Wise Guys’ (and Girls’) Resolutions
We are more than halfway through January and you’ve put away the Christmas decorations, cleaned up all the wrappings and are well into breaking all your New Year’s resolutions. You think you’re done with all the Christmas stories and you are more interested in looking ahead to Groundhog Day.
Well, forgive me, but you are going to hear about the Magi one more time because I believe they have something to say to us in the New Year.
The story of the Magi, or Wise Men, is found in Matthew 2:1-12 and is not found elsewhere in the Gospels. We all think we know the story but this year I discovered there were things I hadn’t really seen until I looked more closely at the Magi and what God can show us through their pursuit and discovery of Jesus.
Here are the resolutions I believe are for all of us as shown by the Wise Guys of the East:
- Look for God’s direction in ordinary things, EVERY DAY. Bible scholars tell us that the Magi were likely astrologers who studied the stars for signs. Now we might not think that God works through such a practice, but the Magi told King Herod: “for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.” (Matt 2: 2). While they were in their Eastern home, they discovered what they saw as a sign in the stars that a royal baby was to be born in Israel. They saw “His star”. If they had not been looking in the right place at the right time, they might have missed it, but they saw the star and they obeyed the signs. The Wise Men travelled to the land of Israel and to the City of Jerusalem, the royal seat, to find this baby. They followed the leading of God that they had seen in their ordinary, every day studies. Do I look for a miraculous sign from God or do I understand that He works in my daily life, in my ordinary activities and in my routine devotions? God is a God of the every day.
- Obey God’s leading, with DILIGENCE. The Magi hopped on their camels and pursued the direction they had seen in their studies, looking for the royal Child. Some say the journey may have taken up to two years. We don’t know for sure, but they certainly stuck to their purpose. We do know that Jesus was now a ‘young child’, because Herod asked the Wise Men when they had seen the star and he no longer referred to Jesus as a baby. So they had been on the road a long, long time, with no further direction other than when they first saw the star. How long do I stick to my purpose when I haven’t seen an actual sign from God that I’m on the right path?
- When needing wisdom, ASK. Naturally the Wise Men asked the reigning monarch in Jerusalem, King Herod, about the Child, because they thought he should know. Herod was ‘troubled’ and he asked the spiritual leaders of the day, the Jewish scribes and chief priests. They knew, of course, as they had the prophesies of the Messiah ingrained in their minds from childhood. However, they didn’t seem to care or give much credence to the question from Herod. They did tell him the answer though: “In Bethlehem of Judea” (Matt 2:5). So the Magi received the response they needed to continue their journey. We shouldn’t be afraid to listen to the wisdom of others even if their attitudes aren’t what we expect! Am I willing to be humble enough to ask others for help this year?
- When God’s leading is confirmed, REJOICE! When the Magi left Herod, they headed off to Bethlehem. It was when they left Jerusalem and continued their journey that they saw the star again. The Wise Men were overjoyed at the confirmation of their journey. “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.” (Matt 2:9,10) What did the Magi do? Shout, sing, dance, do a jig on top of their camels? How do we ‘rejoice with exceeding great joy’? Do we ever? Do we acknowledge and thank God for His leading by rejoicing? This year, I am determined to rejoice more.
- In the Presence of the Lord, WORSHIP. Whatever God had shown the Magi in stars, they knew they were in the presence of not only royalty, but a God who deserved their worship. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him” (Matt 2:11). Does my worship involve ‘falling down’? How far am I really willing to go in my personal, private worship time? How demonstrative am I in the presence of a Holy God?
- As part of your worship, GIVE. When the Magi “fell down, and worshipped Him:”, they also gave Him presents they had thoughtfully prepared before hand: “and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” Our worship to God involves giving to Him and to others and these gifts should be prepared with thoughtfulness. The Magi’s gifts were not a crib and a blanket but items that really cost these Wise Men. Gold, a gift for Royalty; Frankincense, a gift for a Priest; Myrrh, a gift to be used upon burial, inferring death and sacrifice. The presents carried a message that I believe Mary pondered in her heart. They also were items that the young family could trade in Egypt when they arrived, allowing them to find refuge in that city. I too, need to be more thoughtful about my giving and give to God what really matters. What does He really want from me this year?
- Following worship, LISTEN. After the Magi had worshipped Jesus and given their gifts to Him, they were “warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod,” and “they departed into their own country another way.” (Matt 2:12). It is interesting that earlier, God had used stars and people to direct the Magi to find Jesus. Then they met Jesus, worshipped Him and gave to Him and in this way they acknowledged His Royalty and His Godhead. Following this, God spoke to them directly in a dream. He wants to speak to us directly as well, if we will acknowledge Him as Lord. How often do I just listen to Him?
We don’t hear any more about the Wise Men after this, except for four words in verse 13, “When they had gone”. We know from this that they listened to God and left the country, following His leading.
The Wise Men leave us with several resolutions to ponder and put into use in our lives this New Year. Most importantly, I believe I need to acknowledge His Lordship every day, listen to Him and look for His leading in my daily circumstances and know that as I worship Him, He will speak to me and direct my paths through every day of this New Year.
Happy New Year!