Advent Day 4
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 asking, ‘Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ (Matt 2:1-2 KJV).
In Num 24:17, Balaam prophesied His future coming as the Star out of Jacob and Scepter who would rise out of Israel. Star means king, while the full phrase Star out of Jacob refers to the Son of a David. Scepter interprets as the Messiah. Jesus fulfilled scripture by coming with His first advent as the Star and Scepter to redeem and deliver His people from sin; and will come again to conquer God’s spiritual enemies for Israel’s ultimate redemption. Jesus, God with us, fulfilled the hope of salvation. The birth account of the Star of Jacob and the Scepter to Israel—Jesus—opens in Matt 2 with the Magi coming from the east to Jerusalem searching for the King of the Jews. How did they possibly know this? God sent a supernatural star to them!
Commonly, the Magi would represent the Persian king to honor a reigning king. They were sages, wise men, and astrologists often in positions of responsibility commanding respect because of their wisdom. They prophesied, explained omens, interpreted dreams, and practiced divination (Dan 2:2, 48; 4:9). The Hebrew Bible forbids divination and astrology (Deut 4:19). In fact, the Magi were hostile to Daniel. Although the Greco-Romans viewed them favorably, the Jews did not consider them as outsiders to the faith. God used these pagan Gentiles entering into Jerusalem to announce the birth of a king. More than likely, they came with a large caravan and caught the attention of Herod and everyone else in Jerusalem.
What did the Star of Bethlehem do? How does it apply to believers today?
It acknowledged the birth of a king. The Magi had come to Jerusalem because they expected to find a Judean king there. God used the supernatural and unlikely people to get our attention to reveal King Jesus. The pagan Magi responded to Jesus from divine means.
It gave Gentiles access to the Messiah. The Magi were pagans, not Jews but Gentiles. They worshipped the heavenly bodies and elements. Gentiles never were an afterthought in God’s plan, but had been part of his work in history from the beginning.God offers redemption through Jesus for all people. Christ’s disciples have the responsibility to let everyone know about Him
It fulfilled prophecy. Micah 5:2 prophesied Bethlehem as the Messiah’s birthplace, because the Messiah was to be a descendant of David, and Bethlehem had been David’s hometown. Bethlehem was 5 miles south of Jerusalem. Just as the Star of Bethlehem prophetically supported King Jesus’ birth announcement according to Scripture, it confirms the truth and unity of the Bible.
It guided the magi to where God chose to reveal Himself. For one special event in history, the God who rules the heavens chose to reveal Himself where pagans were looking (cf. Acts 19: 12, 15-20). God illuminated the pathway to Jesus with a supernatural sign, just as He led his own people by the fire and cloud in the wilderness (Exo 13:21-22). Jesus’ Spirit serves as the believer’s guide-a light in the darkness. Herod and the scribes knew where the Messiah would be born according to Scripture, but did not act on it in faith.
The Star of Bethlehem accomplished many purposes in the infancy narrative of Jesus: it acknowledged the birth of the King-the Star of Jacob and Scepter of Israel, gave access to the Gentiles, fulfilled prophecy, and guided the Magi. It was a divine heavenly sign God used for a historical purpose. Though news of the Star of Bethlehem signaling a new ruler troubled King Herod, it serves as a reminder to believers in Christ of deliverer who ushered in a new Kingdom.
Jan Paron, PhD
(Excerpt from The Incarnational Theology of Emmanuel in the Book of Matthew)