Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Few Thoughts on the Magi & Us

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of teaching our EDGE, Middle School during Wednesday youth covering the topic of the magi. I learned a great deal from my time of preparation and teaching both personally and biblically and wanted to share a few of those thoughts with you…

1) I find it very easy to take my understanding of Scripture and the things I've learned even from childhood at face value. I find I can do this with both the Christmas story and just in general with Scripture. Rather than coming with new eyes of wonder, asking questions, & seeking to learn and grow in my understanding and joy in God, I can stop with only my cursory understanding, not have really interacted with God and His Word, and actually miss the whole point of my time with Him in His Word. It is a battle we each must do on a daily basis as we read the Word, but I think especially as we ponder the Christmas story anew.

2) The story of the Magi is much more awesome, necessary, and full than I could have ever imagined! I would suggest the whole story is given by Matthew very intentionally. In fact, I would suggest it was given as a very strong proof for the Jewish people to let them know Jesus was their Messiah. Let me see if I can present my logic on this and both prove it to you as well, while also exciting your heart with our amazing God's planning and fulfilling of His Word through Christ…

Matthew's gospel seems to follow a great deal of the order of Isaiah as well as draws a good portion of his Old Testament quotes from the book. Thus it seems reasonable to think that Matthew not only knew the book of Isaiah well, but would draw from not only its prophecies but also its pictures to prove the validity of Jesus' Messiahship for the Jewish people.

Observation Questions:
We read of the Magi in Matthew 2:1-12 and from that passage I would suggest a number of questions that might lead to a better understanding of Matthew's purpose and our inclusion of this in the Christmas story.

Why a Star?
– Why of all ways would God choose to use a star to lead the Magi to the Messiah? He certainly could have simply used a dream as He did later in 2:12.
Why from the East? – Why outsiders from the people of Israel? God used angels to bring the shepherds. Could he not have used them to bring the nobility of Christ's nation? Or for that matter, why weren't the leaders of Israel who told the Magi the location of the Messiah in 2:4-6 summoned by the star themselves?
Why those of High Rank or Nobility? – While we cannot be sure there were 3 or that they were kings as the song states, we do know from the gifts and role of these men in their own land that they would be of a high rank. Why would those of importance and governmental roles be important in this story of Christ and his birth/early childhood? Why not simply bring shepherds from other countries like God did in Israel (Lk 2:8-20)? 
Why Gifts? – Why did these men bring gifts at all? The shepherds in Lk 2:8-20 didn't bring anything. And since they did bring gifts, why these gifts? Why not bring more practical/beneficial gifts to Jesus and His family such as livestock, clothes, food, or other such necessities or sustainable benefits?
Why the superabundance of joy in their response? – In 2:10 Matthew writes, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." … think about that… They rejoiced… exceedingly… with great … joy. Matthew seems to be super emphasizing the joy of the Magi if you couldn't tell. =) So why so much joy emphasized?

So here is my suggestion that seems to answer all these questions… A few prophetic statements and pictures from Isaiah. Some of these are well known and already connected to Christ's birth. Others are seen to still need to take place at His Second Coming.

Isaiah 9:2-3 (NASB), " The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.
You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. … For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this." (emphasize mine)

Isaiah 49:5-7 (NASB), " And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the Lord, And My God is My strength),
He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to  restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, To the despised One, To the One abhorred by the nation, To the Servant of rulers, “Kings will see and arise, Princes will also bow down, Because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.”" (emphasize mine)

Isaiah 60:1-3, 5-6 (NASB), " “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 “For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. 3 “Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. … 5 “Then you will see and be radiant, And your heart will thrill and rejoice; Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, The wealth of the nations will come to you. 6 “A multitude of camels will cover you, The young camels of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba will come; They will bring gold and frankincense, And will bear good news of the praises of the Lord." (emphasize mine)

Isaiah refers to a light that would rise in Israel that all the nations will come to and be exceedingly glad in His presence. He speaks of nobility from other lands coming to worship Him. He talks of them bringing specific gifts that would honor the King. Ultimately these prophecies won't see their full fulfillment until the End Times as we see in Revelation 21:22-27. However, God in His great grace, even in Christ's First Coming seems to gives us a taste toward the full completion of His prophecies through the Magi. They are the partial picture in His 1
st Coming of what will be completed fully in His 2nd Coming. They and their story in Matthew are both a seal on the faithfulness of God's promises as well as a validation of their Messiah King, Jesus, the Savior of Israel and ultimately, all people.

Just a few thoughts of application for us as we ponder these things…

1) How are you doing at slowing down, reading, & pondering God's Word and the Christmas story?
2) As you read Mat 2:1-19 you see the Magi as men who recognized the value of Christ and pursued Him and His presence at great cost of time, effort, and wealth. Do you look like the Magi in your pursuit of being in the Lord's presence?
3) Upon finding Jesus the Magi rejoice greatly, bow down in worship, and offer their expensive gifts to Him. Does your life reflect a joy in the Lord, a submission to His rule and reign, and laying down of all you are and own to Kingship?

May the Lord bless you and your family with a very Merry Christmas as you ponder the Magi and the Messiah King in the manger!


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