My Musings

Monday, December 25, 2006

Traveling Without the Star

The truths and principles surrounding the story of the wise men that came to worship at the birth of Christ are both thought provoking and spiritually challenging. Few, however, have probably ever taken the time to examine the rich attributes of this beautiful Christmas story. Read carefully the account of these men’s journey as recorded in the book of Matthew and then follow along as I attempt to explore a tremendous spiritual insight that these men seemed to possess.

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw 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 exceeding great joy.” ~ Matthew 2:1-2, 7-10

This became an amazing passage to me when I began to look closely at the wording in verse two, “…For we have seen his star in the East…” As these men are speaking to Herod about their experience with the star, they speak entirely in the past tense. They refer to the star as though they saw it while they were in the east, and then (contrary to popular opinion) continued to Jerusalem without the star to guide them for the entirety of their journey.

Some believe that these men were astrologers whose job it was to make educated guesses about the weather for the sake of crops and harvests (this occupation was the forerunner to the soothsaying astrologers). These men would have been heavily relied upon in any agricultural society and would have been considered wise men by all of their contemporaries.

Although the star appeared to them when they were in the East, the scriptures do not say that the star guided them to Jerusalem. The star was only a sign that they were to go toward Israel. If the star had been leading them the whole time, they would have known to go straight to Bethlehem, as we see the star later guided them towards. Instead, however, with no star to follow, they were forced to stop in Jerusalem and ask for directions. They assumed that at the capital city the leader of the province may have some information about the birth of a king. We know, however, that that wasn’t the case.

After their meeting with Herod, the star finally reappears to these men and they are lead to their long awaited prize…the opportunity to worship at the feet of Christ. When the star appeared this second time, it reaffirmed that they were truly following a sign from God and it gave them great reason to rejoice. “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (vs. 10).

As I re-examined the story, I began to look at it in a new light. God appeared to these wise men by showing to them the sign of a star. Being familiar with the sky, these wise men interpreted this new star as a sign that a king was born in Israel. I do not know how they came to this conclusion, but the scripture is clear on this point. They then set out on a journey toward Jerusalem that probably took quite some time to accomplish. When they arrived, not knowing where the king was to be found, they stopped to see Herod and ask for directions. Herod sent them on their way and then the star reappeared to them. They found the Christ-child and joyfully worshipped Him.

Here is the truth that got me thinking. How much time passed between the time when these men saw the beautiful star in the East and the time when they finally saw the star over Bethlehem? How long were they traveling without the star?

I began to imagine what it would be like for these men to have left their homeland far behind as they headed off to find this king in the west. I began to imagine the days upon days of travel hoping that what they had seen was truly a sign at the hand of God…I began to wonder if they had any doubts during their journey. I began to question if their faith may have been tried during this time…and then I began to think of all the times when I had been there.

Often times I have believed that God has spoken to my heart to accomplish some task for Him. I set out to accomplish this task only to find that it seems God is nowhere near me. I am forced to spend time traveling without the star. I find myself living by faith, seeing no present signs of God’s active leading, but looking back to a prior calling knowing that I must stay faithful.

Having just graduated, I am quick to think of my college experience. Prior to arriving at college, I knew beyond any doubt that it was God’s will for me to attend a Bible college to train and prepare to serve Him in the ministry. I had prayed. I had sought counsel. I had no doubts. Then I arrived at college.

If you’ve ever been to college, you know what kind of a burden it can develop into. There were times when I entertained the idea of leaving college. I wished that I could simply quit. To draw from our story, I was traveling without the star! I looked back, however, at the call of God that I knew before I had arrived, and there was simply no way that I could bring myself to walk out. Although my faith may have wavered, I could not quit. I had seen the star back in the east and it was enough to keep me going until I saw it again on graduation day…Praise God!

If we are going to live for God in any capacity at all, we are going to have to spend time traveling without the star. We are going to have to spend time simply staying faithful to what we know is right even though the present circumstances don’t always make sense. When you face those times in life, look back to this beautiful Christmas story that took place all those years ago. Keep on traveling…don’t turn back…and God, in His own good time, will reward you according to His will!

God Bless you all and may each of you have a very Merry Christmas!

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