|Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamrick|
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 Magi 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."
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 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