After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born . . . After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route (Matthew 2:1-4, 9-12).
Who were these Magi? Where did they come from? What were they looking for when they saw and followed the star? To answer those questions, let's learn a little more about these mystery men.
Dr. Craig Chester, past president of the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy, gives the following description of the Magi:
Magi is the plural of Magus, the root of our word magic, and “court astrologers” is probably the best translation, although “wise men” is also a good term, descriptive of the esteem in which they were widely held. The group of Magi in question came “from the East.” They might have been Zoroastrians, Medes, Persians, Arabs, or even Jews. They probably served as court advisors, making forecasts and predictions for their royal patrons based on their study of the stars, about which they were quite knowledgeable. Magi often wandered from court to court, and it was not unusual for them to cover great distances in order to attend the birth or crowning of a king, paying their respects and offering gifts. It is not surprising, therefore, that Matthew would mention them as validation of Jesus’ kingship, or that Herod would regard their arrival as a very serious matter.
He adds, "The Magi were such important significant individuals they would not have traveled alone. In fact, they probably traveled with a very large entourage including soldiers, even a small army for protection. So it should not be surprising that Herod and the citizens of Jerusalem were troubled when they arrived."
But how did these Magi know what to look for in the sky and when they found it, decide to make the long trek to Judea to welcome the new king? The answer is where Daniel enters into the story.
There were many Jews in Babylon who did not return after their exile was over. One of them was Daniel who we know was appointed "chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners" (Daniel 5:11). There is no doubt that Daniel's peers and his fellow Jewish exiles would have been familiar with Daniel's prophetic insight into the kingdoms that were to follow Babylon. These Magi heard something from Daniel that intrigued them to such an extent that they studied the heavens and Daniel's writings for 500 years until one day, a star appeared and they were convinced they had found what they were looking for, which was what Daniel had predicted. They decided to make the long journey, probably with an entourage of soldiers and personal aides, to welcome the new king. No wonder Herod and all Jerusalem were disturbed when the Magi appeared.
As we close this series titled Success in Babylon, we see that Daniel's purpose in going to Babylon far exceeded his own awareness. God had a plan for his life that transcended his generation. I would encourage inmates with the same truth that God has a plan for their lives, even though they were incarcerated in a place not of their choosing. Daniel was faithful to his prison sentence to continue serving the Lord and God used him mightily. The same was and is true for the inmates, and it is true for you.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, recommit yourself to live a life of purpose and creativity, not once your circumstances improve but do it right now right where you are. Daniel served, wrote, spoke, advised, and prayed in Babylon. As I have mentioned earlier, he may have been imprisoned behind walls but there was no roof. He had direct access to heaven and heaven could reach and touch him. No Babylonian could prevent that. You can succeed in your Babylon if you are determined to find the Lord there and not try to escape. Who knows what God can and will do through you if you have stop focusing on the "out there" and start focusing on the here and now. Have a blessed week.
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