December 24, 2023
When we think about the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ we are reminded of the “wise men,” as they are called in English translations, who came from the east. These long-distance seekers who were no doubt influenced by the teaching of the prophet Daniel in Babylon also followed the star. It’s most interesting to note they came bearing precious gifts to bestow upon the king, whom they were seeking.
Matthew 2:11 (ESV) — 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts recorded in ancient inscriptions. In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the Magi, scholars think that these three were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming —an interpretation made popular in the well-known Christmas carol “We Three Kings.” How does this account apply to us today?
Obviously, as the phrase is often said, “wise men still seek Him today.” As these men came from a great distance to find the Christ child, so men and women, boys and girls who are wise of the things of God seek Him today and based upon the promise in His word also find Him.
Isaiah 55:6–7 (ESV) — 6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Psalm 27:8 (ESV) — 8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
If God so blesses a person with a desire as He did the men from the east to seek after Him, God also assures us that He will be found by those who apply that prompting to seek for Him.
The second thing we find in applications is the bearing of our gifts to God. We realize that God needs nothing, but we are in need of bringing Him the best that we have, therefore God again assures us as we apply ourselves to bringing gifts to Him, He will bless us in the process as well as in the outcome. Take note of the gifts the men brought – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were well thought out gifts that were gifts of excellence.
Likewise, when we think about giving to the same king, the Lord Jesus Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we must think about what we are giving and to whom we are presenting this gift. We should guard against being lackadaisical or weary in our giving to the King. Notice how the people in the prophet Malachi’s day thought it weariness to give to God, therefore brought less than the best to Him.
Malachi 1:13 (ESV) — 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord.
Such an action of giving less than the best is an indication of our attitude of counting giving a weariness, hence our losing sight of who the King is and what He requires along with what He promises to those who give a gift of excellence. What does He require? Our best!
Mark 12:29–31 (ESV) — 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The gift of excellence is giving our best. Some people are hindered in giving their service to God because they have the idea that what they give must be perfect, so they don’t serve at all. God is not looking for perfection, rather excellence which is giving your best.
Deuteronomy 32:3–4 (ESV) — 3 For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! 4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
1 John 1:5 (ESV) — 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
God is the only one who is perfect, so we are not to think that what we do must be perfect. He does expect us to give our best. Anything less than our best is short-changing God, and down playing the high estate of our King.
Malachi 1:6–8 (ESV) — 6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.
You may not be offering polluted or lame animals but are you bringing the King your best effort in worship? Are you giving to Him off the top or from what is left over? Are you wearing the best that you have to worship or are you dressing any old way? Are you giving Him a half-hearted effort or are you preparing ahead of time to worship the True and Living God?
This is not a judgment on what is the outward appearance, rather a call for self-examination of our hearts. Are we giving the King our gifts of excellence in giving the best that we can or are we looking to just get by?
Go back to the account of the wise men from the east and consider the lesson of seeking the King and bringing Him the very best possible gift and see how that changes your approach to worship and service.
Bob Brubaker, Pastor