Vol. 10 — No. 4 January 26, 1969
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, 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. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 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. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 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. 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 being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
In Christ Jesus, who has manifested Himself as the Son of God come to earth to save us, Fellow Redeemed:
Most of you have not had the experience of moving from one part of the country to another. But most of the men have had the experience of military service, which involves being uprooted from familiar faces and people and being re-rooted amidst an entirely new set of people. And surely all of you have moved at one time or another from one place to another. You have had the experience of learning to know entirely new people. At first their names may have seemed strange, their customs and habits also. But gradually, as you learned to know them better, you realized that people fall into patterns, that new acquaintances resemble certain old acquaintances in a most remarkable manner.
The same thing holds true when you compare people living at different ages in history. You can study Bible history and learn to know some of the characters very well. Then, if you begin to think about it, you can match them up with people that you know in your family relationship or your circle of friends and acquaintances.
Our text is the very familiar story of the Wise Men. The leading character is the newborn King of the Jews. The wise men, Herod and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the religious leaders of the people all come in contact in one way or another with this newborn King of the Jews. Their lives touch His life. They act and they react differently, but they are never the same thereafter. So it has been down through the ages. When the King comes, people act and react according to a variety of patterns. The names of these people change. The times change. The circumstances change. But the patterns of action and reaction remain remarkably the same. This is what makes the old book of the Bible ever new, always up to date and completely relevant.
Let us test this. Our text shows various people coming into contact with the King. Down through the ages many people have come into contact with the King. Right now is our day. We have come into contact with the King. We cannot but act and react. And that will be according to patterns set by people before us. Today, as it has been for others in the past, it’s—
One day some well dressed strangers arrived in Jerusalem and began asking about: “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.” What was the reaction to the possibility that the King of the Jews had just been born? St. Matthew reports, “When Herod the king had heart these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” For fifteen hundred years the people had been waiting for just this moment. The entire religious worship of the people, their hopes and expectations as a nation, revolved about the promise of the King. When the possibility of His having been born was indicated, one would think that the people would have been moved to joy and rejoicing, praise and thanksgiving. But they were troubled. Herod was a tyrant, suspicious of everyone, jealous of his power. He could think only in terms of a political rival who would topple him from power. The people professed to be waiting for their King, but were also troubled because they too could think only of a political king, and that would mean revolution, bloodshed and loss of property. There is no report of people being troubled by their sin and guilt and by the prospect of eternal damnation.
All about you today you will find many people troubled—but for the wrong reasons. Look at yourself and you may find that on occasions you too were troubled, but for the wrong reason. Many church leaders and people are greatly troubled by our contry’s involvement in the Vietnam war, by racial discrimination, economic inequality, civil rights and so on, but these same people aren’t troubled by the churches’ rebellion against and pollution of the Word of God. They don’t seem to be the least bit concerned that each person must one day stand before the Judge of all flesh and be saved or damned eternally, depending upon his faith or rejection of Jesus Christ. When we come to this House of God, we cone to worship the King. Isn’t it possible that some are more troubled about their personal appearance, whether the hair—do is OK and the clothes are proper—than they are about their own repentance and faith? Satan would always like to have us troubled about one thing or another just so long as we are not troubled by our own sins and shortcomings, by our own failure to grow in knowledge and understanding. Are you troubled? Check yourself to see what you’re troubled about. Maybe you’re upset about the wrong things. Maybe you should be troubled more about your own spiritual condition.
There are also—
Herod had to know just where this newborn King was. So “when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ whould be born.” And they knew and they told him—in Bethlehem. Wouldn’t you expect that the religious leaders would be interested in finding out if all those ancient prophecies had really come to pass, if the King of the Jews had really been born? But when the wise men set out for Bethlehem, the religious leaders didn’t send a delegation with them. Not a single one of them went along to satisfy his curiosity, let alone to worship the King. They knew, but hardness of heart, indifference, unbelief had paralyzed them into inaction.
How common this is, when you begin to think about it—this knowing, but being paralyzed in inaction. Most people know that they should be concerned about their soul’s salvation, but they don’t do anything about it. I am constantly working with people who know that they should be hearing and learning the Word of God in Sunday School and Worship Services on a Sunday morning. But so frequently when Sunday morning rolls around, they find themselves paralyzed in bed—unable to get out or paralyzed by little problems that can’t seem to be overcome or paralyzed by good intentions which always seem to die stillborn. They are paralyzed in inaction. Haven’t We all experienced this at some time or another? We know we should be reading our Bibles more, conducting family devotions, volunteering for this or that service unto the Lord, but we just never seem to get to it. How sadly true it is!
There are also—
The wise men were searching for the newborn King. They had seen His star, and they had learned about that star and its significance in His Word, in the ancient prophecy of Balaam. They went seeking. They asked about in Jerusalem. The King moved His own enemies to direct the wise men correctly. The Lord God caused the star to re—appear to guide them to the exact place where the young child was. They sought and they found. There is that seeking which cannot but result in finding, for it is a seeking that is done in accordance with the promise, “Ye shall find.”
When people refuse to seek, when they prefer to believe lies and half—truths, when they would rather be misinformed than informed, when they have the attitude, “I’ve got my mind made up; don’t trouble me with the facts and above all not with the Word,” then they won’t find. This is the self—blinding, the stuffing of the ears, the self-hardening that the Scripture warns against again and again. We are also to be warned, and that again and again.
But he who seeks with humble heart to learn to know his Lord and Savior more thoroughly and more intimately will find Him and grow in knowledge and grace. Children and adults who seek the Lord by studying His Word in Sunday School and by hearing it preached will find Him. He doesn’t try to hide Himself. He doesn’t play “hard to get.” He wants to be found, to be believed on, to be approached for forgiveness, for rest for the soul, for life abundant here and life everlasting. Herod and the majority of the Jews weren’t seeking, and they didn’t find. The wise men sought and they found. So many today pretend to be seeking, but they just go through the motions. They never find. If you or I or anyone is really interested in finding, the Lord will bless our seeking.
There are also—
The wise men found the King and when “they saw the young child with Mary his mother, they Fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” They couldn’t do otherwise. Those men had found. What they had found compelled them to give what they had. They couldn’t withhold.
What’s the secret of such giving? It’s in the finding! Many people call themselves Christians and hold membership in Christian churches, but have never really found the newborn King of the Jews. They’ve never really fallen down on their knees and worshipped Him as their Lord and Savior from sin and guilt, death and damnation. And so they have never experienced the desire to give and the inability to withhold. The art of giving unto the Lord is learned only by finding the Lord. When you or I have learned the greatness of our debt of sin and the terror of God’s wrath over our sin, when we have learned the greatness of the rescue mission of the King, when we have experienced the assurance of peace with God, then we cannot but give and cannot withhold ourselves from the Lord. There is a spontaneous giving of oneself unto the Lord—which is the response of truly finding Him. Seek Him and you will find Him, and having found Him you will be unable to do otherwise than give yourself to Him.
There are finally—
Matthew alone reports the story of the coming of the wise men. He was writing chiefly to Jews, to the nation of those who were troubled but not for the right reason. While the Jews were troubled but paralyzed by their unbelief, the Gentile wise men went joyously on their way to worship the newborn King. They were the first of the Gentiles to come to replace God’s chosen people of the Old Testament. For God forces His salvation on no one. When the Jews as a nation rejected their Savior, He gave that salvation to the Gentiles.
Oh that we would take these things seriously! I have told every confirmation class that God will not put a chain around their necks and drag them into heaven. If someone insists on going to hell, the Lord will give His salvation to someone else. If I become weary of preaching the whole counsel of God, if I yield to the pressures of the world and to the considerations of my own flesh and the flesh of members of the congregation, the Lord can quite easily find someone else to stand in this pulpit and to proclaim His Word as He wants it proclaimed. If we as a congregation are tired of the Truth, if we find it too hard a saying, the Lord can find other people who are willing to listen and learn, obey and treasure His Word. If individuals prefer their own private opinions to the Word of the Lord, the Lord can find others to sit on the pews who are willing to take their reason captive in obedience unto the Lord. Let us take care that the Lord does not find it necessary to replace any of us! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.