What Are You Looking For?

              Searching His Word
                          Seeking His Heart

As you begin a new year, what will you be looking for? Will your eyes be open for new ideas or challenges the Lord might put in your path?

I think about the magi who came from the east to find the Christ child. I have so many questions about them. Who were they? From what part of the “east” did they come? How did they know about a newborn baby, particularly a king of the Jews? Why did they even care—care enough to make the long trek probably through desert to find him?

In studying different scholarly ideas, the ones that make the most sense to me is that these magi were more like scientific astrologers who made serious study of the stars. Since they had knowledge of Jewish ways and awareness of the prophecy of a coming Messiah, it seems reasonable that they may have been descendants of those who knew the captured Jews who brought to Persia in Daniel’s day.

One thought is that they knew the names of Jewish constellations that represented things like the Lion of Judah or a constellation that represented the righteous one, the Virgin, or the Lamb. Perhaps they had come to recognize these and noted their locations in the heavens.

Perhaps, before the birth of Jesus, the magi began to notice a change in location of these constellations. They were moving closer to each other. Finally, one one night, they had joined together to form one bright star. Putting all this together, they surmised that this meant the promised Messiah had been born.

The main point here is that they faithfully watched and anticipated. So sure of this, they decided to make the trip to Israel to find the child, even worship him.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2

As they discover that the prophecy says Bethlehem is the designated place of birth, they head that way and are delighted to see the star appear to them once again. Such an affirmation.

They eventually find the one they have been looking for. By this time, he is a child not a baby. He is found in a house not a manger. Their first inclination is to fall down and worship him.

All of this happened because they were looking, studying, thinking about the signs given them by God.

I ask my question again. What are you looking for? If we are serious about God’s leadership in our lives, we must be looking, searching for His signs, seeking His heart. And that, my friends, is why I offer this blog to you each week, that you might join me in 

Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart.

May it be so for us all. Happy New Year!

~ Joyce ~

 

What About After Christmas?

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Perhaps, like many of us, you are beginning to put away the Christmas trimmings, packing them up for another year.

But what about the people we have studied this month? Like us their lives continued on. The angels returned to heaven. The shepherds followed the sign they were given, found the baby in a manger, and  told everyone they met all they had experienced. But they too eventually settled back into their routine.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Zechariah learned for the first time what it means to be the parents of a toddler. Mary and Joseph discovered diapering, feeding, and cuddling their little child who also became a toddler.

Mary and Joseph evidently found friendship and comfort in Bethlehem and stayed there for several months, when one day, they had a huge surprise. Magi from the East came to visit them. Imagine this intrusion in the small shepherding village of Bethlehem when the strangers appeared in their finery and strange clothing.

The Magi first went to Jerusalem to inquire about the special child, asking,

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matt. 2:2

I’ve always wondered who these gifted stargazers were anyway? Were they from Persia or the surrounding area? How did these easterners know anything about a Jewish King? Why did they even care?

I’ve wondered about the influence of Jews like Esther and Mordecai, who were taken into captivity centuries earlier. Did their influence carry down through the centuries? Somehow these astrologers knew what to look for in the heavens, recognized the signs in the sky, and knew to match these signs to the promised Hebrew Messiah. Not only that, they wanted to “worship him.”

Jerusalem seemed the logical place to find the king of the Jews, but Herod the Great was not so “great” about knowing Jewish things. Since he was an Idumean, he had to call in the chief priests and teachers of the law to find out where the “promised one” was to be born. The leaders knew right away—Bethlehem.

The Magi turned toward Bethlehem and once again their guiding star appeared to them.

…and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed. Matt. 2:9-10

Had you remembered that the star appeared a second time? What an assurance to them.

After the first sight of the special star, much time had passed. They traveled a great distance, so when they arrived, they did not find a baby in a manger.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matt. 2:11

Jesus is no longer a baby, but a child. He is not in a manger, but a house. As they had planned, they bowed down and “worshiped him.”

As we launch into our new year, may we be found bowing down to worship Him. You may worship Him with eyes closed or open. You may be in church, on the back porch, driving in the car, or sitting in your devotional chair, but I encourage you on some days to literally bow, get on your knees, even prostrate yourself face down and worship Him. 

May you have a glorious, meaningful New Year.

~ Joyce ~

Three Smart men and a Star

Last night, we put away our last Christmas decoration. You may or may not have done the same. But before we leave Christmas as a 2014 memory, I’d like to explore the passage about the “wise men.” Their story is in Matthew 2.

 

1 After Jesus was born… Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

2 and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matt. 2:1-2

 

Many believe these astrologers were from Persia and that they studied the stars with great wisdom. Somehow they had knowledge of Jewish names for celestial stars and clusters. Only in this way would they be able to identify them with a Jewish king. Where did they learn this? Could it be that Jews, taken into captivity in Esther’s day, had lingering influence on these Magi?

Some researchers believe the astrologers saw a particular set of stars that aligned themselves there in the eastern sky. They interpreted this to mean a special “king of the Jews” had been born (we have seen His star), and they were thus persuaded to make the long journey to worship him. This had to be more than just curious star-gazers.

They traveled to Jerusalem for, after all, that’s where the Jewish Temple was located. They posed their question to King Herod, who was not actually a Jew himself. He had to call in the religious leaders to find out where the Christ (Greek for Messiah) was to be born. “Bethlehem,” they told Herod.

So the Magi mounted their camels once again and set off for Bethlehem, another five miles away.

 

9 …they went their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child  was.

10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. Matt. 2:9-10

 

What a thrill for them to see the star once again. What a confirmation that God was directing them in this last trek of their journey. Note that Jesus is no longer a baby, but a child.

 

11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matt. 2:11

 

Jesus is no longer a baby in a manger, he is a child in a house. Well, that messes up our nativity scene and dramatic music programs, doesn’t it? Maybe we need a “some-time-later” sign.

Unlike the religious leaders, these strange men from a pagan country have discovered the leadership of the “One God.” Their immediate response? They bow down and worship him. They offer three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – leading us to assume there were three men. Maybe or maybe not.

The question I ask is, “Why did others not see this star in the east?” My conclusion is that these wise men were the only ones looking for it. Likely they had been following patterns in the sky for months, noticing the alignment beginning to take shape.

When the star appeared again outside of Jerusalem, it confirmed their faithfulness in making the long journey.

As we begin the New Year, let us intentionally look for God’s direction in our lives. What star does he have for you  in this new year? A ministry opportunity? A relationship to mend? The determination to spend regular quality time in prayer and Bible study? What star does he want to shine into your life?

As you faithfully launch out, no doubt he will shine that light upon you again as a confirmation. May it be so for you. I’d love to hear about it.

Happy fulfilling New Year to you all.

~ Joyce ~