There are many characters in the Bible we would all want to meet – Noah surrounded by animals in his great rustic ark… Abraham and Sarah with Ur of the Chaldees fading in the distance… Job sitting so silently and humbly on the ash heap… Moses with his rod extended over the Red Sea… David hiding in the Cave of Adullam… the prophets… the apostles… and many others!
But the Wise Men, of old, would certainly be right near the top! There is something so dignified... so appealing... so incredibly “solid” about Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar! Something that immediately draws you to them... and to their thousand mile trek across the desert sands! Fighting off sandstorms, blazing heat by day, frigid cold by night! They planned their work perfectly; they worked their plan flawlessly!
I am reminded of the lines penned 300 years ago by Alexander Pope – among the greatest of the English poets:
A wit’s a feather,
And a chief’s a rod,
An honest man is the noblest work of God.
Have you ever thought what their neighbors and relatives might have said about them after they had departed? I can hear them now… Crazy old Gaspar looked at the stars too long! Silly old Melchior on his wild goose chase! Cracked-up old Balthazar -- I don’t suppose we’ll ever see him again! And in some sense, these criticisms target all who would pursue the Christ... and take Him seriously... and understand His unique role – not just as Savior, but also as Lord... and as King! Who would willingly want to become His loyal disciples! Discipleship always comes with critics and nay-sayers!
And yet these Magi moved forward – and were rewarded by the LORD God for their faith and their intrepid courage! They have been accorded a place in the sacred annals of history in the Holy Bible! The first dignitaries to greet the Redeemer of mankind and the Savior of the world were the Magi – the “crazy” old Magi -- of old!
I believe we all can deeply appreciate the lessons these Magi furnish us in how to properly approach the Son of God in worship – best attire… best manners… best reverence… best gifts! And note how they genuflect --- bending the knee and bowing their body in humility! They did not come to be entertained... to promote themselves... to receive anything in return or their gifts! They came to worship the Christ! That is a rare thing in churches today! Every movement of theirs had profound meaning before the Son of God!
And in their hands was something the Prophet Isaiah foresaw 700-years earlier – gold and frankincense! Verse six tells us Isaiah saw camels as well – and their riders were bringing their gifts – in order to show forth the praises of the LORD!
And here is something worth noting as we move further into the New Year 2017! The wise men owned gold! Yes! That barbarous relic from the past vilified by modern man! That does not bear interest. That cannot enjoy a “stock split.” But yet they had it in their possession. It was not some “promise to pay” at a later date! It was rather in their possession! This may not sound earth-shattering, but it should be very instructive to each of us in the Year of our Lord 2017! Never before in the history of the earth has all money been detached from gold – and resting on the faith and credit of civil governments! This is an experiment that will certainly not end well!
Gold has a special place in God’s mind and heart! As early as Genesis, chapter two, He informs us of the land of Havilah where there was gold. And over 400 times – 419 to be exact! – He references gold in His Book, the Bible! It is revealed there as money itself, with the warning that it is not to be weighed out using unjust weights and measures!
We might quietly reflect this morning upon what this certainly means for America as a nation which has somehow over the last century managed to exchange its gold-backed currency for paper dollar bills (“fiat” money)! Fiat is Latin for “let it be” – let it be whatever modern man – enlightened man – the “would be god” wants it to be! This sorry slide came about in many steps, each one of which is most displeasing to the LORD God! In fact, what has happened through the “cleverness” of fallen man is described in the Bible as an abomination before the LORD.
We certainly do well to remember that the Magi owned gold! And that they gave it to the Christ Child as their worthy tribute!
The Founding Fathers of this Christian land were wise and knew all about fraudulent money. They sought to shield this land from its pernicious effects. Article I, Section X of the U.S. Constitution therefore from the very start required that coins be made only of gold and silver! I would venture to say that not one in a thousand Americans today knows this fact.
Have you ever heard of the strange name, Old Copper Nose? As an interesting historical sidebar from the 16th century, King Henry VIII issued the same manner of fraudulent money. Coins bearing his own image were made of copper which were then plated with silver to make them look more valuable! Well, the first point to wear on each coin was yes, indeed – Henry’s nose. With such coins floating throughout the realm, this earned him the name, “Old Copper Nose.”
When we stop and consider the gold carried by the Magi, of old… then consider the paper (money) carried and valued by Americans today, we can only bow our heads in silence and ask the Almighty for forgiveness!
Why? Because over the last century the U.S. dollar has lost 98 percent of its value! How? Through “managed” inflation! Theft. Stealing. It is a sad chapter in the history of America! It is contempt for God and His commands!
The Wise Men bring us so many lessons! Let us carry them with us through the New Year.
We should note they were savers and had some asset to offer our Lord at His Nativity. In our day of debt as a way of life, we might closely follow their prudent pattern – and avoid hand-to-mouth living!
We should note they traveled to worship the Christ! They traversed a thousand miles in order to kneel before Him in mannered eloquence! In our day of cars (with heaters)... paved roads... public transportation... and now self-driving cars – how is it that those made in His Image no longer assemble before Him? Have we become more foolish... deluded... moronic as a people than we might possibly imagine?
We should note they willingly gave back to the Christ of their bounty with which He had blessed them – joyfully and ungrudgingly! For God loveth a cheerful giver!
Let us do the same – and in so doing once again regain the wisdom of the Magi so obviously lost to our day! After all, the Almighty was most pleased with their pilgrimage – for He protected them from Herod – favoring them with a dream of warning... to steer clear of the “puppet king.”
This is the Word of the Lord to us at the start of Epiphany! May we hold it close – world without end. Amen.