Four Traits of Wise Men!

Four Traits of Wise Men!

Opening Illustration:
In U.S. Navel Institute Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute, Frank Koch illustrates the importance of obeying the Laws of the Lighthouse. Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. 

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow." 
"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out. 

The lookout replied, "Steady, Captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship. 

The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: ’We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.’" 

Back came the signal, "Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees." 

The captain said, "Send: "I’m a captain, change course twenty degrees.’" 

"I’m a seaman second-class," came the reply. "You had better change course twenty degrees." 
By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send: ’I’m a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.’" 

Back came the flashing light, "I’m a lighthouse." 

We changed course. 

Point:
Have you ever had to change course? I know that i have had to change course several times in my life.  Today we will learn about a group of visitors from the far east who had to change their cause because of a great light.  Much like the battleship, these visitors, or wise men, as we call them today realized that the star was not going to change directions, it was them that had to be followers of the light.  

Friends, are you followers of the light?  Are you obedient to where it takes you?  The Magi were savvy, they were wise.  They new something was strange about this cosmic action.  So what did they do?  They began seeking answers.  Of course, we all know the end of the story.  The wise men discovered Christ.  

The Magi Were Savvy And Seeking

Let’s Talk Magi:

Who Were They?
The Greek word μαγοι (mάgoi) is translated as “wise men” in the NKJV, KJV, and ESV, while the NASB and NIV use the word magi. Originally, the word often referred to a class of Persian wise men, and possibly priests, who were interpreters of special signs, particularly in astrology. Eventually, the word was used variously to refer to one who possessed supernatural knowledge and ability, a magician, or even a deceiver or seducer. There is little to no biblical or historical basis for identifying them as kings.  You will see in just a moment that Matthew 2 contains the story of the Magi. 

Where Were They From?
The original meaning of mάgoi is likely in view here—wise men who interpreted special signs. There are at least three reasons for this identification. First, they acknowledged that they were interested in signs in the heavens. Second, the Bible states that they were from “the East,” which would be in the direction of Babylon and ancient Persia. Third, of all the peoples of “the East,” the Babylonians had many opportunities to learn of the Jewish Scriptures, which contain multiple promises of the coming Messiah. Daniel was an influential government official in Babylon about 600 years earlier, and he foretold the coming of the Messiah (Daniel 9:24-26). Also, tens of thousands of Jews lived in Babylon during the time of the Exile (605–536 BC), and they maintained a large presence there for the following centuries.

How Did They Know About Jesus?
The third reason above provides a plausible solution to this question. Since the magi presumably had access to the Hebrew Scriptures, they could have known about the promises of the coming Messiah. Some scholars believe that the books in the Old Testament informed the magi of the child who would be preceded by a star. 

How Many Came To See Jesus?
The traditional view that three wise men journeyed to see Christ is likely based on the fact that three gifts were given. However, since the Bible does not tell us the number of magi, we can only speculate. We know there were at least two magi, and there may have been many more.

Point:
We do not know much about these strange visitors but we can learn many lessons from their reaction to Jesus.  Let’s read the story together.  

Matthew 2:1-12 ESV
1 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, 2 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.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘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.’”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 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.” 9 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. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 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. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Four Traits of Wise Men!

I. Observant vs. 1-2
Matthew 2:1-2 ESV
1 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, 2 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.”

Illustration: Bad Beef
A popular play and movie this time of year, one I always enjoy watching is A Christmas Carol. There is one scene that has always fascinated me. The Ghost of Christmas Past has just paid a very discomforting visit to Ebenezer Scrooge. Clearly the old miser is shaken by the entire ordeal. But when he awakens from his sleep does he take the message to heart? No, he simply dismisses it by saying: Bah, humbug, it wasn't real. 

"Just a bit of last nights undigested beef," he says to himself, "There is more gravy about you than the grave." A vision to be taken to heart or simple indigestion. 

You see some people are confronted with Jesus.  They see His obvious qualities of deity.  They hear His words and they choose to discount the encounter all together.  Not the Magi.  They saw something amazing and charted a course to discover what had happened.  

What Did The Magi See?

A. They Saw The Star
    Psalm 19:1 NIV
    The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Point: What Was The Star
-Some believe that it was a super-nova (an exploding star). But the only super-novae recorded by ancient sources were at 134 BCE and 173 CE. 4

-Others believe that it was a comet. There were comets recorded in 17, 5 & 4 BCE and 66 CE. However, a comet is not a likely candidate, because they were considered harbingers of doom by astrologers.

-Still others look for an unusual configuration of planets in the sky. There was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn during 7 BCE, when the two planets passed each other three times in Pisces - a constellation long associated with the Jewish people. But the passage in Matthew refers to a star, not an arrangement of planets.

Point:
I have no idea.  Could the star have been some sort of natural scientific phenomenon?  I’m sure that the answer is yes.  However, I believe that it was a miracle.  I believe that God did something supernatural during that time that was so spectacularly awesome and different that it drove the astrologers from the east to come and find out what it was.  Was it an angel?  Was it the glory of God?  Sure.  Maybe.  However, it doesn’t really matter what it was.  What mattered is what it shown.  The star revealed where Jesus was.  Nature testified to the new born King’s arrival.  

Point:
There are lots of lessons that we can learn from the star.  Do we move people to Jesus like the star did?  Do we stay close to Jesus the way the star did?  Do we shine glory on Jesus the way this star did?  I hope so.  

B. They Saw The Scripture
    Numbers 24:17 NIV
    17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise     out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.

Point:
Not only did the Magi see the star and recognize that something peculiar was taking place, but these men also knew the Scripture found in Numbers.  Remembers these men would have rubbed shoulders with Jews.  These men were from Asia and Persia where Jews had been enslaved for hundreds of years before.  No doubt they were exposed to the Hebrew works of the Torah and Septuagint.  These were wise and educated men who knew Scripture.  When they saw the star, they knew numbers 24:17.  They knew the star coming out of Jacob meant that a new King had arisen.  

I think it very important to know that if you want to discover Jesus that we should point others to God’s Word.  God’s Word perfectly illustrates the path to the Savior.  Wise people know God’s Word and point others to it.

Isaiah 28:23 NLT
Listen to me; listen, and pay close attention.

Four Traits of Wise Men!

I. Observant vs. 1-2

II. Obedient vs. 3-9
Matthew 2:3-9 ESV
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘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.’”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 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.” 9 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.

Point:
So in verses 3-9 we are introduced to a gentleman by the name of Herod.  So just who was Herod?  Well, he goes first by Herod the Great.  Here are some interesting stats about this pleasant fella:

-He saw Jesus a threat to his power and desired to have Jesus killed.
-He was a schemer.  During civil war in the Roman empire, Herod came to power and garnered favor with Octavian who later became Augustus Ceasar.  He burdened the Jewish people with huge building projects.  These projects were often testimonies to his great power and majesty.  
-He was a brutal man who killed his father-in-law, several of his ten wives, and two of his sons. He ignored the laws of God to suit himself and chose the favor of Rome over his own people. Herod's heavy taxes to pay for lavish projects forced an unfair burden on the Jewish citizens.
-Herod was just a plain ole bad guy from the very get go.  

So, that’s who the Magi encounter.  Herod meets with them secretly and tries to distract them from their purpose.  These men surly knew that Herod could have easily traveled with them?  He could have tagged along.  These men sniffed out the plot of the Devil and stayed obedient to their purpose.  What was their purpose you ask?  Well go back to God’s Word.  “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” They were not on a fact finding mission.  They were not taking straw polls or counting caucus votes.  They were heading out to worship.  Simple as that.  They were being obedient to God’s calling on their life and nothing was going to get in their way.  

So, what’s the lesson here for us?  Well, think about all the things that distract us from worshipping Jesus.  For many of us, we will come to church as long as there is nothing conflicting.  Some of us will come to worship as long as it is not to sunny, or to rainy.  Like Red Riding Hood, Sunday needs to be “just right”.  Friends, obedience always comes at a cost.  These men were taking their lives into their own hands by not playing Herod’s game.  So, how obedient are you and I to God’s calling?  At the first sign of opposition, do we fold our tents and run away?

Let me tell you a brief story about my disobedience…

Illustration: Stealing Christmas
I was enjoying 1st grade to the fullest until one day in December when the little girl behind me set "it" on her desk. It was the tiniest Christmas present imaginable, less than an inch on each side with white glossy paper tied up with a sliver of red cellophane. Immediately I was captivated. I had never seen anything so exquisite. Day after day the tiny gift caught my eye, and my active imagination tried to guess what miniature treasure might be inside. It had to be something wondrous beyond description. 

I longed for that object with all the power a 5-year-old can muster. Finally, I became convinced that it should be mine. I deserved it because I desired it. It was a simple matter to slip into the empty classroom one morning. My hands eagerly tore open the tiny present. Inside I found - nothing.

Staring at the destruction in my hand, anticipation dissolved into disappointment and confusion. Gradually my stunned mind grasped the fact that the little package had been nothing more than a hollow decoration. I sat at my desk with the empty paper and an empty feeling, sickened by the knowledge of my guilt.

Little did I know that morning that this scene would repeat itself many times in my life. As I grew up the world enticed me with all sorts of shiny, pretty wrapped "presents" that caught my eye and promised happiness. Too often, when I accepted what the world was offering and tore away the wrappings, my excited expectations were replaced by feelings of emptiness. Over and over I found myself proving the old cliché: "You can’t judge a gift by its wrapping.

Remember, worship isn’t about us at all.  It is all about God.

Acts 5:29 ESV
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

Four Traits of Wise Men!

I. Observant vs. 1-2

II. Obedient vs. 3-9

III. Overjoyed vs. 10
Matthew 2:10 ESV
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Point:
I love Christmas.  It is a great season.  It is probably the most festive season of the entire year.  One way that I choose to celebrate Christmas is in illumination.  I love Christmas lights because it reminds me of the Scripture found in Matthew 5:14.  Jesus tells His disciples that “you are the light of the world” meaning that we are to shine the Good News of the Gospel to the world.  We ourselves are reflecting that light of Christ to all. 

Illustration:
In 2001, the Richards family of Canberra, Australia, set the Guinness World Record for the most holiday lights ever to grace a human house—331,038 bulbs, to be exact. The family's retina-scorching record stood for more than a decade. Then, in 2012, Tim Gay and his family from LaGrangeville, New York—bested the Richardses. They decorated their house with 346,283 lights. (Many of those were, to add tinsel to injury, synchronized to music.)
The Richards couldn't stand to be losers so they upped the ante by decorating their house with more than 502,165 lights. (This equates to more than 29 miles of wire.)

But! There is, of course, always room for more light. So, this year, our heroes from New York got their revenge: They covered their own house—and, crucially, its grounds—with a display that involves 601,736 lights. The whole thing took roughly two months to build. It spans two acres. It also involves much more than lights: It includes more than 200 songs, including both top-40 hits and traditional holiday songs.

As Tim Gay told Guinness, on the occasion of his win: "My family and I are thrilled to bring the World Record back to the United States." He added, "And we're even more excited that we did it with nearly 100,000 more lights than the previous record."

Point:
I think that you could say that in our current culture of Christmas lights battling that we are missing the point.  The Magi didn’t string up lights or partake of eggnog.  They had true joy.  They expressed true joy.  The Bible says they were overjoyed to finally find Jesus.  It said that their joy was exceedingly.  What does that mean?

Remember, these were educated men.  These were men of profound power.  They were serious and mannerly.  Culturally they would have done nothing to be foolish or act in a foolish manner.  Yet, when they confronted Jesus, when they found him, they lost all of their cultural shackles.  They shouted.  They sang.  They danced.  They cried.  They hugged.  Finally the Savior of the world was here and they were pumped.  

The joy they experienced came out in a very primitive way.  It could not be contained.  When is the last time you displayed exceedingly great joy for Jesus? When is the last time you displayed your joy for Jesus in a foolish manner?  Can people see the joy of Jesus in you?  Perhaps the church doesn’t grow much today because we are so serious about our doctrine but so bah humbug when it comes to having joy for Christ.  

Illustration:
Open your Bibles to John 15:9-11.  Jesus has just had a conversation with the disciples about remaining close to Him.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  But then He inserts a pretty huge statement.  Let me reddit for you.  

John 15:9-11
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Friends Jesus has come to give us joy.  Not incomplete joy or joy that fades.  Complete joy.  Do you have the joy of Christ this Christmas season and beyond?  

Four Traits of Wise Men!

I. Observant vs. 1-2

II. Obedient vs. 3-9

III. Overjoyed vs. 10

IV. Offering vs. 11-12
Matthew 2:11-12 ESV
11 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. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Illustration: Frank Sent This
Three small boys were in a Christmas play at school.
They represented the three wise men and they were to give their gifts to baby Jesus. The first boy stepped forward, held out the gift in his hands and said, “Gold.” The second boy stepped forward, held out his gift and said, “Myrrh.” The third boy stepped forward, held out his gift and said, “Frank sent this.”

Point:
So the Magi came.  They were exceedingly joyful and in their joy, they worshipped. Notice a couple of things about their worship.  

How Did The Magi Worship?

A. Notice Their Posture 
Psalm 95:6 ESV
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

Point:
Again, these were men of great wealth and prestige.  So, it would have been quite an experience to see these men of greatness knell down, rather fall down, to worship Jesus.  After all, Jesus would have been just a young child.  Who would bow down to worship a baby?  Yet, these men showed tremendous humility in worship.  Notice that the Magi don’t complain about their worship experience.  These were cramped quarters.  Their worship as totally focused on Jesus and Jesus alone.  It was not about them or their preferences. 

B. Notice Their Presents 
II. Corinthians 9:7 ESV
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Point:
In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the magi, scholars think that these three were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming—an interpretation made popular in the well-known Christmas carol “We Three Kings.”

Luke 6:38 NIV
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.


Model The Magi, Go, Grin and Give!

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