Dwight Fletcher | The Praise Of The Wise - Part III
Over the last two weeks, we have gleaned what we can from the three 'Magi' or Wise Men of the Bible. Traditional Christmas stories gloss over their involvement in the heralding of Jesus Christ, but if we look a little closer, we find that there is much that we can learn from them.
We looked at their back story and deduced that they were probably very prominent and educated men who travelled about 2,000 miles from the Orient to Jerusalem. They were so focused on Christ that they got their priorities, their place and their praise right. Although their trip was a dangerous one, they thought it important to make the journey and did not come empty handed.
When you consider their story, you realise that there's more to seeking Jesus than just showing up. The Wise Men could have just shown up, looked inside the house, said a few 'Hail Mary's' and then gone merrily on their way.
Today, we have regular churchgoers who 'show up' at church, look around, 'see' Jesus, and then go on their merry way without ever getting close to Him. But wise people don't just show up!
"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him." Matthew 2:11 NIV. The Wise Men came to worship Jesus.
It's almost as if they couldn't help themselves. They were compelled by being near Him to go on their knees and worship Him.
Has that ever happened to you?
- Are you so compelled to be in church on Sunday or Saturday that you feel frustrated when you can't make it?
- When you get there, are you filled with joy when you sing songs of praise to Him? You don't just sing the words, but they mean something to you as a way to show Jesus how much you love Him?
- Do you hunger to find out what the Bible says about Him?
When you've come to Jesus, like the Wise Men did, you begin to act as someone who is in love. When you reach that state of mind with Jesus, you have to bow down before Him because you can hardly imagine not being around Him.
But notice that the Wise Men did more than just bow down to Jesus. "... Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:11 (NIV).
These gifts were expensive and hardly seemed appropriate for a child. One comedian observed: "If it had been 'Wise Women' instead of 'Wise Men', they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a cake. And Wise Women would have brought practical gifts, including diapers, wipes, bibs and formula."
But gold, frankincense and myrrh were extremely practical for Jesus and His family.
Right after the Wise Men left, and King Herod realised that they had no intention of returning to tell him where this child was, he sent his soldiers to Bethlehem with orders to kill every child two years and under.
But Mary and Joseph had escaped after being warned by an angel of the Lord. They'd fled to Egypt, where they had no friends or family to help them. A place where there was no one to meet their needs or help them find shelter. Where would they get the money to pay for food and lodging? That's right - they had gold, one of the most valuable of metals. Even today, we could manage on just an ounce of gold, and Mary and Joseph had more than just a few ounces.
Once that ran out, the frankincense (a costly perfume), and myrrh (a precious oil) could also be sold. Their little family would be comfortable in exile for quite a while and still have enough to set up shop once they came back to Nazareth to live.
This demonstrates that God knows how to take care of those who are His. He can and will provide from sources you did not know of and guide you in ways you did not think of. A dream saved the family's life.
But that's just the practical use of the gifts of the Wise Men. God also used the gold, frankincense and myrrh to declare Jesus' divinity.
Gold was a gift given to kings. Frankincense was the gift that priests offered to God. And myrrh was used to prepare a body for burial. In fact, John 19:39 tells us that myrrh was one of the spices used to embalm Jesus when he died. So, in those three gifts, God declared that His Son would be our King, our God and our Sacrifice.
So how will you respond to our God and King who died for us? Will you bring Him the gift of your life and your praise?