The Scriptorium

The World at His Feet

The visit of the Magi is fraught with symbolism and significance. Matthew 2.1-12

Matthew 2: A King is Born (3)

Pray Psalm 96.1-4.
Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!
Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.

Sing joyfully Psalm 96.1-4.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above)
Sing to the Lord! O, bless His Name! All nations tell His glory!
Salvation’s tidings loud proclaim; let earth rehearse His story!
For God is greatly to be praised; His throne above all gods is raised –
Fear Him, and sing His glory!

Read Matthew 2.1-12; meditate on verses 9-12.

1. What gifts did the Magi present to Jesus?

2. How did the Magi know to return to their country without going back to Herod?

As the Magi left Herod, the star appeared again, directing them to Bethlehem, and to the house where Mary and Joseph were with Jesus. The star “went before them” and “stood still” – again, indicating that this was a special star, created and employed for a special purpose. The Greek uses the word “star” (ἀστήρ, aster), but this can refer to either a star or a planet.

The Magi rejoiced to see the star, for they knew they were about to reach the destination they had looked forward to for so long. Here’s a lesson for us: We are on a journey, not unlike those Magi, to behold the face of Jesus (1 Jn. 3.1-3). We have no star to guide our way; better, we have God’s Word and Spirit. Do we see ourselves as on a journey to Jesus, glimpsing Him as we journey by the light from His Word? Does each ray of light, shed on our path, lead us to rejoice in Him? And what offerings are we preparing to bring before Him, when we see Him as He is?

We note that the family is now abiding in a house. Mary and Joseph would have stayed in Bethlehem longer than those who had come to be counted for the census, since they presented Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem eight days after His birth (Lk. 2.21). Perhaps this was the home of a family member, or one they rented for a short time. The Magi did not appear before Jesus as He lay in the manger, but at some later time, albeit, probably not the two years that Herod calculated.

The Magi “fell down and worshiped Him.” They recognized His majesty and glory, even as He lay in His mother’s arms. Their gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – were expensive, to say the least. Each is symbolic, of course, and points us again back to the Old Testament. The gold brings to mind the promise of Psalm 72.15 (cf. Is. 60.6, 7), while myrrh recalls Psalm 45.8. Both of these psalms celebrate the greatness of the coming King and the glory of His reign. Frankincense was used to sanctify offerings to the Lord (Lev. 2.1-3) and to enhance the bread offering which was always before the Lord in the tabernacle (Lev. 24.5-10). It is possible the Magi may have understood these details. They certainly would have arrested the attention of every Jew who read or heard about them. They symbolize the reign of Jesus, and suggest that He Himself had come as an offering, and that He would have a continuous Presence before the Lord.

God warned the Magi “in a dream” not to return to Herod, but to return to their native country by a different way than that by which they had come. We might be curious as to how Matthew knew this. It could be that the Magi mentioned it to Mary. More likely, the Holy Spirit – Who is the divine Author of Matthew’s gospel – simply impressed it on the disciple as an important detail to include here.

What has been a joyous and peaceable narrative thus far is about to take a violent and terrifying turn.

1. In what ways is our journey of faith like that of the Magi?

2. According to Romans 12.1, 2, what offering should we make to the Lord? When should we make it?

3. Meditate on the image of those Magi, bowing on their knees to worship Jesus. Read Matthew 28.18-20. How should this image and that mandate encourage us in our calling as witnesses for Christ (Acts 1.8)?

And so do we too offer gold to the newborn king if we shine in his sight with the brightness of the wisdom from on high. We too offer him incense if we enkindle on the altar of our hearts the thoughts of our human minds by our holy pursuit of prayer, so as to give forth a sweet smell to God by our heavenly desire. And we offer him myrrh if we mortify the vices of our bodies by our self-denial.
Gregory the Great (540-604), Forty Gospel Homilies 10.6

Today, Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your glory and Kingdom. Help me as I…

Pray Psalm 96.8-13.
Offer praise and thanks to the Lord of glory! Worship Him in the splendor of holiness! Go forth to declare that He reigns as King and Lord, and that He is coming again in glory!

Sing Psalm 96.8-13.
Psalm 96.8-13 (Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above)
Bring off’rings sweet to Him, our Lord, in holy garments praise Him!
Tremble before Him, all the earth; among the nations raise Him!
The earth is fixed, it will not move; the peoples will His justice prove –
Exalt the Lord and praise Him!

Let heaven sing with lusty voice; let earth and sea sing sweetly!
Let fields and trees in Him rejoice, for He is coming swiftly
to judge the world in righteousness, the peoples in His faithfulness –
He comes; exalt Him greatly!

T. M. Moore

The Gospel of Matthew will help us grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Two companion books can supplement our study of Matthew. To Know Him examines what it means to belong to Jesus and to love and serve Him (click here), while Be Thou My Vision enables us to gain an even larger perspective on Jesus (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore