The Star Of Bethlehem

Tommy Thornhill

Even though the time of Jesus’ birth is uncertain (the time men observe is of man’s devising, not God’s). Yet since so many people are thinking of the “Star of Bethlehem” because of the coming event and the time of year people call Christmas I thought I would write a few words for you to think about.

            The record of Jesus’ birth is very scanty. All we know about it is recorded in Matt 2 and Luke 2Luke tells us of the visit of the shepherds who came in from the field the night Jesus was born and found Him in a manger in a stable. Matthew tells us of the visit of the wise men who came sometime later and found Jesus in a house, certainly not the same night as the shepherds. The two stories touch opposite areas of life, one is the message to humble Jewish workingmen (shepherds) and the other to religious Gentile scholars. The event in Luke was a message revealed by angels in heaven, the other, in Matthew, was revealed by men who had studious habits of the heavens.

            The birth of a baby always brings changes to the world into which the baby comes. Things are never the same afterward. But the birth of the babe of Bethlehem shook the whole world and continues to do so even today. Shepherds, hearing the announcement of the angels, left their flocks unattended at night to see the Christ child in the stable. Wise men traveled countless miles across the desert led by a star to see the Christ child. Monarchs trembled on their thrones, and the world behaved itself in an unseemly manner, while others rejoiced. From the birth of Jesus all history is dated, BC (before Christ, AD (Latin-anno domino, the year of our Lord). Modern people use BCE (before Christian era) and CE (Christian era). Now, let’s notice some things about the star of Bethlehem.

            It caught the attention of the Wise Men. That was its purpose. When it appeared they realized they were seeing something extraordinary. In some fashion they knew a king had been born Matt.2:1-2. How they knew we are not told. But the history of that time records an air of expectation that something unusual would soon occur in the Judean world. Many believe the wise men gained their knowledge from interaction with the scattered Jews during and after their captivity and by reading the words of the Jewish prophets who had written of the coming Messiah. There is a strong possibility that in some fashion God revealed it to them since He later warns them not to go back to Jerusalem Matt.2:12.

            Who these wise men were, we know very little. We are not told their names, age, number or country of origin. The text does tell us they came from the East, They were Gentile wise men (magoi), educated philosophers, priests, astronomers and astrologers who studied the heavens Matt.2:1. The East was generally understood to be the area of Mesopotamia which included Babylon, Persia, Media, India, and parts of Arabia. We do know they did not visit Jesus in the stable the night He was born. (They came from the East, not the eastside of Bethlehem, and they traveled by plain, not plane).

            Note something else. People assume they followed the star all the way. The Bible does not state this. If so, why did they come to Jerusalem rather than Bethlehem if the star had been leading them? It does tell us that after they learned that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem Micah 5:2-5, the star then reappeared and guided them to a house Matt.2:9-11, not in a stable, so we know their visit was not the same night as the visit of the shepherds. In reality it was probably weeks or months later since Herod decreed that all male children in Bethlehem under 2 years of age to be killed Matt.2:16. The wise men, after presenting their gifts and warned of God they returned home another way Matt.2:12.

            But what these men did is far more important than their names or country of origin. They allowed the star of Bethlehem to lead them to Jesus. When the wise men saw the star, they didn’t ignore it, or try to explain it away, as so many do today who claim to be wise. Human wisdom wants to reject anything that is perceived to be of supernatural origin. But the wise men of our text magnify true wisdom. They allow the star of God to lead them to the future King Jesus, the One destined to sum up God’s eternal purpose in human form. Today men are led to Jesus by the reflected light of the star, the gospel of Christ found in the NT 2.Cor.4:4.

            The Star of Bethlehem led them to rejoice Matt.2:9. Prophecy led them to Bethlehem, but the star led them to Jesus. They rejoiced in faith because they were in the presence of the one born to be King 2.Sam.7:12-14; Isa.9:6-7; 1.Tim.6:15.

            The Star of Bethlehem led them to offer worship and sacrifice Matt.2:2,11. When they found Him they humbled themselves (fell down) to worship Him, not His mother (as the Catholics are taught to do). Worship is to reverence or pay homage to another Jn.4:24. They offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their gifts were real, typifying things of great value, things of great significance. Gold for a king, Frankincense for a priest, and Myrrh for anointing, service, and for one about to die. Appropriate for the King of King, The perfect High Priest, and the supreme Savior of the world. It was the best one had to offer 2.Cor.8:5.

            Some applications. 1. They came a long way to find Jesus. Years later, the Eunuch traveled over 1000 miles to find Jesus. Many can’t even travel a little distance to be with Jesus. They think it is too far.  2. Only the wise men saw the star. Why? They were the ones looking for it. They wanted to find Him, they were seeking Him. People today can’t find Jesus because they won’t search for Him, He is not hard to find Acts 17:27.  3. The wise men were never the same after they found Him. Do you really think they forgot that which they experienced? Do you suppose the shepherds were the same afterward? Anyone who has come in contact with Jesus is never the same afterward. His apostles, Paul, others, myself. In Christ one becomes a new creature, with a new name, a new relationship, a new work, a new hope. All things become new 2.Cor.5:17.

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