The Magi's Search for Truth
"...you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."
"...after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.'
"When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled.... And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel."
"Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.'
"When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen 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 exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way." Matthew 2:1-11
Were the three wise men (or magi) magicians or astrologers? If so, doesn't it show God's approval of paganism? These important questions deserve an answer.
The familiar "wise men" or "magi" who followed the star from the East were probably astrologers from Persia. They may have been Zoroastrian magicians, and the gifts they brought the prophesied King suggest that they held positions of wealth and influence. But why would astrologers or magicians travel so far to worship Jesus? And why would God use pagan leaders to honor His Son?
The answer is simple: God's love reaches out to people in "nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues" around the world.["For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him." 2 Chron 16:9]
These wise men had apparently learned about God through the Scriptures brought to Babylon and Persia during the exile that had followed Israel's slide into paganism and idolatry centuries earlier. The goodness of God had been demonstrated among His exiled people -- Daniel, Ruth, Nehemiah and others -- and historical records had preserved their memory. So the Biblical God was not unknown to Persian scholars at this momentous time.
When these wise and courageous men saw the sign in the sky, they were ready to pursue the truth that had touched their hearts. Risking their lives to find and worship the prophesied King, they stepped out in faith to cross a vast and dangerous terrain. God honored their quest with His guiding star along the way.
This wasn't the first time God would touch the hearts of pagan leaders, open their eyes to see His truth, build vibrant faith in their hearts and use them for His own good purposes. That's what happened to the Persian King Cyrus. Through a series of rhetorical questions that points to the amazing sovereignty of our God, the prophet Isaiah wrote about Cyrus before that faithful leader was even born:
"Who raised up one from the east?
Who in righteousness called him to His feet?
Who gave the nations before him,
And made him rule over kings?" Isaiah 41:2
Later God told Isaiah, "Cyrus...My shepherd ... shall perform all My pleasure." [Isaiah 44:28] And when God was ready to bring His people back into their land, He used Cyrus to prepare the way and to restore the holy objects the Babylonian armies had stolen from His temple:
"...a decree was issued by King Cyrus to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send us his pleasure concerning this matter." Ezra 5:17
"Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple that was in Jerusalem and carried into the temple of Babylon—those King Cyrus took from the temple of Babylon.... And he said to him, ‘Take these articles; go, carry them to the temple site that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its former site.’ Ezra 5:14
Centuries later, Jesus told the parable of the kind Samaritan. In His beloved story, Jesus introduced an outcast to the religious establishment to illustrate self-giving love -- putting to shame those who, in their arrogance, had ignored God's call to compassion. His point was not to show approval of paganism, but to remind all of us that He seeks disciples who would give Him their lives no matter the cost. What counts is faithfulness, love, humility and obedience, not race, culture, nationality or social status.
"Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him;
And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."