We Have Seen His Star
when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of
Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the East to
Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in
the East, and are come to worship Him."
The wise men from the East
were philosophers. They belonged to a large and influential class that included men of
noble birth, and comprised much of the wealth and learning of their nation. Among these
were many who imposed on the credulity of the people. Others were upright men who studied
the indications of Providence in nature, and who were honored for their integrity and
wisdom. Of this character were the wise men who came to Jesus.
The light of God is ever
shining amid the darkness of heathenism. As these magi studied the starry heavens, and
sought to fathom the mystery hidden in their bright paths, they beheld the glory of the
Creator. Seeking clearer knowledge, they turned to the Hebrew Scriptures. In their own
land were treasured prophetic writings that predicted the coming of a divine teacher.
Balaam belonged to the magicians, though at one time a prophet of God; by the Holy Spirit
he had foretold the prosperity of Israel and the appearing of the Messiah; and his
had been handed down by tradition from century to century. But in the Old
Testament the Saviour's advent was more clearly revealed. The magi learned with joy that
His coming was near, and that the whole world was to be filled with a knowledge of the
glory of the Lord.
The wise men had seen a
mysterious light in the heavens upon that night when the glory of God flooded the hills of
Bethlehem. As the light faded, a luminous star appeared, and lingered in the sky. It was
not a fixed star nor a planet, and the phenomenon excited the keenest interest. That star
was a distant company of shining angels, but of this the wise men were ignorant. Yet they
were impressed that the star was of special import to them. They consulted priests and
philosophers, and searched the scrolls of the ancient records. The prophecy of Balaam had
declared, "There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of
Israel." Num. 24:17. Could this strange star have been sent as a harbinger of the
Promised One? The magi had welcomed the light of heaven-sent truth; now it was shed upon
them in brighter rays. Through dreams they were instructed to go in search of the newborn
As by faith Abraham went
forth at the call of God, "not knowing whither he went" (Heb. 11:8); as by faith
Israel followed the pillar of cloud to the Promised Land, so did these Gentiles go forth
to find the promised Saviour. The Eastern country abounded in precious things, and the
magi did not set out empty-handed. It was the custom to offer presents as an act of homage
to princes or other personages of rank, and the richest gifts the land afforded were borne
as an offering to Him in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed. It was
necessary to journey by night in order to keep the star in view; but the travelers
beguiled the hours by repeating traditional sayings and prophetic utterances concerning
the One they sought. At every pause for rest they searched the prophecies; and the
conviction deepened that they were divinely guided. While they had the star before them as
an outward sign, they had also the inward evidence of the Holy Spirit, which was
impressing their hearts, and inspiring them with hope. The journey, though long, was a
happy one to them.
They have reached the land of
Israel, and are descending the Mount of Olives, with Jerusalem in sight, when, lo, the
star that has guided them all the weary way rests above the temple, and after a season
fades from their view. With eager steps they press onward, confidently expecting the
Messiah's birth to be the joyful burden of every tongue. But their
inquiries are in vain.
Entering the holy city, they repair to the temple. To their amazement they find none who
seem to have a knowledge of the newborn king. Their questions call forth no expressions of
joy, but rather of surprise and fear, not unmingled with contempt.
The priests are rehearsing
traditions. They extol their religion and their own piety, while they denounce the Greeks
and Romans as heathen, and sinners above others. The wise men are not idolaters, and in
the sight of God they stand far higher than do these, His professed worshipers; yet they
are looked upon by the Jews as heathen. Even among the appointed guardians of the Holy
Oracles their eager questionings touch no chord of sympathy.
The arrival of the magi was
quickly noised throughout Jerusalem. Their strange errand created an excitement among the
people, which penetrated to the palace of King Herod. The wily Edomite was aroused at the
intimation of a possible rival. Countless murders had stained his pathway to the throne.
Being of alien blood, he was hated by the people over whom he ruled. His only security was
the favor of Rome. But this new Prince had a higher claim. He was born to the kingdom.
Herod suspected the priests
of plotting with the strangers to excite a popular tumult and unseat him from the throne.
He concealed his mistrust, however, determined to thwart their schemes by superior
cunning. Summoning the chief priests and the scribes, he questioned
them as to the
teaching of their sacred books in regard to the place of the Messiah's birth.
This inquiry from the usurper
of the throne, and made at the request of strangers, stung the pride of the Jewish
teachers. The indifference with which they turned to the rolls of prophecy enraged the
jealous tyrant. He thought them trying to conceal their knowledge of the matter. With an
authority they dared not disregard, he commanded them to make close search, and to declare
the birthplace of their expected King. "And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of
Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
"And thou Bethlehem,
land of Judah, Art in nowise least among the princes of Judah: For out of thee shall come
forth a governor, Which shall be shepherd of My people Israel." R.V.
Herod now invited the magi to
a private interview. A tempest of wrath and fear was raging in his heart, but he preserved
a calm exterior, and received the strangers courteously. He inquired at what time the star
had appeared, and professed to hail with joy the intimation of the birth of Christ. He
bade his visitors, "Search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found
Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also." So saying, he
dismissed them to go on their way to Bethlehem.
The priests and elders of
Jerusalem were not as ignorant concerning the birth of Christ as they pretended. The
report of the angels' visit to the shepherds had been brought to Jerusalem, but the rabbis
had treated it as unworthy of their notice. They themselves might have found Jesus, and
might have been ready to lead the magi to His birthplace; but instead of this, the wise
men came to call their attention to the birth of the Messiah. "Where is He that is
born King of the Jews?" they said; "for we have seen His star in the East, and
are come to worship Him."
Now pride and envy closed the
door against the light. If the reports brought by the shepherds and the wise men were
credited, they would place the priests and rabbis in a most unenviable position,
disproving their claim to be the exponents of the truth of God. These learned teachers
would not stoop to be instructed by those whom they termed heathen. It could not be, they
said, that God had passed them by, to communicate
with ignorant shepherds or uncircumcised
Gentiles. They determined to show their contempt for the reports that were exciting King
Herod and all Jerusalem. They would not even go to Bethlehem to see whether these things
were so. And they led the people to regard the interest in Jesus as a fanatical
excitement. Here began the rejection of Christ by the priests and rabbis. From this point
their pride and stubbornness grew into a settled hatred of the Saviour. While God was
opening the door to the Gentiles, the Jewish leaders were closing the door to themselves.
The wise men departed alone
from Jerusalem. The shadows of night were falling as they left the gates, but to their
great joy they again saw the star, and were directed to Bethlehem. They had received no
such intimation of the lowly estate of Jesus as was given to the shepherds. After the long
journey they had been disappointed by the indifference of the Jewish leaders, and had left
Jerusalem less confident than when they entered the city. At Bethlehem they found no royal
guard stationed to protect the newborn King. None of the world's honored men were in
attendance. Jesus was cradled in a manger. His parents, uneducated peasants, were His only
guardians. Could this be He of whom it was written, that He should "raise up the
tribes of Jacob," and "restore the preserved of Israel;" that He should be
"a light to the Gentiles," and for "salvation unto the end of the
earth"? Isa. 49:6.
"When they were come
into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and
worshiped Him." Beneath the lowly guise of Jesus, they recognized the presence of
Divinity. They gave their hearts to Him as their Saviour, and then poured out their
gifts,--"gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." What a faith was theirs!
might have been said of the wise men from the East, as afterward of the Roman centurion,
"I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Matt. 8:10.
The wise men had not
penetrated Herod's design toward Jesus. When the object of their journey was accomplished,
they prepared to return to Jerusalem, intending to acquaint him with their success. But in
a dream they received a divine message to hold no further communication with him. Avoiding
Jerusalem, they set out for their own country by another route.
In like manner Joseph
received warning to flee into Egypt with Mary and the child. And the angel said, "Be
thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy
Him." Joseph obeyed without delay, setting out on the journey by night for greater
Through the wise men, God had
called the attention of the Jewish nation to the birth of His Son. Their inquiries in
Jerusalem, the popular interest excited, and even the jealousy of Herod, which compelled
the attention of the priests and rabbis, directed minds to the prophecies concerning the
Messiah, and to the great event that had just taken place.
Satan was bent on shutting
out the divine light from the world, and he used his utmost cunning to destroy the
Saviour. But He who never slumbers nor sleeps was watching over His beloved Son. He who
had rained manna from heaven for Israel and had fed Elijah in the time of famine provided
in a heathen land a refuge for Mary and the child Jesus. And through the gifts of the magi
from a heathen country, the Lord supplied the means for the journey into Egypt and the
sojourn in a land of strangers.
The magi had been among the
first to welcome the Redeemer. Their gift was the first that was laid at His feet. And
through that gift, what privilege of ministry was theirs! The offering from the heart that
loves, God delights to honor, giving it highest efficiency in service for Him. If we have
given our hearts to Jesus, we also shall bring our gifts to Him. Our gold and silver, our
most precious earthly possessions, our highest mental and spiritual endowments, will be
freely devoted to Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us.
Herod in Jerusalem
impatiently awaited the return of the wise men. As time passed, and they did not appear,
his suspicions were roused. The unwillingness of the rabbis to point out the Messiah's
birthplace seemed to indicate that they had penetrated his design, and that the magi had
purposely avoided him. He was maddened at the thought. Craft had failed, but there was
left the resort to force. He would make an example of this child-king. Those haughty Jews
should see what they might expect in their attempts to place a monarch on the throne.
Soldiers were at once sent to
Bethlehem, with orders to put to death all the children of two years and under. The quiet
homes of the city of David witnessed those scenes of horror that, six hundred years
before, had been opened to the prophet. "In Ramah was there a voice heard,
lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would
not be comforted, because they are not."
This calamity the Jews had
brought upon themselves. If they had been walking in faithfulness and humility before God,
He would in a signal manner have made the wrath of the king harmless to them. But they had
separated themselves from God by their sins, and had rejected the Holy Spirit, which was
their only shield. They had not studied the Scriptures with a desire to conform to the
will of God. They had searched for prophecies which could be interpreted to exalt
themselves, and to show how God despised all other nations. It was their proud boast that
Messiah was to come as a king, conquering His enemies, and treading down the heathen
in His wrath. Thus they had excited the hatred of their rulers. Through their
misrepresentation of Christ's mission, Satan had purposed to compass the destruction of
the Saviour; but instead of this, it returned upon their own heads.
This act of cruelty was one
of the last that darkened the reign of Herod. Soon after the slaughter of the innocents,
he was himself compelled to yield to that doom which none can turn aside. He died a
Joseph, who was still in
Egypt, was now bidden by an angel of God to return to the land of Israel. Regarding Jesus
as the heir of David's throne, Joseph desired to make his home in Bethlehem; but learning
that Archelaus reigned in Judea in his father's stead, he feared that the father's designs
against Christ might be carried out by the son. Of all the sons of Herod, Archelaus most
resembled him in character. Already his succession to the government had been marked by a
tumult in Jerusalem, and the slaughter of thousands of Jews by the Roman guards.
Again Joseph was directed to
a place of safety. He returned to Nazareth, his former home, and here for nearly thirty
years Jesus dwelt, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He
shall be called a Nazarene." Galilee was under the control of a son of Herod, but it
had a much larger admixture of foreign inhabitants than Judea.
Thus there was less
interest in matters relating especially to the Jews, and the claims of Jesus would be less
likely to excite the jealousy of those in power.
Such was the Saviour's
reception when He came to the earth. There seemed to be no place of rest or safety for the
infant Redeemer. God could not trust His beloved Son with men, even while carrying forward
His work for their salvation. He commissioned angels to attend Jesus and protect Him till
He should accomplish His mission on earth, and die by the hands of those whom He came to