Obscure Advent Verses: Week 4

Last week we looked at the prophecy from Balaam regarding the Messiah, whom Balaam dubbed the star of Jacob. This prophecy finds its way, not directly, but by allusion and pattern, into the Christmas narrative written by Matthew.

For with Balaam, we have the pattern of a pagan prophet telling Israel about the Messiah, referring to a star. The pattern is repeated when the magi, religious pagans, travel to Jerusalem and tell Herod about the birth of Messiah, saying that they saw the Messiah’s star.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2: 1 – 2

One of the great mysteries of Scripture is how the magi, religious pagans from another land, were granted knowledge of the Messiah, and had such faith that they caravaned to Jerusalem in search of Him. Did God advise them in a dream? Did the prophet Daniel or other Jews in the court of Babylon, hundreds of years prior, advise the magi of those days regarding Messiah, and did those magi pass down the prophecies?

Since Scripture doesn’t answer those questions, we can only speculate. We do know that magi went to Herod and followed the star to Jesus’ post-birth home, within a couple of years of His birth in Bethlehem.

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. Matthew 2: 9 – 12

Just as suddenly as the magi appeared, they left. But during their short stay in Scripture they were privileged to behold the infant Christ, a privilege not granted to many.

Although few in those days understood the implications of Jesus’ birth, it is not so in our day. Each and every Christmas what was the privilege of the magi is the privilege of God’s worldwide church, insomuch as we get to ponder the birth of Christ and the hope of Israel. Although we don’t get to see Christ in the flesh, we get to read about Him and celebrate the reason for His becoming man; a reason which, like the account of the magi, comes to us from Matthew.

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1: 20 – 21

Merry Christmas and praise be to the star of Jacob, the descendant of David and the bright morning star!

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