Daniel and The Wise Men
Remember when you were in elementary school, and you studied the constellations? Your teacher told you to go home and find the big dipper, the little dipper, Orion's belt and all those fun things. You probably came back the next day and told her you found all of them? I was taken back to these days a few months ago when my husband and I visited a planetarium here in Huntsville. That's right, a planet-arium. You might not realize this, but Huntsville is actually the home of the original NASA. So, planets and the stars are kind of a big deal here.
I wish I could see constellations. They are just over my head. I couldn't see them in the fifth grade, and I still can't today.
These guys at the planetarium could see them so easily. They knew the exact location of every star, and where it would be at certain times in the night. Once they found a focal star, they could find anything they wanted. They didn't need any special equipment to find constellations. If we wanted to see something beyond the stars, like special star clusters or even Saturn, then they let us see that with their special telescopes.
We learned that the stars move every thirty seconds because the earth is moving, so the astrologists kept having to shift their telescopes or think about what time it was when they wanted to find certain constellations. I don't understand astronomy, but my understanding from the planetarium that night is that the same basic set of stars are in the sky every night. These experts have stated:
If you can imagine hovering in space without the Earth or the Sun in the way, you'd see the same stars in the same configuration whichever direction you looked in, which ever time you looked in it. The stars do move in relation to each other, but not so much that we can notice a change over the course of a human lifetime.
The Wise Men had been studying the stars for years. Suddenly, a new star appeared in the sky.
We initially see the Wise Men in the book of Daniel. They are referenced as Magicians, or Magi (Daniel 2). They Wise Men were often called upon by kings to interpret their dreams.
The Wise Men were affluent philosophers, known for their study of the stars.
Most of the tribes in Babylon were known for worshiping false Gods. The Magi, also part of a tribe that worshiped false God's, became educated on who God was, and on the prophesies that Jesus was to be born. When a new star appeared in the sky, they knew what it was. They knew the prophesies involved a star symbolizing the delivery of the King of the Jews (Numbers 24:17).
When the Wise Men saw the star, they prepared for their journey. There were also prophesies that the King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem. The Wise Men, the Magi, lived in Babylon. Babylon was 800 miles away from Bethlehem.
My house is 665 miles away from Disney World- the best place ever. It's 919 miles away from New York City- the second best place ever. I took a look at Google Maps to see if it would help me get a better understanding of how far the Wise Men traveled to see Jesus. If I decided to walk from Huntsville, Al to Disney World in Orlando, Fl, it would take me 194 hours. It would take 304 hours to walk from Huntsville to New York City.
This was a long journey.
If you could have a free trip to Disney World, but you had to walk there, would you go? I would definitely pass.
Before making a journey of 800 miles on foot, the Wise Men must have been certain of what they saw and what the star represented. This journey also let's us know they understood the magnitude of why the birth of Jesus was so important.
The big question is, how did the Wise Men know the star represented Jesus? And why Jesus was so important?
We see the Wise Men referenced several times in scripture before the story of the birth of Jesus. In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar needed someone to interpret his dreams. He calls the Magicians (Magi), the Chaldeans, the Sorcerers, and the Enchanters. No one from any of these groups could interpret the dreams. King Nebuchadnezzar finally called in Daniel. Through the wisdom God gives him, Daniel is able to interpret the dreams.
Years later, King Nebuchadnezzar's son needs someone to interpret his dreams. He takes the same first steps. He calls in the Magi, Chaldeans, Sorcerers, and the Enchanters. At that time, the queen came in and told this son not to be alarmed. She told him there was a man who had great wisdom and understanding like the gods. His name was Daniel. (Daniel 5). (If you recall the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den, it's the same Daniel).
King Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48).
Daniel, a man who God used to interpret the King's dreams that the Magi couldn't interpret, was put in charge over all of Babylon and the Magi. Daniel now had influence over them, and could use that influence to teach them about God.
When the star appeared in the sky, perhaps the reason the Wise Men knew of its meaning and significance was because of Daniel's influence and teachings.
Are we using our gifts and influence to point those around us to Jesus?