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The Unwise Wisemen

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
December 17, 2023 6:00 pm

The Unwise Wisemen

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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December 17, 2023 6:00 pm

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If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn with me to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 2.

We're looking at verses 1 through 15. And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him in Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet. And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah.

For from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel. Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly, and ascertained from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, Go, and search diligently for the child, and when you found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him. After listening to the king, they went their way, and behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them, until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy, and going into the house they saw the child with Mary as mother. They fell down and worshiped him.

Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Now when they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and said, Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.

And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet out of Egypt, I have called my son. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we lift up our sick and our infirm this morning. We continue to pray for Jeremy Carriker, Jim Belk, and Betty West, Florinda Torrance, Kim Ute.

Pray for healing for Diane Dees, and Lisa Menzel, and Yvonne McClellan, and Chris Burris' dad. Heavenly Father, we pray for Israel this morning, that you would bring to end the savagery that's taking place there. I pray that you'd bring both Jews and Moslems to Christ. We want to see an end of war.

The end of war will only come through Christ. Heavenly Father, today we look at men who had good motives, and we look at men who had great intentions, and yet did some things that created great harm to others and themselves. May we learn from their worship and their joy. May we also learn from their mistakes. Help us not to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of their place in the scripture. Give us the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of these wise men, and realize what a powerful place they have in the Christmas story.

Their focus was on Jesus. May ours be the same. Keep my lips from error, and please help me to exalt Christ, for it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus that I pray. Amen.

You may be seated. I want to pose a question to you this morning. Why did the wise men stop in Jerusalem and announce their intentions of visiting the newborn king, and then spend time with a wicked king, the King Herod? What kind of king was he? He was a terribly vicious king. He was a wicked king, a paranoid king, and you put those things together, and you've got a pretty dangerous situation.

King Herod had 10 wives. He had 14 children, and he accused them of terrible things. Treason accused him of adultery, had many of them executed.

He was 69 years old when Jesus was born. He was a sick man. He was overweight. He was in bad health. And yet he was absolutely scared to death that this new king was going to rise up and take his throne.

That's how deception works. Satan created such paranoia in Herod's mind concerning his political power, that he had no time to consider his own eternity. By the way, Herod died when Jesus was just two years old, proving how absolutely foolish he was. So Herod spent the last months of his life killing babies, looking over his shoulder for a traitor to him, and then worrying himself sick, worrying himself sick about what he might lose, and in the process lost his own soul. Wise men stop on the journey that they're going to worship the baby Jesus. They stop and they waste a lot of precious time, and they waste that precious time with a very wicked man, King Herod. Why would wise men do such unwise things?

I've got four points that I want to share with you this morning. Point one is the providence, or excuse me, the prudence of the wise men. Prudence means wisdom. Chapter 2, verse 1, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, the whole wise men from the east came to Jerusalem. These men were called wise men. Who were they? Well, they were a priestly tribe of people from the east. They were from Persia, which is modern day Iran, and their connection to Jesus goes all the way back five centuries in time.

A technical term for wise men is magi. Who were they? They were diviners and counselors and advisors. They were soothsayers, and they were astrologers.

They came from Persia, like I said, as modern day Iran. There's one commentator that shared what Martin Luther had to say about these guys, and let me read that to you. Martin Luther thought that these wise men were neither kings nor princes, but merely honorable men like our professors or teachers. Just a small group of seminary professors.

They gave their students an extended holiday, left their books unfinished, and set out on the journey of a lifetime. How did they know that the Messiah was going to be born? Well, they knew because their ancestors were companions with the great man of God, Daniel. They knew that Daniel was a man of God because of what their ancestors had taught each generation, all the way going back for almost 500 years. And they knew much about this guy, Daniel. They knew that he was truly a man of God.

In Daniel chapter 9, Daniel writes to us about the 70 weeks, and in those 70 weeks, he is prophesying the time when the Messiah will be born. So these wise men look to Daniel as a very godly man. They know that he's a man of faith. I think his faith actually scared them. They knew that he was a very wise man. They knew that he was a very godly man and a very loving man, more so than the people that they knew and hung around with. And when they saw how God had protected Daniel from the lion's den and saved his life, they were convinced that Daniel was truly a man of God. And then a little later, there was King Belshazzar that was throwing a drunken party where he had taken the goblets of wine, the golden cups that they had stolen from the temple in Jerusalem, and they were drinking wine out of them, mocking God, and all of a sudden, a hand appeared on the wall and wrote a message, Minnie, Minnie, tackle you, Farson.

They had no idea what that was about. So they called Daniel in. Daniel came in and he interpreted the message. He said, this message is for you, King Belshazzar.

And this message says that you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. And this day you're going to die, and this day this country is going to be taken over. And it came to pass exactly as Daniel said. And these wise men realized that Daniel was truly a man of God. So for almost five centuries, what happened? These wise men from Persia took Daniel's words about this coming Messiah, and they passed it down from one generation to the next to the next until finally the time had come. Finally, the year was there.

Five centuries, almost 500 years, and now they are the ones. Let me tell you, they're excited. All they can think about is this baby boy and how he's going to be born. And they're praying, Lord, don't let us miss it.

Lord, this is the greatest event that the world has ever seen. We've got to know. Show us a sign.

Lord, tell us what we need to know. And God did give them a sign, and that sign was a star. Now, we're looking at the prudence or the wisdom of the wise men today. How do we know that they were wise?

Psalm 19, verse 1 says, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above shows forth His handiwork. These guys learned through Daniel that they were not to worship the creation like so many of their astrologer friends were doing, but they were to worship the Creator of the creation, who is the Lord God Jehovah. That's what they came to understand. They said, we're not going to live our lives by following the signs of the zodiac. We're going to live our lives by following the direction of the God who created the stars. In Romans chapter 1, Paul looks with pity at the people who reject the truth that God is the Creator of the universe. And Paul is mocking the evolutionists who comes up with all these crazy theories about how the universe came together. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 1.

For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world and the things that have been made, so they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him, ask God, or give thanks to Him. But they came futile in their own thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. The wise men were the opposite of the evolutionists. They studied the skies because the heavens declare the glory of God.

They worshiped the Creator, and they refused to worship the creature or the creation. We also see their prudence in that they knew the Word of God. They had studied what Daniel said. They had Daniel chapter 9.

They knew what the 70 weeks were all about. They knew what Daniel had prophesied about the coming Messiah. They also had studied the book of Numbers. And in Numbers chapter 24 verse 17, the scripture is giving us a prophecy of the star. And it says this, A star shall come out of Jacob.

A scepter shall rise out of Israel. So the Lord spoke to them through the Word of God. And it's very interesting to me, He speaks to them through that which is familiar to them. You ever notice how God does that?

He speaks to us through things that we're familiar with. I think of the shepherds. And the Lord sent the angel to speak to the shepherds. And the shepherds were where?

They were in their pasture. They were out there where they watched over the sheep day after day. And it was right there in the pasture that they received the message from the angel, something they were very familiar with. I think about the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah spent much of his time in the temple. And when God was going to give him a vision, a vision of himself, he gave it to him while he was in the temple. He was there in the temple and he gave him the vision of the Lord high and lifted up on his throne. And he knew that this was the true and everlasting God, something he was very familiar with. And when God gave the wise men a sign, it came in the form of a star.

And as soon as they saw the star, they dropped everything that they were doing and they followed it. Now, how many wise men were there? I think most of us, when we read the Christmas cards, will say, well, I guess there's three.

Why do we think that? Well, they had three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, so that must mean there were three wise men. I don't believe that at all. I don't think there were three. I think there was a crowd. I think there was a huge caravan that got on their camels and traveled that huge distance to go and see Jesus in Bethlehem. That takes us to point two and that is the imprudence of the wise men. Look at verses seven through eight. Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem saying, go and search diligently for the child.

And when you have found him, bring me word that I too may come and worship him. Well, what a sight they must have been coming through the gates of the city of Jerusalem. They have decorative clothes on. They're sitting high on their camels. They've got donkeys that are just loaded down with gifts. They've got this huge smile on their face. And as they come into the city, they're looking down at all the people and they're saying to them, they're saying this, where is he that is born king of the Jews?

For we have seen his star in the east and we have come to worship him. What do the people say? What in the world are you talking about? We don't know anything about a Messiah being born. We don't know anything about a newborn king.

Where do you get that? I'm sure the wise men are thinking, thought you guys were Jewish. Thought you had the Bible.

What in the world, why don't you understand this? You've got Daniel chapter 9. You should have known this.

You should have been looking for this. You should have been searching and hungering after this new Messiah that was going to come. Well, the news quickly reached the ears of King Herod and Herod requested that they be brought to him. And as they talked to Herod, they were very interested or intrigued with the fact that King Herod was interested in what they had to say. They told King Herod things that they should have kept to themselves. Why did they do such a wicked thing? I want to share with you five reasons that the wise men did a dumb thing.

Number one, they quit looking up. Look at verse 9. After listening to the king, they went on their way and behold the star that they had seen when it rose, went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. Once the Magi had been following the leading of this star. They'd been following it out of Iran, all the way through Iraq, all the way through Saudi Arabia, all the way through Jordan, and then they go into Israel and they go all the way to Jerusalem. They go through the gates of Jerusalem and they should have just gone right through Jerusalem because Bethlehem was five miles south of that, and yet they stopped in Jerusalem. It seems to me that when they entered the gates of the holy city, they got excited. What did they get excited about? Wow, they saw the temple. They saw the king's palace. They saw all the people that were there. They saw the priest in the temple, and with all the lights and the hustle and bustle going on, they just all of a sudden quit looking for the star. If they had looked up, they would have seen that the star didn't stop in Jerusalem.

The star was moving toward Bethlehem. I don't think they even saw it for a good while. How often does that happen to us? You go to church, you go to Sunday school Sunday morning, and then Monday comes around, the week starts, and we kind of forget about the things of the Lord. We don't spend the time and the word like we should. We're not getting that fresh manna every single day like we should. In other words, we quit looking up.

That can be dangerous. Problem two, they thought that they were there when they weren't there. They stopped five miles short of Bethlehem. In Hebrews chapter 12 verse 1, the writer of Hebrews said this, Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. The word for race here is the Greek word agon.

It's the word that we get agony from. This is not a 100-yard dash. What we're talking about here is a marathon. I don't know if any of you have ever run a marathon before. It's a 26-mile race. A lot of people run a marathon. They'll get a few miles into it, and they'll say, I was crazy.

I'm stopping, and they'll just quit and give up. When I was 42 years old, I ran a marathon. I had never run 26 miles before, and so I got to mile 23, and I thought, What in the world did I do this for?

I mean, it was agony. It was tough, and it was tough to stick it out till that 26th mile. But the writer of Hebrews is saying, Don't stop, don't give up, and don't quit.

In other words, keep plugging. Folks, what is true for the marathoner is also true for the Christian. If you want to know if you're truly a Christian, don't just go back to the day that you made a decision for Christ.

Don't go back to that day, but instead ask yourself some questions. Am I finishing the race? Am I persevering in the faith? Am I striving to enter in at the narrow gate? Or have I quit because somebody in church hurt my feelings? Or because somebody didn't give me the pats on the back that I deserve as a Christian? Wise men got to Jerusalem, and I think they were saying to themselves, Hey, we're here.

This is it. After all this time, we can now kind of relax and kick back. That was a huge mistake. Folks, as Christians, one thing we need to understand is that the spiritual battle that we call Christianity does not end until the day that you die. It's important to see that. Vance Havner, Southern Baptist evangelist, led my dad to Christ, led Pam Ryan to Christ, and when he was 90 years old, I got the opportunity to hear him preach. What a man of God. And I'll never forget the prayer that he preached. It was in a Bible conference. And he prayed, and he said, Lord, I'm an old man.

He said, I've been walking with you for eight decades now. And he said, Lord, please help me that I might not do something stupid in the last lap of my life that would hurt my testimony and bring dishonor to your name. Oh, that was a great prayer.

And God honored that prayer, and he didn't. The wise men stopped too soon. They should have hustled right through the city of Jerusalem, kind of like the man Christian did in the book Pilgrim's Progress when he went through Vanity Fair and was getting out of there just as quick as he could. That's what the wise men should have done. But they stopped too soon.

Folks, the Christian needs to finish well. All right, problem three, they assumed things that they should not have assumed. They assumed that certainly the king of the Jews would be accepted with joy from the Jewish people. They just said, that's the normal thing that should happen. That's exactly what we expect to happen. I wonder if they expected King Herod and all the politically elite to just jump in there with him and follow them right to find out where the newborn king was.

I wonder if they thought that the politically elite would be so overjoyed over the news that they had about this newborn king. Proverbs chapter three, verse five and six, says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not to your own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. I remember when I first came to know Christ, I wanted to witness to all my drinking buddies. And so I went back with them. I said, man, they're going to be so excited. And I shared with them what had happened with me. And I said, man, let me tell you something. Forget the things of this world.

Jesus is a million times better. And you know, they didn't get excited. Instead, they said, Agnew, if that's what you want for your life, if you want to be religious, go ahead. But just leave us alone.

We don't want to hear it. I was shocked. What did they need to see?

They needed to see a long, sustained walk with Christ in my life over an extended period of time. I assumed wrong. God's ways are not our ways. God's thoughts are not our thoughts. Folks, we are not to lean to our own understanding.

We are to lean solidly on the Word of God. All right, problem four, they asked for godly advice from an ungodly, from an ungodly king. Herod was a wicked king. He was a murderer. He was filled with paranoia.

He was an enemy of God. Is that a good guy to get advice from? I don't think so. Where is it that young people today get their advice from? So many of our young boys today, they want to have heroes and emulate the guys that conduct a basketball or catch a football. It doesn't too much matter about their integrity or their character or their morals. We look at these guys and, man, they're just arrogant and they're proud and look at how they conduct themselves. They're driving the fanciest cars and they're dating the hottest women. Yeah, this is the guys that we want to be like.

Is it really? And you young ladies, who are you emulating? Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears? You say, well, all the men are just attracted to them. What are they really attracted to?

What are they attracted to? Listen, the women of Hollywood aren't cherished and adored. They're lusted after and lust does not last. But we're told that these heroes and heroines of ours, man, they really know what's happening. Do they really know what's happening?

Hmm. Do their relationships last? I don't think so. In fact, I think most of them last until the newness wears off. Then they have to go look for someone else. You think the aging Hollywood ladies are happy?

I don't think so. Because as soon as their looks start waning a little bit, nobody's looking at them anymore. So they're running to plastic surgeons and they're running to the psychiatrist's office trying to get some answers. If we take advice from plastic heroes about the best we can expect is a plastic life, and folks, that's dangerous, the wise men should never have listened to Herod. The fifth problem is they expected the world to encourage them in their walk with Christ. Matthew 2-3, when Herod the king heard the news of the baby king, then he was troubled in all Jerusalem with him. There's a handful of people who got excited about Jesus' birth. There was Joseph and Mary. There were the shepherds. There was the wise men, Simeon and Anna. Just to name a few, I'm sure there were a lot of others. But most of the people in Israel were not excited at all.

In fact, they were troubled by it. They said, oh no, if we've got this godly Messiah that's coming, then He's going to want us to turn from our sin. And if we turn from our sin, then we're turning away from the things that we really enjoy, those things that make us happy. But this is what they believed. If you're sold out to God, you can kiss happiness goodbye.

That's a lie. God made us to be a joyful people. He wants our joy to be intensified, not diminished. And the more we love, cherish and submit to God, the greater our joy is going to be.

The world doesn't understand that, does it? In 1 Corinthians 2 verse 14, the Scripture says, For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned. Sinful things excite the flesh. We get an adrenaline rush from an illicit relationship or a buzz from alcohol or from a juicy piece of gossip or from a sexy picture on the Internet, and we think, boy, that adrenaline rush that I got, that's what it's going to take to make me happy. We have the mistaken idea that really knowing God means you have to squelch your emotions and your desire for happiness. That may be one of the greatest lies that Satan has ever put into our minds.

Listen to what C.S. Lewis said, If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion is crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospel, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered. It's like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

You hear what Lewis is saying? He's saying Christianity is not the reduction of your happiness. It's the maximizing of your joy. Joy in Jesus is not fleeting or temporary.

It is eternal and it is never-ending. I love the picture that Jesus draws in Matthew chapter 13 verse 44. He says this, The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hid in the field which a man found and hid and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.

Now think about that for just a minute. This guy's walking through a field, just has nothing else on his mind, just walking, and all of a sudden he trips over something. He says, what in the world is that? And he turns around and there's something in the ground he starts digging. He digs it up. It's a treasure chest. He looks in it. He can't believe it.

There's gold and there's silver and there's all this precious jewel, jewelry that's in there. This is more money and this is worth more, more wealth than he's ever seen before in his life. And what does he do? He looks around to see if anybody's looking. He covers it up very quickly. He gets some branches and puts over the top of it so nobody would notice it. He runs back home. He sells everything he's got. He sells his house. He sells all his property. He sells everything and then he runs back to the owner of this field and he buys the field.

Why? Because the treasure is in the field and the treasure is worth more than everything he's got. I love that one little phrase in the middle of verse 44.

It says, and for joy over it. Folks, what's the treasure? The treasure is Jesus. And I want you to know that Jesus is worth more than anything that you have or that you will ever have.

It's worth more than everything that you've got. John Piper's book, Desiring God, he made a statement in the first of that book that the Westminster, first question in the Westminster Catechism is this. What is the chief end of man? And the answer is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

He said it could be written this way. What is the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. And boy, is that true. All right, my third point is the consequences of imprudence.

And I've got two consequences here. Number one, time is lost. Their lack of wisdom stole their time. They might have made it to the manger on the very night that Jesus was born, but they stopped off in Jerusalem.

They wasted their time. And the star had just kept right on moving. If they had watched that star, they could have possibly gotten there in time for the birth of Jesus, but they didn't. They stayed days there, and those days added up. And all of a sudden, Jesus was no longer in the manger. It was not the time of his birth.

When they got there, Jesus was in a house with Joseph and Mary. Folks, when we don't use wisdom and we don't obey the Lord, we waste precious time. And it was Paul who said, we are to redeem the time because the days are evil. All right, the second consequence of their imprudence was that others experienced harm. When Herod found out that the baby was in Bethlehem, then Herod gave an order that all the babies in Bethlehem, baby boys up to two years old, would be killed. So all these babies are killed. All these families are filled with grief and heartache.

Why? Because of the imprudence and the lack of wisdom that we see in these wise men. My last point is the return to prudence, verse 12. Then being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. What did they do in returning to wisdom? Number one, they got away from the crowd. In Jerusalem, there was noise. There was pushing and shoving. People were asking them a million questions. They were forced to go and talk with King Herod as they finally left Jerusalem. All of a sudden, the crowd is kind of pushed to the side and their thinking and their praying became very clear. They could pray with clarity now.

Everything began to change. Number two, they looked up again. That star didn't stop in Jerusalem.

It moved right on to Bethlehem and then it was pointed right down to the house, the very house where Joseph and Mary and Jesus were. Then number three, they renewed their faith in God's Word. They remembered Daniel's prophecy. They remembered Daniel's 70 weeks in Daniel chapter 9.

They remembered the prophecy of the star in Numbers chapter 24, verse 17. They said that's what we need to do. We need to get back to the Word of God. We need to go hard after the Lord.

We need to make His Word our priority. And then number four, they refused to look back. They found Jesus. They worshiped Jesus.

They gave Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And then that night, as they went to sleep, they were given a dream. And in that dream, they were told, don't go back the same way.

Don't ever speak to Herod again. You go another way this time. They learned from their mistakes.

They said, we messed up, and it was very costly. We will not let that happen again. It's a great lesson. Christians have to be careful with how they handle the past.

We have to be careful with that. If your past has been ungodly, then you accept the forgiveness of God, and then you press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus. What's the message for us today in 2023 from these wise men who did some unwise things? What's the message?

I think it's this. Seek Jesus. Go after Jesus with everything that you've got, and don't let anything get in the way and stop you from your pursuit of Christ.

Let's pray. Heavenly Father, this story helps us to realize that we live in a world that does not love our Jesus. May that truth put steel in our backbone and resolve in our heart. May we learn from these wise men to not trust the world, the flesh, or the devil, but to put trust in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Help us to avoid the mistakes of the wise men, but also help us to worship Jesus in the way that they did with everything that's in us. For it's in Jesus' precious and holy name that we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-17 12:11:17 / 2023-12-17 12:24:47 / 14

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