Monday, December 19, 2016

The Star of Bethlehem


Numbers 24:17  "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.

Men spend a lifetime denying the vulnerability into which they were born.

We are a creation in need … we are born to need; we live in need and we die with yet the greatest need.

The man who uttered the words we read from Numbers 24 was an old prophet named Balaam. Balaam was not considered a good prophet. Balaam was known for his greed and his willingness to do almost anything for money. However, even Balaam recognized his need for God.

Balaam was handsomely bribed and promised great reward if he would use his prophetic powers to curse Moses and the Israelites when they camped in the plains of Midian and Moab. Three times Balaam prepared himself and all three times the Lord spoke blessings through him instead. Earlier in the account Balaam declared to his would be benefactors:

Numbers 23:20  Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.

Now, after the third and final time Balaam ascended a high place in hopes to earn his bribe he finally understands … God has a far reaching plan greater than those of the East have seen. The old prophet Balaam speaks to proclaim:

Numbers 24
15  So he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, And the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened;
16  The utterance of him who hears the words of God, And has the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
17  I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.”

What did Balaam see? Many imagine, as do I, Balaam saw in a vision what the Shepherds in fields of Bethlehem would one day see and what would shine as a star into the east and be observed and followed by wise men from Arabia bearing precious gifts to the King of these Jews.

Angles appeared with a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and declaring “Peace on earth and good will to all men!” The glory of the Lord appeared to men to announce the birth of the Savior, Jesus the Christ.

We’re told by scholars that the wise men most likely traveled by camel caravan for 2 to 4 months after witnessing the Star rising out of Jacob. By some accounts, although not offered as fact yet well imagined, the wise men may have arrived in Bethlehem around the end of December that year. It was most certainly after the days of Mary’s purification and just prior to Joseph leading his family down into Egypt for a brief time.

With these things in mind and well remembering that we are a creation born in need, let’s read from the passage in Matthew’s Gospel:

Matthew 2  NKJV
1 ¶  Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
2  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."
3  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4  And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5  So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6  ’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’"
7  Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.
8  And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also."
9 ¶  When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.
10  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
11  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12  Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Gold – Frankincense – Myrrh

Much has been written about these precious gifts and most all of it bears some truth. These Magi Wise Men were most likely from Arabia where these commodities were native and in abundance among the elite. Each gift speaks its own truth and reveals a facet of man’s need for a Savior.

·        Gold was used as the medium of wealth and trade. Without gold a person would starve and be unable to have provision necessary for life. Gold was given to sustain His life. No doubt this gold was much needed and well used to finance Joseph taking Jesus and Mary down into Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod who shortly sent soldiers to Bethlehem and killed every child two years and under hoping to destroy this Star’s prophetic claim to the throne of Israel.
·        Frankincense is precious oil made from the sap of a tree in Arabia. It was used to make the anointing oil which speaks of ministry. More than our own life, frankincense allows us to share the goodness of God with others. Frankincense was given to speak of His ministry.
·        Myrrh is a bitter extract and was most often used for embalming and preserving. It also has a numbing effect and was therefore mixed with wine to give a greater ease of pain or to dull the senses. Myrrh was given in consideration of His death.

1.   Gold – His Life
2.   Frankincense – His Ministry
3.   Myrrh – His Death

Life – Ministry – Death … That just about sums up the whole account of man’s need … remember – we are all born in need.

Life – Ministry – Death  ----- Some have also said:
1.   Gold for the King
2.   Frankincense for the Priest
3.   Myrrh for the Prophet
The wise men signifying that Jesus, this Star rising out of Israel was all the epitome of all three.

I believe these three precious gifts were given by those wise men in Bethlehem to remind them and the whole world after them of their need for a Savior. I believe these gifts speak:

1.   Gold to His Royalty
2.   Frankincense to His Divinity
3.   Myrrh to His Humanity

Let’s take a look at these three in light of our need as I close this morning. First let’s take the Frankincense:
·        Just as the wise men of old, we must also recognize the Divinity of Jesus. He is Only Begotten Son of God and as such Divine. We are all born into a world in need of a Divine Creator and Sustainer … One Who is high above all others, omnipotent, omniscience, eternal.
o   Do you believe in God?
o   These wise men came and first they bowed themselves before they offered any other gifts.
o   You need to acknowledge a God Who is worthy of your praise and worthy of your worship.
Next take the Gold … remember, it was for His Royalty!
·        Many believe in God and they do well to acknowledge Him. However, the Bible says that even the devils believe in God yet they do not serve Him. The gifts of gold were offerings given to Kings such as the Queen of Sheba sent to Solomon to recognize him as sovereign. Jesus is certainly the Son of God without question … the only question is:
o   Is Jesus your King?
o   If so, does He deserve your gold?
o   The Bible gives vivid and continual accounts of the need Jesus had in life, in ministry and in death for someone to recognize His Sovereignty and offer Him use of their gold.
o   We are born into need, we live in need and in need we die. To make Jesus the Lord, Master and Sovereign King of your life in every aspect of your life is the only thing that will meet all three of those needs.
Finally we look to Jesus and the Myrrh of His humanity.
·        If Jesus were not human He could not have suffered and died in our place.
·        I need Jesus to be human and to understand my burden, comfort me in my sorrow, lead me through temptation’s battles and weep with me when I feel pain.

Today these three precious gifts given the young child Jesus remind me that I have a God, a Savior and a Friend who knows my joys and feels my pain and yet loves me beyond my need.

1.   Do you believe in God?
2.   Do you have a King?
3.   Do you need a Friend?

His name is Jesus … The Star of Bethlehem!