Chapter 7 - Wise Men Follow The Star
by Helen Dowd

***Please Note: The stories up to here are ones presented by Luke. He omitted telling us that Joseph, Mary and Jesus went to Bethlehem from Jerusalem and then took their flight into Egypt before returning to Nazareth. Matthew makes this clear by taking up the story while they were in Bethlehem following the presentation in the temple. So if there seems to be a discrepancy, there isn't. It is just that two people used by God to record the events on and around Christ's birth, are telling their stories from two different points of view.

The next two stories will be from Matthew's point of view.

Matthew 2:1-4 -- B "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. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born."

Historical setting:
: About 4 B.C. (dates vary, according to different records)
Place: Jerusalem and Bethlehem
Persons: The wise men, Herod, Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

The great event of the birth of Jesus was now over. The shepherds who had come to worship the Christ child that night had told their tales and had continued to rejoice. Nothing could deter them from the joy that had flooded their souls, knowing that their Messiah had come. But despite all their stories and testimonies to their fellow countrymen, the good news had not left much of an impact on the majority of the people in the small town of Bethlehem. No news flashes had spread the word to other parts of King Herod's kingdom that a King had been born. Joseph and Mary had found a peasant's house to live in. The Baby continued to grow as babies do. Life settled down to a daily routine.

In Simeon's prayer and blessing when he held the Baby in his arms, he prophesied that Jesus would be: "a light for the Gentiles." And away off in the East, possibly Arabia, a group of Gentile astrologers (philosophers), often referred to as "wise men", were doing what they usually did in their occupation. They were gazing into the sky, studying the stars as a means of learning more about nature. On occasion they would discover stars they hadn't noticed before. But on this night they observed something very different. They saw a bright star rising in the east. A King had been born! Kings were never born. Princes were born, and they became kings sometime during their lifetime. But this night these wise men knew that a King had been born! Because these men were scholars, it is possible that they had heard of Balaam's prophecy in the ancient account recorded in Numbers 24:17: "a star shall come forth out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel." And there is no doubt that it was revealed to them by God that this Star meant that a great King had been born. They must seek him out.

So it was that these men of wisdom gathered together all they would need for a very long journey to seek the newborn King. And of course they collected some very expensive gifts, gifts befitting a King. (Arabia was famous for gold, frankincense, and myrrh.)

For days, weeks, months, the camel train plodded through the desert. Sand storms, heat, hunger, thirst, weary camels and disgruntled servants whom the wise men from the East had brought along to aid them on their journey, would not deter them from their goal: finding the King who had been born. Although the Star was not always visible, the party constantly kept in mind their direction of travel, indicated by the Star they had seen on that night of nights. Following their carefully mapped out course, they headed for the land of Israel, keeping in mind their ultimate goal: to find the newborn King.

Israel's capital, Jerusalem, was on the horizon. The journey of the party from the East was nearing its end. But as they approached the city, they were puzzled and disheartened that they did not hear noises of celebration or see people on the streets, rejoicing because a King had been born. Something was wrong. Could they have made a mistake? Had their long wearisome journey been all for nothing? But they plodded on, making their way to the Palace. Perhaps the king could explain to them why there was no excitement over such an important event.

These "wise men from the East" were ushered into King Herod's presence. Bowing, they inquired: "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."

"A king has been born?" Herod's inward question struck terror and fury to his soul. Shocked at the suggestion, he called together his council, "all the chief priest and scribes of the people." "What's this I hear about a King being born in my kingdom? Why haven't I been informed? A 'King of the Jews? This is preposterous!"

The council, fearful for their jobs and their lives, answered: "We did hear that a certain Baby was born in Bethlehem of Judea awhile back, but we thought nothing of it, since the word came from a bunch of Shepherds, and not much has been heard about this so-called important Baby since. We didn't think it was worth investigating, and we didn't want to bother you with such trivial gossip."

King Herod dismissed his councilmen, doing his best to control his inner anger--and fear of being dethroned by a usurper. After all, he had already destroyed a couple of his sons when he had heard rumors that they were trying to take over his dominion.
He had an idea: He would call the Wise men in for a secret conference. "Where and when did you see this Star?" he asked, trying to sound excited at the prospects of meeting this King. "I have heard from a reliable source that a King was born in Bethlehem a while ago. Go there and see if you can find Him. When you do, come back and tell me. I would very much like to go and visit Him myself. I would like to pay Him homage."

The wise men left the palace, headed for the little town of Bethlehem. The Star that they had seen many months earlier now glowed more brilliantly than ever. Songs of rejoicing filled the air as the entourage headed for their ultimate goal. All weariness had left them. They knew they were on the right track. Soon they would see the King! "The Star stopped". This was the place? This lowly little house on this quiet street of this quiet town? This is the place of a King? But their hearts were so exploding with joy that they overlooked the unlikely abode. This is the place that the Star of the East had led them to. Dismounting their camels, these Gentile astrologers entered the humble home of a humble carpenter and a young mother with her Baby. It was the beginning of the fulfillment of Simeon's prophecy of several months previously: "A light for the Gentiles" These men were the first Gentiles to worship the King of Kings. They had opened the door for generations to follow. God has sent His Son to be the Savior of all mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Bowing in humble adoration, the wise men laid their gifts at the feet of the young Child Jesus, their Savior, their King. "And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Their joy was complete. They had reached the climax of their long, weary journey. They had seen the King face to face. They would return to their homeland content.

Sleep came easily that night to the group of travelers from the East. Their return home would be a joyous one. But first they must go back to the Palace and tell Herod that they had seen the King of the Jews. They wished they hadn't promised, as they were not looking forward to a second meeting with the pompous king. Suddenly they awoke from their peaceful sleep. What had awakened them--all at the same time? A dream--a strange but vivid dream. In each of their dreams an angel stood before them. What he said shocked them. "You must not go back to Herod to tell him of your finding the Christ Child. You must return home to your own country another way. That wicked king does not want to worship Christ. He wants to kill Him."

"And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. Matthew 2:12


Helen Dowd

Continue with Study 8 - The Angel's Warning


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