Christmas: The Wise Men and Spiritual Discernment
“In a dream, [the wise men] were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.” (Matthew 2:12, MSG)
The Three Kings. The Magi. More commonly known as the Wise Men.
Which begs the question: what makes them wise? It could be their academic prowess. It could be their ability to study the stars and ancient texts in a world where science and technology were beyond most people’s understanding.
For me, there are two things that are readily apparent as I read through the beginning verses of Matthew 2. The first is that the Wise Men were sensitive to the Holy Spirit. They saw a brand new star appear in the sky and immediately knew that this star was the sign of Jesus’ birth. They trusted the
prodding in their hearts to follow the star with gifts fit for royalty, all the way to the simple abode that Mary and Joseph were raising young Jesus in. And when they were done worshiping Him, they listened to a dream that warned them not to go back to King Herod, who had no intention to worship Jesus peacefully.
Think about it: if the Wise Men weren’t sensitive to the Lord and if they weren’t familiar with His voice, a million things may have gone differently. They could have not followed the star. They could have handed Jesus’ location over to King Herod, who only wanted to kill this threat to his own security.
The second thing I notice is that they were obedient, which strikes me as more than enough reason to qualify as wise. Wise enough to obey a dream, wise enough to recognize the star for what it was and follow it across countries to come and worship Jesus. But our key verse is really what puts their wisdom on display to me. After they were done worshiping Jesus– a once-in-a-lifetime chance to come face to face with God incarnate– the Wise Men disappeared without a trace. They worked out a different route and left the territory without being seen.
But here’s what’s so encouraging: both of those things, spiritual discernment, and obedience, are accessible to us today. Both are tempered through application and experience, but both are within reach of every Christian. The question is, do we disqualify ourselves from these spiritual traits because we see them as frivolous or humble? Do we pass up the opportunity to fully delve into these things because our own personal agenda doesn’t allow us to operate in them?
“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2: 12-14, NIV)
Here it is, plain and simple: the same Holy Spirit that made the Wise men wise, also lives in you. When we accept Jesus into our hearts, His Spirit is the thing that inhabits us. He is the living, breathing presence that causes us to meditate on His character and draw certain conclusions from His word. He convicts us and helps us process His goodness to share with others.
If I, Cortney Cordero, were without the Holy Spirit, then my words would mean nothing, but because I can rely on the Holy Spirit to communicate to me and others the heart of God, I have the ability to do what I do every week on this site. But when we deny the Holy Spirit, when we invalidate His power and ability to operate in us, we cannot fully understand the things of God, because we’ve stepped back from allowing ourselves to hear Him, and understand Him.
The Holy Spirit is our helper. And He helps us to discern God and what He’s saying to us. To us, without the Holy Spirit, a dream may seem like a silly dream. A star may seem like a regular star. A warning is something to either heed or ignore. A caution is something to either obey or turn away from.
Friend, you have already received this Spirit. The same spirit that caused the wise men to go from three smarty-pants travelers to internationally known spiritual academics, lives in you and is still present and available to you.
When we ask the Lord to guide us and direct us, we cannot count the small things as foolishness. We cannot count our dreams as disjointed chemicals in the brain. No, God intended certain things within us so that He could communicate with us. Even those small, unassuming gestures in your life could be God trying to talk to you.
The question is, do you have the wisdom to recognize that the Lord is talking through something that the world deems as foolishness, and do you have the discipline to obey it?