Posted by: davidlarkin | June 29, 2014

For We Saw His Star

The familiar Bible story of the Three Wise Men, the Magi, tells of a star that appeared to them, signifying a great historic event. Somehow, a “star” acted as a travel guide. As the story goes, when Jesus was born, these three men from the east saw his star in the sky, and somehow, guided by the star, they traveled to the stable in the “little town of Bethlehem” where Jesus was born, in diapers in a manger, and giving him luxurious gifts, they worshiped him, intuitively knowing by the grace of God, that they were in the presence of God.  Here is the familiar Christmas passage from Scripture:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

. . .

 And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 (ESV)

I have read attempts to explain this phenomenon of the star as an actual historic astronomical event, like a super nova.  However, if that were the case, it does not explain how this astronomical event “came to rest over the place where the child was.”  It is a difficult passage to explain objectively in modern scientific terms.  Science, of course, undoubtedly requires this event to be disposed of as myth.

For those who believe that God is a God of miracles, and that He can give a heavenly sign to three men alone who believe in signs from God in the heavens, as a guide to witness the new birth of the Messiah, the Lord and Savior, there is likely a supernatural explanation that will evade natural history in this life.

I attended the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California for a time in the 80s.  The Church on the Way was an early “megachurch” with thousands of members, notably then, Pat Boone and his daughter, Debbie Boone, who sang at the Christmas service when I attended.  The Pastor was Jack Hayford, a brilliant Bible teacher and man of God.  I remember Jack Hayford giving us a lesson about how God will make a way for the Gospel to be heard by those who are waiting to hear it.  He told us a story about an evangelist who attended the Lausanne Congress, the First International Congress on World Evangelism held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974.

“The congress was a conference of some 2,700 evangelical Christian leaders that was held in the Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974 to discuss the progress, resources and methods of evangelizing the world. The conference was called by a committee headed by U.S. evangelist Billy Graham and brought together religious leaders from 150 nations.’

Source: Wikipedia

One of the evangelists in attendance was an African man who carried the Gospel message on his bicycle to the rural tribes in his native African country.  He told the story of how he had heard the Gospel and was saved.  He was living in a tent in the bush lands.  He felt a need to know God.  He prayed that the God of the universe would reveal Himself.  He said he then saw a light outside his tent.  He followed the light overland through the bush country until he was led to the tent of a Christian missionary.  He told the missionary he was led by a light to his tent and he wanted to know the true God.  The missionary shared the Gospel with him and he was saved. He then dedicated his life to sharing the Gospel with his countrymen and women, thankful for the supernatural grace he was shown by the Living God, who led him by a light to Jesus, just like the Three Wise Men were led by a light to the Lord.   We will never know what kind of light led the Wise Men.  Certainly, a light in the sky that was revealed only to the Magi would appear as a “star” to them, but under the circumstances of the birth of the Savior, we can be sure that God did a miraculous work in leading them to a Bethlehem stable from afar.

The African evangelist was drawn by God to Himself when he sincerely petitioned God for revelation of His existence.  By grace, he was given the faith to ask and to believe.  It takes faith to be blessed with the experience of the supernatural presence and work of God.

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

Matthew 13:53-58 [ESV]

Who were the Magi? This discussion from the January 8, 2015 Tabletalk Devotions with R. C. Sproul is a good summary:

Present among the figurines in the nativity crèches found everywhere at Christmastime are usually three regal men bearing gifts. As we know, these kings are supposed to represent the wise men.

Unfortunately, this depiction of the wise men takes liberties with the text. Matthew never tells us how many wise men come to see the Messiah. The tradition of three wise men probably comes from the three different gifts mentioned in Matthew 2:11. Moreover, the first gospel does not say the magi are kings. This idea goes back to the church father Tertullian (around 200 a.d.) and is likely due to his reading of passages like Psalm 68:31 and Isaiah 49:7.

Who, then, are the wise men? Precise identification is difficult, but we do know they are “from the east” of Judea (Matt. 2:1). Persia, Babylon, and Arabia are all possible countries of origin, with Babylon the likeliest option since contact with its large Jewish community would have prompted the magi to come looking for a king in Jerusalem. The Greek term for “magi” (magoi) refers to a group interested in predicting the future via dream interpretation, magic, and other methods, such as astrology, which explains their interest in the star.

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