Posted in angel, jesus, magi, star

What was the "star" of Bethlehem?

I read with interest the research by Colin Nicholl regarding Mr Nicholl’s new book, The Great Christ Comet, reviewed by Tim Challies. Apparently the book is a scholarly journey into discovering what the star was which guided the magi after Christ’s birth. Speculations over the years have leaned toward an astronomical event ranging from a planetary conjunction, to a comet, to a nova. Others have speculated that it was some kind of natural phenomenon. Mr Nicholl’s conclusion was that the “star” was likely a comet.

I am not a scholar and I am not an astronomer. I may be displaying my great ignorance just by commenting on this topic. However I would like to humbly plunge ahead, and propose that the “star” which led the Magi from the east to Christ’s home could have been an angel.

I suggest this as a possibility to be seriously considered, for the following reasons. First, let’s read the pertinent verses (of which there are not many) beginning in Matthew 2:1-2,

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

We read further in Matthew 2:9-10, that

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. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

The very name ‘angel’ in Hebrew is malak which means messenger, and in the Greek it’s aggelos which means the same. The greatest news the world has ever known or will know is the news of Jesus Christ, so it makes sense that God would use an angel to herald Christ’s birth to the Magi. God used an angel to tell Zechariah of the coming birth of the forerunner to the Messiah, John the Baptist. He used an angel to tell Mary (Luke 1:30) she would conceive by the Holy Spirit. He used an angel to tell Joseph not to divorce Mary and also to warn Joseph in a dream of the danger to the baby. (Matthew 1:20, Matthew 2:13) He used angels to tell the shepherds that Christ was born. (Luke 2:9). Given that angels were heavily involved as messengers to tell the good news of Christ’s birth, it makes sense He would use the same method to tell the Magi, as well.

Secondly, angels are formidable, powerful beings. They possess intellect, will, and strength. The holy angels carry out the will of God, including agents of His judgment. Look at some biblical examples of how powerful angels are:

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. (Revelation 7:1)

saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. (Revelation 9:14-15, these are unholy angels, but being angels, they are still incredibly powerful).

One angel in Revelation 14:6-7 is so powerful that he flies around the earth at mid-heaven to proclaim the eternal Gospel to all who live on the earth with his loud voice.

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, (Revelation 19:17).

By these examples we know the power of angels, and that they can and do supersede ‘the natural order’ when God wills. If they can hold back the winds of earth, fly in midheaven around the planet, and stand on the sun, it makes sense that angels can also appear in the sky and shine a light bright enough to guide Magi across the desert.

Third, angels are called ‘stars’ in the bible. It is one of their nicknames. In Job 38:7 we read that all the stars shouted for joy when God made the world, and stars could either mean the actual stars or more probably, it was the angels shouted for joy at being witness to this stupendous act of God.

In Rev 12:4 we read that satan drew 1/3 of the ‘stars of heaven’ down with him to sin and rebellion against God, and a parallel to that is in Daniel 8:10, where the ‘little horn’ grew great and drew some of the ‘starry host’ down to earth. Revelation 1:20 tells us that the stars in context are angels:

As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

However the verse from Daniel 8:10 and Revelation 1:20 are disputed. The angels referred to as stars in Revelation could also mean the pastors of those churches.

Fourth, if the star that moved purposely in the sky was an angel, it would solve the issue that arises with a planet normally maintaining an orbit, or a comet maintaining a trajectory. The star in Matthew did move in a way that was distinct from any known planetary object. It moved before the men and came to rest at the place the LORD intended for it to rest, above Jesus’ house.

So we have learned that angels have a function in the bible from Genesis to Revelation as messenger, are powerful enough to stay in the sky and guide men, are frequently referred to as “stars” in the Bible, and are used intensely in the events surrounding Christ’s birth. These are just some of my ideas as to the mysterious object in the sky leading the Magi to the place where our precious Savior dwelled in his earliest days on earth. I could be extremely wrong, but I thought I’d throw my two cents into the pot.

Posted in angel, countenance, encouragement, prophecy, wisdom

A godly face radiates His glory

In Adult Bible Study we are going through Acts. I am also listening to John MacArthur preach through Acts. When reading the part where Stephen was dragged in front of the Sanhedrin and about to answer charges of blasphemy, we read the following:

And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15)

As is the way with the Spirit, he got my attention to focus on the part that said ‘the face of an angel.’

I envisioned Stephen’s face full of serene glory, bright and shining. It reminded me of the verse when Moses had been with God and Moses’ face shone so brightly the people were scared and urged Moses to cover it with a veil. (Exodus 34:30, 35, cf. 2 Corinthians 3:13).

Other incidences of a person’s face shining with glory were also in the New Testament, this time it was Jesus-

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:2)

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. (Luke 9:29)

Moses, Stephen, Jesus, faces shining with glory. I want that. I want that because when someone sees me I want them to see Jesus. I don’t want them to see my face, but a serenely joyful face, so different from the faces in the crowd. I want people to notice something different about me. The something different, of course, is Jesus.

But how? Moses was with God Himself on Mt Sinai. That was a unique occurrence. Jesus is, well, Jesus, and though He was fully man He was also fully God. So X that off the list. Stephen was filled with the spirit at a moment when supernatural ability was promised God’s people. (Matthew 10:19-20).

Still…if the Spirit’s ministry is to point people to Jesus I want Jesus to be evident in me. I know the fruit the Spirit grows will do that.

But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, 8how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? (2 Corinthians 3:7-8)

What else will do that? I found an answer in Ecclesiastes 8:1

Who is like the wise?
And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
and the hardness of his face is changed.

Wisdom. The kind of wisdom that emanates and makes a face soften. Here is what the Jamieson-Fausset Commentary explains about the Ecclesiastes verse:

Praise of true wisdom continued (Ec 7:11, &c.). “Who” is to be accounted “equal to the wise man?… Who (like him) knoweth the interpretation” of God’s providences (for example, Ec 7:8, 13, 14), and God’s word (for example, see on Ec 7:29; Pr 1:6)?

face to shine—(Ec 7:14; Ac 6:15). A sunny countenance, the reflection of a tranquil conscience and serene mind. Communion with God gives it (Ex 34:29, 30).

The Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible says of the Ecclesiastes verse,

Wisdom: It beautifies a man in the eyes of his friends: It makes his face to shine, as Moses’s did when he came down from the mount; it puts honour upon a man and a lustre on his whole conversation, makes him to be regarded and taken notice of, and gains him respect (as Job 29:7, etc.); it makes him lovely and amiable, and the darling and blessing of his country. The strength of his face, the sourness and severity of his countenance (so some understand the last clause), shall be changed by it into that which is sweet and obliging. Even those whose natural temper is rough and morose by wisdom are strangely altered; they become mild and gentle, and learn to look pleasant.

The way to softening our countenance is wisdom. We absorb wisdom from above by holding close communion with Christ. We read His word, the best – and only – wisdom. Prayer is close communion with Christ, an intimate privilege that delivers wisdom because in prayer we contemplate Him. Proclaiming His truths, as Stephen did, will increase our wisdom because if what comes out of us defiles us, alternately His truths enliven us with His glory. (Mark 7:20, James 3:6).

NH Old Man of the Mountains,
a granite face. Source

To understand this as a full truth we look at its opposite. If wisdom of God softens our face and makes it serenely radiant, a man with no Godly wisdom will have a hard face. The ultimate example of this is the antichrist. We read in Daniel 8, one of the antichrist’s qualities is that he has a hard face.

And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. (Daniel 8:23 KJV)

Friends, the gentle disciplines of reading the bible, prayer, and proclaiming His truth will transform us, and it’s not only the mind that is transformed (Romans 12:2) but when the mind is drenched with wisdom, truth, Jesus, it will alter our very countenance.

The upshot is, close communion with God will alter our face.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18).

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Behold His glory and it will shine upon you today, reflecting back to a dark world that needs to see it.

Posted in angel, elijah, tender

Tender Moments in the Bible (repost)

I’m reposting this essay originally published in June 2014 in hopes that it will encourage.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are so many powerful moments in the bible. Where does one begin? Genesis 1, God creates everything, are verses that are awesome to ponder. The resurrection, when Jesus emerged from the tomb alive. God is all-powerful.

There are thunderous moments too. When Mt Sinai trembles, when God was in the earthquake, when He split the ground under Korah and closed it back up again. God is to be feared.

But there are tender moments too. The God of thunder and wrath and all-power is so tender!! I’m not one of these who believes the wrathful God is the Old Testament turned into the sensitive (“boyfriend”) Jesus of the New Testament. Read Revelation and you see it is the same God of wrath and anger against unrighteousness and sin. In the Old Testament (as well as the New), there are very tender moments which show us our Holy God is everything. He is simply everything good- including tenderness.

In Genesis 21:15-19, slave girl Hagar had been misused by Sarah (and Abraham). She and her son Ismael ran away to the wilderness, and there, thirsty, alone, and weak, they prepared to die.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

“God heard“, “The Angel of God” [Jesus] called to her from heaven. He assured her. He made promises to her. He opened her eyes so she could drink. What direct, intimate ministration from Holy God in heaven!

In 1 Kings 19:4-8, we see tender ministrations again. Poor Elijah, downcast, alone, and fearing for his life. He, like Hagar, ran to the desert and wanted to die.

Elijah in the wilderness, by Washington Allston, 1817

 But did God let Elijah stay that way? No

Ferdinandus Bol, 1660, Elijah Fed By An Angel

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

The angel touched Elijah! He had prepared food for Elijah! He comforted Elijah, and gave him direction and hope. God is so good to us. He does that for us today.

In Matthew 4 we read that Jesus was in the desert 40 days and nights, alone, fasting, and tempted by satan. At the end of the trial, it says in Matthew 4:11,

“Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”

One might say, ‘Well, of course God would send angels to minister to His Son!’ but perhaps the ministering angels who ministered to Jesus are also some of the same ones who minister to us? Just think on it! Overall, it is to His glory that he is so involved with His people, that ministration is a regular part of His interaction with us!

His ministration with sinful man began at the Garden after the Fall. He personally covered Adam and Eve

Genesis 3:21 says, “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

The God who had just made the Universe, and upholds it by power of His will and His voice, personally made garments for his rebellious children, and wrapped them. I picture a child throwing a tantrum, and saying all sorts of things to his father, including, “No! I don’t wanna! I hate you!” But after the storm is over and the timeout is finished, the father gives the boy a bath, wipes his tear-stained face, and wraps him in a towel. He holds him close to herself, his sniffles diminishing as the very heartbeat of the one who created him him and feeds him and cares for him saturates the boy’s heart and mind, and eventually his brow unfurrows and his face becomes angelic, and he drifts off to sleep, still in his father’s arms.

That is our God. Holy and Fearful, but a caring Father, holding us in His arms until the storm passes by and our rebellion subsides. He is tender. One day, there will be no more tantrums, and no more rebellion. We will love our Father perfectly and completely, just as He loves us now. What a day that will be.

Posted in angel, end time, entertain angels unaware, prophecy, satan

About entertaining angels unawares

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2 KJV)

From the bible, we know that God created angels. (Colossians 1:16-17) We know that angels interact with humans at the behest of God. (Luke 1:26-38) They deliver messages. (Daniel 9:20-23). They fight for territory. (Daniel 10:20). They guard humans (Matthew 18:10) and report to God on the actions of children, anyway (Matt. 18:1-14) and perhaps to individually minister to adult Christians also (Hebrews 1:14). Angels are divided into hierarchies and troops,  including both good and evil angels, and special categories such as cherubim, seraphim, and the archangel. They are invisible. (2 Kings 6:17). They look like men sometimes, (Gen 18:1-2) and other times they look like glory (Matthew 28:2-4) and other times they look like metal and lightning (Daniel 10:5-6) and still there are other angels who look completely unusual and beyond description (Revelation 4:6-8). [For the record, with one debatable exception, angels are not biblically described as having any wings]

Surely, it is a blessing that there is a class of created being whom God uses for His glory and for our help. It is a blessing also to think that we may entertain one of them at some point in our lives!

But do not forget, there is another class of angels. There was a rebellion in heaven, and the highest angel, one created to guard the throne itself, tried to vault himself above God and was kicked out of heaven for it. His name is Lucifer, whose title is now the devil, adversary, satan. And even though a third of the multitudes of angels lived with God, and saw His glory and knew His heart, Lucifer was apparently so convincing that they sided with him against God, and so they were kicked out too. (Revelation 12:3-4,9)

Not everything supernatural is from God! If you entertain angels unawares, it may be a good angel sent to minister to you. Or it may be a fallen angel, sent by satan to thwart you, deceive you, or hinder you. ( also 1 Tim.4:1-3; 2 Cor.11:13-15) “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

If you are reading this before the rapture, Christian and non-believer, be aware that deceit comes in a guise wrapped in a beautiful package. Fallen angels would look just like the glorious angels, as stated above in the Corinthians verse. If you are a Christian, you should be praying daily to receive wisdom, and it will be given to you without reproach. You should be in the Word daily so that you will know the truth from a lie. If you are a non-believer reading this after the rapture, know that your odds of learning the truth have diminished but you can pray to Jesus to forgive you of your sins (if you are truly sorry for your bad acts and thoughts, that is) and He will forgive you. He will send the Holy Spirit to you to help you discern the truth from a lie. Without His help, you are at the mercy of an adversary who can and does ‘appear to us unawares’ and always for the purpose of destroying us!

NOT EVERYTHING SUPERNATURAL IS FROM GOD! “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Angels might surround you unawares, but YOU should not be unaware of satan and his angels’ counterfeiting abilities!