Who Did The Wise Men Worship?
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. —Matthew 2:1-12
I saw the header image as a billboard in Athens, Georgia, not too long ago. I thought it was a cheesy Christian billboard, but I also see a lot of truth in it since I have been thinking about the wise men a lot recently. The wise men sought the wise King Jesus. Wisdom seeks out wisdom. The wise men believed and acted on God’s Word, and their actions revealed the kind of person they came to worship. The actions of the wise men were not only generous to Mary and Joseph, but helpful for us to recognize who Jesus is and how we can worship him today. The wise men worshipped a wise king, someone worth the cost, a welcoming God, and the awaited Savior.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’” —Matthew 2:1-2
Like Queen of Sheba from the South going to visit King Solomon to discover his wisdom (1 Kings 10), the wise men traveled from the east to discover the wisdom of God. After hearing all of Solomon’s wise words and seeing all the riches God bestowed upon him as king, Queen Sheba was left breathless (1 Kings 10:5). When the wise men saw the star of Jesus, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy (Matthew 2:10). Wise men and women seek out wisdom and find it in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). And their reactions leave them breathlessly joyful.
As the Queen of Sheba was a pattern of the wise men to come, King Solomon was a pattern of the wise King to come. In speaking to the Pharisees about repentance, Jesus proclaims that the queen of the South “came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42). We worship a King wiser and than Solomon himself, and we are rewarded with the wisdom of his presence when we seek him.
Someone Worth The Cost
“Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” Matthew 2:1
This is a small sentence with big implications. The wise men had to travel upwards of 900 miles to Jerusalem see if their predictions were correct. What if they were wrong about the prophecy? It would have been worse than traveling across the country by camel with three little kids to go to Disney World, seeing all kinds of billboards and signs along the way, and then getting there to realize that Disney World was only a rumor. Thankfully, they traveled all that way and found God himself. The wise men worshipped someone worth the cost.
The wise men also counted the cost (Luke 14:28) and not only left their homes and jobs for months to travel, but also took a risk in inquiring about another king being born in King Herod’s territory. What were they thinking? King Herod was known as a cruel and highly paranoid man, murdering family members anyone else who threatened his rule.
We talk a lot about how humble it was for Jesus to come as a helpless child, but Jesus could hold his own. Even as a newborn baby, Jesus was powerful enough to scare King Herod, who would do anything to hold onto his crown. The wise men must have somehow known this and trusted God to proclaim the birth of his Son and inquire about this newborn king to King Herod anyways. The Lord rewarded the wise men for their faithfulness and kept them safe from the wrath of King Herod by warning them in a dream to return to their own country by another way (Matthew 2:12).
A Welcoming God
"When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” --Matthew 2:3-6
Guess who knew when and where Jesus was born and didn’t go and worship him: the chief priests and scribes. It says right there in Matthew 2:3-6 that they knew exactly where Jesus was going to be born, so why didn’t they go worship him? God welcomes all people to himself through his scriptures, but the chief priests and scribes rejected his invitation. God invites first the Jews, then the Gentiles (Romans 1:16), but many of God’s own people rejected him (John 1:11).
We know who did accept the invitation to worship: the wise men. The Bible doesn’t record all the people who came to visit baby Jesus, but it does talk about foreigners coming to worship him. The wise men were most likely astrologists from Persia, men considered unclean and unwelcome to the Jewish culture. The fact that these wise men were foreigners from another land shows that God was already calling people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to himself, fulfilling the prophecies:
- “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:11-13
- “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by my name.” Isaiah 65:1
- “Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.” Isaiah 55:5
- “As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call “my people,” and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved.”’” Romans 9:25
- “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” Revelation 7:9
The Awaited Savior
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:10-11
These wise men had been reading the prophecies of the awaited Savior, and trusted in the word of God so much that they took time to study and took action to pursue the exact time and place where the prophecies would take place. They most likely studied Daniel 9:24-27, which gave them a timeline for the birth of the awaited Messiah. I’m sure they also looked at Numbers 24:17, which gave them a sign, a specific “star coming out of Jacob” to guide them to Jesus, which the wise men called “His star” in Matthew 2:2.
I’m not sure how the wise men knew exactly what gifts to bring, but they brought the perfect gifts. Mary might have been a little confused, but the gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh were prophecies in themselves as to what kind of man Jesus was going to be:
Gold a king is born today
Incense God is with us
Myrrh his death will make a way
Joy Has Dawned by Kings Kaleidoscope
The wise men worshipped a king born on earth, who is with us today, and whose death made a way to be with him forever. They worshipped the awaited Savior, our Savior, who is Jesus Christ. The way the wise men worshipped revealed what kind of God we worship today: Jesus is wise, worth it, welcoming, and the awaited Savior.
What does how you worship God say about who he is?
How has someone else’s worship of God encouraged you?