7. Worship?

SON OF GOD MEDITATIONS 7 of 20

Matt 2:1,11 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came…. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.

When it comes to the Magi or “Wise Men”, as they are often traditionally called, Christians sometimes feel rather awkward. These were not Hebrew prophets who, even though often rejected by kings, princes and people alike, nevertheless held some measure of respectability in the thinking of Israel. In the original Greek the word for these men is ‘magoi’ from which comes the Latin ‘magi’, but it all comes from an Iranian original, referring possibly to a priestly caste or tribe among the Medes and Persians, who appeared to have skills in studying the stars – with religious connections. They were also skilled in philosophy, medicine and natural science. However, whatever we say is really just speculation and we cannot be definite because we simply can’t be sure. What we do know is that they homed in on Jerusalem, and when they arrived they asked, “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.” (v.2)

Now this is interesting at two levels, the first, as I say, somewhat uncomfortable for Christians who adhere to the Bible’s teaching against spiritism and soothsaying, is that these men tell us they were guided by a star. Now again, there has been much speculation as to whether this was a comet, but nevertheless it seems to be what most of us would call superstition. The only trouble about that, is that it gets them to Jerusalem within a few months or so of Jesus having been born in nearby Bethlehem! Is it possible that somehow these men from the east did actually get guidance from God through the means that was most familiar to them – watching the solar system? Was God making the point that He speaks to the peoples of all nations, however weird their background? (This is not to say that they knew God as we might hope or that they knew anything about salvation!)

The second, and for our purposes far more important issue, is their attitude towards the one they were looking for. First of all, they describe him as ‘king of the Jews’. Now that is tricky, again on two levels. The first is that no one else in Judea seems to be aware of any expected king, for the kings had died out with the Exile, even though the name had been attached to the role of governor, so Herod was loosely called a king. Kings, in reality, seem a distance past experience for Israel, especially now they are under the rule of Rome. However, the Messiah did seem, in some prophecies at least, to be a ruler, so it is just faintly possible that they are referring the once-expected Jewish Messiah. But that takes us to the second level, which for some is very much more difficult. These wise men – who one must suppose to have a certain level of wealth, both from their ability to travel such a distance and to bring the gifts they brought – have come to worship! Yes, that is they key and crucial issue at the heart of all that is going on here.

This leads us on to think about who you worship. Well yes, there were foreign kings in the past who had demanded worship as they claimed divinity, but within Israel such a thing would have been abhorred, even in this time of low spirituality. No, you only worship a god. The unpalatable truth for the sceptic is that these men from the east believed that they were coming to find divinity. Now it is possible that they had in mind the sort of lesser ‘god’ that is found in the East, but whatever else, this ‘fits’ in with all else that the Gospels show us of Jesus. It is almost like a modern piece of detective fiction, where clues are being dropped along the way, all pointing in the same direction. There are a number of very specific references to Jesus’ divinity, but there are also far more what we might call ‘lesser clues’ that believers accept whole-heartedly, and which seekers would do well to add to the store of pointers towards the Son of God.

What this does suggest to us is that true seekers will find God. As a general principle, the Lord warned Israel, that even if they turned away from Him and ended up in exile, “if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 4:29). As a principle it must apply to all peoples in the world: if you are wholehearted in seeking God, you will find Him. These ‘Magi’ were clearly wholehearted and their hearts told them that this baby they were seeking, was worthy of their worship. He was far more than a mere prophet, he was far more than a mere king, he was far more than a mere deliverer from the oppressors who ruled over Israel, he was someone who merited them bowing down before him in adoration – for that is what worship really is. These Magi are the first Gentiles in the birth accounts surrounding Jesus to come to him, acknowledging something of his greatness. The source for that in these men may appear dubious to some of us, but it suggests that even believers who are not part of orthodoxy can hear from God!

That raises another channel of thought, for I am convinced that God speaks to every single human being before their time comes to leave this earth, and when you start listening to people when they open up their lives, you find that many people have premonitions or thoughts about God in their early years, outside of church, which I would suggest may well have been them hearing God, even if in a limited way, but without realising it. If you are a seeker, reading these meditations because you keep wondering about the truth about Jesus, are you doing it I wonder, because, without realising it, you are getting a nudge from heaven? Perhaps you shouldn’t write off some of the wonderings that you’ve had. The ‘wise men’ didn’t and they had the privilege of seeing a baby who would become the most influential man who has ever walked the earth. Yes, perhaps your thoughts and wonderings are a bit baby-like and need to develop and grow up, but that’s what these studies are for, to help you do that.

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