Christmas is not complete without the symbol and characters. The symbol is the Star of Bethlehem and the characters are the Wise Men from the East. This is the account of their journey:
"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," -- Matthew 2:1
"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." -- Matthew 2:2
"And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel." -- Matthew 2:6
"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." -- Matthew 2:9
"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." -- Matthew 2:10
"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." -- Matthew 2:11It is to be noted that the Star began to appear only after the birth of Jesus Christ. This Star guided the Wise Men from the East in their journey to find the Messiah born in a manger.
Many people think that the Wise Men were three in number, and call them Mechor, Gaspar, and Baltazar. Some theologians identify them with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. No such number and names are stated in the story as written in the Holy Bible. Watch how religious tradition can taint the scripture.
The Guiding Star
The Wise Men were guided by a Star. Look how God through His words can give life to His words. Is the Star an inanimate object in the following?
NUMBERS 24:17 "I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob..."
REVELATION 2:28 "And I will give him the morning star."
REVELATION 22:16 "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."
It is very specific that the Star refers to Jesus Christ! Does not the star have light? Jesus Christ said, "I am the light."
John 8:12 "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
The Star guided the Wise Men in their journey. The Natural Man (1 Corinthians 2:14) with his literal-physical language only sees the story. The Spiritual man (1 Corinthians 2:16) sees beyond the story with:
1 Corinthians 2:10 "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? ... 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth...comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
Following the direction of the word by "comparing spiritual things with spiritual," who is the guide in the following?
PSALMS 32:8 "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye."
The Star led them to the right WAY. Did not Jesus say, "I am the way?" The Star, having light, guided the Wise Men in their journey to meet the young child, Jesus. Did many people, more particularly Herod, find the way to the child Jesus?Jesus Christ is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13). He is the TRUTH (John 14:6). Through the word of God, the wise men were led to the truth. The Star guided the Wise Men to the young child. The word of God guided the Wise Men to the elementary truth of the gospel!Perhaps the most elementary truth to the gospel is the identity of GOD, the Creator. Is there not only ONE GOD? Who is the God of Noah and Abraham? Who is the God of Peter and Paul? What is His name? Did not Jesus Christ say the recognition of the "One Lord and one God," the PREREQUISITE to the TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS? How many people see the story this way? Many or only a few?
Mark 12:29 "And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God...this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."
The Wise Men
Who are the wise men in the eyes of men? In the eyes of God? God says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." God distinguishes spiritual from human wisdom.
HOSEA 14:9 "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them..."
PSALMS 19:7 "...the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple."
If many people see only three wise men, Jesus Christ, the light, has this to say.
LUKE 13:29 "And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God."
The story of the Wise Men from the East, therefore, is not just a simple story that happened in the past. It is a part of the word of God. The word of God never pass away. It is alive as God is alive, for God is the Word (John 1:1). Jesus Christ is ‘the same yesterday and today,’ and is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13).Maybe many people could hardly accept what our Lord said in the following:
MATTHEW 11:25 "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."
2 TIMOTHY 3:15 "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
How could the great revelations of God be given to babies? How could anyone learn the holy scriptures from a child? The Natural Man sees this literally. Jesus Christ must be speaking His SPIRITUAL LANGUAGE. This jibes perfectly with what Christ said as the "passport" to heaven:
MATTHEW 18:3 "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
The "wise" are the "little children!" Literally-physically? It must be spiritually, as our Lord called His disciples "little children" in the following:
JOHN 13:33 "Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you."
John the apostle also called the believers "little children."
1 John 2:12 "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake."
The Wise Men who are the spiritual "little children," do not necessarily come from the East, but from the West, North and South. These are the chosen people of God from the different parts of the world, who have the characteristics of a "little child." A spiritual babe is one who cannot think on his own and who cannot do anything by himself in spiritual matters. This is the example shown by Jesus, the man, in relation to the Father. He was a spiritual "babe:"
JOHN 5:19 "Then answered Jesus...unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself..."
JOHN 5:30 "I can of mine own self do nothing..."
JOHN 6:38 "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
On His own, Jesus said He knew nothing but everything came from the Father. This is the application of what James wrote regarding the acquisition of knowledge:
JAMES 1:5-8 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."
Who are the Wise Men in our time? In the eyes of men? In the eyes of God?
1 CORINTHIANS 1:19-21 "...I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God.."
1 CORINTHIANS 3:18 "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise."
To people, the beginning of knowledge is the determination, craving, and perseverance to acquire it through human efforts. To God, it is the "fear of Him."
PROVERBS 1:7 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge..."
God is represented by His words. The fear of the Lord, therefore, is the fear to veer away from His words. One simple test: Is it in line with the word of God for any man to explain His words? Did Christ’s own apostles have the capability to understand His words without explaining everything to them?
MARK 4:34 "But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples."
Does any man have the competence to explain the word of God? If it were so, then Christianity should not have been divided into 1001 denominations! God speaks the truth. Could there be more than one truth in the word of God?
God’s communication is expressed in parables. This is the SPIRITUAL LANGUAGE. Only God can and should decipher this language. The word of God is made alive by the great spiritual message it conveys.
Wise Men’s offering at the house
MATTHEW 2:11 "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."
"And when they were come into the house." This must be referring to the "house of the Lord" where His ways are taught.
MICAH 4:2 "...Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths..."
2 CORINTHIANS 5:1 "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands..."
The "house of the Lord" is the life of the real believer. It is in the life of the real Christian that Jesus, the TRUTH, is found. The Spirit of God is represented by the Truth:
1 Corinthians 3:16 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
If to man, gold is a precious metal; to God, it refers to His chosen few:
JOB 23:10 "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
Just as gold is a rare metal, so are God’s chosen only very few. Gold cannot be found everywhere, so are God’s people:
JEREMIAH 3:14 "Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD...I will take you one of a city, and two of a family..."
It is the Mining Engineer who knows where to find gold. So is God alone Who knows where His chosen people are. Gold is found in sand. It is separated from sand by panning in water. Sand symbolizes people.
Romans 9:27 "...Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:"
Water symbolizes the word of God.
Ephesians 5:26 "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,"
So are God’s chosen separated from the people by the "action of the word of God." The people of God are not separated literally-physically from the people. They therefore maintain their usual life’s routine socially, economically, and politically. They are separated spiritually that, with the truth, they are no longer with them on matters pertaining to God.
2 Corinthians 6:14 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?... 16...for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,"
Sometimes gold is found embedded in rocks. To isolate the precious metal, the rock is pulverized by hammering.
Jeremiah 23:29 "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?"
The chosen people of God undergo some hardships and adversity in life. They learn later that this is the "process" of separating them from the rest of the people. Gold is man’s precious possession. The chosen people are God’s precious possession.
The gift of gold, therefore, is an offering of oneself to God. That is what the young child Jesus received as an offering from the Wise Men. Can anyone think of a better offering than that?
If gold represents an offering of oneself to God, how could this be done? In the Old Testament, God required His people to offer frankincense together with find flour and oil:
LEVITICUS 2:1-2 "And when any will offer a meat offering unto the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon...and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD:"
Fine flour is physical food. The Word of God is the spiritual food.
Jeremiah 15:16 "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart..."
Oil represents the Holy Spirit that "quickens or gives life to the word." -- John 6:63 With the enlivened word of God in the life of the chosen, real spiritual worship is now possible. This is the spiritual frankincense that is "a sweet savour unto the LORD."How easy for any person to quote the verse on true worship: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." -- John 4:24 What is the truth in spiritual worship? The general concept of prayer and worship is the use of the eyes by looking at images and statues; the lips by uttering the supplication and thanksgiving; hands and feet for the physical expression of the worshipper.Unknown to many people, this is not spiritual but sensual (of the senses) worship. People may get rid of the images and statues, as commanded, thinking that they are already worshipping God in spirit. They may worship God with all sincerity, pouring all emotion, thinking that they are already worshipping God in spirit. With this general concept of spiritual worship, how can anyone follow this command?
1 THESSALONIANS 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."
Human perception of the word of God, therefore, is refuted by what is written! "Worshipping God in spirit and in truth" is more than and beyond the general perception of the act. God would not have said "pray without ceasing" if it cannot be done by His chosen. It is more than the sensual (of the senses) and emotional expression as many are made to believe. It involves the very life of the chosen: physical and spiritual life.
COLOSSIANS 2:6 "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:"
GALATIANS 5:25 "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
Paul who followed the model, Jesus Christ, (1 Corinthians 11:1) demonstrated "praying without ceasing." The life of Paul is characterized by his "spiritual walk."
Paul "prayed without ceasing"
Paul, who was known as Saul of Tarsus, used to be a Pharisee. The Scribes and Pharisees did not recognize God whom they were worshipping.
John 8:54-55 "Jesus answered...it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him..."
In the eyes of Christ, the Scribes and Pharisees who did not understand His words, were in the congregation of the dead:
PROVERBS 21:16 "The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead."
1 Corinthians 2:14 "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
It was when Paul recognized Jesus as his Lord and God that he was healed from spiritual blindness. Paul received his "spiritual life." Before he thought it was enough to worship "one Lord and one God."
Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:"
However, he did not recognize that "One Lord and one God" until the following incident:
Acts 9:3-5 "And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus ..."
From then on, he began to understand what our Lord Jesus Christ was telling him. He was, therefore, delivered from the "congregation of the dead." He received a kind of life that his former associates, the Scribes and Pharisees, did not have. This is the "spiritual life" apart from his "physical life." Saul of Tarsus was "born again!" Paul was transformed from being a Natural Man to a Spiritual Man, who was then composed of two kinds of life: physical and spiritual life.
1 Corinthians 2:16 "For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."
It is difficult for a Natural Man to understand "spiritual worship" for he cannot understand "spiritual things." "Spiritual worship" encompasses the totality of the physical and spiritual life of a real Christian. These two kinds of life must "walk together:"
Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
This is according to the "will of the Father," as the man Christ Jesus demonstrated.
Psalms 40:8 "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart."
Ephesians 6:6 "Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;"
Paul followed the example of Jesus Christ. For his spiritual life, he depended and relied fully on our Lord, as Jesus did to the Father. Can Jesus on His own do anything?
JOHN 5:30 "Jesus said,...I can of mine own self do nothing..."
The four Gospels are replete of this dependence of Jesus on the Father; so are all the Epistles of the Apostles on their reliance to our Lord. That is the "spiritual walk." That is the real spiritual worship without ceasing. That is"cleanliness in the inside," as Jesus Christ put it in rebuking the Scribes and Pharisees who accentuated the physical that only refers to the "cleanliness on the outside."For his physical life, Paul took the responsibility of sustaining it. Nowhere in the Bible can we find the apostles asking God for their material-physical needs. This is in contrast to the erroneous belief of putting this aspect of life in the hands of God. Paul worked as a tent maker as Jesus earned His living as a carpenter. "Doing the will of the Father" in the spiritual life automatically leads the physical life in doing the same. Thus, "cleanliness in the inside" precedes "cleanliness on the outside." The spiritual and physical life are in perfect agreement as they walked together towards spiritual perfection. This is the "spiritual walk." That is how Jesus Christ as example showed "praying without ceasing." His disciples followed that way.The life of Jesus Christ is a demonstration of spiritual worship. He showed that the real believer, indeed, can "pray without ceasing." It is not a sensual (of the senses), intellectual or emotional worship, as many people are made to understand. This kind of worship only leads to the stature of the proud Pharisee.
MATTHEW 6:5-8 "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."
How many people who have not heard the truth are guilty, one way or another, from what our Lord said about the misconception in prayer? Jesus Christ told the Samaritan woman about the truth in prayer:
JOHN 4:21-23 "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall...worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship... but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him."
Real Christians are surprised to know the truth in prayer. All along they were also in the dark like anyone else. Now, like the Wise Men from the East, they offer the spiritual frankincense to the child Jesus. This is the kind of worship the real Christians (from the East, West, North and South) offer, as they "meet" the elementary truth in the word of God.What is worship and prayer to all the religions of the world? Is it not sensual (of the senses), intellectual, and motional? The truth in worship, according to Christ, is SPIRITUAL! This is one point where religions deceive the soul. Christ put it this way:
Revelation 12:9 "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
Does the truth in worship restrict the real worshippers from expressing their spiritual to a more explicit form of worship? Jesus Christ demonstrated this before His apostles as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. The principle enunciated by Him, "cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also," equally applies in this instance. It is not the reverse as people are made to understand.
Myrrh is a resin or substance from certain plants that is very bitter to the taste. It is used as perfume and medicine. In taking His chosen people from Egypt, God commanded them to eat bitter herbs together with the unleavened bread:
EXODUS 12:8 "And they shall eat...unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs..."
If bread is the food for the body, spiritual bread is the food for the soul. The spiritual bread is the word of God:
JEREMIAH 15:16 "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts."
Unleavened bread is the unadulterated word of God. Leaven is the human precept corrupting the word of God.
MATTHEW 16:6 "Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."
MATTHEW 16:11-12 "How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."
Spiritual myrrh should always be included in the spiritual food. This is the spiritual medicine that will keep the chosen spiritually healthy. Spiritual myrrh as an offering is the acceptance of the chastening of our Lord. The offeror, thus, becomes a sweet savor to the delight of the Lord.
HEBREW 12:5-8 "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
HEBREW 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Job, already righteous in the eyes of men, still needed an offering of spiritual myrrh. Perhaps many Bible readers cannot comprehend why God had to try Job notwithstanding His praise for him before Satan.
JOB 2:3 "And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause."
Unknown to many people, God saw one infirmity in Job. This is his self-righteousness, when he told God to tell him what wrong did he ever make to deserve such affliction.
"Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?" -- Job 31:3
"Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps?" -- Job 31:4
"If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit;" -- Job 31:5
"Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know mine integrity." -- Job 31:6 "If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands;" -- Job 31:7 "Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out." -- Job 31:8 "If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door;" -- Job 31:9 "Then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her." -- Job 31:10 "For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges." -- Job 31:11
Man’s righteousness is never perfect before God.
Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"
Jesus Christ setting the example did not accept that He is good.
LUKE 18:18-19 "And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God."
And now here is Job claiming goodness before God:
JOB 33:9 "I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me."
Job forgot to be a "little child" in his relation with God. Did not God know what He was doing? Do we have the right to question Him? Is not everything for the glory of God, and ultimately to the chosen also?Look now if the bitter myrrh, as a spiritual offering, does not refer to the purification of gold, as God says in:
MALACHI 3:3 "And he shall...purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver,that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness."
Myrrh symbolizes chastisement; but watch for this. As Christ was nailed on the cross, He was given myrrh mixed in wine. He refused to drink it:
MARK 15:23 "And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not."
Our Lord by example refused to accept chastisement coming from men. These are the religious discipline in human doctrines. Chastisement must come only from God through His words.
The Perfect Offering
What other gifts can man offer to God but the offering of GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, AND MYRRH as the Wise Men gave to our Lord! Peter put it this way:
1 Peter 2:5 "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."