Two thousand years ago, men of the East gazed into the heavens and were drawn to a star. They were compelled by something beyond themselves to follow its light.
Perhaps they were familiar with ancient Israel’s literature that spoke of a time when “a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17 Numbers 24:17I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
American King James Version×).
Again, they may have pondered and acted upon the colorful depiction of Isaiah 60:1-3 Isaiah 60:1-3 1 Arise, shine; for your light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen on you.
2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise on you, and his glory shall be seen on you.
3 And the Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
American King James Version×where it declares, “Arise, shine; for your light has come!… The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Their account in Matthew 2 is a story of faith set in motion to encounter the revelation of that star. Their unwavering purpose as recorded for future generations is summed up in their own words: “For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2 Matthew 2:2Saying, 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.
American King James Version×).
As we know from the familiar passages related to the first coming of Christ, these strangers from the East were not foreign to the protocol worthy of a ruler and thus offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child. Their anticipation was matched with the realization of being summoned to appear before a king.
The “voice of God” quieted?
What do these wise men of old have in common with us, and how might we tap into their wisdom? And why turn our sights in reverse to the first coming of Christ when so much of this magazine is devoted to current events and future prophecies?
Actually, there are amazing similarities! Let’s come to appreciate that at the time of Christ’s birth it had been 400 years since the “voice of God” had been recognized and accorded stature as Holy Scripture. There had been no sure word from the Lord since the time of Malachi the prophet. A bestial system with an iron boot held sway over much of the world. The people of Judea had already experienced the force of Rome for nearly three generations.
It was a time of darkness in which there was a bubbling to the surface of anticipation, not too far removed from desperation, for a special deliverer sent by the Almighty. And yet God Himself appeared “quiet” in the arena of events.
In one sense, there was no secret about what was to transpire. God had foretold the coming of the Messiah. How often had the words of Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah 7:14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
American King James Version×been read: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” or the “x-marks-the-spot passage” of Micah 5:2 Micah 5:2But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
American King James Version×that declares: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting”?
Oh yes, the people of that time had much to consider! But did they comprehend? Well, that would be another matter. Yet there would come a time when all the pieces began to come together and these men, called magi, with all their accumulated human wisdom did the smartest thing of all. They remained open to God’s lead. They made sure they were available to follow the sign when it did come, and they were willing to go wherever it led them.
The bottom line is they moved beyond knowledge to action, and that made and continues to make all the difference in the world.
The seamless interventions of God
It has been more than 2,000 years since that journey wrought by a beckoning star, and the first coming of the Christ child can seem like distant history. That’s five times the duration of quiet between Malachi and the time of Christ. Yes, it seems like forever and more!
But our Heavenly Father, the One who inhabits eternity, looks at the first and second comings of His Son as one seamless activity. God, because He is God, has looked far into the future and brings us as His invited audience forward to understand and come to appreciate His great love for us even when at times He seems far away and out of touch.
As you read this column, autumn will be knocking on our seasonal door in the northern hemisphere. We will be entering what I like to call “the season of kingdoms.” It is in this time of year, not the humanly appointed winter solstice celebration of Dec. 25, that the King of our lives first came to earth.
Oh yes, there was heraldry involved with proclamations of angels, visiting shepherds and the before-mentioned celestial light show illuminating the way. But most of mankind missed the first coming. But come Immanuel did, not in our prescribed time by our human clocks, but in the right time! Not in how we would have done it, but in how God knew it had to be performed. God’s perfect interventions are always better than the best of our human machinations.
God chose to pitch a tent
John, the Gospel writer, spells out in crystal clear fashion how the God Being called the Word “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
American King James Version×).
It is of note that the word dwelt comes from the Greek term skenoo , which means to literally “pitch a tent” or “to tabernacle.” It is John, under the inspiration of God, who shows us that God decided to “pitch a tent” within the wilderness of the human condition.
It is this statement that differentiates Christianity from all other religions. It reveals that God is not merely some benevolent “First Cause” and absentee faraway cosmic babysitter. The One known as the Word separated Himself from the privileges of His divine station and volunteered to be placed on a bed of straw in a dark and smelly manger, because “there was no room for them in the inn.”
It is in the framework of this humble setting that God interrupts human history. It is here in this perfect “palace of humility” that He reveals the incredible attributes of the godly servant. The apostle Paul shares how the “quiet of the centuries” was shattered in Galatians 4:4 Galatians 4:4But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
American King James Version×: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”
The time was ripe
No, God was not late, for the time was ripe! God not only created time, but is the master of timing. It was in this moment of historical convergence of the Roman Empire, the Greek language and the Jewish Diaspora that the bright light, heralding the birth of a king in the autumn, was on display.
But this light was more than a celestial flashlight guiding the footsteps of camels. Rather this heavenly sentinel showed how all along God had worked “loudly” behind the scenes in preparation for the entrance of our Savior. He had moved empires, spread languages and scattered His religious folk around the Mediterranean Sea so that their religious house might be a springboard of understanding to grasp the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words.
But Christ’s pitching a tent among humanity is not left standing alone in the Gospel accounts. Remember how I mentioned the seamless nature of the comings of Christ to our world and how the autumnal time that approaches can be called the “season of kingdoms”? It is noteworthy that the biblical festivals of Trumpets and Tabernacles are observed during this time frame. These God-ordained observances, centering on the saving works of God through Jesus Christ, bring us into remembrance that Jesus Christ is returning to this earth to establish His Kingdom.
Many who read the Bible can accept a first coming, and thank God for a good story of a baby, shepherds and wise men. But a true and responsive believer accepts that a first coming demands a second coming, and that a first coming must precede a second coming. And do you know how you know you believe that? Because, when you come into contact with the reality that God became a helpless baby, and that He loves us so much that He is going to enter human history once again to rescue humanity from itself—a major change takes place.
Yes Christ is going to pitch a tent once more. But next time it will be in holy splendor and not merely straw. Revelation 21:2-3 Revelation 21:2-3 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
American King James Version×gives us a sense of what is to occur, when speaking through the apostolic writer:
“Then I, John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’”
Right there in the middle of this triumphant declaration of God’s plan is the word dwell . That’s right, skenoo or “to pitch a tent” is right there at the end of the good book. It’s kind of a graphic and simple term, to remind us that God never changes His plan, from the manger till now and beyond. He wants us to know He is coming and will plant Himself in our lives when times are troubled and seemingly quiet as to the “voice of God.”
“The Bright and Morning Star”
That’s why the book of Revelation speaks of a star—the “morning star” that is. It doesn’t get the same attention as the one mentioned in Matthew, but it’s just as important and it’s the one you and I have been given to focus on and follow now!
It is interesting that Revelation 2:28 Revelation 2:28And I will give him the morning star.
American King James Version×speaks of this morning star as a gift given to the Church. Jesus, the risen Christ in heaven, says, “I also have received from My Father; and I will give him [speaking of His followers] the morning star.” And then it says in verse 29: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
We are granted further definition of this gift in the last chapter of the Bible. Interestingly, this star is mentioned here as one of the last pivotal items that God asks us to consider through Christ. It is here in Revelation 22:16 Revelation 22:16I Jesus have sent my angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
American King James Version×that Christ defines this gift to the Church as Himself.
Notice, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches, I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
Why does Christ reserve this name to Himself? Consider for a moment that it is the morning star that appears when it is darkest and coldest. It is the appearance of this sentinel of light that gives hope for the dawning of a new day. It is when it is coldest and darkest in human history that He enters time and space one more time.
How wise will we be? The wise men of old set a course for us to consider. It’s interesting that Jesus, the Bright and Morning Star of Revelation, always came to His followers with one message: “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19 Matthew 4:19And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
American King James Version×; John 21:19 John 21:19This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said to him, Follow me.
American King James Version×).
Perhaps it is the encouragement of Jesus’ own words of “follow Me” that points us to the admonition of Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×: “This is the way, walk in it.”
Like our counterparts from yesteryear, today’s wise men will be open, available and willing as they still seek and wait upon a star. It is time to look up and follow! WNP