By: Pete Garcia
It is coming up on my three year anniversary as a writer for the Omega Letter. Firstly, I would like to say that it has been a privilege to write for the OL. It has been as much a learning experience for me, as I hope it has been for anyone who’s read and enjoyed anything I’ve written.
When I was asked by Kari and Jack if I’d be interested in writing, I considered that a calling of the highest honor. I wasn’t a writer before that time so I had no idea if I could do it. The Lord oftentimes calls us into the unexpected, and accomplishes His will through our feeble efforts. I have learned much along the way, and I pray that you have as well.
Therefore, in my typical, out of fashion style, let me present an article that is better suited for December than June.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV
A few questions that come to mind in regards to this passage are, how did these ‘Wise Men’ know about the birth of Jesus? What else did they know about it? When did they know it was going to happen? And what does their visit mean for us today, in the 21sr century? Well, for starters, let’s find out how they knew.
According to Daniel chapter 1, we read that the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, conquered the nation of Judah in three separate events beginning in 605 BC. In the first iteration, he took back with him the best and brightest of the young Jewish boys to serve in his kingdom. Of the young men, the book of Daniel primarily focuses on four, Belteshazzar (Daniel), Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-nego).
In Daniel chapter 2, we read that King Nebuchadnezzar has a troubling dream and asks his wise men to interpret it. First, he asks them to tell him what the dream was before they interpret it, so he can know they could actually interpret it. Here we read…
The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.” Dan. 2:5-6
The story goes that Nebuchadnezzar’s decree went forth, and they (the Babylonians) began slaughtering the wise men (Chaldeans) and their families. Daniel beseeches God, and God grants him the ability to both know what the dream is, and the ability to interpret the dream.
We know the dream was about a multi-metallic statue representing the kingdoms of this age who would rule, sequentially, beginning with Babylon down to Rome. At this point, Daniel was elevated to the number two person in the kingdom, and here we read that he is made ruler over not just Babylon proper, but also over all the wise men.
Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. Dan. 2:48-49
Now, imagine you’re a ‘wise man’ who not only got your life spared by a young Jewish kid, but also all of your family as well. I imagine that would evoke a great deal of loyalty towards someone like that. You would listen to this kid, because even though he was Jewish and much younger than you were; this Daniel had a source to real power and knowledge. Daniel’s prophecies and writings would have been studied by the wise men for years and centuries, and not only that, but were probably well versed in all the Jewish text, just as Daniel was. [Daniel 9:1-2, 11, 13]
Back in Matthew 2, we know that Babylon is east of Israel by several hundred miles. You probably already knew that at the time Christ was born, the Parthians were in power over what used to be Persia, and before that, Babylon.
The Romans never conquered the Parthians, and there were a series of wars between the two empires. Now, imagine you’re a half-Jewish, client king, installed by the Roman Caesar, to a backwater province of the Empire known as Judah. Imagine you’re just minding your business and then one day, an entourage of men, from the enemy kingdom show up at your door and ask for the one ‘BORN King of the Jews’…
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Matt. 2:3
A common misconception perpetuated by Christmas cards is that there were three Wise Men on camels. Another misconception perpetuated by a lot of well-meaning churches is that there were ‘more’ than three, but not a lot more. (6-8 maybe) I don’t think Herod nor all of Jerusalem would be startled by three (or 8) guys riding up on camels. I think (my opinion) is that these guys showed up en masse, perhaps a caravan of a hundred to two hundred or more. Obviously, all of Jerusalem wouldn’t have been in King Herod’s castle hearing the question being asked about where the ‘King of the Jews’ was, so what startled them was to see such a large entourage of enemy Parthians showing up.
Now, Herod, truly shaken by their presence and their question, turns to his religious brain trust for guidance…
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'” Matthew 2:2-6
Notice they are quoting Micah 5:2…or rather, misquoting it. Here is what the Prophet Micah actually stated.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
The high priests and scribes were scared of Herod, so they were tailoring their message to fit the audience. So far, we know why the Parthian Wise Men would know about a Jewish Messiah; and we know how they knew where the Messiah was going to hail from. And we know the wise men took the Bible literally, and the religious brain trust didn’t.
We know that Daniel received the ‘Seventy Weeks’ prophecy from the angel Gabriel. From here they would have understood, that from the going forth of the commandment (Nehemiah 2) given by Persian King Artaxerxes…483 years would have to transpire. The question many would be asking themselves is, ‘yeah, but wouldn’t that point them directly to Palm Sunday of AD33, not when He was born?’ I’m glad you asked.
The wise men would have been exposed to the Jewish Scriptures (the OT) through Daniel, and it’s no stretch to imagine that He would have explained these to them and possibly, entrusted to them to continue watching long after he was gone for the coming Messiah.
Not only that, but Daniel would have also explained, that Messiah would come in part as a Priest. (In order to fulfill Daniel 9:24). Furthermore, they would have made a reasonable assumption that according to the Scriptures (Numbers 4) a priest could not enter service until he was 30 years of age. So all they had to do was calculate the 483 years from Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy, and then back that up thirty years, and they would know when to look for a sign. So what was the sign?
Again, they searched the Scriptures of their beloved Daniel, and read them. Not only did they read them, they believed them.
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel… Numbers 24:17
“We have seen His Star in the East, and have come to worship Him,” the wise men told Herod. They believed what the Scribes and Pharisees should have believed. They came bearing gifts not only fit for a King (Gold), but also for a Priest (Frankincense) because again, they studied the Old Testament. They also came bearing Myrrh, which was a sweet smelling spice you could apply to the dead as an act of honor. They knew this because in Daniel’s prophecy, that ‘Messiah the Prince’ would be ‘cut off, but not for Himself’.
And isn’t it just like God to bring in some Gentiles to be the first people in the New Testament, to come and worship the King of Kings? The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the Lion of Judah, the rightful heir to the throne, and these Gentile ‘kingmakers’, came first (Law of First Mention) to demonstrate to the people in whom Jesus would offer His Kingdom too, their Messiah had arrived.
Thinking back to Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, I realize that we are the generation living in the shadow of Nebuchadnezzar’s multi-metallic statue. Just as precisely as God used those wise men to be the first ones to worship Him at His first Coming in the first Gospel, so too is the timing and event that would lead to Israel becoming a nation again in 1948.
And wouldn’t you know it that exactly when Israel becomes a nation again after almost 2,000 years in Diaspora, so too is a final version of the revived Roman Empire appearing again to rear its wicked head (1948).
Many prophetic events are lining up these days, from turmoil in the Middle East, to the rapid rise in technology and global governance. From false messiahs and false religions, to a luke-warm apostasy spreading within Christendom.
Events are speeding up, and the days have grown exceedingly wicked. For those of us who are watching and waiting, I fear many tire waiting and have given up or worse fallen into false teachings that dash a believer’s hope. Don’t let it or them, steal your crown!
Don’t get discouraged or dismayed when certain days or events pass us by, where we thought He would return, but failed to appear. Don’t let the onslaught of bad news snuff out the light of the ‘Blessed Hope’ we have guiding us in these dark days.
Just as God delivered the wise men, by warning them to escape King Herod by returning another way home, so too shall we also escape the ‘man of sin’ who the Bible states is coming, and is going to control all of the earth and overcome all the saints. (Rev. 13) We too, should be looking up, waiting for our Star to appear. Remember Christ instruction to us…
Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”