When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:10-12 NASB)
As we said yesterday, the Magi did the only appropriate thing when they found Jesus, they worshipped and gave gifts. The famous gifts of Gold, Fankincense and Myrrh, each have their own prophetic symbolism.
Gold is a precious metal and very valuable. It is used a standard through out the world and still used in trading. It is likely that Mary and Joseph used this to finance their journey to Egypt. It is symbolic of Jesus’ divinity and kingship.
Frankincense is a white resin or gum. It is highly fragrant and was used in worship (Exodus 30:34). Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense to Jesus is symbolic of our worship to Him.
Myrrh is a spice used in embalming, a bitter perfume that would have taken away the smell of a dead body. It symbolises his death and the price He would ultimately pay.
We can see them summarised in the popular Christmas carol, We Three Kings (we three Magi obviously didn’t rhyme very well).
We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Peals through the earth and skies
The carol sums up the symbolism of the gifts, but like so many carols I think we often sing them because it is Christmas and forget the meaning of the lyrics.
The passage goes onto say:
And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:10-12 NASB)
There isn’t a detail that has been overlooked. Every step of the way God is watching to see that His plan is fulfilled. He protects those who he sends, as long as they are obedient to the warnings. Speaking to the Magi in a dream they leave for their country by a different route. I love it, I get excited to see God breaking in and speaking to His people in creative ways – don’t put restrictions on how he communicates. You only have to casually read the bible to see Him speaking through people, animals and Angels, in visions dreams and in signs in the heavens – be expectant!
In this particular passage God spoke in a dream, a highly underrated method of communication. Generally in the western church we relegate them to having had too much cheese or as a product of natural occurrence, often it is neither. Dreams figure throughout scripture and bring warnings, impartation (look at how Solomon was given his wisdom), insight and direction. I pray frequently that God will speak to me in dreams, after all, there is not a lot of effort required…you just have to go to sleep!
The passage shows God deeply involved in the story. From the finding of Jesus by the Magi to the giving gifts of more than just earthly significance, the worship, the warnings and direction. We can look at this and draw from it that God is involved in our story too, he brings us into relationship with his son, not wanting any of us to perish but wanting so much that we would listen to his voice and follow his instructions and warnings. He has a plan for our lives and is watching over us to see that his word is fulfilled, it just takes us to say yes to Him.