Dreams (Matthew 2:11-12)

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The Magi have traveled a very long way to see the Messiah. Now they come to the climax of their trip. As usual, Matthew is concise and to the point. The story of the Magi concludes in a staccato burst of information, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”  All of this information is easy to grasp, for it involves real people doing physical things (seeing, bowing, opening, presenting) with very tangible items (house, child, treasure, gifts). 

But then Matthew notes, “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”

The dream is different. It is not like the other components in the conclusion of the Magi’s story. Dreams are internal and private and not tangible at all. Dreams are about ideas. Matthew is making sure we know that just as the story of the Magi started with supernatural communication (the very public and tangible star leading them to Christ), so it ends with a supernatural communication. 

What the Magi experience is actually common in the Scriptures. The Lord spoke to Abraham while he was sleeping (Gen 15:12), He spoke to Jacob in a dream (Gen 28:12, 31:8). He spoke to Joseph repeatedly in dreams (Gen 37:5,9). All through the Scripture we read of Him speaking to His people in dreams and visions. And actually, not only His people! We also read how God speaks to Gentiles through dreams. He spoke to Abimelech (Gen 20:3), Laban (Gen 31:24), Pharaoh (Gen 41:1) and Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:1). God speaks in dreams to all manner of people. In fact, it is no secret that in our day, God is speaking to many of the lost children of Ishmael (the Muslims) in dreams and visions, telling them of Jesus, that they might think twice about Jesus and ultimately be saved by Jesus.  

In his book, A Wind in the House of Islam, David Garrison asserts that in our day, God is speaking to Muslims around the world through dreams and visions of Jesus Christ. As Muslims seek out what the experience of their dream meant, they find themselves interacting with Christians and being introduced to the Kingdom of God through Christ. 

When Garrison’s book came out in 2014, it sparked a wave of wonder. It wasn’t that no one thought God could speak through dreams – He’s been doing that since the patriarchs – but that no one thought He would speak to multiple people through dreams with a common meaning to a common cause. It was as though people were astonished that Joel 2:28 could have application on non-Christians, even though no less than the apostle Peter applied it to non-Christians in Acts chapter 2.

We should not be disturbed by that. God is gracious to all who honestly seek Him. Perhaps He uses dreams and visions only because they are a means that people think twice about. This is one way we can know God is speaking to us – He speaks using different media over time, that we might “get” the message and not overlook it.

Such is His way. First God speaks in a public way to “everyone who has ears” – perhaps a sermon preached to dozens or hundreds of others, or something you hear broadcast on the radio, or a passage in His widely available Word – and then there is the very personal application that His Spirit gives to you. Always, what starts as a publicly communicated message ends in deeply personal application.

Dreams are just dreams – they are no substitute for God’s written Word. But when a dream lines up with what God has told you in His Word and by His Spirit, you know you ought to pay attention.

Marcus Verbrugge

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Has God ever spoke to you or to one of your friends in a dream?  How did you know it was God and not just a wild dream or a demonic influence?  How did you respond then?  How will you respond if He does speak to you in a dream? For in Joel 2:28 the Word says, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” 

Giving (Matthew 2:11)

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Human life is more than physical existence. It is also spiritual, and at the same time mental/emotional, and at the same time, highly relational. Our worship ideally reflects that. In fact, it could be argued that it must be a two or more faceted act, involving both your body and your mind, or your spirit and your emotions, or some other permutation of the various aspects of your humanity. We see this in the Scriptures all the time – someone is bowing at the same time as they are confessing, or standing and singing, or deeply moved emotionally while spiritually focused. If our worship only involves one aspect of who we are, one must question if it is truly worship, or if it is mere blind and unthinking obedience to tradition and expectation.

Matthew records the Magi following the supernaturally moving star until, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

Although it is the first  time we read of it, the Magi actually were actually  worshipping the whole time they were on the journey. For the journey itself meant both their physical movement to follow the star and their constant mental focus on enduring the hardship of travel for the opportunity to see Christ the King. This culminates not only in their bowing down, but in their sacrifice of costly gifts. 

And they were costly gifts, not tokens. Gold we all know the value of. One commentator adds, “Frankincense was a luxury import, the rosin of a tree which grew in Arabia, India, and Somalia. Myrrh, similarly, was the rosin of a tree which grew in Arabia and Ethiopia. These rosins had a wide range of uses from ritual use in cultic practice and in magic, to use at wedding ceremonies and for cosmetic purposes, to consumption as spices or medicinally.” Such things are never easy to obtain and always expensive. This is reflected in Matthew’s narrative, which tells us they opened something (the Greek word for ‘treasure’ indicates a place where something – usually something of value – is kept), and then presented gifts to Him. 

One always sacrifices for what one loves – be it time, talent or treasure. In the Magi’s case, their worship is particularly meaningful because it is the climax of a long journey of worship, and because it involves both their spirits (rejoicing at having found Him), their bodies (bowing down and lifting treasure) and their minds (purposing to give valued possessions). It is the giving of something acquired through the use of their talent(s) and a sacrifice of both time and treasure. 

They loved much, and they were blessed much, so they gave much.  

In all of my years of service to my Lord, I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised. That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability to out give God. Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him, He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.

Charles Spurgeon


Giving is a willful act of worship. Worship God, and give of what you have generously.

Worship (Matthew 2:9-11)

Adoration by the Magi – Albrecht Dürer 

The Magi were following the star, and the star did not fail them, ”the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.”  It was not a fixed object in the sky – it moved. It was not shining during the day, but as all stars do, it shined in the dark. It went ahead of them, allowing them to travel in the cool of the night and leading them to the very house they sought, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” 

That this is a period of time after Christ’s birth is clear – Mary and her child are now in a house instead of a stable. That it wasn’t long after Christ’s birth is also clear – Joseph and Mary had started their journey in Nazareth (see Luke 2:4), but they are still in Bethlehem. Whose house they are at we are not told. But we are told that the Magi found it by God’s miraculous grace to them. We are also party to what they did when they saw Mary and Jesus. They bowed down, and worshipped Him. They had come to God’s elect – the real king of God’s people. Recognizing that, they humble themselves by bowing down, and they lift up their souls in worship of Him.

This is the first time in Scripture we read of anyone worshipping Jesus. One would’ve thought that Jesus’ first worshippers would be from His own people group – the Jews.  But they are not– they are men from the east. The fact that the worshippers are Gentile is highly significant. Jesus is – as the late Don Richardson once pointed out – a Messiah for all people, not only the Jewish nation. Exactly how many nations the Magi represented is unknown, for we are never told specifically that they are all from the same ethnic region, nor are we even told how many of them there were. Everyone only assumes it was three because of the three different types of gifts mentioned. It matters not. He was promised long before the Hebrew nation was even founded (see God’s promise of a conquerer over Satan in Gen 3:16), and He was spoken about as a light for all nations hundreds of years before His physical entry on the world stage in Isaiah’s prophesy: “Darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”  Now here He is – and a light actually guided the Magi to His birthplace!  

One thing is sure. Jesus is worthy of worship from all people. Before He dies on a cross, before He completes His ministry, even before He speaks a single word. He is God’s own Son, born into our world to welcome all – from every people group – to become God’s children! 

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.

King David (Psalm 2:10-11)


Today, spend time with the Lord in worship of Him. Seek to practice humility.