THE PATH OF THE WISE MEN
by Wayne S. Walker
The only time many people ever hear or even think about the birth of Christ is during the holiday season known as "Christmas." We do not know what time of year Jesus was born, and we do not have any scriptural authority to celebrate it as a religious holiday anyway. However, because it is a Biblical subject it is proper and right to study about it at any time. Before Christ was born, an angel appeared to both Mary and Joseph, at different times, to explain what was going on.
Then, right after His birth in Bethlehem, angels appeared to shepherds in the surrounding fields to announce it. In this article, we shall study just one incident connected with Jesus’s birth. This is the visit of the Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-12. We know that they came from the east, but we do not know what country was their home, exactly how many there were, or precisely when they came, except that it must have been within two years of Jesus’s birth and after Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were in a house. So, what can we learn from a consideration of the path of the wise men?
I. Sought Christ
To begin, we note that these wise men came seeking Christ, asking, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?" (verses 1-2). Regardless of their station in life, all people are seeking something or other. Those who lack true wisdom are seeking the things of the world–it might be riches, possessions, power, honor, popularity, pleasure, or friendship–but the things of this world can never truly satisfy because the wisdom of the world leads away from God. "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God by the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). Many of the things that the people of this world seek are not necessarily wrong in themselves, but there is something more important. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
So, how do we seek Christ today? "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me’" (John 6:44-45). We seek Christ by hearing and learning from God through His written word. In certain spheres of our society it has become increasingly unpopular to seek Christ. Yet wise men sought Christ shortly after His birth, and it has been a mark of true wisdom ever since for men everywhere to seek Him.
II. Followed Divine Guidance
Next, we see that these wise men had divine guidance (verses 3-7). They did not rely on their own wisdom to find Christ. They must have understood that "the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). Rather, they followed the star sent by God to guide them. There is no literal star today which will guide us to Christ, but God has given us a light to be our guide to Him. "Your word is lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
Therefore, just as the wise men followed the star, so we need to follow God’s word, knowing that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is interesting that when the wise men came to Jerusalem and asked where the King of the Jews was to be born, the answer was found in the scriptures. Only they can lead us to God as the star led the wise men to Christ.
III. Finished Their Journey
Also, we find that these wise men finished their journey, continuing on till they came "to where the young Child was" (verses 8-10). The prodigal son of Jesus’s parable made a decision to return to the father and then started on his journey home. "’I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."’ And he arose…" (Luke 15:18-20). However, if he had stopped along the way, he would have never made it home. Paul also went "all the way." He wrote toward the end of his life, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
In order for us to finish our journey and reach our eternal home, we must remember what the Lord told the brethren in Smyrna. "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). The wise men did not stop in Jerusalem, saying, "We have already traveled enough, so we shall just stay here." Rather, they continued on to Bethlehem that they might finish their journey.
IV. Worshipped Jesus
In addition, we learn that these wise men, when they saw Jesus, "fell down and worshipped Him" (verse 11a). Because Jesus is the divine Son of God, He is worthy of worship. God has always desired men’s worship. "Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms….Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker" (Psalm 95:1-6). There is only one true God, and we should worship Him alone. "…You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve" (Matthew 4:10).
However, God not only wants men to worship Him but also wants us to worship correctly. "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). While we have no right to make laws where God has made none and bind burdens upon men that God has not demanded in worship, neither does anyone have the right to set aside what God has commanded and authorized to replace that with human additions and substitutions in worship. The wise men worshipped the Lord in an acceptable manner. Those who will not worship Him as God teaches are foolish.
V. Gave Gifts
Finally, the wise men gave "gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (verse 11b). Some have assumed that because there were three gifts mentioned that there were three wise men, but that is not a necessary conclusion. Two or twenty wise men could have presented the gifts. The only thing that we know for sure is that the wise men gave gifts. God has given so much to us. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). In return, God wants us to give to Him. Speaking of monetary contributions made to the local church for work authorized by God, Paul wrote, "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
However, God want more than just some money. In using the Macedonian brethren as examples to the Corinthians of the kind of giving that pleases God, Paul also wrote, "And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God" (2 Corinthians 8:5). The Macedonians gave money for the Lord’s work to the best of their ability because they had first given themselves to God. When we first give ourselves to God, nothing–money, time, energy, effort, or whatever–will be begrudged to the Lord and His service. These wise men did not give a mere pittance; they gave the best that they had. God wants us to give Him our very best too.
In examining the path which these wise men took so long ago, we can learn some important lessons that will help us to see the course which true wisdom will lead us to take today. When we imitate their example, we shall seek Christ as the most important element of our lives. We shall follow the divine guidance that God has provided in His word. We shall finish our journey that we might receive the reward. We shall worship Him who is our Savior and Lord. And we shall lay all our gifts at His feet for His use. Only in having the kind of attitude that will lead to these actions can we be said to be going in the path of the wise men.
(—from Faith and Facts Quarterly; July, 2007; Vol. 35, No. 3; pp. 64-70)