Two small words have set me off on an exploration this Christmas season. I have read the story of the shepherds and wise men numerous times. Yet this year, two words have had me chasing and researching events surrounding Christ’s birth more than ever before. Those two words are: His Star.
For we saw His star when it rose in the East and have come to worship Him.”
His star, until now I have never noticed the use of the personal pronoun, His. I know it might sound simple, but these two words “His Star,” have made a profound impact on me this Christmas season. Think about it, the use of the word His star rather than the use of the word the star, places ownership on the star.
Out of all the stars in the evening sky, how did the wise men know it was His star? What made Hisstar so different? Who were these wise men and what made them so wise? How did these men follow the star hundreds of miles? Why did God reveal Himself to Magi (wise men) from afar and to the neighboring shepherds? These are the questions that have plagued my mind for weeks.
Who were these Wise Men and what made them so wise?
Magi is the Greek term for wise men. These men were well educated thinkers, astronomers, astrologists, and early scientists. Being that these men came from the East, it is possible that they had been trained and educated under the ancestors of Daniel and others of the Babylonian wise men. In his article titled The Wise Men and the Star, Paul Taylor writes, “Daniel and his companions were already counted among the wise men, because they had been trained as such and interviewed for the inclusion in the ranks of wise men. (Daniel 1: 18-20).”
These men were educated in the writings of the Scriptures and the prophets. They had studied the Scriptures surrounding God’s Shekinah glory, and they remembered the stories told of the pillar of fire. They knew their Messiah would come from the line of Jacob and David from Israel. While they had never witnessed God’s Shekinah glory themselves, they knew what to look for because they had done their homework and were prepared.
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
A star shall come out of Jacob,
And a scepter shall rise out of Israel.
(Numbers 24:17 NIV)
Following His Star
Scientists have proven that stars rise in the East and are stationary. Simply put, stars don’t move. It is imperative that you understand that bit of astrology to understand the significance of Hisstar. The Messiah’s star appeared the moment Christ was born in Bethlehem. While we don’t know the exact location of the Magi, most scholars agree they were from the East (probably Persia or Babylon). This means the wise men would have traveled nearly 800 miles from Persia to King Herod in Jerusalem.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:1-6 NIV)
After their discussion with King Herod, the wise men traveled from Jerusalem, southwest to the little town of Bethlehem. Overall this journey from Persia to Bethlehem would have taken months to years. Remembering that stars rise in the East and don’t move, how could the wise men have followed a star West to Jerusalem, then Southwest to Bethlehem? The Bible tells us that the shepherds worshiped Jesus in the manger. However, by the time the Magi had arrived, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had already moved to a nearby house.
They departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:9-11 NIV)
What was so special about His star?
When I researched the phrase His star in Biblical commentaries, I learned that many scholars don’t believe it to have actually been a star at all! What? Rather, they believe His star was actually God’s Shekinah Glory of God.
Hang on; don’t check out on me yet.
According to the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Shekinah (sha-kine-ah) is the “transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “the one who dwells.” It clearly originates in Old Testament passages which describe God as dwelling among a people or in a particular place. God, whose dwelling is in heaven, also dwells on earth. In its narrower uses the term is applied to the “shekinah glory,” the visible pillar of fire and smoke that dwelled in the midst of Israel at Sinai, in the wilderness, and in the temple.” The word Shekinah “became a comprehensive term for any form of the presence of God; it could be used as a designation for God or as a circumlocution for references to the face or hand of God.”
From reading the Old Testament we learn that God lived among his people and his presence was this “shekinah glory”. His presence was visibly seen as cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. What does all this mean? It means that God’s presence was visibly seen by his people by day or night. God’s people, who were traveling in the wilderness in search of the Promised Land, only moved when the cloud or fire moved.
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (Exodus 13:21 NIV)
What about the neighboring shepherds?
The shepherds were rough and tough men who lived outdoors among the livestock. They lead, guarded, and guided their flock. These men would have been taught of their ancestors Abraham and David as well as from the prophets. These men probably didn’t graduate from the University of Bethlehem, yet God’s presence or Shekinah glory was also revealed to these men. In the New Testament, God’s presence is often associated with light and glory. We can read how God revealed His presence to shepherds working the night shift:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
(Luke 2:18-20 NIV)
Whether, a light on high, a pillar of fire, or a star, follow God’s pre-lit path for your own life. Be willing to follow His star wherever He leads into a way of peace. The purpose of His Shekinah glory is to bring glory to himself and to shine light upon our way, guide our journey through the darkness, and pave a way for peace.
Because of and through the heart of tender mercy and loving-kindness of our God, a Light from on high will dawn upon us and visit [us]
To shine upon and give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to direct and guide our feet in a straight line into the way of peace.
(Luke 1:78-79 AMP)
Follow His Star into the way of peace.