I’ve never been a risk taker in the traditional sense of the word. But life tends to provide God ordained journeys to venture to the land of the unknown whether you ask for it or not. And sometimes the journey takes a while. As if that isn’t enough, the rough terrain, a burdensome load, and the “desert” of your soul complicate the journey all the more.
Enter the magi. Risk takers.
Eastern wise men, priests, and astrologers were experts in interpreting dreams and other “magic arts,” thus the name magi. Although these men were pagan, “they sought truth with respect and humility” (Who Is This Man?, Ortberg, p. 23).
For centuries, Jewish prophets had predicted the coming of a new king. Bill O’Reilly, in Killing Jesus, indicates that there were five specific occurrences that would take place to confirm the new Messiah’s birth:
1. A great star would rise.
2. The baby would be born in Bethlehem.
3. The child must be a descendant of David.
4. Powerful men would travel from afar to worship him.
5. The child’s mother would be a virgin.
Risk #1: They take treasure chests of gold, frankincense, and myrrh through a dessert known for lawlessness. Why be burdened with a such an expensive load for such a long journey? And why take so much? Wouldn’t less have sufficed?
The magi stop at Herod’s castle to pay their respects while en route to find Jesus. King Herod’s polite questions quickly spiral into an anxious plot with his visiting guests still in attendance (Matthew 2:9). Their discernment saw through Herod’s inauthenticity of wanting to worship the new king.
Risk #2: They leave the palace potentially fearful of their lives for taking a stand to worship a Messiah who had been prophesied about instead of Herod who had been named “king of the Jews” by the Roman Senate.
I wonder what their potential thoughts and emotions may have been after this encounter with the manmade “king of the Jews?” I offer a few:
“Is the journey worth it?”
“It’s not too late to turn back.”
“If we had only known what we were up against, would we have started down this road?”
“This king has the authority to kill us.”
“We are scared.”
“Should we really take a stand for what is right?”
Unexpected journeys have a way of taking it out of you, don’t they? You feel like you are hung out to dry in the desert heat. And you begin to second guess yourself. Just like the magi.
In spite of their fear, they journey on. Although most of their travel was already behind them, the “last leg” remained, approximately a 6 mile trek from the king’s palace to Bethlehem.
Regardless of any threat that existed, they made the choice to follow the star which finally stopped where the child was. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” (Matthew 2:10). Understatement.
When you’ve journeyed through the elements of life and you finally reach a destination that you’ve been longing for, it’s enough to cause you to praise the very One you’ve been hoping would show up on your horizon.
Although Scripture doesn’t mention this, I’m quite sure their encounter with the real King left them changed. They may have begun their journey as pagan men, but somewhere between the starting point to the ending destination, God was guiding their hearts along the way.
What wisdom can be gleaned from musing about the magi?
Your journey may take a while.
Don’t take the shortcut if God is leading you down the longer road.
Keep following God for each leg of the journey.
In spite of what lies ahead, keep traveling through your fear.
There will come a God appointed time when you, too, will be overjoyed when you’ve finally arrived at the destination He plans just for you. And you will. You, like the magi, will praise and worship like never before. Relief, emotion, weariness, and adoration all at once.
Take the risk. Stay on course. It’s well worth the journey.
[Historical content taken from Killing Jesus, Bill O’Reilly; Who Is This Man?, John Ortberg; Scripture]