Faith, God, Grace, Joy, Trust

Seeing Through The Veil

According to Matthew, the only one of the four Canonical gospels to mention the Magi, they came “from the east” to worship the “king of the Jews” (Matt 2:1-2). The Magi are popularly referred to as wise men and kings. The word magi is the plural of Latin magus, borrowed from Greek μάγος magos, as used in the original Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew (“μάγοι”). Greek magos itself is derived from Old Persian maguŝ from the Avestan magâunô. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. The King James Version translates the term as wise men; the same translation is applied to the wise men led by Daniel of earlier Hebrew Scriptures (Daniel 2:48).

Why are magi referred to as wise men? Is it because of their vast knowledge of astrology? Why were they searching for the Messiah? How did they manage to find Him? How did they feel when they found Him?

Let us find the answers in Matthew’s Gospel: “Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way” (Matt 2:9-12).

We have here the wise men’s humble attendance upon this new-born King of the Jews, and the honours they paid him. From Jerusalem they went to Bethlehem, resolving to seek till they should find; but it is very strange that they went alone; that not one person of the court, church, or city, should accompany them, if not in conscience, yet in civility to them, or touched with a curiosity to see this young prince. It might have been a discouragement to these wise men to find him whom they sought thus neglected at home. Are we come so far to honour the King of the Jews, and do the Jews themselves put such a slight upon him and us? Yet they persist in their resolution. Note, We must continue our attendance upon Christ, though we be alone in it; whatever others do, we must serve the Lord.

Now, I. See how they found out Christ by the same star that they had seen in their own country, v. 9-10. Observe,

1. How graciously God directed them. By the first appearance of the star they were given to understand where they might enquire for this King, and then it disappeared, and they were left to take the usual methods for such an enquiry. Note, Extraordinary helps are not to be expected where ordinary means are to be had. Well, they had traced the matter as far as they could; they were upon their journey to Bethlehem, but that is a populous town, where shall they find him when they come thither? Here they were at a loss, at their wit’s end, but not at their faith’s end; they believed that God, who had brought them thither by his word, would not leave them there; nor did he; for, behold, the star which they saw in the east went before them. Note, If we go on as far as we can in the way of duty, God will direct and enable us to do that which of ourselves we cannot do; Up, and be doing, and the Lord will be with thee. Vigilantibus, non dormientibus, succurit lex—The law affords its aid, not to the idle, but to the active. The star had left them a great while, yet now returns. They who follow God in the dark shall find that light is sown, is reserved, for them. Israel was led by a pillar of fire to the promised land, the wise men by a star to the promised Seed, who is himself the bright and morning Star, Rev. 22:16. God would rather create a new thing than leave those at a loss who diligently and faithfully sought him. This star was the token of God’s presence with them; for he is light, and goes before his people as their Guide. Note, If we by faith eye God in all our ways, we may see ourselves under his conduct; he guides with his eye (Ps. 32:8 ), and said to them, This is the way, walk in it: and there is a day-star that arises in the hearts of those that enquire after Christ, 2 Pt. 1:19.

2. How joyfully they followed God’s direction (v. 10). When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Now they saw they were not deceived, and had not taken this long journey in vain. When the desire comes, it is a tree of life. Now they were sure that God was with them, and the tokens of his presence and favour cannot but fill with joy unspeakable the souls of those that know how to value them. We cannot expect too little from man, nor too much from God. What a transport of joy these wise men were in upon this sight of the star; none know so well as those who, after a long and melancholy night of temptation and desertion, under the power of a Spirit of bondage, at length receive the spirit of adoption, witnessing with their spirits that they are the children of God; this is light out of darkness; it is life from the dead. Now they had reason to hope for a sight of the Lord’s Christ speedily, of the Sun of righteousness, for they see the Morning Star. Note, We should be glad of everything that will show us the way to Christ. This star was sent to meet the wise men, and to conduct them into the presence chamber of the King; by this master of ceremonies they were introduced, to have their audience. Now God fulfills his promise of meeting those that are disposed to rejoice and work righteousness (Isa. 64:5 ), and they fulfill his precept. Let the hearts of those rejoice that seek the Lord, Ps. 105:3.

II. See how they made their address to him when they had found him, v. 11. We may well imagine their expectations were raised to find this royal babe, though slighted by the nation, yet honourably attended at home; and what a disappointment it was to them when they found a cottage was his palace, and his own poor mother all the retinue he had! Is this the Saviour of the world? Is this the King of the Jews, nay, and the Prince of the kings of the earth? Yes, this is he, who, though he was rich, yet, for our sakes, became thus poor. However, these wise men were so wise as to see through this veil, and in this despised babe to discern the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father; they did not think themselves balked or baffled in their enquiry; but, as having found the King they sought, they presented themselves first, and then their gifts, to him.

1. They presented themselves to him: they fell down, and worshipped him. We do not read that they gave such honour to Herod, though he was in the height of his royal grandeur; but to this babe they gave this honour, not only as to a king (then they would have done the same to Herod), but as to a God. Note, All that have found Christ fall down before him; they adore him, and submit themselves to him. He is thy Lord, and worship thou him. It will be the wisdom of the wisest of men, and by this it will appear they know Christ, and understand themselves and their true interests, if they be humble, faithful worshippers of the Lord Jesus.

2. They presented their gifts to him. In the eastern nations, when they did homage to their kings, they made them presents; thus the subjection of the kings of Sheba to Christ is spoken of (Ps. 72:10 ), They shall bring presents, and offer gifts (cf. Isa. 60:6). Note, With ourselves, we must give up all that we have to Jesus Christ; and if we be sincere in the surrender of ourselves to him, we shall not be unwilling to part with what is dearest to us, and most valuable, to him and for him; nor are our gifts accepted, unless we first present ourselves to him living sacrifices. God had respect to Abel, and then to his offering. The gifts they presented were, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Providence sent this for a seasonable relief to Joseph and Mary in their present poor condition. These were the products of their own country; what God favours us with, we must honour him with.

III. See how they left him when they had made their address to him, v. 12. Herod appointed them to bring him word what discoveries they had made, and, it is probable, they would have done so, if they had not been countermanded, not suspecting their being thus made his tools in a wicked design. Those that mean honestly and well themselves are easily made to believe that others do so too, and cannot think the world is as bad as it really is; but the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation. We do not find that the wise men promised to come back to Herod, and, if they had, it must have been with the usual proviso, If God permit; God did not permit them, and prevented the mischief Herod designed to the Child Jesus, and the trouble it would have been to the wise men to have been made involuntarily accessory to it. They were warned of God, chrematisthentes —oraculo vel responso accepto—by an oracular intimation. Some think it intimates that they asked counsel of God, and that this was the answer. Note, Those that act cautiously, and are afraid of sin and snares, if they apply themselves to God for direction, may expect to be led in the right way. They were warned not to return to Herod, nor to Jerusalem; those were unworthy to have reports brought them concerning Christ, that might have seen with their own eyes, and would not. They departed into their own country another way, to bring the tidings to their countrymen.

Let us join the Magi in their song of praise “We Three Kings of Orient Are”:

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