The Faith of the Magi

I saw the sign today “Wise Men still seek Him” and since I aspire to be wise, I took note.  I did some research on the Magi and one writer says that they may have been inspired by Daniel’s text and even Balaam’s prophesy that a star would come out of Jacob.  “We know that the Magi were astrologers from ‘the East,’most likely Persia, or modern-day Iran. This means the wise men traveled 800 to 900 miles to see the Christ child. Most likely, the Magi knew of the writings of the prophet Daniel, who in time past had been the chief of the court seers in Persia. Daniel 9:24-27 includes a prophecy which gives a timeline for the birth of the Messiah. Also, the magi may have been aware of the prophecy of Balaam (who was from the town of Pethor on the Euphrates River near Persia) in Numbers 24:17. Balaam’s prophecy specifically mentions a “star coming out of Jacob.” 

They were indeed astrologers and students of ancient prophesies. But more importantly, they traveled hundreds of miles by camel or on foot for one reason: to worship this new king.  Matthew’s account of the gospel describes “wise men” coming from the East. Tradition holds that since there were three gifts, three emissaries would carry them.  Their political importance is underlined by their ability to get an audience with the sitting king Herod. The bible records that he and his advisors were astounded to see them and to hear of this new “King of the Jews” born in Israel.

There are several speculations about the gifts given to the Child.  Symbolically speaking the gifts were absolutely appropriate.  They brought Gold a symbol of divinity, Frankinscense, an incense or sweet savor offered and symbolic of purity and righteousness.  Finally, they offered Myrrh, an embalming oil symbolizing the death that he would die.  Some say that the gold alone would have provided for the journey to Egypt that Joseph would soon take. 

The journey of the Magi was not an inexpensive journey either, unlike the depictions in nativity scenes worldwide, the Magi were most certainly accompanied by servants who tended to their animals, guides and armor-bearers. They came to worship the new king but their very action corresponded to their purpose to show the worth of this new king.  The word worship comes from an old English word “worschipe” and its connotation is ´to show the worth of´. The Magi then showed the worth of this King by traveling hundreds of hard dusty miles to an uncertain destination, talking to undesirables [King Herod], but that could not have been compared to the joy of meeting the new King of Kings.  

We are challenged to let our faith live in worship; not the traditional meaning of worship: the singing of hymns, the upward look, the raised hands. Please note: there is NOTHING wrong with any of these gestures! They are traditional but they are also symbolic gestures that in good hope point to the surrendered life and the absolute joy that corresponds with living in relationship with the King.  

May your faith and grace be multiplied as you commune with the KING in this holiest of seasons!

photo from Nativity scene in Managua, Nicaragua

3 thoughts on “The Faith of the Magi”

  1. Thank you for the well researched piece that answers questions many people have but were hesitant to ask. Good facts serve to amplify the faith of believers.

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