Many years ago, God promised that He would send a King who would rescue the Jewish people from their enemies. For hundreds of years God’s people had His promises but often didn’t obey Him. They were taken from their homeland by the Babylonians and Assyrians and scattered across the Middle East in the days of Daniel and Esther. Most would eventually return to Israel, but not all. Jews in Israel and beyond were patiently waiting for a sign that the Redeemer had come. Though far apart, they all prayed each night under the same sky.
When Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem wise men from the east saw a bright light in the night sky. They believed it meant that the long-awaited King of the Jews had been born.
They longed to see and worship this new King, so they packed precious gifts and prepared for a long journey. Dreaming of what the Messiah might be like, the wise men’s travels were eased by the excitement they felt that God the Father had finally sent the Rescuer.
Since the kings of Israel had lived in Jerusalem, the wise men of course went straight to the palace in Jerusalem. The place where David and Solomon had ruled, however, now had an evil man on its throne. Herod was known as the king of the Jews, but all his power came from the Romans.
As the wise men approached Herod’s throne, they asked, “Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? We saw his light in the east and have come to worship Him.”
These were not words Herod wanted to hear. He had fought hard to be king. But not wanting to show his fear, he called in the wise men of his own court and asked what they were talking about.
It is the Messiah, Herod’s wise men explained. The prophets wrote that a Rescuer would come one day.
“And,” Herod asked nervously, “did any of the prophets say where this Messiah would be born?”
“In Bethlehem,” they replied. “The prophet Micah said, ‘Out of Bethlehem in Judah will come a Ruler who will shepherd My people, Israel.’”
Ready to explode with rage at the thought of someone trying to take his throne from him, Herod put on a smile as he turned to the wise men from the east.
“Wonderful news!” he lied to them. “Go worship this new King…and when you find Him, be sure to tell me exactly where He is. I want to worship Him, too.”
But Herod was already making plans in his heart to try and get rid of his new competition.
Believing that King Herod wanted to see the new Messiah as they did, the wise men walked the short distance to Bethlehem, which was just outside of Jerusalem. The bright light that had guided them from the beginning now seemed to stop over a small little house.
Overjoyed, they entered the home and there found Jesus on His mother’s lap. They knelt before their new King and worshipped Him. They presented Jesus with three gifts: gold, which showed He is a king; frankincense, which showed He is God; and myrrh, which showed He would one day suffer.
Although Herod’s words to them in the palace had been convincing, as they slept in Bethlehem that night, God sent the wise men a warning in a dream. Instead of returning to Jerusalem to tell Herod where Jesus was, they took another route back to their land.
Then God sent another warning in a dream, this time to Joseph. As he slept, an angel appeared to him, saying, “Wake up! Quickly take Mary and Jesus to Egypt! Herod is looking for the child and will try to hurt Him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.”
Joseph leapt from bed and packed the gifts the wise men had brought. The young family would live as foreigners in Egypt until their own land was safe to return to, just like the prophet Hosea had written would happen.