How did the magi know that Christ had been born? Of course the obvious answer is that they saw a star, but what exactly did they see and why did they think it meant the Jewish Messiah had been born? This has been a matter of intense debate for quite some time. Was it the glory of God guiding them like a light in the wilderness? Was it a UFO? Was it a celestial object of other worldly portent? Was it a conjunction of two or more planets? That last one seems to be the popular answer nowadays–that a conjunction of planets alerted the magi to the fact that the Messiah had been born and that the conjunction must have been bright and so unusual that it could have meant nothing else!
But why did they think it meant that Jesus had been born? Well, the typical approach has been to find some astrological meaning to the configuration. In other words, we must learn astrology before we can know what the magi might have seen. I took that approach for years, but after a while it dawned on me to ask, “What does astrology have to do with the Messiah being born?” I came to conclude that that approach is fundamentally flawed because,
“Babylonian omen charts do not make predictions about the Jews, so how did these magi know that the Messiah had been born? And why would guild members of a group that the Bible strongly condemns [astrologers] make a seven-hundred-mile journey filled with danger and hardship just to honor the birth of the heir to the throne of a conquered nation? This is a mystery we need to explore.” (500 Year Journey (p. 173). Morgan James Publishing. Kindle Edition. )
We do need to explore this mystery, but is the best approach to explore astrology? God condemns the practice of using the movements of the planets and stars to try and understand world events (we should only seek God himself), and we can be certain that God wouldn’t contradict his own word. And yet studying the movement of the stars isn’t a sin in and of itself because God did say in Genesis 1:14 “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.” We can use the stars and planets as a calendar and a clock, but not as a predictor of God’s will. He informs us about his will through his word and his prophets and if there is any meaning in the heavens it is only because God already told us the meaning.
So, then, instead of believing that astrology–star omens interpreted by human reason–caused the magi to realize the Messiah had been born, I believe it is more likely that they were well-versed in the prophecies of Daniel and that they had been paying attention to the scriptures and to the passage of time until Messiah the Prince was to be born. They were masters of time and they were from a guild of gentile believers who had been anticipating the arrival of the Messiah for over 500 years. That’s why they knew the Messiah was about to be born.
And then when the time had come they saw two celestial events that confirmed all of their calculations. The first one caused them to make the arduous journey to Jerusalem, and then on their way to Bethlehem they saw a second event which caused them to rejoice with exceedingly great joy.
I hope you will join me on this journey to see what they saw, and in the end I hope you will see the glory of our eternal Lord and Savior and the wonder of God’s plan. Don’t miss the miracle!
You can order directly from my website at www.500yearjourney.com. However, I also believe in supporting local bookstores. Both Eighth Day Books and Watermark Books here in Wichita, KS have copies that can be ordered online, so please check them out! It would also be cool if you were to ask your favorite local bookstore to make copies available.
I also have copies available for GROUP STUDIES at churches or community groups. If your church library would like to carry copies, please contact me directly at email@example.com. We’ll work out the cost and details together. Thank you!
Rejoice in the Lord!