Saturday, December 17, 2016

26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet--Wise Men

Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamick

Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.


Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.

While pondering the words, “Wise Men,” I was captivated and inspired by a hauntingly beautiful new song by Jon & Valerie Guerra, Lord, Remind MeWhen children play on Christmas day and snow is flung, When I feel I haven't had a friend since I was young, And I'm feeling tired of myself and everyone, Lord remind me, Lord remind me, that the shepherds heard the angels break the silence in the field, that the wise men found a baby and they could not help but kneel, that the One who heard our weeping became a child in manger sleeping, Lord remind me, ‘cause it's Christmas and I want to remember…

 
Pastor John MacArthur states: “Actually, the only thing we know about these wise men is some history and what is said in Matthew, which is very limited, it says, “There came wise men from the East.”  That’s it. We don’t know their names; we don’t know anything from that. But as we put the pieces together, historically, and we do have some very fascinating history. Some of it from the Old Testament, books such as Daniel where the wise men appear in several different texts, other Bible books as well as the writings of Herodotus and other historians. We believe they were members of an Eastern priestly group, descendant of a tribe of people originally associated with the Medes. So they are from a very ancient and long-lived people were these wise men.  And by the way, the words wise men, it says, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king behold there came magi.”  The Greek is magos, magoi, translated, magi. The magi, or wise men, were a priestly line, a priestly tribe of people from among the Medes, this very ancient and large people. They were very skilled in astronomy and astrology. But the magi originally were basically a pagan, priestly tribe of people from the Medes and the Persians and there are many historical sources to validate this. They became interested in astronomy and astrology and the study of the stars. Now, what’s interesting about this is that during the time of the Babylonian Empire these magi were dwelling in the area of Babylon. They were there during the Babylonian time and the Medo-Persian Empire as well. Now while they were there during the Babylonian Empire, they were very heavily influenced by the Jews. You remember that one of the things that Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon did was take Judah into captivity. Well, here in Babylon were existing these magi, and they were very high-ranking officials. By that time they had ascended to a high place in the Babylonian Empire because of their amazing intuition, wisdom, knowledge, and astrology, they had risen to a place of prominence. They encountered all these Jewish people that had been brought to captivity, including one very specific Jew by the name of Daniel, who was elevated in the Babylonian Empire. Consequently, they were very familiar or made familiar in the dispersion of the Jews in Babylon with Jewish prophesy regarding the Messiah. They were made aware of what was really on the Jewish prophetic plan for this One who was to come."

According to the ancient historian, Herodotus, the Magi were a tribe of people within a larger people called the Medes. They were a hereditary priesthood tribe. In other words, they were like the Levites in Israel. The Magi were really the key people in the government of the East, centered in the Fertile Crescent, the area around Babylon and Medo-Persia. Now they always appear with tremendous political power. They rose up in Babylonian government, Medo-Persian government, to be the advisors to the royalty of the East. That’s where they got the name the Wise Men. They were the ones that were consulted about the various things that the kings and the rulers and the nobles and the princes wanted to know. In Daniel 2:10 it says, “The Chaldeans answered before the king and said, ‘There is not a man on the earth that can reveal the king’s matter: therefore, there is no king, lord, nor ruler that asked such things of any Magi or astrologer or Chaldean.’”  And it’s very likely that those are all synonyms. So here we find the word Magi. Now when Daniel came along and all these Magi who were in the high, high-ranking place of advisors to the king couldn’t give any answers, Daniel could, something amazing happened.  Daniel 5:11, “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods, and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods was found in him” – talking about Daniel now – “Whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king I say, thy father made master of the Magi.” Daniel was so adept at telling the dreams of the king that the king made Daniel the master of the Magi, so that Daniel was literally in Babylon the chief over this whole priestly group. Now, that puts Daniel in the tremendously unique position of being able to dispense to these Magi all of his information about the Old Testament, which without a shadow of a doubt is precisely what Daniel did.”

We know that Daniel was a man of God. We know that Daniel was a man totally devoted to worship and expression of his faith because he wound up in a lion’s den because of it. There’s no question in my mind but that Daniel and the other godly remnant in the Diaspora, the dispersion, shared their knowledge of the Old Testament and their copies of the Scripture with these people in Babylon. As history moved on from here, the Magi began to depart from a singular commitment to their historic religion, and they began to find their way into different things. I believe in my heart that some, like these Magi that show up at the birth of Christ, were really true seekers of the true God. In Esther 1:13 we have the indication that the royal bench of judges was all chosen from the Magi, they were powerful. History tells us they knew astronomy, they were very good in mathematics, they knew natural history, they were good at agriculture and architecture. Now, as I mentioned earlier one of their special skills was interpreting dreams.  And when they failed to do that and Daniel moved in on top of it and became the chief, as we saw in Daniel 5:11, the setup was made by God to set the scene for Matthew chapter 2, six hundred years before Jesus was born. God was setting up the situation for a great Hebrew prophet to rule a group called the Magi, so that one day when a baby was born in Bethlehem, some of those Magi would find their way to the house where the baby was. That’s planning history. Somehow and by some marvelous way God has managed to maintain some true seeking Magi.”

Politically speaking, Rome was scared of the Eastern Empire. By the time we get to the time of Christ, the Magi are still in tremendous power in the east. Some of them used their power, their position, their skills, with a great amount of human wisdom. Some of the Magi were honest and they exalted the craft of wisdom and political advice. When they arrived in Jerusalem Herod knew what was going on. They were kingmakers and when they wandered around town saying, “Where is this new king of the Jews?” Herod got panicky. When suddenly these Persian kingmakers appeared in Jerusalem, no doubt traveling in full force with all their oriental pomp. They used to wear conical hats with points on the top and big deals clear down to the bottom of their chin, and they rode Persian steeds not camels.  And when they came in they didn’t come alone. The estimates of history are they came with Persian cavalry.  When they came charging into the city of Jerusalem and Herod peeked out his little palace window, he flipped. These are powerful men, and to make it worse his army was out of the country on a mission. The Bible says Herod was troubled. The word in the Greek is he was agitated like your washing machine, he was shaking.”
 

“Well, what were the wise men thinking?” Maybe, they had looked at it politically.  Maybe they thought, “Oh, man, here comes the king.” I think that that’s probably true, but additionally I think they looked at it spiritually.  Because when they got to that little room in Bethlehem, the Bible says they worshiped Him. They saw more than just a king. I believe they saw the Messiah they had heard about from the days of Daniel. I think we have God-fearing, seeking gentiles. I’m sure they were thinking, “Maybe this is the Savior, the Savior who is called the Anointed One,” which is a term describing a king. “And maybe He will not only be the Savior, the Messiah, but maybe He will be the one who will gather all this people of the east together and go against the oppression of Rome.” Isn’t it exciting to you how God controls history?  Not because it was just a bunch of historical facts, but because you are seeing God at work. History is His story. Long ago He picked out a man named Daniel, put him in a place to influence some men who would arrive in perfect timing. You say, “Well, why does Matthew present this?  Why?”  Listen.  Matthew, all the way through his gospel is trying to tell the world that Jesus Christ is what?  King.  And just to make sure nobody misses it he has the most famous kingmakers in the world come and bow down at His feet.  Do you see?  It’s all a part of Matthew’s strategy.  He’s the king.  And if Israel isn’t going to acknowledge it, then God is going to drag a bunch of people from Persia to acknowledge it.  He’s king."

 
As we have learned from this history of the wise men in the Nativity Alphabet, in a very crucial time in Daniel 2:20, 22-23, Daniel didn’t lean on his own understanding and knowledge. Neither did he panic when the king ordered that Daniel along with all the king’s Magi or Wise Men would be killed because they had failed to interpret his dream. Instead, Daniel asked the king for more time, went home, and urged his three friends to join him in prayer. Together they asked God to show them his mercy by revealing the secret of the king’s dream. Daniel’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving is a reminder to us that God reveals “deep and mysterious things”—things that are unseeable and unknowable and unsearchable to the natural mind—to those who seek him and ask for his wisdom instead of trying to figure things out on their own. What area of your life do you feel most baffled about? Where do you need wisdom the most—in your parenting, your business, in relationships or ministry? Praise God today for being the source of all wisdom, light, and strength and the One who can reveal to you just what you need.

 
Heavenly Father, I praise Your Holy Name. You are the God who “has all wisdom and power,” the One who guides world events, You are always at work. Long ago You picked out a man named Daniel, put him in a place to influence some men who would arrive in perfect timing. You give “wisdom to the wise,” and you know what is “hidden in darkness” and all mysteries. I pray for Your wisdom and strength in each situation I face today. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Look Up—meditate on Daniel 2:20, 22-23 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on Daniel 2:20, 22-23 …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on
 Daniel 2:20, 22-23 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – 
Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


Weekly LinkUps…

2 comments:

  1. Beth, my son has been researching about the Magi so I shared your words with him.
    Thanks great teacher!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for letting me know, Mary! I have learned so many wonderful Truths about the amazingly intricate details surrounding the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! It has been a joy! Many Christmas blessings to you ❤️

      Delete

Blog Archive