By David Ferguson
"And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they offered unto Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." (Matthew 2:10-11)
With the advent and influence of rationalistic thought that seeks to explain everything in the Bible through natural means, the acceptance of the miraculous is increasingly difficult to embrace as an explanation for biblical events, even among professed Christians. Nowhere does this seem to be so true as it does when addressing the case of the star of Bethlehem that announced the birth of Jesus Christ to these Gentile magi. All sorts of natural phenomena have been proposed to explain the occurrence of this star: it was Jupiter in Aries; it was Jupiter in Pisces; it was a supernova; it was Jupiter and Saturn in close proximity; it was a comet.
I, for one, in the case of the star of Bethlehem, am content to accept its appearance as falling within the realm of the miraculous, and leave it at that. As far as I can see from Matthew’s account, which is the only Gospel record which includes this event, the star is revealed only to these Gentile wise men. Herod’s men had not seen the star themselves, but they did understand that the King of the Jews was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem, in the city of David. Numbers 24:17, which is a Messianic prophesy, states, "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not nigh: There shall come forth a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite through the corners of Moab, and break down all the sons of tumult." So when Herod and the people learned that these magi have seen the star announcing the birth of the King of the Jews, they were troubled (Matthew 2:3).
Throughout the history of God’s direct interaction with people He has oftentimes appeared as a bright light of some kind. This is part of His "glory." To the children of Israel He became a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). At the transfiguration of Jesus Christ His face shone with a light as bright as the sun and with garments as white as the light (Matthew 17:2). When the Lord appeared to Saul while on the road to Damascus, Saul was blinded by the light which the others with him saw as well (Acts 9:3). When God was imminently present, a bright light was associated with His presence. Additionally, God has chosen in times past to have selective revelation to certain individuals. Why not in the case of the magi, these Gentile men who were so intent on joyfully seeking the Lord in order to worship Him? May it be said of us as it was of them that we rejoice with exceeding great joy as we fall down to worship Him!
- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lakelandchurchofchrist/ or email@example.com