Why Called Wise?
I love those wise guys. Every holiday season there seems to be a renewed exposure for them. There is Moe bopping Larry and Curly upside the head. Anvils falling on toes and hammer blows to the noggin – classic stuff that is always funny! How does Moe have that radar knowing to put his hand up to the bridge of his nose right when Curly tries the double poke in the eye? Slap stick comedy, banana peels and buckets of water over the head are the trademark of the kings of wise guys of the screen.
Just because the Three Stooges have the moniker “wise” in their name does not really mean that they are wise. In fact, for comedy’s sake they make the worst decisions possible. Wisdom is the ability to make prudent and good decisions given a set of circumstances. A wise person is able to process all of the information whirling around them panning out the nuggets of gold from the mounds of sand and gravel. There are many very intelligent and smart people in this world having encyclopedic minds but are they wise? Maybe, maybe not. A wise man is capable of taking information; ignoring inconsequential facts while dredging out the pertinent nuggets to make good high-quality decisions possible.
How then did the Magi in the Christmas story get the name of “wise?” These men arrived in Jerusalem because it made sense; they were looking for the king of the Jews. Having traveled miles and weeks from the east, foreigners sojourning into Judea, they stopped to inquire about the small insignificant town of Bethlehem and the king that was to have been recently born there. How then did these wise men know that this trivial town was the place? Of all places in the known world why this rural backward village resting in an occupied wilderness land?
The magi spent time advising kings and governments. It was their job to know the state of the world’s affairs and a wide array of subjects. Collectively they know the latest breakthroughs in agriculture, what the written law commanded for several countries, customs and protocols for dealing with visiting diplomats, math, history, astronomy and various languages allowing for cultural study far and wide. These men had access to more written and oral knowledge than anyone else in their country. Being paid well they lived pampered lives in the palace allowing for uninterrupted time to study, teach, ponder and think without want. They were the Nobel Prize winning rocket scientists of their day!
In their study of Jewish writings a pattern of predictions begin to develop ever narrowing down the time and location of an incredible event – a king of kings was going to be born. Amidst the sifting through the knowledge of the known world these men recognized a nugget of gold. Could this really be, a king that would not rule just a whole nation but the whole world?
In Genesis 22:18 they discovered the King would descend from Abraham’s son Isaac and would be a blessing to all nations. How could their interest not be piqued by this prophecy? Then, in the same writing, the author pared down from the endless descendants of Abraham to the tribe of Judah (49:10). At another time as the magi sifted through further parchment they came across the writings of the Jewish prophet Isaiah. Can it be they are talking about the same King of Kings? Here it says he will be from the family of Jesse (11:1-5) and an heir to the throne of David (9:7). He would not happen to be from the tribe of Judah would he and where is Jesse’s family from? Judah and Bethlehem – it has to be the same king! What other Jewish prophets do we have on the shelf?
With increased curiosity they dug deeper through more contemporary writers and the information began to tie together. Daniel, that legendary interpreter of dreams and supervisor of the king’s magi of old; right here from the land of Persia has a book, what does it say? Are you serious? It gives the time from the rebuilding of the Jewish temple until the birth, we know when that was! Micah says what? He is going to be born in the village of Bethlehem, now where have we heard that before? Jesse – the town of Jesse just like Isaiah said.
Gold comes in all forms but always creates outbursts of joy and satisfaction when mined from all of the other elements around it. The magi, students of astronomy, could not deny that the unusually bright star appearing in the sky had to mean something spectacular and just at the same time that the king was to be born, could it be? They had the one chance in all of history to meet the king of all kings, the one that will bless all nations and bring peace to the entire world – and they decided to take it.
The wise men were wise because they made a wise decision – to set aside all that they were doing to worship the king. What decisions are you making concerning the king of kings? Wise men still decide to follow Him today, are you wise?
This daily devotion is written by John Key