Day 18: Every Tribe, Language, People, Nation

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. (Matthew 2:11)

Long before the birth of Jesus, God had promised another birth that was integral to his plan of redemption. In Genesis 12, the Lord appeared to a man named Abram. God told Abram that he would be the father of a great nation and that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abram’s family. There was one problem—Abram and Sarai had no children. So a few chapters later, in Genesis 15, God promised them a son who would be the first of more children than they could ever count.

From the beginning of God’s plan, we see that redemption was aimed at the entire world, not just the Jewish people. Unfortunately, throughout the Old Testament, we also see that the Jews were not the light to the nations they should have been and the nations did not acknowledge Yahweh as the one, true God. At the end of the Old Testament, Israel is an isolated, marginalized people and the promise to Abram (later Abraham) looks all but broken. How would God make good on this promise?

It happens in the birth of Jesus. A couple of years after Jesus is born, we are introduced to a group of people called magi. That’s a Greek word often translated “wise men” but magi really means “magicians.” They were something like alchemists and astrologers—really smart guys. But they were not Jewish. They were probably from Persia, Iran, or even as far as India or China. They were monotheists (they believed in one god), but they worshiped Zoroaster, not Yahweh. Yet here they are, searching for the king of the Jews. Here they are, laying their costly treasures down at Jesus’ feet. Here they are, laying themselves down to worship him.

It’s easy to overlook these mysterious magicians. But they are more than extras in a Christmas play. In that little house, in that little Jewish town, the nations came to worship a little boy who would eventually die on a cross to save Israel and the whole world. Jesus is the true son of promise, for everyone who believes in him will be blessed. In the magi’s act of faith and worship, the promise to Abraham is being fulfilled. And in this we also catch a faint glimpse of that day in eternity when every nation, tribe, people group, and language will proclaim together, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne!” (Rev. 7:9-10).

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Matthew 2:1-12

  1. Have you ever given the story of the magi much thought?  How does this story inspire you?
  2. Read vv. 3-4. What is so troubling about Herod’s reaction to the magi? What should he have known? How should  he have responded?
  3. Does your response to Jesus parallel the magi or Herod?
  4. Heaven will be the ultimate diverse place. Does that excite you? Why or why not?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent