Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where did the Magi come from?

Daniel 2:12 Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

How God worked through a teenage boy to preserve a critical element in history
So who were these mysterious Magi from the East?  Many have offered their theories over the years - but the one that has stood the test of time more than any other is that these who came to worship the Christ child, two years following his birth in Bethlehem, can be traced back to the days of Daniel.

We first meet Daniel in his book when he was but 15 years of age.  He, along with his fellow Jews, were taken away captive to Babylon in 605 b.c (that's over 600 years before the birth of Jesus).  In Babylon there was a religion that was dedicated to worshipping various Babylonian deities, chief of which centered around the false god Marduk and astrology. 

An angry King is soothed by God's word
King Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the Babylonian Empire, had a dream one night that frightened and alarmed him.  When he consulted his counselors and magicians, none could give him the meaning.  God was showing that the religion of Babylon was more of smoke and mirrors than reality.  When the King issued a death decree on all the wise men of that day (including Daniel), Daniel, the text tells us, gained favor in the sight of the chief executioner. 

With God there are no surprises and no accidents
All of Daniel 2 records how Daniel spoke to his three other friends (the guys who would be cast into the fiery furnace in Daniel 3) and prayed to the Lord for wisdom.  God gave him the interpretation and Daniel spoke to the King about the meaning of his dream.  What God had shown Nebuchadnezzar was the entire sweep of history leading up to the days of Christ's birth.  Furthermore, as a result of God's work through Daniel, the King was convinced to drop the death decree and spare the lives of the Magi in Babylon.

Babylon would be conquered by Persia, but the Magi would still remain
In Daniel 5 we see the final night of the Babylonian empire.  In history the fall of Babylon to Persia occurred in 538 b.c.  By this point Daniel is in his eighties, and the Jews have been in exile for nearly 70 years.  Still clinging to the Lord, Daniel is shown in Daniel 6 being thrown into the lion's den.  After God preserves Daniel through the night, sending his angel to shut the mouth's of the lions, King Darius decrees that the governors of the now new empire, Persia (called Satraps), be cast into the Lion's Den.

So where are the Magi?  Undoubtedly Daniel is still working among them.  At the end of Daniel 6, Darius issues a decree that all people everywhere are to dear the God of Daniel.  Many scholars believe Daniel may have given Darius the words to write.  This act of toleration enables Daniel to act as a missionary among the court of the Magi.

The prophecies of Israel are made known to the Magi
When we come to Matthew 2, over 600 years later, the Magi relate to Herod that they were following a star that had appeared to them in the East some two years before.  This star evidently pointed them to one "born King of the Jews".  Now where did these otherwise pagan Magi, of the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, derive their understanding of the "King of the Jews"?

Undoubtedly there is only one conclusion:  God used Daniel some 600 years before to relay to them of how God was going to send a Messiah to Jerusalem from a Jewish bloodline.  Though the Pagan system of the Persians would persist, this one truth from scripture would be preserved up to Jesus' day. 

The East would bow to the God man
It would then come, in the fulness of time (Galatians 4:4), that a star (or something like it) would appear in the skies over what is now modern day Iran.  For two years these Magi would travel.  The star would lead them to a home in Bethlehem.  There they would meet Mary, Joseph, and Jesus - the only sinless toddler!  Undoubtedly God had been orchestrating this meeting for over 600 years!  Through the life of a young boy Daniel, God would preserve a group of Pagans who down through the centuries would preserve a nugget of truth whose fruit would not be born until the days of Jesus. 

What the facts about the Magi tells us about the significance of Christmas
Once the Magi arrived, God's grace led them to the God man - whom they bowed down aand worshipped.  If anything, Christmas reminds us that God's plan to seek and to save that which was lost involved time, involved unlikely characters and involved the scriptures.  Truly God's Word does not return void - since the written word points us to the Living word - Jesus Christ.   

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