At the time of the birth of Jesus, the term Wise Men spoke of people who studied sacred writings, astrology, and dreams and who pursued wisdom in general. While we really don’t know much about the backgrounds of these star seekers, the very fact they set out on a long and dusty road trip, bearing gifts in search of a newborn King who they most likely knew little about, paints a picture for us of their open minds and hearts.
The Wise Men would have been familiar with Old Testament prophecy, “A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17). This prophecy was understood by the Jews to herald a messianic deliverer. When the Wise Men reached Jerusalem and inquired about the new King, Herod who was in power at the time was deeply troubled by the news of a threat to his throne. After conferring with the high priests, he told the Wise Men to search for the child in Bethlehem and then report back to him so he too may “worship” Him.
In truth, there was one message: “But you, Bethlehem…out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel” (Mic 5:2). God did all He could to convince His people of the birth of the Messiah. He provided the words of Scripture and the teachings of the prophets, a Star in the sky, and then messengers from the east, but they would not heed His call. Herod met the message with a heart of pride and resentment and would stop at nothing to get rid of the child. The Wise Men, on the other hand, embraced God’s message with the fervent desire to worship.
The Wise Men earned their name because they heeded the words of Scripture, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). And, they followed God’s lantern in the natural world, the Star in the east. It wasn’t just any Star, Matthew says, when they set out from Jerusalem for Bethlehem, the star went before them and came to rest over the place where the child was (Matt 2:9). This was a Star, a sign, created by God to guide these first ‘Christian’ worshippers to Christ.
We are all travelers in need of direction. Some like Herod will reject God’s Word and His signs that shine the light of heaven on our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. The wise, however, will set their plan aside this Advent and follow His plan on an amazing adventure. God reaches into our world bearing gifts of hope, life, and love. Let us pray for hearts that will be wise and follow the Star that will “guide us to that perfect light!”