I asked over 150 women the following questions:
1. How many wise men came to visit the Christ child?
Majority answered: Three
Sorry. Wrong answer. No number is given. We get the number three from the three gifts.
Historians believe the figure was over 300. This would have included wise men, Calvary, servants and slaves.
2. What animals did they arrive on?
Majority answered: Camel
Great guess, however incorrect, they rode horses. Persians were accomplished horsemen.
Camels would have been present; however, they would have been used for carrying supplies.
These wise men were regal in bearing … too important to ride on lowly camel.
3. Where did they first meet the Christ child?
Majority said: Stable
So sorry … don’t be discouraged. They met the Savior in a house. Jesus would have been over a year old when they arrived. Joseph would have secured a house by then as there were plenty available after the census was over.
We do know they traveled over 1,000 miles from Babylon or modern Iraq. They were political, powerful and from a very specific tribe of the Persian Empire. And they were GENTILES, the first non-Jews to encounter Jesus!
Okay, armed with your new knowledge of the wise men, please do not take apart your nativity, replacing the stable with a house or removing the magi. The nativity is a visual model representing Christ’s birth and the important events that surrounded it. My own nativity has a headless camel, a wingless angel and is missing a wise man that went AWOL years ago. Even in its disheveled appearance, it is still a family heirloom.
HOW and WHY did the Magi make the journey from Babylon?
The magi trace back to Daniel 4:7 when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. Daniel steps in and interprets the dream. Impressed by Daniel, the King puts him in charge of all the wise men. Daniel was a follower of the living God; he had access to the Old Testament scrolls and shared of the coming Messiah. Centuries later, wise men from Persia were the most like the Jews, in religion, of all nations in the world. They believed in ONE God, they had no idols and they worshipped light as the best symbol of GOD.
Wise men stayed in power through the KINGS. And King Darius gave them an additional job and that was to become astronomers or students of the sky. And finally, they were king makers. Nobody became king without their approval. They were powerful and political and would have definitely made a grand entrance into the capital city of Jerusalem, arriving in fine robes, pointed hats and decorated cloth beards. It was logical that the magi would have gone to the capital first.
Doubtless these wise men expected all of Jerusalem to be talking about the newborn king and the place of his birth would be widely known. I am sure they were very surprised when they were the ones to share the news and the startling stir it caused.
Upon hearing the account from the magi, Herod was suspicious. Consulting his own wise men, they confirmed the Old Testament prophecy (Micah 5:2). It is interesting that Herod or his wise men didn’t rush to Bethlehem, which was only five miles away. They had in mind someone of royal decent, not a child from this poor and dirty town.
The magi could have been influenced by the apathy of the Jewish leaders or the skepticism and dishonesty of Herod. In my humanity, if I were the magi and rode into the capital city, witnessed the apathetic Jewish leaders and the hostile Roman leadership, I may have doubted.
Was this journey a waste of time? It may have shaken my resolve to continue in my quest for the Christ.
They had come over 1,000 miles (which would have taken approximately six weeks) one step at a time. They had endured not only the distance barrier, but also cultural, language, racial and religious barriers, and a suspicious king and indifferent religious leaders.
The magi journeyed on, recognizing what they were witnessing in Jerusalem was not the whole story.
Reader, whatever you are seeing now in your life is not your whole story. Life can be hard …filled with setbacks and obstacles. That doesn’t mean God is not in it.
With great joy the Magi arrived at the humble dwelling and bowed low, presenting the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Deuteronomy 33:3 says:
“Surely it is you who love the people;
all the holy ones are in your hand.
At your feet they all bow down,
and from you receive instruction.”
As they bowed low in worship, God gave them instruction, to take another road home.
God’s warning changed the direction of the magi. They departed into their own country a different way.
An encounter with the King of Kings often requires us to take a different route. Encountering the Messiah by faith changes the way we take in life.
Like the magi, there are times in our journey when God asks us to do something out of our comfort zone, or He gives us an assignment that is beyond our experience and capabilities. As you put complete trust in Him, He will continue to supply all the wisdom, provision and stamina you need to accomplish His will.
God is birthing new dreams, new ministries and new adventures in you. They begin with simple obedience … FOLLOWING THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM.
Sue Heimer is an author, counselor, Bible teacher and international speaker. She is the
president and founder of Leaving Your Legacy Ministries, a ministry to encourage and
support women in every stage of life. Learn more at sueheimer.com