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We Have Seen His Star
"NOW when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea 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."
The wise men from the East were philosophers. They belonged to a large and influential
class that included men of noble birth, and comprised much of the wealth and learning of
their nation. Among these were many who imposed on the credulity of the people. Others
were upright men who studied the indications of Providence in nature, and who were honored
for their integrity and wisdom. Of this character were the wise men who came to Jesus.
The light of God is ever shining amid the darkness of heathenism. As these magi studied
the starry heavens, and sought to fathom the mystery hidden in their bright paths, they
beheld the glory of the Creator. Seeking clearer knowledge, they turned to the Hebrew
Scriptures. In their own land were treasured prophetic writings that predicted the coming
of a divine teacher. Balaam belonged to the magicians, though at one time a prophet of
God; by the Holy Spirit he had foretold the prosperity of Israel and the appearing of the
Messiah; and his prophecies
had been handed down by tradition from century to century. But in the Old Testament the
Saviour's advent was more clearly revealed. The magi learned with joy that His coming was
near, and that the whole world was to be filled with a knowledge of the glory of the Lord.
The wise men had seen a mysterious light in the heavens upon that night when the glory of
God flooded the hills of Bethlehem. As the light faded, a luminous star appeared, and
lingered in the sky. It was not a fixed star nor a planet, and the phenomenon excited the
keenest interest. That star was a distant company of shining angels, but of this the wise
men were ignorant. Yet they were impressed that the star was of special import to them.
They consulted priests and philosophers, and searched the scrolls of the ancient records.
The prophecy of Balaam had declared, "There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a
Scepter shall rise out of Israel." Num. 24:17. Could this strange star have been sent
as a harbinger of the Promised One? The magi had welcomed the light of heaven-sent truth;
now it was shed upon them in brighter rays. Through dreams they were instructed to go in
search of the newborn Prince.
As by faith Abraham went forth at the call of God, "not knowing whither he went"
(Heb. 11:8); as by faith Israel followed the pillar of cloud to the Promised Land, so did
these Gentiles go forth to find the promised Saviour. The Eastern country abounded in
precious things, and the magi did not set out empty-handed. It was the custom to offer
presents as an act of homage to princes or other personages of rank, and the richest gifts
the land afforded were borne as an offering to Him in whom all the families of the earth
were to be blessed. It was necessary to journey by night in order to keep the star in
view; but the travelers beguiled the hours by repeating traditional sayings and prophetic
utterances concerning the One they sought. At every pause for rest they searched the
prophecies; and the conviction deepened that they were divinely guided. While they had the
star before them as an outward sign, they had also the inward evidence of the Holy Spirit,
which was impressing their hearts, and inspiring them with hope. The journey, though long,
was a happy one to them.
They have reached the land of Israel, and are descending the Mount of Olives, with
Jerusalem in sight, when, lo, the star that has guided them all the weary way rests above
the temple, and after a season fades from their view. With eager steps they press onward,
confidently expecting the Messiah's birth to be the joyful burden of every tongue. But
inquiries are in vain. Entering the holy city, they repair to the temple. To their
amazement they find none who seem to have a knowledge of the newborn king. Their questions
call forth no expressions of joy, but rather of surprise and fear, not unmingled with
The priests are rehearsing traditions. They extol their religion and their own piety,
while they denounce the Greeks and Romans as heathen, and sinners above others. The wise
men are not idolaters, and in the sight of God they stand far higher than do these, His
professed worshipers; yet they are looked upon by the Jews as heathen. Even among the
appointed guardians of the Holy Oracles their eager questionings touch no chord of
The arrival of the magi was quickly noised throughout Jerusalem. Their strange errand
created an excitement among the people, which penetrated to the palace of King Herod. The
wily Edomite was aroused at the intimation of a possible rival. Countless murders had
stained his pathway to the throne. Being of alien blood, he was hated by the people over
whom he ruled. His only security was the favor of Rome. But this new Prince had a higher
claim. He was born to the kingdom.
Herod suspected the priests of plotting with the strangers to excite a popular tumult and
unseat him from the throne. He concealed his mistrust, however, determined to thwart their
schemes by superior cunning. Summoning the chief priests and the scribes, he questioned
them as to the teaching of their sacred books in regard to the place of the Messiah's
This inquiry from the usurper of the throne, and made at the request of strangers, stung
the pride of the Jewish teachers. The indifference with which they turned to the rolls of
prophecy enraged the jealous tyrant. He thought them trying to conceal their knowledge of
the matter. With an authority they dared not disregard, he commanded them to make close
search, and to declare the birthplace of their expected King. "And they said unto
him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
"And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah, Art in nowise least among the princes of Judah:
For out of thee shall come forth a governor, Which shall be shepherd of My people
Herod now invited the magi to a private interview. A tempest of wrath and fear was raging
in his heart, but he preserved a calm exterior, and received the strangers courteously. He
inquired at what time the star had appeared, and professed to hail with joy the intimation
of the birth of Christ. He bade his visitors, "Search diligently for the young child;
and when ye have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him
also." So saying, he dismissed them to go on their way to Bethlehem.
The priests and elders of Jerusalem were not as ignorant concerning the birth of Christ as
they pretended. The report of the angels' visit to the shepherds had been brought to
Jerusalem, but the rabbis had treated it as unworthy of their notice. They themselves
might have found Jesus, and might have been ready to lead the magi to His birthplace; but
instead of this, the wise men came to call their attention to the birth of the Messiah.
"Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" they said; "for we have seen
His star in the East, and are come to worship Him."
Now pride and envy closed the door against the light. If the reports brought by the
shepherds and the wise men were credited, they would place the priests and rabbis in a
most unenviable position, disproving their claim to be the exponents of the truth of God.
These learned teachers would not stoop to be instructed by those whom they termed heathen.
It could not be, they said, that God had passed them by, to communicate
with ignorant shepherds or uncircumcised Gentiles. They determined to show their contempt
for the reports that were exciting King Herod and all Jerusalem. They would not even go to
Bethlehem to see whether these things were so. And they led the people to regard the
interest in Jesus as a fanatical excitement. Here began the rejection of Christ by the
priests and rabbis. From this point their pride and stubbornness grew into a settled
hatred of the Saviour. While God was opening the door to the Gentiles, the Jewish leaders
were closing the door to themselves.
The wise men departed alone from Jerusalem. The shadows of night were falling as they left
the gates, but to their great joy they again saw the star, and were directed to Bethlehem.
They had received no such intimation of the lowly estate of Jesus as was given to the
shepherds. After the long journey they had been disappointed by the indifference of the
Jewish leaders, and had left Jerusalem less confident than when they entered the city. At
Bethlehem they found no royal guard stationed to protect the newborn King. None of the
world's honored men were in attendance. Jesus was cradled in a manger. His parents,
uneducated peasants, were His only guardians. Could this be He of whom it was written,
that He should "raise up the tribes of Jacob," and "restore the preserved
of Israel;" that He should be "a light to the Gentiles," and for
"salvation unto the end of the earth"? Isa. 49:6.
"When they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother,
and fell down, and worshiped Him." Beneath the lowly guise of Jesus, they recognized
the presence of Divinity. They gave their hearts to Him as their Saviour, and then poured
out their gifts,--"gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." What a faith was theirs!
It might have been said of the wise men from the East, as afterward of the Roman
centurion, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Matt. 8:10.
The wise men had not penetrated Herod's design toward Jesus. When the object of their
journey was accomplished, they prepared to return to Jerusalem, intending to acquaint him
with their success. But in a dream they received a divine message to hold no further
communication with him. Avoiding Jerusalem, they set out for their own country by another
In like manner Joseph received warning to flee into Egypt with Mary and the child. And the
angel said, "Be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young
child to destroy Him." Joseph obeyed without delay, setting out on the journey by
night for greater security.
Through the wise men, God had called the attention of the Jewish nation to the birth of
His Son. Their inquiries in Jerusalem, the popular interest excited, and even the jealousy
of Herod, which compelled the attention of the priests and rabbis, directed minds to the
prophecies concerning the Messiah, and to the great event that had just taken place.
Satan was bent on shutting out the divine light from the world, and he used his utmost
cunning to destroy the Saviour. But He who never slumbers nor sleeps was watching over His
beloved Son. He who had rained manna from heaven for Israel and had fed Elijah in the time
of famine provided in a heathen land a refuge for Mary and the child Jesus. And through
the gifts of the magi from a heathen country, the Lord supplied the means for the journey
into Egypt and the sojourn in a land of strangers.
The magi had been among the first to welcome the Redeemer. Their gift was the first that
was laid at His feet. And through that gift, what privilege of ministry was theirs! The
offering from the heart that loves, God delights to honor, giving it highest efficiency in
service for Him. If we have given our hearts to Jesus, we also shall bring our gifts to
Him. Our gold and silver, our most precious earthly possessions, our highest mental and
spiritual endowments, will be freely devoted to Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us.
Herod in Jerusalem impatiently awaited the return of the wise men. As time passed, and
they did not appear, his suspicions were roused. The unwillingness of the rabbis to point
out the Messiah's birthplace seemed to indicate that they had penetrated his design, and
that the magi had purposely avoided him. He was maddened at the thought. Craft had failed,
but there was left the resort to force. He would make an example of this child-king. Those
haughty Jews should see what they might expect in their attempts to place a monarch on the
Soldiers were at once sent to Bethlehem, with orders to put to death all the children of
two years and under. The quiet homes of the city of David witnessed those scenes of horror
that, six hundred years before, had been opened to the prophet. "In Ramah was there a
voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her
children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."
This calamity the Jews had brought upon themselves. If they had been walking in
faithfulness and humility before God, He would in a signal manner have made the wrath of
the king harmless to them. But they had separated themselves from God by their sins, and
had rejected the Holy Spirit, which was their only shield. They had not studied the
Scriptures with a desire to conform to the will of God. They had searched for prophecies
which could be interpreted to exalt themselves, and to show how God despised all other
nations. It was their proud boast that the
Messiah was to come as a king, conquering His enemies, and treading down the heathen in
His wrath. Thus they had excited the hatred of their rulers. Through their
misrepresentation of Christ's mission, Satan had purposed to compass the destruction of
the Saviour; but instead of this, it returned upon their own heads.
This act of cruelty was one of the last that darkened the reign of Herod. Soon after the
slaughter of the innocents, he was himself compelled to yield to that doom which none can
turn aside. He died a fearful death.
Joseph, who was still in Egypt, was now bidden by an angel of God to return to the land of
Israel. Regarding Jesus as the heir of David's throne, Joseph desired to make his home in
Bethlehem; but learning that Archelaus reigned in Judea in his father's stead, he feared
that the father's designs against Christ might be carried out by the son. Of all the sons
of Herod, Archelaus most resembled him in character. Already his succession to the
government had been marked by a tumult in Jerusalem, and the slaughter of thousands of
Jews by the Roman guards.
Again Joseph was directed to a place of safety. He returned to Nazareth, his former home,
and here for nearly thirty years Jesus dwelt, "that it might be fulfilled which was
spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." Galilee was under the control
of a son of Herod, but it had a much larger admixture of foreign inhabitants than Judea.
Thus there was less interest in matters relating especially to the Jews, and the claims of
Jesus would be less likely to excite the jealousy of those in power.
Such was the Saviour's reception when He came to the earth. There seemed to be no place of
rest or safety for the infant Redeemer. God could not trust His beloved Son with men, even
while carrying forward His work for their salvation. He commissioned angels to attend
Jesus and protect Him till He should accomplish His mission on earth, and die by the hands
of those whom He came to save.
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