Divine Surprises

The story found in Matthew 2 of the Magi coming from the east to worship the newly born King of the Jews demonstrates one of the amazing ways that God encourages, protects and provides for his people. In a manner that the Magi, who study the stars, would understand, God revealed to them that the King of the Jews had been born. How did he do that? According to the Magi when they spoke with King Herod, they saw the newborn king’s star in the east and came to Jerusalem to worship him. Of course, this news was a surprise to Herod and threw him and the entire city of Jerusalem into bedlam. This raises yet another question. Why would the Magi associate this star with the newborn King of the Jews? Taking a step back from this story and considering the broader history of Israel, we understand from the latter chapters of 2 Kings and Daniel in the Old Testament, that after Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came and defeated Jerusalem, he took both the king and some of young men from the royal family into exile. One of these young men was Daniel. From the book of Daniel we learn that Daniel became the chief of the wise men (Magi) of Babylon. That means he would likely have taught them about the prophecies regarding his own nation, including the coming Jewish Messiah. It is curious to consider that out of a disaster, the defeat of Jerusalem and the exile of the king and members of the royal family, God brought about blessing and provision hundreds of years later for his own son. It was as if Daniel was a type of John the Baptist, sent ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for Jesus and bring provision for him.

Through the chief priests and the scribes the Magi were informed that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem according to the prophet Micah’s prophecy (Micah 5:2). That information along with the star reappearing led the Magi to the very house in Bethlehem where Jesus, Mary and Joseph resided. As part of the Magi’s worship of Jesus, they gave him expensive gifts, which subsequently would have been useful to sustain the small family as they lived in exile in Egypt having fled the terror that Herod rained down on Bethlehem. It also would have been a powerful reminder to Mary and Joseph that Jesus was the Messiah and that God was protecting and providing for them.

I have learned that what God did here for Jesus, he does and will do for us. He sometimes leads us down paths that we did not expect to go and provides for us in ways we never could have imagined. Several years ago, we were going through a difficult financial time. Out of the blue I received an email that at first I thought was a scam. However, it was a job opportunity for a teaching contract from an organization that I had never heard of. It led to my teaching Italian on a six month contract providing desperately needed income for us as well as encouragement to me. Later when I inquired as to how they got my email address, no one could remember or knew why they had contacted me. That experience reminded me that God sometimes brings provision for us in completely unexpected and unforeseen ways, just as he did here for Jesus. Such knowledge should spark joy and hopefulness in our lives, particularly when we are navigating a challenging time in our life.

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