Today we can glean two very important lessons about God’s guidance. By means of a star, God led the wise men from the East. They likely traveled for months as the star led them westward towards Jerusalem, the logical place to find the newborn “King of the Jews.” At some point they apparently lost sight of the star (2:10), either because it disappeared or because they didn’t pay close enough attention, having made the assumption that Jerusalem was their final destination. But after conferring with Herod—who himself conferred with chief priests and scribes—they headed towards Bethlehem, just six miles south of Jerusalem, once again following the star that had led them for months. It guided them directly to Jesus.
The point is this: Keep watching the star, and never make assumptions about God’s guidance. Many of us have been like the wise men, following God’s guidance for a while, but making an assumption along the way, and thus missing His specific direction. We get near to God’s perfect will, but not as close as He wants us to be, and miss out on His greatest blessings that are waiting for us. The Holy Spirit is God’s star in our hearts, leading us to walk in the specific good works that He has prepared beforehand (see Eph. 2:10). To stay on course we must continue seeking God.
In the case of Joseph, an angel of the Lord told him to return to Israel from Egypt with Jesus and Mary. When Joseph obeyed those instructions, he then received more specific guidance to go to Galilee rather than Judea. Here is the second lesson: Don’t expect God to lay out the entire plan before you start. He leads us one step at a time, and we must walk by faith. Once we obey His first step, then He will reveal the next step. If you refuse to budge until God has revealed His entire plan to you, you will miss out on His blessings that are waiting. We must prove to God that we trust Him and walk by faith.
Take note that, contrary to what we see in movies about Jesus’ birth, the wise men didn’t visit Jesus when He was a newborn, but probably when He was closer to two years old. They visited Him when He was in a house, but we know Jesus was born in a stable or a cave and that He was laid in a feeding trough right after His birth (see Luke 2:7). Additionally, we read today that Herod had all of the male children of Bethlehem and its environs murdered who ‘were from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained’ from the wise men (2:16).
Why did God prevent Jesus’ death at the hand of Herod’s soldiers but not prevent the deaths of so many other children in Bethlehem? We don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say. But one truth becomes very clear to us as we read this tragic story: Jesus was special. His life was of much greater importance than the life of any other child in Bethlehem. In fact, if we compared the value of Jesus with the value of all other human beings combined, His value would infinitely exceed their combined value, as He is God.
Finally, take note that the wise men traveled for months (and perhaps even years) with the intention of finding and worshiping the King of the Jews (2:2). When they finally beheld the tiny king, ‘They fell down and worshiped Him’ (2:11) and gave Him precious gifts. They knew Jesus was no ordinary baby—He was God in the flesh, a person who was worthy of worship. Jesus cannot be just our ‘buddy’ or ‘pal.’ He must be our God, who deserves our devotion and obedience. Is that how you relate to Him?