By Sandy Mittelsteadt, Faith Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
My husband and I have been reading the Book of Proverbs and this book of the Bible has a lot to say about wisdom. Thus, this Christmas season I have “wisdom” on my mind. I have come to believe that searching for Christ is true wisdom. This makes me curious about the Wise Men or Magi in the Christmas story. I know very little about them, so I decided to do some research about them. I found out that they were the kingmakers of their day, which explains why Herod greeted them and felt so threatened by them.
Magi appeared in the seventh century BC in the Median Empire. (The Median Empire is now called Iran.) The Magi were not common ignorant men; they were well-educated. They had great knowledge of astronomy, agriculture, mathematics, and history, but how did they come to know of the coming of the Messiah?
When King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and the City of Jerusalem in a campaign originally against Egypt, he brought back a Jewish boy named Daniel and some of his companions to Babylon. Now, Daniel was known for his wisdom and righteousness and was to be trained in Babylon. I am sure that Daniel, a Jewish lad, told the Magi about the coming Messiah and the Scriptures. Daniel would certainly have been believed because during his stay in Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which he forgot, but he wanted the Magi of the land to give him back the dream with its interpretation. When the Magi could not tell him or interpret the dream, he was so angry that he was going to kill all the Magi, including Daniel. Daniel prayed to God and God gave him the ability to both know and interpret the dream.
As a result, Daniel saved the Magi and became their hero. He used his influence to tell the Magi about God and the coming Messiah. It is nice to know that at least some of the Magi believed Daniel and searched for a Savior, a miracle baby. In order to do this, they had to ignore their families, their tradition, their nationalism, and their native religion. They knew that they were searching for not simply a baby, but a virgin-born child. They knew Numbers 24:17: “… there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel…”. They knew to look for a star that would show them a king in Israel.
The Magi rode miles through dangerous territories to reach the Holy Land, where the Messiah would be born. (Matthew only states that they came from the east.) Most stories of the Magi have just three wise men, but we don’t know how many Magi there were. The number, three, is used because three gifts are named. Also, the traditional story has the men coming quietly on camels into Jerusalem. Having lived in Saudi Arabia, the version of the Magi story in my head has them riding on powerful Arabian horses or Persian steeds with a small powerful army of soldiers and servants to protect them. And, as kingmakers, they would not come quietly into the city of Jerusalem. As nobility, they would have entered with much fanfare. They arrived and went everywhere in town asking where the King of the Jews had been born. This troubled King Herod and the other Israelites as they were all threatened, especially King Herod, who had been conferred King by Caesar Augustus himself. Troubled, Herod asked the chief priests and the scribes, who answered that the scriptures said the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, some five and a half miles south from Jerusalem. The actual verses from the Bible are Micah 5:2: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Then King Herod asked to speak privately to the Wise Men. He informed them that they should go to Bethlehem and asked when the star appeared. The Magi continued on and left Jerusalem because the star they were following moved on to Bethlehem. Matthew Chapter 2, verse 10 states: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
They continued their search until they found the babe in the manger. That didn’t stop their search because the babe was not in a palace; they didn’t decide to do more study; they didn’t debate about the baby, or wait until a better day, instead they fell down and worshiped Him.
The essence of wisdom is to search for the truth and any honest search for the truth of why you exist will always lead back to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. I hope you understand that you can hold in your hands a supernatural Book — one that has made hundreds of predictions even thousands of years ahead. This book, the Bible, wants to reveal a God who really wants people to know Him. I pray you seek the Messiah personally and just not to know about Him. You can-not love someone you do not know.
Let’s join the ranks with these Magi, these Wise Men, and seek true wisdom from the Messiah, Jesus Christ, today.