JESUS: BORN TO BE WORSHIPED
SERIES: THE MESSIANIC PROPHECIES OF JESUS
by Ron Ritchie
There is such a spiritual hunger today to find someone or something to
worship. A recent book by Ted Harrison entitled Elvis People was
introduced in the American Health magazine with the headline: "Elvis
Makes Leap from King to God." Harrison's book illustrated how idol
worship can get out of hand. He was amazed that Elvis' popularity had increased
since his death and likened it to a new religion. He noted that this new
religion really took off at a British pop concert when the master of ceremonies
yelled out, "Who's going to live forever?" and the swaying audience
responded, "Elvis! Elvis!" Harrison said it reminded him that
he had seen something similar at a gathering of born-again Christians. He
found that Graceland has now become a pilgrimage site. Some fans described
the singer as a bridge between them and God, and others stated that he had
the power to heal their physical problems, while thousands claimed to have
seen him in resurrected form.
If we get bored with worshiping ourselves or another person, we can find
many who are worshiping power or possessions. But the bottom line is that
we were created and then commanded to "love the LORD your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy
6:5). (It was Satan who came along and suggested we disobey that revelation
and decide for ourselves whom or what we should worship.) And among the
spiritual remnant of this and every generation there are men and women and
boys and girls who truly hunger to worship the one and only living God and
his Son Jesus Christ.
This is the subject we want to look at this morning as we continue our study
of the prophetic scriptures that speak of the coming of the Savior, the
Messiah, the King who can save all of us from our sin, from the fear of
death, and from the power of Satan.
Let Them Bow Down Before Him
Psalm 72:1-2, 8-11
David wrote a prayer for his son Solomon, who foreshadowed the coming Messiah,
in Psalm 72. He asked God to bless the new king and asked that he rule with
divine judgment and righteousness. Verses 1-2:
Give the king Thy judgments, O God,
And verses 8-11:
And Thy righteousness to the king's son.
May he judge Thy people with righteousness,
And Thine afflicted with justice.
May he also rule from sea to sea,
David was saying, "Lord, my son Solomon is about to be enthroned to
serve you, the King of kings, and he will need your righteous judgment and
wisdom to rule over your people. Please extend his kingdom from the Great
Sea [the Mediterranean] to the Red Sea, and from the great Euphrates River
to the deserts in the south. May Jerusalem be his throne and all the world
come and bow down to him, from as far away as the great deserts to the southeast,
the western ports of Spain, the Greek islands, and the southern nations
of Yemen and Arabia. May they all bring gifts, and may they honor and serve
him." Here was the warrior-king praying for his son Solomon, the prince
of peace whose reign would bring forty years of peace to Israel. This all
foreshadowed the coming Messiah who is reigning in heaven now, but one day
will reign in Jerusalem.
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
Let the nomads of the desert bow before him;
And his enemies lick the dust.
Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts.
And let all kings bow down before him,
All nations serve him.
The prophet Isaiah wrote of the future kingdom of the Messiah in 60:5-6:
"The wealth of the nations will come to you.
In these words of David and Isaiah you can see that the Scriptures keep
foreshadowing not only the coming of the Messiah but also the establishment
of his righteous kingdom. We have already seen other promises of God: first
that Eve would have a male descendant who would crush the head of Satan
(Genesis 3:15); secondly that a virgin would give birth to a son and call
him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14); thirdly that the government would be on the
shoulders of this son and he would be called "Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6); and
lastly that out of Bethlehem would come from the Lord One who will be ruler
over Israel (Micah 5:2). Together these prophetic scriptures placed hope
in the hearts of the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles all around the known
world that Messiah was coming, and that once he came he would be worthy
of their full-hearted worship.
A multitude of camels will cover you,
The young camels of Midian and Ephah,
All those from Sheba will come;
They will bring gold and frankincense,
And will bear good news of the praises of the LORD."
As we saw last week, it was prophesied in Micah 5:2 and then fulfilled in
Luke 2:6-7 that "while they were there [in Bethlehem], the days were
completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son;
and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was
no room for them in the inn." This event was immediately followed by
an announcement to some shepherds in the fields surrounding Bethlehem by
an angel of the Lord: "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good
news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the
city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord"
(Luke 2:10-11). Therefore, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the most natural
thing for the believing remnant to do was to fall down and worship him.
Unfortunately, only a few shepherds (and a few hundred thousand angels!)
showed up for his first coming to earth. But then the word of his birth
began to spread---to the strangest places....
We Have Come to Worship the King of the Jews
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of
Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star
in the east [at its rising], and have come to worship Him."
These words have led many scholars to think that Mary and Joseph stayed
in Bethlehem for a few weeks; some have even suggested it was several months
if not a year (see Matthew 2:16).
Herod the king was an impressive character who left quite a mark on the
hearts of the Jewish people. He lived from 74 BC to 4 AD and was made king
of Judea by the Roman senate in 40 BC. Rome gave him an army, and he carved
out a kingdom over which he finally ruled with an iron fist in 37 BC. Emperor
Augustus increased Herod's territory until it included all of Palestine
as well as the border regions of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. By this time
he had indeed become "king of the Jews" even though he was not
a Jew but an Edomite, and was basically hated by the Jewish people. The
Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Herod was capable, crafty, and cruel
on the one hand, and a great builder on the other. He enhanced Jerusalem
with a theater, an amphitheater, and a hippodrome as well as a luxurious
palace for himself on the western edge of the city. He also rebuilt the
temple of Zerubbabel (which dated back to 516 BC).
What can we discover about the magi? It is known that they were a caste
of wise men specializing in astrology, medicine, and natural science. Many
scholars have tried to determine where these men came from, and apparently
it was somewhere in Persia or Babylon, lands which we now call Iran and
Iraq, respectively, which are east of Palestine. The prophet Daniel some
five hundred years earlier had influenced his generation of Babylonian wise
men about the Jews' worship of the one and only living God and about their
hope for a Messiah (Daniel 2:48; 5:11). Perhaps they had been calculating
the time the Messiah was to come from Daniel's prophecy. And who knows what
influence the Holy Spirit had in the hearts of these few men among the millions
in their country who had no clue that a great light had come to dispel the
deep darkness of a world sitting in sin, shame, and guilt.
This was a season when the visible activity of angels was in full flower:
An angel of the Lord appeared to the priest Zacharias, then the angel Gabriel
came to Elizabeth and Mary directly, and an angel came to Joseph in a dream.
Angels appeared to the shepherds in a field outside of Bethlehem (Luke 2:9-14).
So perhaps an angel was also sent to announce the birth of Messiah to these
God-fearing wise men, and they responded with joy. Their motivation to travel
from their country of Iran or Iraq to Palestine and then to the capital
city of Jerusalem was not to make another trading trip, but to find the
new baby king of the Jews and worship him. They had no problem believing
that he had been born or that he was the new king of the Jews. Their only
question to the citizens of Jerusalem was, "Where is he, that we may
How many magi came to worship him? The modern hymn says, "We three
kings of Orient are...." But in reality these wise men traveled in
large trading camel caravans for safety's sake, so that many wise men could
have come bearing many gifts for the new King of the Jews, in the three
categories of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (this fulfills the prophecy
of Isaiah 60:6, which we just saw).
Among the many interests of these wise men was the study of the stars, so
it would not be out of place to say that one night as they gazed at the
heavens, they suddenly saw a new star, one they had never seen before, hanging
over the eastern sky. Scholars have suggested that it was one of the following:
a genuine star in the same sense that the sun is a star, the planet Jupiter,
the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of the fish, or a comet
behaving erratically. But this star was distinctive in several ways. (1)
It appeared first in the eastern skies and was quite different from anything
they had ever observed, and by the prompting of the Holy Spirit these God-fearing
men began to prepare to follow it westward toward Judea (Matthew 2:2). (2)
The star led them first to Jerusalem. There is no evidence that the common
people, King Herod, or the scribes saw the star. The magi found out from
the scribes that the Messiah was to be born in the small village of Bethlehem
according to Micah 5:2. (3) The star that only the magi saw began to move
again ahead of them, but now instead of continuing its westward course,
it took a left turn and headed five miles south to Bethlehem. (4) Then this
moving star stopped over the place where Jesus lay. (5) We can conclude
that this star was under the control of an outside agent.
In this brief description of the star we can see that it was not a normal
star, but one that was created and controlled by God in order to lead a
group of God-fearing Gentiles to the King of the Jews, the Messiah, and
the hope of the world. These magi did not worship the star but followed
the star to get to Jesus.
We might wonder why God used a star to guide these magi. Well, it was just
another wonderful token of God's love. In the past God had used a variety
of means of communicating his love to mankind. He spoke to men through nature
(Romans 1:19-20). He appeared directly to Abraham, who was living in the
moon-worshipping culture of Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2). He used the burning
bush with Moses (Exodus 3). He spoke to the false prophet Balaam directly
and then through his donkey (Numbers 22). He used the light by night and
the cloud by day to lead Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21). He
used angels to speak to his prophets and his righteous remnant. In this
case he selected a star to lead some God-fearing Gentiles to his Messiah
so that they could fulfill their deep spiritual hunger to worship him.
The Christian community has been informed by a variety of valid sources
that we are now living in a Post-Christian society and that because of our
new pluralistic culture, Christianity is no longer a major influence in
the lives of the people around us. But in spite of that information, this
church certainly was delighted and at times amazed at how many spiritually
hungry people came to listen to the Christmas concerts that our choir and
orchestra provided for this community. If you were there you could see the
love and life of Jesus in the faces of the singers and musicians, and his
joy spilled over into a dark community. Some folks came just to enjoy a
Christmas performance, but instead they discovered the love of Jesus, and
I hope some ended up worshiping him in their hearts as the wise men of old
This eastern caravan had arrived in Jerusalem and began to ask the merchants,
"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?" It is obvious
that the local populace did not know what the magi were talking about, so
finally their presence, their question, and the purpose for their visit
came to the ears of King Herod, who had thought he was the king of the Jews!
Not All Wanted to Worship the King of the Jews
And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem
with him. And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the
people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. And
they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written
by the prophet,
'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler,
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"
Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them
the time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go
and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report
to me, that I too may come and worship Him."
The political problem at this moment was that there was one too many kings
of the Jews. Here was King Herod, who had been declared king of the Jews
years earlier by Rome and who had been fighting since then to gain the respect
and loyalty of the Jewish people. And suddenly he was told that a group
of magi were in town looking for a child whom they called "the King
of the Jews" and wanted to worship. Herod was now an old man (in the
last year of his life on earth). His heart was filled with fear, suspicion,
and guilt. He had recently killed his beautiful princess and his two favorite
sons, Alexander and Artiobulus, for fear they would try to take away his
throne. (These murders were reported to Emperor Augustine, who responded
that he would rather be Herod's hog than his son, for he would then have
a better chance of life.) Herod had also destroyed the supreme court.
Now in the wake of all this death and destruction, he called for his scribes
in order to review the data about the times, season, and place of a coming
Messiah. They informed the king that the child was prophesied by Micah to
be born in Bethlehem, some five miles south of the capital. Based on that
information, the king felt secure enough to have the magi secretly brought
into his presence. The king wanted to know more about the star: when had
they first seen it, how long had they been on the road, etc. He was calculating
the age of the child (see Matthew 2:16). He then asked them to report back
to him when they found the child so he could worship him also. But while
the magi wanted to worship the King of the Jews, Herod really wanted to
kill him forshadowing the hearts of the Jewish religious leaders.
"There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens
every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and
the world did not know Him. He came to his own, and those who were His own
did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right
to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."
The magi, their servants, and the rest of the caravan, having traveled hundreds
of miles from the east to Jerusalem, had just five more miles to go before
they would be able to worship the true King of the Jews.
Jesus: Born to be Worshiped
And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the
star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came
and stood over where the Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced
exceedingly with great joy. And they came into the house and saw the Child
with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening
their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and
myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their own country by another way.
It must have been evening by the time they left the palace of Herod to begin
the short trip to the little town of Bethlehem. As they walked out into
the night and naturally looked up into the heavens, they saw what the king
and the scribes did not see---the star, hanging over Jerusalem at that moment;
but as I have said, it then took a left turn and began to move south toward
Bethlehem. Then the star "stopped on a dime" over the house which
it appears Joseph had secured after the birth of Jesus in the cave.
These faithful, obedient, God-fearing Gentile magi following the leading
of God's star were about to be rewarded after all those months of preparation
and travel. As they walked into the home of Mary and Joseph with the floodlight
of the star above the house, they saw the baby Jesus, and their first action
was the one they had planned all along. He was revealed to them by God to
be the King of the Jews, the Messiah, God's anointed One, the Son of God.
Isaiah had called him "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father
[Father of Eternity], Prince of Peace" (9:6). And now we know him as
the only one who could deliver them from their sin, shame, guilt, fear of
death, and the power of Satan. This One deserved to be worshiped. They thanked
God for sending his Son to the earth as the King who would be above every
king, the one who would rule in justice and righteousness. The Messiah,
the "King of the Jews," would bring the blessings of salvation
to the Gentiles as well.
Notice that they did not worship the star, Joseph, or Mary, but only the
One due worship: Jesus. Also, these magi were a symbol of a remnant from
among the Jews and Gentiles who love and willingly bow down before their
Lord and Savior in our world today. At that moment the Jewish nation missed
his first coming, as the world even among the religious elements has missed
the meaning of his first coming. But all will be gathered together at his
second coming, and all will bow their knee to him and confess him as King
They worshiped the newborn King, and then they offered the Child the gifts
fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah 60:5-6, which we have already seen,
foreshadowing in his first coming the total fulfillment in his second coming:
"The wealth of the nations will come to you...
Gold was a symbol of purity. Frankincense (pure incense) was taken from
a tree in South Arabia and Somalia for use in Jewish meal offerings (Leviticus
2:1), and when placed on the altar of fire was a symbol of prayer and thanksgiving
to God. In addition they brought myrrh, which was also taken from the sap
of a tree with odoriferous wood, namely the Balsamodendron of Arabia. It
was used by women to make them more desirable (Esther 2:12) and was also
used by women in their bridal processions. At times myrrh when mixed with
wine would be used as an anesthetic (Mark 15:23). And finally, it was used
in preparing a body for burial (John 19:39-40). It was used by man to make
his life more pleasant, his pain less dreadful, and his burial less repulsive.
The late Bishop Sheen in his book Life of Christ said:
They will bring gold and frankincense...."
They brought three gifts: Gold to honor His Kingship, frankincense
to honor His divinity, and myrrh to honor His Humanity which was destined
for death. The crib and the Cross are related again, there is myrrh at both.
I received a phone call on Tuesday from a grieving woman I did not know
who had given birth to a premature baby boy. The doctors told her his chances
of survival were very slim. She wanted to know if I would come to the hospital
and pray for him. Dave Beggs joined me the next morning, and we met the
woman, her four-year-old son, and her mother. We were taken to a special
room just off the premature nursery, and in a few moments the woman returned
with her baby wrapped in white cloth in his portable crib. I had been told
his name the day before, but when I saw him for the first time chills ran
up my spine, for here lying before us was David (in Hebrew, "Beloved"),
whose life was hanging on a thread. All I could think of at that moment
was how small and helpless was the child called Jesus, of the House of David,
when he came into this world. And just for a moment I could sense how the
wise men of old felt when they saw Jesus and then by faith bowed down and
worshiped him as their Lord and Savior, the promised Messiah.
Thank God that his Son grew up, willingly gave away his life on the cross
for our sins, and then was raised from the grave by his Father so that all
of us would have the opportunity to worship him and experience the forgiveness
of sins and the gift of eternal life.
We prayed for David and asked the Lord Jesus to either heal this child or
take him to himself forever. We then worshiped Jesus by telling him how
much we loved him and needed him not only at that moment but every day of
our lives. It was a very humbling and joyful experience.
What or whom are we willing to bow down before and worship today? We are
surrounded by men and women who, like Herod of old, want to be king and
would kill, in some sense, anyone who would seek to take their place. At
times we find in our own hearts a desire to be king. It is a dangerous position
in which to be found, for there is only one God-anointed King over the universe,
the nations, and our hearts; and his name is Jesus. Jesus is no longer a
baby in a manger, but now reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords in heaven,
and one day to come we will see him reigning on earth from Jerusalem. I
submit to you, based on the prophetic scriptures and the example of the
magi, that we all should fall down before him and worship him who is the
only One worthy of worship.
I found a Christmas card depicting a little boy gazing at the bright star
over Bethlehem. The verse by Christina Rossetti read:
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part--
Yet what can I give Him,
I give my heart.
Catalog No. 4387
December 19, 1993
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