Monday, December 21, 2015
The significance of the star of Bethlehem
Matthew 2:2 “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.”
Today's blog is going to attempt to deal with the question: "What was the star of Bethlehem?" Whenever you begin to dive into this subject, you come away with three general explanations.
1. The star was a natural phenomena. In reading the literature on this subject over the years, I have found all kinds of explanations, some of which range from the purely ridiculous to the downright intriguing. Some have suggested that the celestial object witnessed by the Magi may had been a comet or a brightly exploding star called a supernova. Recent computer programs that can depict the appearance on the sky over any location on Earth have have run back to the period of Jesus' birth (7 b.c to 2 b.c) and have discovered the alignment of three planets: Jupiter, Mars and Venus.
Could these astronomical phenomena been used by God in guiding these wisemen? It would seem that as suggestive as this may be, it is not adequate to explain what they saw. The object in question, accordng to Matthew's record, "guided them" and then "stayed" over the spot where Jesus and his family were living.
2. The star was a supernatural phenomena On the other end of the spectrum of explanations lies the supernatural explanation. Many will point back to the times when the people of God were led through the wilderness by "a pillar of fire" by night. Certainly we cannot argue that when the Magi explain this object as guiding and leading them, and then "standing over the place" where the Christ child was at, that thise object is of supernatural origin.
When one does a word study for that word "stand" in Matthew 2:9, we discover that the star not only just "stood over" the place of Christ's dwelling, it "stationed, positioned itself". This tells us that the object in question had some level of intelligence (perhaps an angel for instance). The only issue with this view is that like the completely natural explanation, we don't have enough information to make a judgment on what exactly the star was. However, we can at least say that the object possessed intelligence of some sort.
3. The star was both natural and supernatural If we take both the natural and supernatural explanations together, we can say that whatever the Magi saw that night entailed God communicating through both the night sky and the supernatural realm. In a past blog I demonstrated how the prophet Daniel, over 600 years prior to the Magi in Matthew 2, had injected the prophecies of the Messiah into the thought life of these Persian Astrologers. If you look at Matthew 2 once again, the quotation of a particular prophecy helps us to arrive at an explanation that includes the scriptures, the specific means through which God communicates saving truth.
4. The Star definitely had prophetic significance
Theologians have noted that God communicates to human beings in two ways: General Revelation and Special Revelation. General Revelation is the witness of God that we have in creation and the conscience. It proves His existence and our responsibility to Him, but it does not identify Who He is nor does it lead to salvation. This is where we need "Special Revelation" from the scriptures to fill in what is needed to lead a person to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
When you scan the account of the Magi in Matthew 2:6, they do quote the prophecy in Numbers 24:17 concerning a star arising out of the tribe of Judah in Jerusalem. This suggests to us that they were operating on what they first detected from General revelation - the positions of certain things in the sky (as wells as some time of supernatural phenomena), beginning over 800 miles at where they lived and them following that over a period of two years to where Christ was. Then with them already possessing ancient copies of the Jewish scriptures handed down through their number from the days of Daniel, God at that moment used a particular text in His Special revelation to persuade them to worship the Christ child.
We must remember what they ultimately sought and the only proper response
Although we could offer a pretty plausible scenerio for what the Magi saw in the night skies over Babylonia and Bethlehem - one thing is sure - the star in question was but a Divinely given natural/supernatural means, and beholding God in Human flesh was the true goal. By the time they reached Him, the Spirit of God, through the scriptures, had convinced them that this was the One they sought. They worshipped Him, and then went away exceedingly glad. May that be our response to Christ throughout this season and the rest of lour lives: worship and exceeding joy.