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Star of Wonder
12/26/2019 6:00:00 AM by: Paula Kortkamp Combs

Long ago a strange prophet named Balaam came from the land we know as Iraq. Although he had been hired to curse the children of Israel so they wouldn’t take the Promised Land from its pagan inhabitants, Balaam found it impossible to do so. God refused to allow it. Instead Balaam prophesied of Messiah: "I see him, but not in the present time. I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel" (Numbers 24:17 NLT).

Passing Balaam’ prophecy on to new generations, Gentile astronomers in the east carefully watched the skies for the special star that would signal the arrival of the Jewish Messiah.

A promised star appears

During the reign of Herod the Great, the long-awaited star appeared. Immediately eastern astronomers packed their bags and made the long journey to Jerusalem. Because they understood the star meant a new ruler, they showed up at the palace of the king. "Where is the newborn king of the Jews?" they asked. "We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him."

This news of another king threatened King Herod, for he had no legal right to Israel’s throne. Politics had put him in power. Herod wasn’t even a Jew, but rather a descendant of Esau. Immediately Herod called for the leading authorities of Judaism. "Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born?" he asked.

"In Bethlehem" was the quick response. "Micah wrote, ‘But you, O Bethlehem, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.’ "

A wily king schemes

After questioning the astronomers about the exact time the star first appeared, Herod sent them on to Bethlehem. "Search carefully for the child,’’ he said. “And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!" But Herod actually planned something else.

The astronomers went their way. Once again the star appeared to them and guided them to Bethlehem. It stopped over the house where the Child was. The men went in, fell down before the Child, and worshipped Him. Opening their treasure chests, they gave Him expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, warned by God in a dream to avoid Herod, the men returned home by a different route.

A father obeys God’s message

After they left, God spoke to Joseph, also in a dream: "Hurry and escape to Egypt with the Child and His mother. Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to try to kill the Child."

Rising in the middle of the night, Joseph and Mary left with Jesus and remained in Egypt until Herod’s death. (Matthew 2:1-17)

When King Herod learned that the astronomers had outwitted him, he was furious. He ordered his soldiers to go to Bethlehem at once and kill all the baby boys aged two and under.

Today’s prayer

Dear God, help us to seek Christ that we, too, might worship Him. Amen.


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