Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at .roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

I'd love to understand more about the Magi and the star - what made them think this star would lead the to a king? Is there anything in the Old Testament that forbids or warns against using the stars to search for guidance? There are many traditions related to the Magi--what is in the scriptures?

Gayla

Dear Gayla,

The reason that the wise men thought that the star would lead them to a king is because of the ancient belief that signs in the heavens portended great--or terrible--things to come--depending on who is interpreting the sign. Some unusual movement or stellar event of great magnitude was often thought to herald the birth of a King or someone of great personage. An event occurred in the sky and they went looking. The fact that the star appeared and moved indicates more of a miraculous appearance than a natural one.

Deuteronomy 18:9-13  forbids activities like using the stars for guidance.

Many traditions surround the wise men.Legend makes them all kings; but, this is not true. They were wise men. They were most likely the King's personal advisors whose responsibilities included reading the stars among other things.

They were from "the east" which most probably meant Persia or Babylon.

Early church traditions put their number at twelve. Today, we imagine there were three (probably because there were three different types of gifts).

Many church traditions have assigned them names and personalities.

  • Melchior, old, grey-headed, with a long beard brought the gold.
  • Caspar, young, beardless, with a ruddy complexion brought frankincense.
  • Balthasar, swarthy with new beard brought myrrh.

The wise men were not at the manger on Christmas night. When they arrived in Bethlehem several months to two years later, Joseph, Mary and Jesus were living in a house.

The three gifts they brought to Jesus were most likely used by Joseph to finance their "flight to Egypt" to escape Herod's order to kill all the boy babies under the age of two.

Let me gather two lessons from the wise men and then share with you the traditional story about Artaban, the fourth wise man. I think you will enjoy it.

These Men Were Wise Because They Were Seeking After Christ.

What could we better do in this world than to seek after Christ? The wise men thought all other pursuits of

 small account compared with this.

The search to worship Jesus Christ is all out of proportion to anything else we may do in life.

These Men Were Wise Men Because They Refused To Worship Empty Handed.

Everyone knows that gifts have something to do with Christmas; but, after that, there is mass confusion. If we read the Christmas story carefully, we find that the wise men did not exchange gifts with one another. They gave gifts to Christ.

The lesson here is that true recognition of Jesus Christ will ever be attended by the spontaneous surrender of our best to Him.

Now Let Me Share With You The Traditional Story Of Artaban--The Fourth Wise Man. (Note: This story is not in the Bible)

Artaban set out to follow the star and took a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl beyond price as gifts for the king.