Probably during the Christmas season we will see a bumper sticker or a plaque somewhere that reads, “Wise men still seek him.” The reference is of course to the wise men of the Christmas story as recorded in Matthew 2:1-12. The group of men that Matthew refers to are the “magi,” a term according to the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, that was “a priestly caste among the 6th century Medes.” They were regarded as experts in various mysteries of the Gentile religions and specialists in medicine, astronomy, and a variety of other science fields. During Daniel’s time (6th century BC) this special caste was referred to as the Chaldeans (Dan. 2:2). Later when Babylon fell to the Persians, their disciplines were incorporated into the Persian sciences and they became men of great influence. Matthew records these “wise men” were from the East referring to the middle east not the Orient in the region often referred to as the Fertile Crescent in the region of Babylon.
These men came to Palestine with a mission asking, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews? … we have come to worship Him.” They carried out this mission because they had been given a sign, “For we have seen His star in the East.” Where did they get this insight? They had seen an unusual sight in the night skies and had sought to understand what they observed. There is every possibility that they investigated the writings of one of the most esteemed wise men in their history, Daniel. Daniel, one of the captives brought from Israel to Babylon, would likely have exposed the wise men around him to the Word of God – specifically the Torah. There the words in Numbers 24:17 would have been recorded, “There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall arise out of Israel.” Connecting that with the words of Daniel that he recorded in Daniel 9:24-27, they would have easily been led to believe that the Torah’s words where to be fulfilled soon. The timetable of the 70 weeks predicted by Daniel concerning the Messiah, the king of the Jews, was calculated on the Persian decree to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25-26) which indicated the event was close at hand. They connected the dots with the astronomical phenomena and began their mission to see this one of whom Daniel and the religion of the Jews had spoken about. They were so sure of their conclusions that when they arrived in Jerusalem they assumed everyone would know about that which they were asking. However, they were greeted with a blank stare of wonder that caused trouble in the heart of Herod the king (Matthew 2:1-3). Herod gathered the wise men of Jews (2:4) and asked them to answer the question of these esteemed visitors. The magi were told the answer to their question was in Micah 5:2, Bethlehem (Matt. 2:5-6). The account then reveals the contrast between Herod and the Jewish religious leaders, and the wise men.
The wise men responded positively to the information they uncovered and clarified by the search of the religious leaders. They responded by heading out to look for the one born king of the Jews. In contrast, Herod and his religious advisors dismissed the discovery and did not seek to worship this king of the Jews. They were unmoved and even sought to destroy the one who would unsettle their world.
The magi arriving at the home where Jesus was living with his family as a mere child, worshipped and honored Jesus with lavish treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (2:11). What a wise response! Herod by contrast responded by despising and even attempting to destroy his competition (2:16-18). When the king realized the magi were not returning with the information about the one they sought to worship, he responded by slaughtering children two years old and younger. He hoped that this action would dispatch this special child of which he heard. It was a desperate attempt to eliminate anyone who could usurp his position and authority. What a foolish response!
The contrast in attitudes and actions between Herod and the wise men is still displayed today. The Scriptures tell us of the One who has come to save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Those who respond wisely will seek him out, investigate his person and work, and by faith accept him as their savior. Those who manifest the spirit of Herod will be foolishly indifferent to the One who has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Their reason may be like Herod’s. They do not want their world unsettled. They want to oversee their own kingdom and do not want to yield to anyone else to be Lord of their lives.
The wise people of today will not only seek the Lord as Savior, but they will also seek to worship Him with their lives (Romans 12:1-2). The foolish will worship gods of their own creation (Romans 1:21-25). It is true, “Wise men still seek Him.” However, it is also true, “Foolish men will continue to overlook Him!” Do not overlook the obvious. Our world needs a savior. He has come! Angelic messengers announced, “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).