As we continue to look at the way God chose to reveal Himself through the ages culminating with the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, we talked last time about God using history. He used world events and empires to work out a plan that would enable Him, at His perfect time, to send Jesus as our Messiah. The Like we talked about last week, when John the Baptist came on the scene after four hundred years of silence (we call this the inter-testamental period), the people knew something was up. John came to prepare the way, but I want to shift back in time a little bit, to before John the Baptist.
It’s night. In the ancient world, there obviously wasn’t any light pollution, so when it got dark every night, it was DARK. At the same time, the stars would have appeared absolutely glorious—a true masterpiece by the Master Himself. Astronomy has its birth in the ancient world and people were fascinated by what was in the sky at night. We are still captivated by the beauty of the heavens today.
Now, go to the East a bit—outside of Israel…into a strange land called “Persia” or “Arabia” or the “Parthinian Empire” depending on what source you look at. There are these very religious people who reside there. Were they Jews? Who knows? Maybe not by birth. However, they were very well schooled in the prophecy of the Old Testament, and like Israel, were waiting for their Deliverer. There were three men there, however, who were what we will call “God-fearing” men. History calls them the “Magi.” Magi is the old Persian word for “priest.” We’re not told what they were priests of, so there is no sense in speculating. For some reason, those men, after reading the prophecies of the Old Testament, after careful studies of the night sky they saw something. They saw that something unprecedented was going to happen. They saw a “star.”
Now, explanations for the star include a supernova, a comet, a massing of planets, a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus (a bright star in the constellation Leo), or the astonishing conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on June 17, 2 BC. Since these Persians were brilliant astronomers, one of these speculations could certainly fit. However, I think it was something more divine than just an astronomical event.
It’s kind of interesting that the Magi were the only ones who saw the star (Matt. 2:7) because King Herod had to ask the Magi where the star was (kind of weird considering Bethlehem was only six miles south of Jerusalem). It’s also interesting that it seems the star disappeared for awhile because they had to double check with Herod as to what town the Messiah was to be born (Matt. 2:2) which means the star wasn’t guiding them at that time. Also, another misconception is that the Magi found Jesus the night he was born. Actually, they found him a little more than two years later at his home with Mary and Joseph (Mt. 2:11). That actually makes sense because Herod threatened to kill any child two and under in the Kingdom in an event called “The Massacre of the Innocents” and Joseph was warned in a dream by God to move to Egypt to avoid Herod, then ordered to return to Nazareth after that King Herod died (Mt. 2:19-23).
Hopefully your dreams of Christmas hasn’t been shattered. That’s not my point. I love Christimas just as much as anybody else! However, the crux of what I’m getting to here is this: God used three people who were NOT religious folk of the day to reveal the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. They traveled months upon months to find this child, and when they did, they presented Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh. They knew who Jesus was, they knew His mission, they wanted to worship Him…but they weren’t part of “God’s people.” They too were looking for a Savoir.
I want to challenge you this week. Think long and hard about what it would be like to wait for the Messiah. You don’t have to wait. Christ is come! Emmanuel is here! The Deliverer has delivered! Thank God that you live when you do—despite the troubles you might have. Because, there was a time, church, where we didn’t have hope. A time before Christ. Just something to think about.