Aloha Friday Message – January 3, 2020 – A King-Size Dose of Reality

2001AFC010320 – A King-Size Dose of Reality

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     Matthew 2:10-11 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Welcome to the New Year, the New Decade, and the New Email Home for our Aloha Friday Messages – at least I hope it will be our new home. I have had a difficult time setting it up – so many security restrictions! You should have already received a message New Year’s Day giving this new email, so hopefully you’re prepared to stay on the mailing list. Today we’re going to once again pull back the fog that often accompanies this story of the Magi – the Three Wise Men, or the Three Kings – and talk about what this would have meant to the folks hearing it for the first time in the First Century AD. Let’s start with that word EPIPHANY.

This Sunday is Epiphany Sunday. The actual date assigned to this event, the Epiphany of the Christ, is January 6th. Epiphany isn’t a common word like sin or salvation. It comes from a Greek word for manifestation or appearance – it means “showing forth.” For many Christians, Epiphany refers to the demonstration – the word most often used is “manifestation” – of the divine nature of Jesus and is marked by a feast day Jan. 6. It is celebrated in many churches on the Sunday closet to that date on the calendar. The Epiphany of the Christ refers to the event we all know about (or think we know) – the visitation by the Three Kings of the Orient, the Magi. We have our little Nativity Scenes set out on the coffee-table or the mantle, and there’s a little shed with the Holy Family, some shepherds, some farm animals, and three guys in extra-fancy clothes standing next to some camels. Those are the “Three Kings.” But why Three and why Kings? And why are they called “MAGI?” Let’s find out!

    First, let’s dispose of the image of the Wise Men at the stable and the manger. Notice those first four words in verse 11 up there: 11 On entering the house. Nope, not a stable, not a manger, so no swaddling clothes – all of that was for the shepherds – who really were at the first Nativity. The Wise Men came later – we don’t know how much later – but Mary and Jesus were already in a HOUSE. Joseph is not mentioned as being with them (although he was there when the shepherds showed up). The Magi followed some sort of astronomical (and perhaps also astrological) sign in the sky – the Star of Bethlehem. What or who are Magi?

The root word is Magus (Plural Magi): A Zoroastrian Priest in the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastriansim (← Check it out!); the term carried a connotative meaning of a man with supernatural or magical powers – a sorcerer or magician. They were – and are (← Check it out!) deeply involved in astrology – (← Check it out!), and like many ancient cultures were also keen on astronomy – tracking the movement of the moon and stars along with the cycles of the sun and seasons. Were there really three of them? Actually we don’t know. Pious tradition has it that there are three “kings” because there are three gifts. Why do we call them kings instead of just sorcerers, astrologers, or magicians? These Old Testament texts led to the interpretation of the magi as kings:

Psalm 72:10 10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the Isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

Psalm 72:15  15 Long may he live! May gold of Sheba be given to him. May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all day long. (Please take a moment to see Psalm 72:10-15 to understand this in context.)

Isaiah 60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

In these passages, we see the Three Gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold is something we know about, but in the Bible it is often described as “the gold of Ophir.” Ophir –אוֹפִיר {o-feer’} was a land or city in southern Arabia in Solomon’s trade route where gold was traded for goods and from which much fine gold was given to Solomon (and Israel) as tribute and as gifts from other nations like Seba and Sheba. When used to describe gold, it indicates very fine, pure gold. Given as a gift to the Holy Family to honor Jesus then Newborn King, it bespeaks his royalty as a Son of David as was Solomon.

Frankincense  (← Check it out!) Frankincense was used to a great extent in ritual burials for embalming corpses. It was considered an offering on behalf of the dead. It also helped to cover the odor of the dead body. It was often used in conjunction with myrrh and even cinnamon and cassia for those purposes. It was used as a perfume, a flavoring, as incense, and as a highly-valued item of trade because it was so rare and costly. Given to the Holy Family, it signifies recognition of Jesus’ deity, the recognition that he is the Son of God, and the eventually eternal ruler of the universe.

Myrrh has a very fascinating story. We will look at it in Hebrew and Greek because it is so meaningful in Bible history. Myrrh (Hebrew) – מֹר־ (mor) {mōr} is an Arabian gum from the bark of a tree, used in sacred oil and in perfume. Myrrh is mentioned 7 times in the Song of Solomon as a romantic perfume. (See the Complete Jewish Bible version of Song of Solomon 5:1-5.) We’ve already mentioned it was used in embalming, and it is of course mentioned in the New Testament at the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly life. In Greek it is listed in the account of the crucifixion as wine mixed with myrrh (or another name used was “gall”) σμυρνίζω (smurnizó) {smoor-nid’-zo}→from σμύρνα (smýrna) {smoor’-nah} “myrrh” properly, mingle with myrrh (smurnizó), a bitter herb given to help deaden the pain of criminals sentenced to crucifixion. Wine mixed with gall was commonly offered to dying criminals as a pain-deadener. This cheap wine (sour wine was the common drink of Roman soldiers – sour wine in Latin is vin egar – vinegar! It was routinely given to people condemned to brutal execution. Here are some passages where we can see these uses:

Mark 15:23 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it.

Matthew 27:34 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.

In closing, Belovéd, it is also useful to get a grasp of the geography mentioned in the account of the Epiphany because it shows the recognition of “the whole wide world” – the world known at that time – that Jesus was the King of EVERYTHING; EVERY TIME, PLACE, PERSON, AND SITUATION. Here are some of those important geographic locations:

Tarshish – Probably Tartessus, a city and emporium of the Phoenicians in the southwest coast of Spain, represented as one of the sons of Javan; however there is also a very clear description of a place called by the same which was built and used as a port on the Red Sea (← Check it out!) by Solomon! It was to and from that port than many of the fabulous treasures were delivered to him.

Tema – some 250 miles south-east of Edom, on the route between Damascus and Mecca, in the northern part of the Arabian peninsula, toward the Syrian Desert; the modern Teyma’.

“Sheba” and “Seba” are distinguished by the writer of Genesis (Genesis 10:7), and appear not even to have been very near the one to the other. Sheba was in Southeastern Arabia, and was known to the Greeks and Romans as the country of the Sabaeans. Saba was in Africa, on the Middle Nile, and the Sebaeans (סְבָאִים) are closely connected by Isaiah with Ethiopia and Egypt (Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 45:14) (← Check it out!)

Midian – No boundaries can now be assigned to “the land of Midian.” It included territory on the West as well as on the East of the Gulf of `Aqaba (Exodus 4:19). It lay between Edom and Paran (1 Kings 11:18). In the time of the Judges their district seems to have extended northward to the East of Gilead (Judges 8:10) – in this passage “children of the east” is a translation of “Kedemites, descendants of Ishmael who lived in the Middle Euphrates region.

Sometimes in researching these messages, I come across a delightful surprise. Such is the case with a hymn – a childhood favorite and one which my Dad dearly loved – to the point of tears at times. It’s called “Out of the Ivory Palaces.” (↔ Music Link) and it is based on Psalm 45:8-9  … your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. Please enjoy all the information links I have provided for you. It is my sincere hope that when you celebrate The Epiphany of The Lord, you will find that this information resonates in your heart and mind. The reason is simple: Because I love you – and you know for certain HE loves you even more! How? We know whom we have believed (↔ Music Link), and know he will be our Savior who gives us YOLOF. The reality is that he is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Almighty, the Everliving God, El Shaddai-Olam, Creator, Savior, and Ruler of all that is seen and unseen. That is definitely a King-Sized reality!

Please pray with us here at Share-a-Prayer.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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