|Volume 19 Number 12 December 2017||
Almost two thousand years ago when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, the Bible says, “Behold wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1-2). The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was in fulfillment of many prophesies that were recorded hundreds of years before in the Old Testament of the Bible. Prophet Micah almost seven centuries before the birth of Christ had foretold, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be ruler of Israel, Whose going forth are from of old, From everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Isaiah, another prophet of God, had declared, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The word Immanuel means God with us. When Jesus was born, God entered the ranks of humanity, became a man in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, and paid the penalty of human sins—laying upon Himself, in the person of His Son, the iniquity of us all (John 1:1, 14; 3:16). Isaiah had also predicted that the child Who would be born as God’s Son would be a King Who would rule in His everlasting kingdom forever (Isaiah 9:6-7). Isaiah had foretold Jesus’ virgin birth, and Micah had predicted the village of His birth, Bethlehem.
The Old Testament Scriptures, which were originally written in the Hebrew language, were translated later into the Greek language in about 250 B.C. The wise men who came from the East, perhaps Arabia (Genesis 25:6), to worship Jesus, were scholars, philosophers or astrologers. The Greek Bible describes them as Magi, which was a priestly caste during the Persian rule many centuries before the birth of Christ. The presents they brought (i.e., gold, frankincense and myrrh) were the product of Persia. They, the wise men, while in their country, had seen an extraordinary star such as they had never seen before, which they took to be an indication of an extraordinary person born in the land of Judea, over which land this special star was seen to hover in the nature of a comet or a meteor rather in the lower region of the air. This differed so much from anything that was common that they concluded it to signify something uncommon and of a great significance. Based on their study of the Old Testament Scriptures, which also predicted, “A Star shall come out of Jacob; A scepter shall rise out of Israel…” (Numbers 24:17), they concluded that the King of the Jews, The Immanuel, about Whom they had been reading in the Scriptures had been born. Therefore, they set out to meet Him. We do not know their number. The conjecture that there were “three” rose from the fact that three kinds of gifts are mentioned, which they offered after they found Jesus.
Those men were surely wise, because as soon as they had seen the extraordinary Star, they lost no time but set out to look for the new King, following the Star. It must have taken a long time for them to journey sitting on animals and going through the jungles and rough, mountainous terrain. Yet, nothing discouraged them. They were wise, because in seeking Jesus they were following the Star, the Guide, that God had provided them. It was a light set up by God to lead them to Christ. The Bible says, “…the Star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the Star they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:9-10).
Even today the wisest way of finding Christ and what He requires of men to learn from Him and what He teaches them to do is to go directly to His New Testament in the Bible and read or hear from it. There are many false things being taught in the name of Christ today, which are not found in the Bible and which have nothing to do with Christ and His teaching. For example, what must one do to be saved (Mark 16:16), of what church must one be a member (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28; 2:47) and how should one worship Him acceptably (John 4:24; Matthew 15:8, 9) are corrupted in the teachings of men. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught:
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded of the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell, and great was its fall. (Matthew 7:24-27)
To be wise, one should not only hear or know about Christ, but one must do what He teaches. The rain, the floods and the winds represent a figure of speech to describe the coming Judgment Day (John 12:48). Often people want to go to men and to books written by men to learn about Christ and His teachings. However, those who go to the real source, the Bible, God has given us the guide for all spiritual matters. Those who learn about Christ and His teachings thereby are certainly wise.
Another notable thing that we learn from those wise men is that when they observed that the Star they were following had stopped going any further and came to stand where the young child was, they went inside the house where “they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him” (Matthew 2:11). Notice, they didn’t worship Mary. The wise men knew that Mary was just another human being who was used by God to bring His Only Begotten Son into the world (Matthew 1:18-25). No doubt, Mary was a God-fearing and a God-loving person, and that is why God used her for such a great and wonderful task. Yet, certainly she was neither “the mother of God” nor an individual as holy and as sinless as Christ was. The wise men, therefore, worshiped Jesus, the Son of God, and offered their gifts to Him. The apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:15-17 said, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Wise men and women today seek Jesus as did the wise men nearly two thousand years ago.
Six Precious Things in Peter’s Epistles
Mark N. Posey
Precious means of great price or value, costly, highly esteemed or loved, dear. There are many things in this world that people count as precious. However, in Peter’s epistles, we see the word “precious” regarding greater things.
Precious Christ (1 Peter 2:7). “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner-stone.’”
Precious Blood (1 Peter 1:18-10). “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Precious Stone (1 Peter 2:4). “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious.”
Precious Faith (2 Peter 1:1). “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Precious Trial of Your Faith (1 Peter 1:7). “That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Precious Promises (2 Peter 1:4). “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Truly, the foregoing are much more precious than anything man can imagine on earth (Matthew 16:26). What do you hold as “precious”?