What’s So Wise About the Wise Men
Monday, December 19, 2011
Welcome to HT at CT, I’m CM sharing the GS that’s all about Jesus.
What’s so wise about the wise men?
A tiny figure of baby Jesus surrounded by Mary, Joseph and the three wise men is quietly on display in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda and the Madison-based Freedom from Religion Foundation is not very happy about it.
Wisconsin Family Action set up a little nativity in their Capital rotunda with a sign that says “"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon his shoulder."
The Freedom from Religion Foundation is planning to retaliate with its own Capitol display. They’re not giving out too many details about it, but said their spokesperson said it’ll be about the celebrating the winter solstice, it’ll be “slightly blasphemous” and it’ll feature "a different type of wise people."
(Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring underneath)
You hear about a fracas like this one in the Capital rotunda you just have to shake your head. Where did the idea come from that we’re guaranteed freedom from religion? With all the foolishness we hear about in the world I think it’s encouraging to remember that when Jesus was born there were some wise men around. They weren’t looking for freedom from religion, they weren’t looking for religion at all. They were looking for their King. They were wise men from the east who followed the star and worshipped the baby. Out of all the world they somehow had the wisdom to know what to do when the Savior was born. What made those wise men so wise? How did they know?
Underneath me you’re hearing the music of Stanton Lanier on HT and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring from his Christmas album December Peace. If you would like this instrumental project or anything else from us, just get in touch after the program. And let me mention, since it’s less than a week before Christmas, you may want to use faster shipping from us. Go online at haventoday.org or call us after the program at 1-800-654-2836. All of us need some December Peace, don’t we. Get in touch with us and we will help in these last few days before Christmas.
Let me read about what happened from Matthew 2:1-11:
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”
SONG – We Three Kings – Building 429
In the ancient world, gold and spices were gifts fit for a king. These wise men seemed to know what only a handful of people in Israel knew – that the long-promised king of the Jews had been born. They knew that this King of the Jews was also the One born to be King of the entire creation – he was their king and they came a long way to worship him.
It must have seemed strange to them that the Jews themselves were so unaware and unexcited about this birth. Herod didn’t even know where the Messiah was supposed to be born. But the wise men were undeterred – they continued on their way until they saw the star they’d seen in the east stopping over the house where Mary and Joseph were living. If they were surprised to find their king in what was no doubt a very humble place, we don’t have any record of it. They were simply overjoyed to be there, in his presence, and they bowed down and worshipped him and presented him with their gifts -- gifts that were fit for a king.
What made the wise men so wise? They knew the Scriptures. Daniel had been among their number years before after the exile to Babylon. He’d written about this king. And the wise men had access to the other Hebrew Scriptures. It was their job to study and understand the great events that were predicted to happen in the world and when the star appeared to them, they knew what it meant – the king Daniel had spoke about had been born at last.
They were wise not only because of what they knew but because of how they responded. Their single-minded determination to see him, their joy, and the gifts they brought – it all showed they had the wisdom to know how huge this birth really was.
Years before God had given a little preview of how the world is meant to respond when the great Son of David is finally seated on his throne. When David’s son, Solomon, was on the throne of Israel, rulers from all over the known world came and brought him gifts – it was a way to acknowledge his greatness and his wisdom.
The most famous was the Queen of Sheba. In 2 Chronicles 9 it says, “When the queen of Sheba saw the wisdom of Solomon, as well as the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, the cupbearers in their robes and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed. She said to the king, “Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the LORD your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.” Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones.”
The queen was wise to recognize that Solomon’s glory and wisdom came from God’s hand but Solomon was just a preview – he failed and faded. Jesus is the true King – the One who fulfills all the prophecies – God’s perfect gift to the world. Jesus himself made this connection between himself and Solomon when he rebuked the people for not receiving him.
He said (Luke 11:31) “The Queen of the South (that’s the queen of Sheba) will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.”
Jesus is the One who is greater than Solomon – and of course, that’s an understatement. Psalm 72 is a prayer for Solomon but it clearly speaks of someone much, much greater than Solomon ever was:
“Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. The mountains will bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.
He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations. He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. In his days the righteous will flourish; prosperity will abound till the moon is no more. He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. The desert tribes will bow before him and his enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him. For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long.”
Jesus is this greater king. He has crushed the oppressor and saved the needy. To our great amazement, he did it by suffering a terrible and humiliating death – he was crucified by the world he created – he was rejected by those who should have honored him. But he was raised from death by the power of God and he will endure as long as the sun and the moon through all generations. He is like rain watering the earth. Whenever someone puts their faith in him, he sends his Spirit and the dry ground starts to green up with new life.
The Psalm says he will rule from sea to sea – and he is already – ruling in the hearts of his people. It says all the kings of the earth will honor him and acknowledge that he’s king of kings and Lord of Lords. When we read about the wise men coming to present their gifts to Jesus, we’re seeing this prophecy begin to be fulfilled.
Jesus was destined to be honored by the entire creation. The wise men were just the first to come – since then throngs of men and women and children have been coming to Jesus, worshipping him as their king, receiving his salvation, and listening to his wisdom.
Eventually, as the prophets have said, every knee will bow to him. It will happen. When he comes again, every knee will bow, some with joy, some with great reluctance and fear. For those of you listening who haven’t yet bowed the knee to Jesus, listen to what the Lord says in Isaiah 45:22-24:
“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.’”
When we bow before Jesus we’re being wise like the wise men – because bowing before Jesus is bowing before God. When we put our faith in Jesus we’re acknowledging the humbling truth that in him alone are righteousness and strength. They’re not in us – they’re only in Jesus.
Jesus is the world’s true King and only Savior. His death is our forgiveness – our reconciliation to God. His death is our salvation from the judgment to come. He deserves our worship and our lives. He’s God’s perfect gift to his world – the source of all joy – all joy! Now and forever!
Receiving that gift is the most important thing in all of life – nothing else really matters but that one crucial issue – do you have the wisdom to receive God’s perfect gift or have you foolishly turned away?
The Scriptures are what made the wise men wise. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is the king of kings =all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him. If you want to be wise, then come to him receive him, learn from him, worship him -- just like the wise men did all those years ago.
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