Have you ever felt God calling you to step out in faith and obedience … only to be discouraged by the people that you thought would support you?
Have you ever been excited to obey God… only to find, halfway through the journey, that God seems distant and your soul is growing weary?
After stepping out in obedience to God, have you ever found yourself in a completely unexpected place, wondering if God really does have the situation in control?
There is risk in obedience to God. There is vulnerability in true worship. Obedience to God’s call to worship will set you apart, make you different from the people around you. True worship will open you up to derision and scoffing. Obedience will cost you time, energy, money, and even relationships.
But it will be worth any cost. Oh, will it be worth it!
God called the wise men to set out on a costly journey of faith. They experienced derision, discouragement, disappointment, and an unexpected end.
But they also found exceedingly great joy when all seemed lost.
The wise men were probably astrologers from Babylon or Persia, over 500 miles away from Bethlehem.
They were most likely Gentiles living in a culture that did acknowledge the One True God. But, despite the disbelief of the people around them, they had placed their trust in God. Somehow, the wise men had come into contact with the prophesies of Daniel or another Old Testament prophet. They were waiting for the coming King, the Savior of the world.
Imagine the excitement the wise men must have felt the night that they saw the star. The prophesies had been fulfilled. God’s promised King had come!
They understood that the King of the Jews was the One that they would worship as their own King. They were so confident of this that they were unwilling to wait until He had claimed His kingdom. These wealthy scholars hurried to bow down and humble themselves before a mere Child, recognizing that this Child was worthy of worship.
I am sure that the people around them thought that the wise men were crazy to drop everything and undertake a long, expensive, and uncomfortable journey to worship an infant.
But, it didn’t matter what other people thought. It didn’t matter what the journey would cost in time and money. The wise men decided that the call to worship was greater than the cost of the journey.
Today, we often see Christmas cards that depict three solitary wise men on their camels, traveling at night, following a star.
It is easy to forget that, for almost their entire journey, the wise men did not follow the star – because the star was not in the sky. It had appeared only on the night that Jesus was born.
The wise men almost certainly traveled by day and slept in tents by night. They dealt with the hot sun and dust, with blisters and sore muscles and thirst and all of the other discomforts of a long journey.
I wonder if the wise men ever questioned their journey during the nights when the sky was dark and starless and God seemed distant. I wonder if they ever had doubts during the days when the sun was hot and the path was dusty and they longed for a drink of cold water. We only know for sure that they kept on going, determined to worship the infant King.
Finally, the wise men reached their destination – the city of Jerusalem. They started asking everyone they met, “Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
And nobody knew what they were talking about.
The wise men went to the palace and inquired of King Herod where they might find this King of the Jews, a King so noteworthy that a star had been placed in the sky to celebrate His birth.
And King Herod was completely flabbergasted. No King of the Jews had been born. There was no baby in the palace. Who were these fools, coming in and upsetting the the whole city, and demanding to worship a baby King that didn’t even exist?
King Herod, with doubts and jealousy raging in his mind, called together the Jewish religious leaders. Surely, if there was a King Who had been born, if the Messiah had really come, they would know about it.
But the religious leaders knew nothing about it. They knew that the Messiah would be born in a little town called Bethlehem. Beyond that, they knew nothing. They apparently hadn’t noticed any extra star in the sky. And, they were busy. They couldn’t be bothered to travel six miles to Bethlehem to see if the Messiah, God’s promised One, had truly come, much less worship Him.
I wonder what the wise men felt as they left Jerusalem to travel to Bethlehem.
To have come so far, to be so close to the end of their journey, and to be surrounded by people of supposedly like faith – only to find … nothing.
No King to worship. No support or understanding from people who supposedly believed the same prophesies that they believed.
I can only imagine that the wise men left Jerusalem with discouragement in their hearts.
Had they really seen a star? Did it really mean what they had thought it meant? Did they misunderstand the Scriptures? Were the prophesies wrong? Had they been the world’s biggest fools?
But, as they left Jerusalem in discouragement, they looked up. And they saw a star, shining brightly in the sky.
They saw The Star – placed there by God for them, the sign of God’s blessing on their journey, ready to lead them the last six miles of their journey to the exact location of the King they so desperately longed to worship.
And the discomfort and cost of all of the days and nights of travel when there had been no obvious sign of God’s presence, the frustrations of no one understanding their costly decision to worship, the discouragement of not immediately understanding God’s plan – all melted away in the beautiful, clear light of the star.
The wise men had stepped out in faith to worship God’s promised King – and God had been with them, leading them and watching over them every step of the long journey.
Not one moment of their journey had been a waste. They had come to worship a Divine, Eternal King – and no sacrifice was too great.
The wise men looked up and they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
The wise men’s journey of faith led them to an unexpected end. They had come to the palace in Jerusalem looking for a king. The star of God redirected them to a common house in a small village. God led them to a Child, born to a poor woman and being raised by a Jewish carpenter. There they fell to their knees and worshiped the Eternal King, clothed in the flesh of an obscure and impoverished child.
The wise men’s journey of faith began an avalanche of unexpected results. Their visit alerted King Herod to Jesus’ presence, forcing Mary and Joseph to take Jesus and flee to Egypt, and resulting in the murder of baby boys in the Bethlehem area.
I am sure that, whatever the wise men were expecting, this sequence of events was NOT in their minds.
But God knew that these things would happen. In fact, these things had been prophesied and were signs that this Child was truly God’s Son.
God was setting in motion His perfect plan to save His people from their sins and to give His people eternal life.
The wise men could not have guessed that, in a little over 30 years, the baby that they worshiped would hang naked and bleeding on a cross, with the very title that the Wise Men had given him, “King of the Jews”, written on a sign above His head.
They could not have foreseen that this Child would take the punishment of their sins and our sins on Himself so that we might stand before God justified.
They could not have foreseen that this Man would rise again from the dead and sit at the right hand of God to reign for all of eternity.
I wonder if the wise men would have guessed that, one day, every knee would join them in bowing to worship this King.
What about you? Is God calling you to step out on a journey of faith? Has God called you to sacrifice your time, your comfort, and your wealth? Has He called you to worship Him?
Has God called you to step away from social media so that you can spend more time in prayer? Has He called you to tithe even though your finances are tight? Has He called you to open your home and heart to foster care children?
Is God calling you to develop relationships with your unsaved neighbors so that you can share your faith with them? Is God calling you to step away from an area of temptation even though it will be costly?
Your journey of faith won’t be easy. People will question your sanity. Your unbelieving co-workers will scratch their heads in bewilderment. Your family members will shake their heads at you and tell you that you are being foolish. Fellow Christians will disappoint you.
There will even be times when God Himself will seem distant as He calls you to grow in faith.
And, in the end, your journey of faith may lead you to a place that you never expected. But, that’s OK – because it is part of God’s perfect plan.
When you step out to follow God in faith, He will be with you every step of the way. And, when the time is right, God will overwhelm you with the joy of obedience. You will experience the exceedingly great joy of His blessing.
Will you answer God’s call on your life? Will you, like the wise men, follow Him even when the journey is hard?
Are you willing to sacrifice your time, energy, wealth, and comfort to bring Him the gift of a heart full of worship?
Will the end of your journey find you worshiping Jesus Christ with a heart full of exceedingly great joy?