It is an interesting phenomenon that we can be blind to our own shortcomings. We can look at others and quickly point out all the things they are doing wrong, but never see ourselves through the same critical lens. Religious peoples and even peoples within a same ethnic group are the same way. We get caught up in an echo chamber hearing only the words we want to hear about how great we are. Or people get caught up in their own bubble never seeing the world outside that bubble as it actually is. A friend once claimed that he would only read theology from authors who wrote at least 100 years ago so that he would not be caught up in group think that flows from today’s mega church settings. While extreme I agree that it would be wise to diversify the kinds and types of input one uses to be informed and to learn. One great example of learning from others is found in the gospel of Matthew where the wise men come to worship Jesus.
10 When [the wise men] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11 ESV
When Jesus is born and then started his ministry few people seemed to recognize exactly what he represented. A majority of those in power actively fought against everything that Jesus taught. While there are numerous examples of Jewish peoples who recognized and worshiped Jesus the idea that Persian astrologers traveled some unknown distance following a star to worship the King of the Jews is amazing to me.
Here we have an educated group, with means, traveling from faraway lands hunting for a new born king that they may worship him. These same people have enough pull that they gain an audience with the Roman king of this territory. Yet when they find Jesus as a poor child in a backwoods town they fall at his feet to worship. Of all the incredible events of the New Testament this must rank right up at the top of the list. They discovered all this from following a star? It is shocking to see God speaking to the hearts of pagan gentiles in such a way. But why is it shocking? The Biblical record is full of gentiles who have more fear and respect for God than the Hebrews, God’s chosen people, and Jesus points this out at the beginning of his ministry in his own home town in such a way that the leaders of the Synagogue tried to kill him on the spot.
25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:25-30 ESV
God is creator of all peoples. All people over all the earth have a common set of parents. Adam and Eve. God is near to all peoples be they Gentiles or Jews. I am a Gentile yet God has call me to be his child. Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Why me? Someone living in land far from Israel? I can’t say because it is not something I did or something I wanted. I will say that because of His love he has my attention and has more than earned my trust. Romans Chapter 9 is a difficult section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. In this section he explains how these pagan astrologers came to worship the one true king and how someone like me born thousands of years later on the other side of the planet came to worship the same one true king.
30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 9:30-33 ESV
These wise men did something incredibly wise in that they by faith listened to the instructions given to them and followed the star provided by God. Dear reader I would challenge you in the same way to listen to the call of God. Who has been praying for you? Who among your friends and family knows where you are and can see what you are doing wrong? Maybe God is speaking through them. He is near. It is an extravagant moment of grace from the Creator that such a moment is given for you and I to obtain God’s righteousness by faith. David Platt in his commentary of Matthew links these wise men to another gentile prophet of the Old Testament who proclaimed a star would come from Israel. Balaam was hired by a gentile king to curse Israel but he instead he delivered a promise about the future king Jesus.
17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; Numbers 24:17 ESV