What Made the "Wise Men" Wise?

December 21, 2018 0 Comments

Today, on this final week before Christmas, I will continue the theme I began last week--a Bible study of the early chapters of Matthew's gospel, focusing on some practical truths for this Christmas season.

Matthew continues his narrative of the unusual circumstances of the birth of Christ by recording the visit of the Magi (“Wise Men”)—the only one of the gospel writers to do so. Since his objective was to present Jesus as the rightful “King of the Jews” it is only fitting that he includes the worship and adoration of these men who were actually looking and searching for this King of the Jews (Matt. 2:2).

The homage paid to Christ by these Wise Men is a beautiful illustration of the kind of worship Jesus deserves. He was born not just as a “king”, but as a SAVIOR (Matt. 1:21). The very fact that He received such wonderful worship is proof of the fact that He was the Son of God—God in the flesh—for only God can accept true worship from man. Significantly, one of the gifts presented by these Magi was frankincense, which by its very nature is something only fitting and appropriate for Deity, according to the Levitical laws of offerings.

What made the Wise Men wise? What lessons can we learn from these men applicable to the lives of all those who desire to be truly wise? A close look at the text reveals these truths:
1. They followed God’s leading, and that’s always wise.
2. They sacrificed their time as they embarked on this journey, which probably took several months.
3. They obeyed what they learned from Scripture (vs. 4-6).
4. They rejoiced when the star reappeared to guide them.
5. They humbled themselves in His presence (fell down before Him).
6. They worshipped Christ by presenting costly gifts.
7. They refused to go back to Herod, obeying God instead.

Wise men were counselors to kings in Bible times. We see this from Exodus 7:11 (Pharaoh’s wise men) and Daniel 2:27; 5:15 (Nebuchanezzar’s wise men). The view that they were pagan astrologers does not square with the fact that “wise men” are distinguished from “astrologers” in all OT references, and the fact that these men were anticipating, they were looking for a Jewish King. You don’t get that from a star in the sky, you get it from the Hebrew Scriptures! It’s much more plausible to view them as Jewish believers in Persia (dating back to the time of Daniel, and later Esther) who were acquainted with Hebrew prophecy. By the time they reached Jerusalem, the child was in a house (not still at the manger)! And it was at least 40 days after Jesus’ birth because there was no threat to His life when He was publicly dedicated, according to Luke 2.

Someday soon “every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11). The act of worship by the Wise Men will be the experience of every person who ever lived, whether they were saved or not.

Matthew makes use of the OT Messianic prophecies more than any other gospel writer. Look for the phrase (repeated over and over): “now all this was done that it might be fulfilled” (See Matt. 1:22; 2:5; 2:15; 2:17; 2:23). Baxter writes: “Clearly Matthew must stand first right at the beginning of the New Testament, for he connects the two Testaments together”.

We must ask ourselves if we truly know what real worship is. Do we exhibit the characteristics of these Wise Men in the way they came to Christ? Do we “seek the Lord” with our whole hearts? Wise men still seek Him, indeed.

Richard Seefried
Harrisonburg, VA
Richard Seefried has a Master’s Degree in Christian Ministry, and is licensed & certified by the NCCA as a clinical pastoral counselor.