Posted by: Heather | December 23, 2010

Bring Him Gifts

 

Matthew 2:11  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.  And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Quite a few years ago, I attended a ladies meeting at church.  The hostess of the meeting presented us with a quiz and a pencil, and asked us to complete the questions on the paper.   I thought we were playing a game.  But this quiz was different than most.  It was meant to reveal misconceptions we had about the biblical account of the birth of Jesus.   I realized two things that day.  First, I had many misconceptions about parts of the story that were not biblical.  Second, I realized some women would get into a literal shout-down to defend their view, even when their views couldn’t be proven biblically.  That day, I found out how deeply held some of our views are, even when the Bible paints a different picture.

As we went through each question, I realized there were some things I believed to be true that could be proven by the Word of God.  But, other pictures had been painted in my mind by tradition…Christmas plays, books, and other literature.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against these things.  Sometimes in books and movies for instance, ‘creative liberties’ are taken to add details to make a story flow smoothly.  The problem is that many of the details that were added to tell the story have become so ingrained in our minds that the line between biblical fact and  fiction has become very blurred in some areas.

The thing that stood out the most was my picture of the wise men.  I used to think of these three men in their dignity, hanging out in the stable with the shepherds and animals, worshiping the newborn king.    It’s a pretty picture for Christmas cards or plays, but not an accurate one.

To interpret this story correctly, we have to merge two different accounts of Jesus’ birth…Matthew 2 and Luke 2.  Each account relates different details about the event, because they’re written to different audiences, each of which would find some details more significant than others.

The wise men were not actually at the place of Jesus’ birth.  Scholars are divided as to how long after the birth they arrived, but we know it was after.  In Matthew 2, the wise men went to Herod after Jesus’ birth to ask where He is.  Herod sent them to Bethlehem to find the child.

The wise men found Jesus in a house in verse 11.   There the ‘open their treasures’ and offer him 3 gifts…gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  This is where we get the idea there were 3 wise men.  But the Bible doesn’t say that.  In reality, it was more likely there were many of them, traveling in a caravan to get there. Carrying such valuables would make three men traveling alone an easy target for bandits.  Caravans were a common way to travel then for protection.

Each of the gifts given to Jesus was significant, not only in a prophetic sense, but also in a practical sense.  God knew of the family’s upcoming flight to Egypt, and He met their needs completely, before they ever knew they were going.

Gold is a very precious treasure, and represents royalty and kingship.  Not only would this gift represent that Jesus is the King and worthy of a gift of royalty, but it would provide much-needed funds for the family’s soon-coming journey to Egypt.   When the gift was received, Joseph had not yet been warned to take the family to Egypt until Herod died.  The Kingship of Jesus is clear in I Timothy 6:15 …He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords…

Frankincense was a tree resin used as the primary ingredient in the incense burned in the holy place.   This same incense was used when the high priest went into the holy of holies once a year to make atonement for the people.   The incense could only be used by the priests in their service to God.

Incense is also used as a picture to describe the way our prayers go up before God.   Jesus is not only the King, but our High Priest.  Only He can bring our prayers like incense before God as our mediator.  We see in I Timothy 2:5  ‘For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’

Myrrh  is also a tree resin, and the primary ingredient in the holy anointing oil.  This is the oil that was used to anoint the tabernacle, priests, and kings.  Myrrh helps with wound healing, and was a major component used in the embalming process.    This was one of the spices brought for the burial of Jesus (John 19:39).   Myrrh represents not only that Jesus is the Anointed One, but that He would also suffer and die for all of us.  Paul relates in Philippians 3:10 ‘that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death’,

The wise men gave gifts to Jesus.  I’d like to challenge us to bring gifts to Him as well.  As we give our bodies over to Him, which are precious but temporary (gold), our spiritual connection to Him by prayer and worship (frankincense), and our soul, our minds and emotions, with our inner suffering and pain (myrrh), we will then become the living sacrifice that Paul speaks of in Romans 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

As we approach this season, let’s not forget to bring the gift of ourselves, and a life fully committed to Him.  Then we can bow and offer ourselves to worship Jesus as our Prophet, Priest, and King.

May God bless you abundantly as you celebrate Jesus!

 

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