Worship | The Inconvenience of Obedience
Monday— After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We … have come to worship Him.” (v 1-2)
Despite the beautiful cards and songs about three wise men, the facts don’t support the idea that these astrologers from the east arrived the day Jesus was born. It is likely that this star appeared the night of His birth, but travel would have taken them from a few weeks to a couple of years. Verse 11 points to the possibility that they visited Mary and Joseph in a house, not a stable, after Jesus’ birth. There were probably more than three men, since long distance travel in those days usually involved a great company. And, being the wealthy elite, this would have been a large group, including cooks and servants.
But the Magi made the mistake we often make—they asked the right questions of the wrong person. Herod had sinister motives for answering their questions and we learn from the wise guys that it matters who you listen to. Misinformation clogs the internet and if we’re not highly selective about the sites we gravitate toward, we can worship the wrong god. “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? Which religion is the right one? How do we know if God is real? Is everyone going to heaven?” Those are the right questions, but often they are directed toward the wrong people. Know your source! Many claim to have answers; they don’t. Many theories sound wise; they’re not. And even Christmas cards can get it wrong.
Final Thought: One trustworthy source for answers to all things biblical is GotQuestions.org.
Prayer: Father, thank you for sending your Son to us. Thank you for causing good men to record it so we could read about it 2000 years later. Help me to be wise about my questions and even wiser about who answers them. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. (v. 3)
Misery loves company and Herod was miserable. “Another king? But what about…I’m the king!” While he pretended to show the visitors a good time, inside he was seething. He was the king. No one else. Why hadn’t someone told him about this? So he got on his Jerusalem Facebook account and started blabbing: “Who’s the best king you guys ever had? Me, that’s who. So how would you feel about another king, a baby king, stealing my throne? I thought so. Let’s make this viral. #keepthekingdom.” The only way that “all Jerusalem” would be disturbed by Herod’s private conversation with the wise men—he told them.
Herod was upset because he did not like the truth. Most people still don’t. In a time when feelings, opinions, and offenses are given the weight once reserved for fact, truth offends. It is, by its very nature, intolerant. Truth doesn’t care how we feel about it and makes enemies with those who don’t like its implications. Jesus claimed to be the Truth and He made enemies wherever He went, starting at His birth. If we want to be His followers, we must understand that we represent a truth that is increasingly unpopular. The wise men pursued true worship, but not everybody was happy about that. They won’t be happy with you, either, if you pursue it. But that pursuit led wise men to the greatest Treasure ever discovered. It will lead you there too.
Final Thought: Never let the objections of other people dissuade you from pursuing Truth. It will lead you to great Treasure.
Prayer: Father, help me not choose people-pleasing when truth is at stake. Give me the courage of these wise men as they pursued you, even when it caused an uproar. May nothing dissuade me from faithfulness to your truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— “When you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” (v. 8)
“Liar, liar, pants on fire!” Herod had no intention of worshiping the infant King, but he wanted to maintain the impression that he did. The airways and bookstores are filled with a dozen Herod imitators, professing worship of God while touting worship of Self. “I am Prophet-Bishop Holyshorts with a new revelation from God explaining why homosexuality is not wrong.” Or “Jesus didn’t come to be crucified, but to show us a better way to live. Just believe in yourself and your potential!” The most popular lie masquerading as truth now is “Jesus came so you could be healthy and wealthy. If you’re not, just visualize what you want and you’ll receive it!” That’s self-worship, not Jesus-worship. If we know our Bibles, we want to cry, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
Because these wise men had pure motives, God revealed the truth about Herod’s intentions. We may not get our answers in a dream like they did, but if we want truth, God will reveal the Herods of our day. They’re everywhere and the number is growing. Cultural Christianity is quickly replacing gospel Christianity because it’s so pleasant. It promises everything our flesh already wanted but assures us that it’s actually spiritual to pursue it. The Herod Lifestyle Bible is a best-seller because there’s good money in fleecing the gullible. Fame, power, prestige, and glory still motivate those with Herod’s agenda. But if we’re wise like the Magi, we’ll recognize them, reject their man-centered religions, and offer our worship to Christ alone.
Final Thought: Don’t be seduced by Herod’s version of the Christmas story. Be wise about your teachers.
Prayer: Father, am I one of the gullible being seduced by Herod-like celebrities masquerading as preachers? Reveal to me, as you did to the Magi, who to trust and who to avoid. I want only truth to direct my journey toward you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. (v. 11).
There were no printed invitations, no cute games, and no fruit punch. Mary was the only woman present and the guests didn’t even know her. This may have been the weirdest baby shower in history. While it seems to us that a box of Pampers, a couple of onesies, and a teething ring would have been more appropriate, the gifts the Magi brought may carry major significance. The Bible doesn’t tell us this, but tradition holds that these baby presents symbolized the Magi’s recognition of Jesus’ identity.
GOLD: Gold represents wealth and divinity. God always required the purest gold to be used in articles of worship. By presenting Jesus with gold, the Magi acknowledged His divinity. Gold would also be necessary to finance the family’s move to Egypt when Herod tried to have Jesus killed. FRANKINCENSE: A fragrant gum obtained by lancing a tree and letting the resin flow out. It symbolized holiness and was used in worship. It also represented the sacrifice this holy Child would make when His blood flowed to pay for our sin. Myrrh: A spice used in embalming. It symbolized suffering. Jesus was offered myrrh to drink on the cross and would later be buried with it. Offering the infant King myrrh meant that they recognized His purpose in being born. The Magi wouldn’t be welcomed at most baby showers, but their gifts showed that they knew Who it was they worshiped.
Final Thought: Do your gifts of time, resources, and life choices show that you understand Who it is you worship?
Prayer: Jesus, do the gifts I offer you indicate your importance in my life? Am I offering you gifts worthy of the King of Kings? I believe that you are the Son of God come to earth to offer salvation to us. May my life indicate your value to me. Amen.
Friday— Having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (v. 12)
Think of a time you tried to get twelve people to agree on the restaurant. Or what about choosing cars when twenty people were going somewhere? Getting a group to agree on anything is a hair-pulling experience. By nature, we balk, consider other options, or fight for our favorite ideas. The wise men were probably no different when the leader woke up saying, “Okay, guys. Change of plans.” Imagine their shocked looks. “What? We’re not going back the way we came? But it’s shorter! Easier! Better roads.” Then a frown: “So your dream told you we need to change routes. Is it that important? It’s so inconvenient.”
Following wisdom is usually inconvenient. Staying out of debt is inconvenient. Maintaining sexual purity is inconvenient. Spending time with God every day can be inconvenient too, but obeying God interrupts our normal. It requires an about-face from the world’s ideas. If we want our Five-Star General to lead us around the landmines buried everywhere, we’ve got to trust His direction. We don’t know where the traps are, so we’ll take His word on it. Doing life right is inconvenient. Worship is inconvenient. It’s so much easier to go along with culture, be politically correct, get high-fives from the people in our lives. Don’t make waves. Don’t challenge popular opinion. Just do what Herod says. But if wise men listened to God’s warning and obeyed it, we should too. The world says, “Let’s challenge what you believe.” God’s word says: “Walk away.”
Final Thought: How like the wise men are you when God’s word tells you to go a different way?
Prayer: Father, am I as obedient to your direction as these men were? You spared them much grief and suffering because they listened. You also spared your infant Son’s life which meant later salvation for me. Help me listen like they did. Amen.