Ask Pastor Roger Barrier - Church Leadership

How Did the Wise Men Know to Follow the Star?

How Did the Wise Men Know to Follow the Star?

Dear Roger, 

I'd love to understand more about the Magi and the star--what made them think this star would lead them 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 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). 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. 

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.

Love, Roger

Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

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Editor's Note: This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian. 

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