Today’s reading of my NIV Life Application Study Bible was Matthew, chapter 2, which begins with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It goes on to describe the Magi (the wise men) who travel thousands of miles to visit Jesus, and then it describes King Herod’s attempts to find and kill Jesus.
Something new that I learned in this reading was that Jesus was about two years old by the time the Magi found him. This is quite different from my childhood recollections of stories about the Magi finding him in a manger right after his birth. However, it makes sense. They were walking, and they were traveling from very far away.
King Herod was not a kind ruler, and he was fearful of losing his throne to the child that people were saying was the prophesied king of the Jews. When the Magi told him they had come to find Jesus, he told them to report back to him after they found him so that he could worship Jesus too. They agreed to do that, but once they found Jesus, God told them not to tell Herod, so they left Bethlehem without delivering the message to the king, who didn’t want to worship Jesus—he wanted to kill him.
Joseph then received his second message from God, who told him to take Mary and Jesus out of Bethlehem and go to Egypt. Once again, Joseph followed God’s command, and he moved his family to Egypt. Frustrated that the Magi hadn’t done as they’d promised, King Herod ordered all the boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas who were two years old and younger to be killed in the hopes that one of them would be Jesus and he would secure his throne through these murders. His evil plan failed; Jesus escaped with his earthly family. When Herod died, God spoke to Joseph in another dream and told him to return to Israel. Joseph obeyed and moved his family to Nazareth.
Two lessons stuck with me from this chapter. The first is that the Magi made a long and likely difficult journey to find Jesus, the Son of God, and they brought valuable gifts to give to him.
They sought him.
They brought him gifts.
They didn’t sit around and wait for Jesus to find them. They didn’t sit around and wait to see what gifts or blessings he would bestow on them. They searched for—and found—him. And because he is the Son of God, he is worthy of their gifts. This served to remind me that God wants us to seek him. He wants to know that we actively want him in our lives, and he wants us to be willing to offer our valuables to him (and I don’t think valuables have to be tangible treasures, although I do think giving to worthwhile causes, incredibly small ones and bigger ones, is good and pleases God).
The second lesson I took from this chapter is that in order to follow God, sometimes we have to change directions in our lives, just as the Magi did when they chose not to return to Herod to tell him where Jesus was. We have to trust him.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matt. 2:1-2).