Everyone stares at the stars.
It is human nature to lift our heads, tilting them till we almost fall over backward, to see the endless fields of stars above. If we venture out beyond the city lights, the velvet sky becomes darker and the stars shine brighter. More of them come out to greet us. The Milky Way shimmers overhead as we outline the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper and marvel at Orion’s Belt. On summer nights, we lie on our backs to stare at the stars, hoping to catch one of them plunging toward the earth in fire.
Wise men study stars.
It is an obsession. In ancient times they had only the naked eye while modern times added lenses, telescopes, radio waves, and now computers to aid their vision all toward the single purpose of seeing more stars more clearly. Whether astrologers (mystics) or astronomers (scientists) they charted the stars as they appeared to move across the heavens. This helped them see the differences between stars and planets. When it became known that the earth was turning beneath them and not the stars moving above them, this did not diminish their fascination.
Stars seem to have meaning.
Both the mystics and the scientists assigned meanings to the stars and their alignment as if the dim light they threw to earth was intended to deliver messages to mankind. A Hebrew prophet employed this passion as he pointed to the coming of Messiah. Balaam said this:
Numbers 24:17, NKJV
“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…”
It was enough to provide hope to certain Wise Men in pagan lands, far from Israel.
Wise Men from the East
Few details of these visitors are given in the scriptures so tradition has filled in the blanks.
- Were there three of them? There were three gifts.
- Were they kings from three countries or three leaders from one country which seems more logical?
- We even have their names: Caspar, Balthazar, and their leader, Melchior. True or not, this is very helpful to those of us who would tell their story.
- How could these Gentile leaders be more sensitive to heavenly signs than the leaders of God’s people in Jerusalem? How did they know the Hebrew Scriptures? One likely explanation is that they had copies of the Law and the Prophets left over from the Babylonian captivity of Israel.
However it happened, they saw a star, a new one, not on any of their carefully drawn charts.
Their hunger for the One True God was sharpened by the appearance of this star. As it moved, it drew them to follow. Schedules were changed, priorities were reshuffled, and significant gifts were selected all to allow a quest for the child to be born. This was a star to be followed. Thus a caravan struck out for the western horizon, a newborn King to find and worship.
Numbers 24:17 NKJV
“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,”
Luke 1:78-79, NKJV
“Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Matthew 2:1-11, NKJV
“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, 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.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 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. So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: “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.” Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 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.’ 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. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”
2 Peter 1:16-21, NKJV
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
Revelation 22:16-17, NKJV
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
Lord Jesus, You are the Dayspring from on High. You are the Bright and Morning Star. You are the Star of my quest. To You I bring my finest gifts. To You I bow in adoration. It is Your Story that I tell. Help me never to look to lower lights but to be always guided by You. You have called me out of darkness into Your marvelous light. I will arise and shine for You, my Light, have come. Deep darkness lies upon this earth, but You shine on Your people giving us light. I organize my life and this day around my quest to follow You, Star of wonder! Amen and Amen.
We Three Kings
Words and Music: John H. Hopkins
- We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.
- Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.
- Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising, worshiping God on high.
4 Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
5 Glorious now behold him arise; King and God and sacrifice:
Alleluia, Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies.