The Message of the Magi (Part 1)

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The Message of the Magi (Part 1)

By Daniel Kolenda   /     Dec 23, 2014  /     Articles, Devotional, Teachings  /  
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The Message of the Magi
Part 1 of 3
By Daniel Kolenda

“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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’” (NKJV) Matthew 2:1-2 – NKJV

Gentile stargazers suddenly appear to worship a young boy born to Jewish peasants. Where did they come from? How did a star guide them to this special Child? Why would they dare to call Him “King of the Jews,” confirming their praise with extravagant gifts?And what was the significance of those specific gifts? We have become so familiar with the sight of the magi in nativity scenes and Christmas plays, that we forget what strange parts they played in the Christmas story.

The magi were not “we three kings” of popular Christmas lore. They were astrologers, probably from Persia, who practiced the ancient custom of divining knowledge from the stars and planets. To the Jews of the first century, the word “magi” referred to “magicians” or fortunetellers whose practices were strictly forbidden.

So what business did they have recognizing let alone worshipping the divine royalty of Israel? Why did God choose them to draw Jerusalem’s attention to its true king?Answers to these questions reveal a crucial, but often-neglected, aspect of the Christmas story: the message of the magi.

Daniel’s Wise Men

The only other book in the Bible to mention “magi” is Daniel. About 600 years before Christ, the Babylonians started to take Jews into exile. A young Hebrew named Daniel was among the first to go. This is where we are introduced to the magi. They appeared in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court when he called his spiritual advisors to help him decipher a mysterious dream. In the Greek translation of the book of Daniel, one of the four groups that came to the king was called “magi.” No one had the power to discern the king’s dream except for Daniel.

The prophet of the Most High God revealed the king’s dream. So King Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and fortunetellers of Babylon: the “wise men”, including the magi. Over the course of his ministry, along with many other interpretations and prophetic visions, Daniel foretold the coming of the Messiah, the “King of the Jews.”

Daniel’s ministry endured into the Persian period. So did his position of leadership. The magi continued under his supervision. Surely the favor of God, the power of his anointed ministry, and the stature of his political position gave Daniel a loyal following among the magi. They passed on Daniel’s faith and writings, from generation to generation, culminating in the magi of Matthew’s gospel. They combined Daniel’s teachings with their study of the stars, and God’s gracious guidance to discern the season of Messiah’s birth. Thus when the time came, descendants of Daniel’s magi were waiting.

Behold, magi come from the east! God’s deposit through Daniel paid glorious dividends. Pagan stargazers had embraced Daniel’s faith from a distance, and now bring extravagant wealth to the King of the Jews!

Unquenchable Praise

The Roman Senate had entitled Herod the Great, who was ruling over Judea, “king of the Jews.” But he was just a puppet of the Roman Empire having no rightful claim to the throne of David. Like most rulers of his day, Herod was paranoid and superstitious. So when eastern astrologers claimed that a star led them to a Child born “King of the Jews,” Herod could not have felt more threatened. The Child had to die. He called the Jewish people’s own “wise men” (the chief priests and scribes) and demanded of them where Christ (the Chosen One) was to be born.

What’s fascinating is the fact that these Jewish “wise men” actually knew exactly where Jesus would be born. Yet we don’t see any of them seeking Him out, much less worshipping. One would think that the Jewish leadership would seek the Jewish Messiah, but the religious establishment was not interested. Instead, it is a band of astrologers from a pagan land who seek, affirm and worship the “King of the Jews.”

Years later, when Jesus made His “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem, the people praised God in loud voices and recognized Jesus as Messiah. The jealous Pharisees demanded that Jesus rebuke the disciples for their outburst, but Jesus said, “If they keep silent, the stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). It seems that the Father will not allow His Son to go un-praised. If the Jewish “wise men” won’t praise Him, pagan wise men will. If people won’t praise Him, inanimate objects will.

I have been struck by this thought during this Christmas season: one way or another, God will get His glory. One would think that given all the darkness in the world, any redemptive Christmas message would have been lost long ago: silenced by secular culture, emasculated by political correctness, ridiculed by humanism and drowned with materialism (especially this time of year). Yet, somehow the praises of the King keep slipping through. From among the hurried bustle of ravenous shoppers, I hear a familiar melody floating through the air, carrying the most pristine doctrine. To most it goes totally unnoticed, but I stop and listen, awed by the power of the words:

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord,
Oh, Praise His Name forever
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

I have often heard Christians protest celebrating the birth of Christ during a holiday that was originally taken from the pagans, but this seems to fit the narrative of Christ’s birth quite appropriately. God is using the most unlikely things and people to give glory to His Son. On Christmas day, even among the most secular, the most heathen, the most godless in our society, everyone will pause. They may try to ignore it or change it or tell themselves it’s about something else. But in their heart of hearts, everyone knows why the world is standing still on this day. It’s because a King has been born!

The Nations Are Coming!

Matthew expected his readers to catch the striking irony: Gentile astrologers from the east discovered the Jewish King by following a star, but scholars of Israel failed to discern their King though possessing the Scriptures. Pagan magi came to worship the Messiah, but Jerusalem royalty sought to kill Him. The contrast was sharp, startling and prophetic. These magi were the first gentiles to worship the Jewish Messiah as King, even when the religious establishment had rejected Him. Soon the gentiles would be coming to him by the millions and even billions. Thus, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, King Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples “of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The last book of the Bible reveals the end result. The trickle that started with a small handful of Persian gentiles culminates with a deluge of multitudes from every nation under heaven:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9 & 10.

The message of the magi declares that the Jewish Messiah is Lord of all nations.God has provided the way to save all who believe. These unseasonable heroes risked their lives to participate in God’s global mission, as predicted by Daniel. In this age, the Gospel goes around the world. In the next age, people from every tribe, kindred, and tongue will gather as one family to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

That is the message of the magi.

Be on the lookout for Part 2: “The Mysterious Star” tomorrow…

23 Comments

  1. avatar
    s.manoj Says: December 28, 2014 7:50 pm

    Have came across any bible verses regarding my doubt…brother ?

    Reply this comment
  2. avatar
    s.manoj Says: December 24, 2014 5:50 am

    Praise the lord..
    Thanks 4r ur reply
    Its my doubt and not an argument. ..still meditating on that dont mistake me…wish u a happy Christmas and a miracle new year

    Reply this comment
  3. avatar
    Stephen Says: December 24, 2014 5:29 am

    Thank you Daniel for the message!

    Reply this comment
  4. avatar
    soumya Says: December 23, 2014 9:39 pm

    Beautiful message. But where does it say that jesus was born on the 25th of december. What are we actually celebrating?

    Reply this comment
  5. avatar
    Debra Tshuma Says: December 23, 2014 9:27 pm

    What an eye opener. Thank you. In the end every knee shall bow down to worship the King of Kings. Thank you

    Reply this comment
  6. avatar
    Oyas Ozimede Says: December 23, 2014 9:16 pm

    welldone sir,may the good Lord continue 2 strengthen you.

    Reply this comment
  7. avatar
    Marty Reese Says: December 23, 2014 9:00 pm

    Thank You Daniel for addressing this story so eloquently. I appreciate your thoughtful Biblical and honest approach. God bless you and your family and have a very Merry Chritmas!!

    Reply this comment
  8. avatar
    alex boakye Says: December 23, 2014 8:40 pm

    this is wonderful

    Reply this comment
  9. avatar
    Renny George Says: December 23, 2014 7:18 pm

    Will you let me know when is Christmas (Birthday of Jesus). When should we celebrate.

    Reply this comment
  10. avatar
    Yodahe Solomon Says: December 23, 2014 6:40 pm

    Thanks Daniel! I never thought much about the significance of the magi. Hope to see you at “one thing” next week 🙂 Blessings

    Reply this comment
  11. avatar
    Steve Maylam Says: December 23, 2014 6:39 pm

    Hi Daniel. We have a lot of respect for you. But have studied and reflected over the past few years. It’s not that we don’t want lift up Jesus, and celebrate him. Because that’s all we want to do. But the problem we’ve got is knowingly following anything that we believe is not accurate (untrue), pagan or worshipping idols. Christmas is largely pagan and very worldly as a result. Yes the message for Christ is for the sinner, but once we know and love Christ, why follow the things of the world? There are theories that Jesus conception was on the 25th (but not his birth), as it falls in line with the Feast of the tabernacles. Not sure what your thoughts are on this?

    Reply this comment
  12. avatar
    s.manoj Says: December 23, 2014 6:25 pm

    Mathew 2:2 verse magi says we saw his star ( they spoke in singular) but stars are many in numbers. ..the star send by god…..
    And in mathew 2:9 says the star went before them…in practical no stars in sky will move and it will be the same….so an angel it may in the appearance of a star may guided the magis…as guided the shephered….i too still meditating biblically…..thank you…

    Reply this comment
  13. avatar
    s.manoj Says: December 23, 2014 6:17 pm

    Dear bro, your thought was good and i too devoting on the same topic of magis… i have a doubt according to isaiah 47 : 13,14 good himself curse the star seekers and the verse says that they will be burn like straw …. it shows that god didn’t encourage this astrologers and star seekers….
    Mary encountered with an angel gabriel, joseph encountered with an angel and even shepherds are informed by an angel….so, we can see here the angels are guiding them and not a star….so.even to that magi a star like angel may be guided them..,where in our bible stars are also reffered to angels ….job 38:7 and rev 12:4,7….

    Reply this comment
  14. avatar
    Lucas Dawn Says: December 23, 2014 6:10 pm

    The magi were indeed a sign of Jesus’ new international kingdom of disciples. And throughout the centuries of this kingdom, innumerable multitudes will become part of it. Yet Jesus also said his disciples would be persecuted and hated by all the peoples (Mt. 24:9). So while the final kingdom will outshine all the kingdoms of earth, until then it’s a small mustard seed kingdom of disciples in every nation in every generation.

    Reply this comment
  15. avatar
    Poko Says: December 23, 2014 5:34 pm

    A friend told me 2 days ago that celebrating Christmas is a sin. He went on to explain it’s a day set aside long ago by some idol worshippers to celebrate & give thanks to thier god. My response to him was simple. I said ” God created all the days and I don’t think He would take offence should I set aside 25 December every year to celebrate the birth of An Awesome Present He gave me”. I think the only offence He’ll take is why don’t I celebrate the Savior, Lord Jesus Christ everyday. Thank you very much Evangelist Kolenda. I was at your crusade a year ago in Accra, Ghana. May The LORD ALMIGHTY continue to bless the CFAN Family unconditionally. You are really a #Miracle.

    Reply this comment
  16. avatar
    Warren Says: December 23, 2014 5:23 pm

    Great teaching sir. I have never had this explained before. This definitely teaches us not to put God inside of a box.

    Reply this comment
  17. avatar
    Festus Says: December 23, 2014 5:03 pm

    Thanks for the insight man of God!

    Reply this comment
  18. avatar
    Jerry Ella Ondo Says: December 23, 2014 2:54 pm

    Hi Sir,
    I’ve read with interest your message but I’m still confused. The question is, is it biblical to celebrate Christmas ? Because when I read the bible I know the feasts of the Lord but it’s nowhere mentioned that we have to celebrate the birth of Christ. Thanks

    Reply this comment
    • avatar
      Daniel Kolenda Says: December 23, 2014 4:33 pm

      Hi Jerry,

      Are you saying that it is only “biblical” to celebrate something specifically mentioned in Scripture? You certainly don’t “have to” celebrate the birth of Christ, but you get to and why wouldn’t you want to?

      Blessings,
      Daniel

  19. avatar
    Timothy Van Bruggen Says: December 23, 2014 2:40 pm

    Awesome study! I have always been fascinated by the story of the magi . . . I appreciate the time and research put into this article! Excellent! Thank you so much!

    Reply this comment

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