God Wants us to Worship Like the Wise Men
God Wants us to Worship Like the Wise Men
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - December 31, 2017
(Revised September 8, 2020)
*Please open your Bibles to Matthew 2, as we turn our focus to the Wise Men. We sing about three Wise Men who went to see Jesus, but the Bible doesn't tell us how many there were.
*We also put the Wise Men in our Manger scenes, even though they don't really belong there. By the time they got to Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary had already moved into a house. And based on what the Wise Men told King Herod, Jesus may have been two years old when they finally saw Him.
*But the Wise Men are an important part of the Christmas story, and they can help us learn how to truly worship the Lord, so let's read their story in Matthew 2:1-12.
*Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson is famous for his novels like "Treasure Island," and "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Stevenson also wrote "A Christmas Prayer" that begins with these words:
Help us to remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and the worship of the wise men." (1)
*God surely wants us to share in the worship of the Wise Men, and tonight's Scripture can help us do it.
1. FIRST: WE MUST GO THE DISTANCE TO SEEK GOD.
*In vs. 1-2, the Wise Men surely went the distance to seek the Lord. There the Bible says:
1. 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,
2. 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.''
*These men had been searching for the Lord long and hard. They had probably been on the road for two years, and had come 400 to 500 miles on camel or on foot. All of that effort: Why did they do it?
*From a human point of view, the Wise Men already had everything they could have wanted: Education, wealth, power, and prestige. They certainly had prestige because they were ushered in to see King Herod in Jerusalem. And the King didn't see just anybody, you know. The Wise Men also must have had great wealth, because they were able to give great treasures to Jesus.
*These men had everything the world could offer, but there was something missing in their lives. They had a spiritual hunger that drove them to the highest goal. They were seeking the King of Kings! Seeking to find Him, seeking to know Him, seeking to get close to Him, seeking to worship Him. And this is the greatest goal we can ever have in life.
*But with all that effort, they still had not found Him. It would have been so easy for them to give up. I can imagine lesser men giving up and whining: "Two years on the road! I'm getting tired of this! Let's go home."
*But the Wise Men didn't give up! They kept on searching for the King of Kings. So in vs. 2, we see them asking, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?" And when they kept on searching, they found the King.
*Church: So will we! God promised that we would find Him in Jeremiah 29:13. There the LORD said, "You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart."
*The Wise Men finally found the real King in Bethlehem. Aren't you glad that we don't have to go to Bethlehem to find Him? But where are we going to find the King of Kings? Where is the right place for our worship?
*Jesus tells us in John 4. There the Lord was trying to lead a lost and lonely woman to living water, to salvation, to Him! Jesus showed her that He knew all about her 5 husbands. He knew all about the way she had wrecked her life, so she knew that Jesus was somebody special.
*Then maybe out of curiosity, or maybe trying to change the subject away from her sin problem, the woman asked Jesus about the proper place of worship. Listen to part of the story in John 4:19-24:
19. The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
20. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.''
21. Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.''
*Jesus was saying, "Let Me tell you where the real place of worship is. It's not in Samaria, and it's not in Jerusalem. The real place of worship is in your spirit. It's in your heart."
*Now, God certainly wants us to come to church whenever we can, but just because your body is here doesn't mean that your heart is here too. The real place of worship is in our hearts, and that's where we have to go the distance. Again, in Jeremiah 29:13 God said, "You shall seek Me, and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart."
*God wants us to seek Him, because He wants to have a personal relationship with us. Everybody desperately needs this kind of relationship with God, because it's the only way to live forever. It's the only way to get to Heaven. And we can have this kind of relationship with God by receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
*One of my greatest joys as a pastor has been leading children to the Lord. And one of the most memorable times was a 7-year-old boy named Ryland. Ryland had been talking to his dad for several weeks, and that little boy was seeking the Lord with all his heart.
*I went through the plan of salvation with Ryland. We talked about how serious our sin problem is, but how much God loves us anyway. We talked about how Jesus Christ came to die on the cross for our sins, how He rose again from the dead, how Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with us, and how we must place our faith in the Lord to be saved.
*Ryland only had one question, and it was a good one. He didn't understand the word "faith," and he wanted me to explain it to him. The best way I can understand faith is trust. Faith is putting your trust in God. And it helped that Ryland was standing right in front of his dad as we talked about it.
*I am sure that the Lord gave me the idea to ask him: "Do you trust your dad?" "Sure," he answered. "Well, trusting God is kind of like that. What if your dad told you to fall back right now, and he said, 'It will be okay Ryland, because I'll catch you,' Would you do it?"
*Ryland firmly answered, "Yes." Then I explained: "You can't see your dad. But you heard him tell you, 'It's okay.' And he said he's going to catch you. Well, we can't see God right now, but He has spoken to us in His Word. He told us that He loves us and sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. He told us that Jesus rose again from the dead, so we can trust him to forgive us and give us eternal life. We can let our whole future fall on Jesus Christ."
*Then I asked Ryland if he wanted to trust in Jesus as His Lord and Savior. And he said, "DEFINITELY!" Ryland went the distance that night! He called on the name of the Lord. He prayed to receive Jesus. He opened his heart to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Ryland went the distance. And if we are going to worship the Lord, we must go the distance to seek God.
2. WE ALSO MUST FOLLOW GOD'S GUIDANCE.
*That's what the Wise Men did. They followed the guidance of God.
 AND SOMETIMES GOD GUIDES US WITH HIS MIRACULOUS POWER.
*This is what God did for the Wise Men, first through a miraculous star, and then through a God-given dream. In vs. 2, when the Wise Men got to Jerusalem, they asked, "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.''
*What was this star? People have all kinds of opinions about it. Some say it was a stunning alignment of Jupiter and Saturn. Others say it was probably a super nova, or maybe even Halley's Comet.
*But I have no doubt that this star was a special miracle from God. I say that because when the Wise Men got to Jerusalem, they didn't know where to go next. God must have turned off that star off for a while. He can do that, you know. God can turn off a star more easily than we can turn off a light in our house.
*Then down in vs. 9-10, God must have turned it on again!
9. When they heard the king (that is: when they heard King Herod), they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.
10. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
*The Lord probably won't guide us with a shining star, but He could if He wanted to. His power is just as great today as it ever was!
*God guided the Wise Men with a miraculous star. And down in vs. 12, God guided the Wise Men through a Heaven-sent dream. Here Matthew said, "Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way."
*God used dreams three times to guide people in the Christmas story. The first dream was given to Mary's betrothed husband Joseph. In Matthew 1:20-21:
20. . . An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
21. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.''
*The second dream was God's warning to the Wise Men here in Matthew 2:12. And the third dream was more guidance for Joseph after the Wise Men left. In Matthew 2:13: "An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, 'Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.'''
*God guided Joseph and the Wise Men through dreams, and they wisely followed God's guidance. Of course, most of our dreams are not guidance from God, but the Lord God does still speak through dreams today. And some of us here could give testimonies about how God touched our lives through a dream.
*I had a dream like that almost 29 years ago. It was Christmas of 1991 in the Prayer Room at McClendon Baptist Church. At the time I was their Associate Pastor, desperately wanting to serve somewhere as a pastor, but nothing was happening.
*In the Prayer Room that day, I dozed-off and had a dream. I don't remember all of it, but there was an angel in it. He looked like an ordinary man, but somehow, I knew that he was an angel. And he told me, "They are already looking for you."
*I found out later that the pastor from Emmanuel Baptist Church had resigned a week or two before my dream. And they called me to be their pastor 8 months later, in August of 1992. I had to wait 8 more months, but that dream was a real comfort to me: "They are already looking for you." I am sure it was a message of encouragement from the Lord.
*The Lord God does still speak through dreams today, especially in places like Muslim countries where the Word of God is so scarce. He guided the Wise Men with a heaven-sent dream. And sometimes God will guide us with His miraculous power.
 BUT HE WILL ALWAYS GUIDE US WITH HIS MIRACULOUS WORD.
*The best way that God guides us is through the Bible, the Word of God. We will never see a star guiding us to Jesus, but we will always have the light of His Word. And you may never get a dream from the Lord, but you can always look into His Word, and find the guidance you need.
*In this case, God's guidance came through an Old Testament prophet. In vs. 3-6, Matthew said:
3. When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4. 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.
5. So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6. '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.'"
*About 700 years earlier, God had told the prophet Micah that the Lord would be born in Bethlehem. God's Word was absolutely reliable then. And it is just as reliable today. God will surely guide us with His miraculous Word!
 BUT NOTICE THAT SOMETIMES HE ALSO GUIDES US WITH A PROBLEM.
*This truth can be painful and hard for us to understand, but that is exactly what happened in this story. In this case the terrible problem was caused by King Herod. This wicked king heard about the Wise Men seeking for the new king, and vs. 3 says, "When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."
*The whole city was troubled because Herod was a brutal, heartless, murderous tyrant. Then in vs. 4-6, Herod found out that the new king was supposed to be born in Bethlehem, and he came up with a devious plan to murder King Jesus. We see it in vs. 7-8:
7. Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.
8. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.''
*Herod was a problem to say the least. Next time we will see that he was a vicious monster. But God used Herod to help guide the wise men to Jesus, and sometimes He uses difficult people and problems to guide us.
*We don't like problems. And we want God to get rid of our problems right now. But those problems may be the very thing God is using to lead us closer to Him. Sometimes God guides us with a problem.
 BUT HE ALSO GUIDES US WITH HIS PEOPLE.
*We can see this truth in the first part of vs. 11. There God's Word says this about the Wise Men: "And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother."
*In this case the help for the Wise Men probably came from Joseph. I say that because in vs. 11, it was most likely Joseph who opened the door and let the Wise Men into the house.
*And it may seem like a small thing, but that door was standing between the Wise Men and Jesus. And Church: one of the most important reasons we are in this world is to help other people get closer to Jesus! This is surely one of the things God is guiding us to do. And if we are going to worship the Lord, we must follow God's guidance.
3. WE ALSO MUST COME TO JESUS WITH AN ABUNDANCE FOR GOD.
 PART OF THE ABUNDANCE IS WORSHIPING THE LORD WITH GREAT JOY IN OUR HEARTS.
*We need the same kind of joy we see in the Wise Men. Verse10 says: "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy."
*Why did the Wise Men have such great joy? There was only one reason: They were getting close to the King! And God reminds us here that the closer we get to Jesus Christ, the happier we will be! God will give us real joy, eternal joy, joy that the world can never take away.
*Yes, there will still be times when we get discouraged. We will go through seasons of guilt and grief. We can't always rejoice in the circumstances of our lives. We can't always rejoice in our health or our looks. We can't always rejoice in our finances, our family, our jobs, our grades or our hobbies. We can't always rejoice in our houses, our cars, our toys, or our accomplishments.
*But we can always rejoice in the Lord! And Jesus wants to be our source of constant joy. That's why in Philippians 4:4, Paul the prisoner could say: "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice."
*Plus, all things being equal, the more we worship the Lord, the more our hearts will overflow with joy. I have seen this happen many times in my own life. Maybe I was burdened down by my own shortcomings, or problems or someone else's troubles. But when I intentionally turned my thoughts to the Lord, when I began to praise Him for who He is, and how good He has been to me, I could feel the difference. The Lord would lift my spirits. And we truly can worship the Lord with great joy in our hearts.
 BUT WE SHOULD ALSO WORSHIP THE LORD WITH GENEROUS GIFTS IN OUR HANDS.
*All Christians should give abundant gifts to God. We should give gifts fit for the King, like the Wise Men did in vs. 11: "And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
*Those were strange gifts for a kid, but not for a King! And the Wise Men's gifts remind us that something I've heard all my life is true: "You can't out-give God!"
*The wise men gave gold, reminding us of the royalty of Jesus Christ. But if we trust in the King, He will give us a place to live where the streets are made of gold! He will even make us a part of His royal family.
*We can't out-give God. The wise men gave frankincense, a sweet-smelling gum that was burned with sacrifices. The rising smoke reminds us of our prayers going up to Heaven. They gave a symbol of prayer. But if we trust in the King, He gives us the real thing. God gives us the great privilege of prayer, being able to speak to the King anytime, anywhere.
*We can't out-give God. The wise men also gave myrrh, which was a fragrant oil used as perfume, but also used at times of burial. This gift points us to the cross, because after Jesus died on the cross, John 19:39 tells us that Nicodemus brought myrrh to help prepare the Lord's body for burial. The wise men gave a symbol of death, but Jesus went through death for us. He gave His life on the cross for our sins.
*Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, gave everything for us! What can we give to the King? We may not have gold, frankincense and myrrh, but we can give Him our time, our talents and our tithes. Best of all we can give Him our hearts, and that is the true spirit of worship.
*So worship the Lord! And be wise in your worship. Be like the Wise Men:
-Go the distance to seek God.
-Follow the guidance of God.
-And come to Jesus with an abundance for God.
*The first step is to call on the name of the Lord. Turn your life over to Jesus Christ. Trust in the Lord and in what He did for us on the cross. Open your heart to receive the risen Christ as your own Lord and Savior. And then begin to worship the Lord. You can do that right now, as we go to God in prayer.
-Mature Living, December 2014, p. 36 - Source: "In Other Words" - December 2017 #1 - by Dr. Raymond McHenry - www.iows.net
-"A Christmas Prayer" - Robert Louis Stevenson's beautiful Christmas prayer encourages readers to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
"Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake. Amen."
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)