The Magi (Matthew 2:1-2)

Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens

Matthew records, “…during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”  Who were these Magi?  One commentator notes, “The word ‘Magi’ was originally applied exclusively to members of a priestly caste of the Medes and Persian who had esoteric skills in interpreting dreams. However, the use of the word broadened to embrace various categories of persons who were marked out by their superior knowledge and ability, including astrologers, soothsayers, and even oriental sages.”

That the Magi were effectively interpreting the stars does not necessarily mean they were astrologers. They may well have had copies of the Jewish Scriptures – and certainly if they were ‘wise men’ (as the Greek term may be translated), then they would’ve been readers of said Scripture, including Balaam’s prophesy of Numbers 24:17, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” Another commentator notes, “We don’t know exactly what they saw in the sky. Scholars have guessed a comet or a nova or a conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. Not everyone saw it. In fact, the star is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. The Magi saw it because they were constantly scanning the sky. They had prepared themselves to perceive what others could not see.”

The scepter spoken of in Balaam’s prophesy means to speak of a rising King, and Balaam’s oracle goes on to make it very clear that this particular king will defeat all Israel’s enemies – he will be not just a king, but Messiah.    

This would be the same Messiah David spoke of in Psalm 2, ““Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Moreover, as Solomon prophesied in Psalm 72, “The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.”

So that wise men subsequently come to worship him (to “Kiss the Son”) is fitting, and also a fulfillment of prophesy. Indeed, all who are wise will worship Him, for He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.

The Apostle John (Revelation 19:11-16)

APPLICATION: Worship, Generosity

One day all will bow to Christ!  The wise recognize this early, and so worship Him with what they have.  What gift can you bring to Him today? 

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