We are going because we have read the scriptures, and we have seen a star in the sky, and we have a strange stirring within our hearts to go.
Reporter: And you are called wise men?

How foolish to take off on a journey, not knowing where you are going, or what you are going to find when you get there, or how long you are going to be gone.

The year 2008 is a journey with those kind of answers. Yet the journey of faith always has those characteristics.

They must have said the same thing to Abraham, when he left Ur of Chaldees to go to the land that God had promised him.

William Cary was a shoemaker. One day he heard of the millions in India to whom no one had ever gone with the good news of Jesus Christ. He believed that the great commission to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" included him. So he volunteered to go to India but was told, "Young man, sit down. When it pleases God to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine!"

He went anyway, supporting himself. For 7 years he worked without seeing a single convert - but he lived to see hundreds of churches and thousands of converts. Today he is called the "Father of Modern Missions."

These were men who responded in faith, and wise men in every generation have always responded in faith!

They were wiser than the men of the world.

Matthew records that the wise men ended up in Jerusalem. It was the most logical place - the center of Judaism - the temple of God - the high priests of God. And of course, the palace of Herod the King. If anybody would know of the birth of a new-born King it would be the present King, right? Wrong!

They went to King Herod and asked their questions. "We understand a king has been born. We have followed His star and have come to worship Him. Where is He?"

But King Herod knew nothing about it. He should have known. He was familiar with the Old Testament prophets. Herod should have had answers to all their questions - but he did not. The most amazing thing of all was that when Herod finally had the answers, his decision was to try to kill the Messiah of God to stop this king from coming to power.

Incredible! You cannot stop God! You cannot stop His Messiah!

King Herod, of all people, should have been first in line to worship Jesus. Yet, he tried to kill Jesus, to stop God’s program. Herod was a wise man in the eyes of the world. Herod had the glory, the power, but he was a fool.

Herod summoned the Chief priests. They were wise men. They knew the scriptures. They had read what the prophets had to say. They knew the prophecies backwards and forwards, and when they were asked about the new born king they answered without hesitation - "He is to be born in Bethlehem!"

They knew it! They had it memorized. Yet, even though they knew it, they didn’t bother to go and find out if it were true. They were wise men in the eyes of the world - but they were fools!

The world today has a lot of "wise men" according to worldly standards. Some have many degrees and stand in great halls of learning. But the Bible still says, that a man is a fool, no matter how many degrees he may have, when he says that "There is no God."

I don’t care how wise the world may consider him, when someone says that a virgin birth can’t happen - - the resurrection cannot be a reality He is a fool! The true wise men still come seeking Him and they are wiser than the men of the world.

They worshiped and gave gifts to Him.

People are worshiping lots of different things today. Some are worshiping men. Others are worshiping things. All of them are worshiping the wrong things.

These Wise Men came to worship Christ. They were religious, sincere men - but their lives were unfilled. Despite everything they had - wealth, prestige, power - there was a deep emptiness in their life. Yet, when they came to the house and saw the Christ Child - they worshipped Him.

What are you worshiping today? If you are not worshiping Christ then you are worshiping the devil. If it is not Christ, it will not meet the needs of your life. There will always be an emptiness there. You will always be unfilled until you can come to where Jesus is and find Him for what He is - the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God.

Then, and only then, will the deep longings of your heart be met.

When the wise men come to worship Jesus they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts have given rise to a lot of speculation about the symbolism of these gifts.

  • Obviously gold represents wealth of the new king. Granted, He was born in poverty, and died in poverty. But, because He is God’s Son, all the wealth of the world is His.
  • Frankincense is derived by cutting a slit in the bark of an Arabian tree. The yellow sap has an agreeable fragrance, and is hardened and used as incense in worship. So frankincense represents worship - worship of the new king.
  • Myrrh comes from stunted trees. It is a brown, fragrant perfume that is used to anoint dead bodies to embalm and preserve them. Myrrh represents the work and mission of Jesus. He came to die for us upon the cross.

Isn’t it amazing that we give to everyone at Christmas time - except to the one whose birthday we celebrate? We squander more. We waste more. We forget that the treasures laid up in heaven are laid up forever - drawing dividends for all eternity. We, too, need to give as the wise men gave.

They went home a different way.

They departed for their own country by another way. Matthew 1:12

Men who have come to worship Christ throughout the generations have always gone home another way. You can’t go the same way after worshiping Jesus. You can never be the same again!

Saul of Tarsus was "breathing out fire and threatenings against the church." He was willing to kill Christians to preserve the purity of the Jewish religion. But one day he met Christ - and he was never, ever, to be the same again. He went a different way!

Hard-boiled fisherman - Peter, Andrew, James and John met Jesus their lives were changed and transformed. They were never the same again.

It’s Christmastime and we think of the wise men. They were wise men! Not in the way the world thinks - but they were wise men because they were willing to follow wherever God led - they were wiser than the men of the world. They worshipped Christ, gave their gifts, and went home a different way.

“The Lord Jesus Christ whom we exalt at Christmas is not just a baby in a manger.
He is not a character in a children’s story.
He is far more.
The first time he came, he came veiled in the form of a child.
The next time He comes, and we believe it will be soon, He will come unveiled, and it will be abundantly and immediately clear to all the world just who He really is.
The first time He came, a star marked his arrival.
The next time He comes, the whole heavens will roll up like a scroll, and all the stars will fall out of the sky, and He himself will light it.
The first time He came, wise men and shepherds brought Him gifts.
The next time He comes, He will bring gifts, rewards for His own.
The first time He came, there was no room for Him.
The next time He comes, the whole world will not be able to contain His glory.
The first time He came, only a few attended His arrival – some shepherds and some wise men.
The next time He comes, every eye shall see Him.
The first time He came as a baby.
Soon He will come as sovereign King and Lord."
--Darren Ethier

I want to be wise enough to seek Him day by day!

I want to be wise enough to live for Him day by day!

I want to be wise enough to be ready when He comes!

How wise are you?

2 comments:

Daisy said...

Thanks for sharing your weekly devotions. Well written and insightful. Nice layout as well. Do you know someone who prints? Could they publish your work?

Pastor Darrell said...

Thanks Daisy for your insight. I have a brother-in-law in Branson, Mo. who is a great preacher and I think his work is greater than mine.
Pastor Darrell