Bethlehem's Brightest - The Seekers Song

Bible Book: Matthew  2 : 1-12
Subject: Christmas; Seekers, Jesus; Bethlehem; Jesus, Birth of
Series: Bethlehem Songs

We will notice that they set the city of Jerusalem upside down. The men boldly enter into the city and promptly approach King Herod and inquire the whereabouts of the King of the Jews.

One thing that cannot be spoken concerning these men is that they were not afraid to speak the truth. I admire the fervor of these men in telling it plainly and boldly. It would have been an awesome sight to see the face of Herod as he hears their story.

“Top Ten Things You Don't Want To Hear While On Vacation!”

Yes, Honey, I'm sure I gave you my wallet yesterday!

What's wrong, Mister? The water in these here parts is always that color!

Cool dad! How did you make all those lights flash on the dashboard?

Don't worry! I hear that the conditions in Mexican prisons have really improved in the last few years!

At least we still have each other! Honey? Honey?

Maps I don't need no maps!

No, officer, we're not laughing at you!

Was the snake brown with yellow stripes, or yellow with brown stripes?

You say the hornets' nest just happened to fall out of the tree when you were walking under it? What are the chances?

Gee, I would have never thought you were a Christian!

I. The Wisemen and Their Identification (1)

“Men of Fabulous Faith”

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 1

One thing we need to mention here is that King Herod had ruled Galilee and ultimately Judah from 37 - 4 B.C. In understanding this we realize the actual time of the birth of Jesus. Herod was given the title “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate. If we understand this we know Jesus was actually born before A.D. 1, because Herod died in 4 B.C...

Now we will begin discussing the passage before us and learn some lessons about the Wisemen. If we really consider the faith of these men, it will not take us long to see that these men had a bold and blazing faith.

A) Misperception of this Group

In all of our Christmas plays we show 3 Wisemen, the reason for this is that they presented Jesus with 3 gifts upon their arrival in Bethlehem. The reality is that none of us know the exact number of these men, more probably the group would have been massive. The journey of this group may have taken 1 to 2 years and this would have required many resources.

The other misperception concerning these men is that they came to the baby in the manger, which has no biblical foundation. The Wisemen came to Bethlehem and found a toddler boy that was not in a manger but was in a house. It seems as if we display all of this on our Christmas cards and put them in our Christmas plays and people misinterpret what the bible really has to say. I hope this has cleared up some of the misperceptions concerning the Wisemen.

B) Location of this Group

The Wisemen came from the East, so this means that the star would have been in the West. The star would not have been an Eastern Star, but a Western Star. The Wisemen may have witnessed this new star this prompted their long journey to Bethlehem.

The Wisemen more than likely came from Persia; this is the place that most knowledgeable commentators ascribe them to have been based. In the bible we have a small thread of bible prophecy that was uttered by Balaam who was a Mesopotamian himself.

(Num 24:17 KJV)

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

The Wisemen more than likely came from 1 of 2 places in Persia, some say they came from Ur and others say they came from the ancient institute of Astrology which was in Sippar near Babylonia, both would have been in modern day Iraq. The actually journey may have been anywhere from 500 to 1000 miles, we honestly don’t know.

C) Vocation of this Group

At the time of Jesus birth history tells us that Magi had key roles within the Parthian government. The Magi would have served as priest and were literally called “The Great Ones” due to their supreme priestly classification. The men were well educated in the studying of the stars, they were not evil magicians. The Wisemen were actually descendants from the tribe of the Medes which linked them to the Babylonian Empire and of course placed them into existence in the days of Daniel.

The Magi may have had their heritage traced all the way back to the land of Ur of Chaldees, which of course was the land that Abraham hailed from. The men were very much influenced by Daniel and other Jewish people. The men had heard various prophecies about a future Messiah. The Magi played a very influential role in the Orient during their time.

The Wisemen were advisers as we easily see in reading the book of Daniel. The men had prominent and prestigious roles within the Government. The men were considered wise due to their wisdom in astronomy and astrology. The Wisemen were know for 4 various roles, 1) unique priestly functions, 2) occultic powers of divination, 3) knowledge of astronomy, and 4) knowledge of astrology.

The men were often consulted by Kings, nobles, princes, and much prominence was given to their advice. We find this often in the book of Daniel and in other various Old Testament books. The Magi in the days of Jesus literally would be like our modern day senators, with the only difference being they had the rights to pick kings, the men were literally king makers.

The present king of the Parthean Empire had been displaced by the Roman Empire so these Magi were looking for a new king to rule the eastern empire. In reading various biblical prophecies from Daniel, Balaam, and others the men had deciphered that a new king was soon to be born, and they had saw his star rise up in the western skies.

II.- The Wisemen and Their Question (2/8)

“Men of Insightful Inquiry”

The men have now arrived within the city of Jerusalem and the palace was about to be unnerved by these men and their message. The king was not going to like what he was about to hear, words concerning why these men were in Jerusalem. It would have been a sight to behold watching this magnificent movement sweep into the city. The city would have been excited and troubled. The king was about to be addressed with a question concerning the rejection of his very throne.

A) The Prophetic Word (2, Numbers 24: 17)

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 2

The Wisemen waste no words in divulging the details of why they have traveled so far, they have seen a star while they were back in the east. The star had led them to Israel and now they needed a bit more information to help them find this king. The men could have only known of this star from reading the prophecy of Balaam:

(Num 24:17 KJV)

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

1 - Rising Star “Kingly Authenticity”

The prophetic words of Balaam would take many years before ever coming to fruition. The prophecy makes it clear that one would shine forth from within Israel. The words of Balaam make it clear that he would be the anointed king.

2 - Royal Sceptre “Kingly Authority”

The royal sceptre would designate his proper place as The King of the Jews. It is with this thought in mind that this group had traveled so far and for so long. The King had been born and they needed to know which city.

B) The Perplexing Worries (3 - 6)

In this part of our story we find that the Wisemen have caused much consternation upon the entire city of Jerusalem. It begins in the heart of Herod and permeated throughout the entire city.

1 - Concern of City is Noted (3)

When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 3

When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem asking for the whereabouts of the new king that had been born, Herod got panicky, knowing that those Persian king-makers had come to find their king. They were no doubt traveling in full force with all their oriental pomp, wearing conicle hats and riding Persian steeds (rather than camels). And accompanying them, historians estimate there were a thousand mounted Persian cavalrymen. When they came charging into the city of Jerusalem and Herod peeked out his little palace window, he must have flipped. Not only was their unexpected presence unnerving, but to make matters worse for Herod, his army was out of the country on a mission. That's why the Bible says that Herod was "troubled." The Greek word conveys the idea that he was agitating like a washing machine--literally shaking. As the King of the Jews, a title that Herod had received from Caesar Augustus, the great dream of his life was to get that little buffer state in the middle of two huge contending empires, under his control. And all of a sudden this massive coterie of Persians arrived in the city and he panicked, because the new king they were coming to find would be a threat to the realization of his dream. (Source John MacArthur)

The entire city was worried about the events that were happening before their very eyes. The troubled king must have allowed his fear infect his entire city.

2 - Conception of Christ is Needful (4/6)

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 4

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 5

And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 6

King Herod calls forth all of his officials and they are pressed to name the place of the future King’s birth. In searching the scriptures the men readily provide the king with his desired answer, of course they read from the book of Micah 5: 2 as follows:

(Mic 5:2 KJV)

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting.

The chief priests and scribes had to see the shaking that had over taken the king and they each knew the situation could get hostile very rapidly, so I dare say it did not take long for them to place the answer in from of Herod.

The new king would be born in Bethlehem, specifically the one ascribed to the land of Judah. The men would have read the passage to Herod and let him decide how to handle the matter from that point onward. The king had to realize that his literal rival was only 6 miles down the road. The baby may have already been born and his throne now had an imminent rival, it was only a baby but a real rival nonetheless. The birth of this baby would have a worldwide impact due to him eventually becoming the Savior of the entire world. We see this by considering the shepherds and now the Wisemen.

C) The Private Wizardry (7/8)

It is funny to see that men that have often been associated with deception and wizardry are being duped by this treacherous treasonous king. The king is about to pull the wool over this group of gentile king makers. The king calls the men into a secret meeting, and in doing so he is trying to scheme the eventual death of this new born king.

1 - Diligence of the Stars Appearance (7)

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 7

The king wanted to know exactly when this had appeared, it was vital that he knew the timing of this momentous moment. This would allow the king to know the age of his rival and narrow his self serving search to see that the boy is killed, therefore ending any hope of his throne being overturned.

Let’s consider this star for a moment was it a normal star or was it a supernatural occurrence?

2 - Deception of the Saviors Adoration (8)

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found [him], bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 8

Herod was deviant in his instructions to the Wisemen and God would rectify this later on in our drama. The world has never allowed for the proper acceptance of the baby born so many years ago. The Inn had no room for him, the rulers of his day had no room for him, we have even allowed Jesus to be kicked out of our modern day Christmas celebrations, this is amazing but true.

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

Christmas vs. Xmas

Christmas Tree vs. Holiday Tree

III. The Wisemen and Their Jubilation (9/10)

“Men of Gleeful Gladness”

I think this star was a supernatural phenomenon, one that was created just for this particular time. It is nothing for God to intervene in the affairs of nature and mankind. He has done this throughout the history of mankind and he will always act in this fashion.

We should know that this star had appeared and then it must have disappeared, why was this? It could be that God wanted Jerusalem to hear the story of these Wisemen. If this was true God may have allowed the star to disappear when they got close to Jerusalem, then as the men traveled to Bethlehem he allowed the star to reappear. God does have a sense of humor.

A) Star Guided Their Journey “Precisely” (9)

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 9

The star went before this group of Wisemen and led them to the very house that the young child was now living in. It would have been an awesome time looking up and seeing this supernatural wonder leading this group through the city of Bethlehem.

Upon entering the city, the star guides them specifically to one particular house and it stopped over this house. The men would have knocked on the door and inquired to see the baby that was born on a particular day some time back, this would have taken Joseph and Mary by surprise but they would have produced the baby.

B) Star Gladdened Their Joy “Passionately” (10)

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 10

The reoccurrence of this star brought much joy and relief to this group of men. The journey may have vanquished the very inward strength that had driven them up to this point. The men had just had a horrible time in Jerusalem due to the envious emperor that secretly desired the very death of this new born king.

The star may have reinvigorated this massive multitude of king makers. The men had followed the star and it may have disappeared but upon leaving Jerusalem the star was now not only present again but it was literally moving before their very eyes. The men were overwhelmed with jubilating joy.

IV. The Wisemen and Their Adoration (11)

“Men of Thankful Treasures”

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 11

The Wisemen may have been a bit stunned in finding the baby at this house in Bethlehem and not in the palace of Jerusalem. The men may have had high expectations as they traveled the treacherous path to find the new born king. The enthusiasm may have heightened when they saw the kingly palace in Jerusalem but vanquished as they entered into the city of Bethlehem. The city of Bethlehem was so small the men may have wanted to go back to Jerusalem and make sure that the directions were right. Then the men enter into the house and find out that the little lad was there and he was the king.

A) Wisemen Worshipfully Stooping

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him:” (a)

The Wisemen were men of great faith and their faith was displayed the moment they saw the little lad. The world may not have had time for this new born King of the Jews but the shepherds honored him and now this traveling group of Magi paid honorable homage to the new King of the Jews.

One thing needs to be mentioned here, the Wisemen worshipped the child not the mom. In some circles more homage is attributed to Mary the mother of Jesus than to Jesus himself. The Wisemen had not traveled all of this time to honor Mary but to honor the child. We need to give him the honor that is due him, unfortunately even in our day he is being minimized and rejected.

B) Wisemen Willfully Sharing

“and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” (b)

The Wisemen reverently worship the lad but they also willfully share their gifts with the lad. The men had traveled so far to find this new king and it was their desire to pay proper homage to him. The men treated this lad just as if they would have one of their very own kings.

1 - Gold “The Royalty of Christ”

Of course gold was a gift worthy of a king and God may have worked behind the scenes to ensure that the family would have enough money to survive as they take flight down to the land of Egypt to preserve the lad’s life.

2 - Frankincense “The Divinity of Christ”

Frankincense is a white resin or gum it is obtained from a tree by making an incision in the bark of the tree and this allows the gum to freely flow. It is highly odoriferous or very fragrant when burned and is often used in worship ceremonies, where it is offered up to God. It is found in East India and but chiefly in Arabia which of course sheds more light upon the origin of the Wisemen.

3 - Myrrh “The Humanity of Christ”

Myrrh was also obtained the same way as frankincense and is associated with bitterness. It was namely used for purification and primarily the best resource in preparing dead bodies before being buried.

Special note here from Ethiopian history concerning these Wisemen, is as follows:

“According to the Ethiopians, these wise men were three, whose names they give us; the name of him that offered the gold, was Annoson; he that offered the frankincense, was Allytar; and he that offered the myrrh, Kyssad (e). The Papists call them the three kings of Colen, and say they lie buried in that place.”

(Source Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible)

V. The Wisemen and Their Transformation (12)

“Men of Certified Change”

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. 12

The men have completed their task and it is time to head back to their homeland, but they also had been required by King Herod to return and tell him the exact location of the little child, would they honor this request?

A) Wisemen and their Disturbing Dream

“And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod,” (a)

The men must have stayed a short time in the city of Bethlehem, and in staying the men may have asked God to guide them in honoring the request that Herod had placed upon them. In going to sleep the men were instructed by God to not return to Jerusalem. The men were divinely instructed or admonished by the Lord; he spoke to them in a dream. God has divine ways to see that he properly guides those that seek his will.

B) Wisemen and their Different Departure

“they departed into their own country another way.” (b)

The men have decided to obey the voice of God and in doing so they depart from Bethlehem and go another route back to their country. The route may have been longer but it was the will of God and the men eagerly obeyed the divine edict from heaven.

One other thing we need to see here is that the men went out another way than they had entered. In this we see a symbolic picture of those that have truly saw the Son of God, you will always leave differently. When someone has a real encounter with the Son of God and pay the proper homage to him as Lord and Savior it will most assuredly change your life.

In this awesome story we have saw Bethlehem’s brightest as they followed the star to the very house that held the new born King of the Jews. The men paid the utmost honor and homage to the young Son of God and this should inspire each of us to do the same. In these times of haste and waste we should allow the proper time to reverence and worship Him as God’s Son, our Savior.