Reaching for the Stars

by Duane Maust
Matthew 2: 1-23
January 6, 2008

This story about the wise men is captivating. It does not say much in the Bible about them or what they did. But what we know is challenging to me and I hope to you. They were men or maybe women with a goal. And they reached it.

As they had a goal, I hope you can have a goal of your own for this next year. We may not be following a star. What is it you will follow this next year? (raising children, satisfying customer at work, helping your neighbor find a relationship with God)

Who are the wise men? They were a group of astrologers that studied the skies. The Bible calls them Magi. They were probably well-learned men. They must have known something about the Prophesy from the Old Testament. They knew something was different with this star that they were looking at. In Micah 5:2 was a verse of Prophesy that the wise men may have used as a guide. This verse was written ahead telling of Jesus’ coming in Bethlehem.

Read Micah 5: 2

And so they and those before them searched the skies for hundreds of years looking for a sign that the messiah had come. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced and came seeking the one who was born king of the Jews.

How many magi or wise men were there? We don’t know for sure. Matthew writes about the three gifts that they brought. Because of the three gifts, it is thought that there may be three wise men. Most all the manger scenes sold have three men at the manger with the shepherds. Actually the wise men came probably about a year or so later.

Where did they come from? Again it does not say much about that. Matthew says they came from the east. Most people think that would be from Arabia, Babylon, or Persia. But we are not sure.

Matthew does tell us some important truths about this story. Those wise men were committed to something. They wanted to find this new king and worship him. They came prepared with gifts appropriate for a king.

They were wise men. They made a choice like the shepherds did. They made a choice to go find this baby that they were looking for. The difference is they had a star to follow. The angels told the shepherds where to go. The wise men had a star to follow for maybe over a year.

They made choices to look for Jesus. How will we make choices for ourselves this next year, how will we be looking for Jesus?

The wise men recognized God’s message to them in the star. These wise men, these men of science and the stars had decided to find “the King of the Jews.” They didn’t have all the facts when they started, but they had enough to know they needed to search.

Not every person of science has been led to acknowledge God; many in pride have turned away from the Lord, but these men were brought to a conviction not only of God’s existence but also to God’s active dealing in the affairs of men. They were aware of something special that God was telling them through the sky.

They already understood verses like Psalms 19:1, “The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Romans 1:20 puts it in a clear way for us today, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

When you study God’s creation, I don’t understand how you can say it just happened that way. God planned it. God planned Jesus to come this way. How could he talk about Christ’s birth before it happened without being in charge of Jesus coming into this world?

In the beginning our God spoke the entire universe into existence. I really don’t think it was too terribly difficult for the Lord to arrange the unique qualities displayed by this star.

The wise men were determined in their search. It is possible these men may have traveled up to 1000 miles on their adventure. In Matthew 2:16 we are told that Herod decided to kill all boys 2 years and younger. So apparently from the time the star first appeared it could have take them almost two years to locate where Christ was. Their search was a long and diligent one. That just means they were determined to search until they found the answer.

This wasn’t a religious fad. It wasn’t some quick fling idea that one of them had. They would see their search through to the end.

Are you determined like that in your spiritual search?

Do you think they were objects of ridicule? “There goes that group of guys that are following that star.” If people did ridicule them, it did not make them lose their purpose. Was the journey expensive? I would guess it was. They needed to have food and lodging for the entire time. What did their neighbors say about their trip?

Did they ever get tired? Were there times of sickness? Did they ever get discouraged? Did they ever feel like quitting? I would guess the answer to these questions is “yes.” But they hung in there.

We will hang in there as we reach for our stars this year. We get a goal and work toward it.

What do you think about the chief priests and teachers of the law? They were not at all interested. They didn’t care about the star. And they wouldn’t even travel six miles down the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to check out what was happening. They knew the right answers. They just weren’t willing to make the effort to see if what they had heard was true.

Who is this King Herod? The more you study about him, the more disgusted I get. He was about as low down as you could get.

Read Matthew 2:7-8

Did he want to worship Jesus? No Way!!!!!

Isn’t that a miracle that their dream sent them another way when they left?

Barclay Commentary says, “But Herod had one terrible flaw in his character. He was almost insanely suspicious. He had always been suspicious, and the older he became the more suspicious he grew, until, in his old age, he was as someone said, ‘a murderous old man.’ If he suspected anyone as a rival to his power, that person was promptly eliminated. He eliminated a wife and mother-in-law. He also eliminated three of his own sons. Augustus, the Roman Emperor, had said, bitterly, that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son was.”

I am thankful the wise men listened to their dream.

Let’s look at the good time the wise men had at the house.

Read Matthew 2:11

The wise men fell and worshiped Jesus. They had special gifts for Jesus. The gifts told of Jesus’ life to come.

There was gold, the symbol of kingship. It is a gift fit for royalty. God deserves the very best that we can bring and then more.

There was frankincense, this was associated with holiness and worship. It was used in the temple. It was used as one of four sweet scents compounded together to make the ceremonial incense of the Jews. It was used in both sacrifices and prayers. Its aroma was always present in the Temple grounds.

And there was myrrh; it was used for embalming the dead. It was myrrh that was poured out on the feet of Jesus just a week before his death.

While Jesus was still a baby, these gifts told what was ahead for him. These gifts told about his roles as a king, priest, and one that would suffer and die. Look at how these gifts pointed to what Jesus’ life was going to be.

Another miracle happens. King Herod quickly realizes that the wise men out-smarted him. They skipped the country and he doesn’t know where Jesus is. Before Herod could kill Jesus, God has Jesus moved down to Egypt where Jesus is safe. I can’t imagine how all the other families must have felt. Think how angry they must have been toward the King.

If the wise men had gone back to Herod or Joseph had not got up in the middle of the night, think how this story would be different. They did listen.

The magi really were wise men. And today wise men still seek him. Wise men still serve him and wise men still worship him. My prayer for us is that we will be a church of wise men and women, seeking him, serving him and worshipping him as he leads us every day to become more and more a growing family of believers being transformed to wholeness and joy.

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