Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, A Christmas Sunday School Lesson
In Isaiah 55:8,9, God says: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
With this truth cemented in our minds there is no other option for man but to trust in God for our thoughts and our ways will never in this life be able to rise to the heavens.
God is holy and he never looks to man to establish his thoughts or his ways.
This is powerfully proven by the incarnation and the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Given the immensity of Christ’s first coming the world would have used every media, every means, every communication, every possible way to announce to all the world that the Son of God was coming to the Earth.
Every public relations firm would have been engaged, sparing no cost in informing the world of this most important of births, but God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.
God choose to bring His Son into the world in a quiet way, a way where only a few were told of this great event.
The population of the whole earth was oblivious to His arrival.
Considering Jesus Christ, is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the creator of all things, certainly verifies that God’s ways are not our ways.
The Savior of the world came in such a way as to be almost completely unrecognized.
He was born not in chambered halls of the castles of kings, but in a place where animals slept near an inn that had no room for a soon to be mother and her child.
His first bed was a feeding trough for farm animals.
Yet, even though His arrival was largely unrecognized, there were some who were given privilege to welcome His first coming.
The Gospel of Matthew records some special visitors who traveled many days and many miles to meet this new arrival from heaven.
For this is recorded in Matt. 2:1,2, Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
These visiting wise men were in search of the King of the Jews and had followed His star to Jerusalem.
Certainly they thought, Herod the king would know of him that is born King of the Jews!
They naturally sought to find him with established royalty and therefore from the outset of the Gospel of Matthew the royalty of Jesus is emphasized.
Matthew lists the genealogy of Jesus in sets of 14 generations.
This listing leads to King David from whom the Messiah was promised.
Matthew regularly informs the reader of his Gospel that Jesus is the “Son of David” which of course infers his kingship.
Not only is Jesus born in the same town as was David, but Matthew also emphasizes that Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Micah 5:2, which foretells that a “Ruler” will come out of Bethlehem.
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
And this prophesy is told Herod by the wise men in Matt. 2:5,6, And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
It was needful that Matthew included this account of wise men from the East coming to Herod, the Roman king of Judea, to inquire about the whereabouts of Jesus.
Because these wise men brought very remarkable gifts to the child, and also I’m sure very practical gifts for Mary and Joseph’s use; the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
It would be hard to imagine more unique gifts than these.
Certainly they were chosen with great care and certainly they were inspired to fit exactly this unique visitor from heaven, Jesus, the Christ.
Gold, a most precious and rare metal, is the first gift mentioned and is often associated in the Bible with Divinity and Royalty.
In the Old Testament, Aaron chose gold collected from gold rings to make a golden calf to worship.
Exodus 32:3,4, And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. 4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
Psalm 135:15 states, The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
It was common in that time of history to carve your own idol and have it overlaid with gold.
God gave Moses instructions to use gold when constructing the Ark of the Covenant as well as other items in the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:10)
King Nebuchadnezzar created a statue made of gold, and ordered all people to bow down and worship it. (Daniel 3:10)
Therefore, the gift of gold from the wise men symbolized the divinity of Christ, worthy of worship.
In bringing this gift the wise men bowed before the young child and worshipped Him recognizing his deity.
Matthew 2:11, And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
From the beginning Jesus Christ was worshipped as God and that will continue until:
Philippians 2:10-11 brings all to worship: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Not only did the gold represent Christ’s deity, it also represented his kingship.
Gold is often associated with kingship and ruling authority in the scriptures:
When the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon, she gave him 120 talents of gold and a very great quantity of spices and precious stones. (1 Kings 10:10)
Psalm 72:15 declares, And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.
King David amassed a large amount of gold, as did his son Solomon: 1 Kings 10:14, Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold
Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
His reign is eternal, and His kingdom will have no end.
John’s book of Revelation in 19:16 declares that upon Christ’s return, He will have written on his thigh: “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”
And from a practical standpoint how needed gold was, for Mary and Joseph and the child were soon on their way to Egypt.
Matthew 2:13, And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
The second gift the wise men brought to Jesus was frankincense, a dried aromatic resin that comes from the Boswellia tree.
The English word “frankincense” literally means “pure incense.”
In Greek it is called lebanon, which is also the name of the country located directly north of Israel.
Frankincense played an important role in the biblical tabernacle and temple services.
Almost every time it is mentioned in the Bible, it is found in connection with an animal sacrifice where it was burned by the priests, producing a sweet odor that served to mask the smell of burned flesh.
In the book of Revelation, incense is a representation of the prayers of the saints, flowing up to God as a pleasing aroma (Revelation 5:8).
This indicates that the Old Testament usage of incense was a symbolic representation of the priest offering up prayers for the forgiveness of the people.
In Exodus 30:34-36, God gave specific instructions for a special blend of “incense” to be burned exclusively by the priest:
And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: 35 And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: 36 And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.
The frankincense that the wise men gave to Christ symbolized His priesthood.
The Bible plainly teaches that Christ is our High Priest.
He makes intercession for our sins, and He is the eternal sacrifice for our sins.
In the Old Testament, the High Priest would enter the “Holy of Holies” each year to make a sacrifice for the sins of the people and for himself.
The priests would also make daily sacrifices for sin, simply because the sacrifice never really took away the sin. (Hebrews 10:11)
Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and righteousness also came through one man, Jesus Christ.
The animal sacrifices were a mere representation—a shadow—of the reality that God would send a savior into the world to pay for my sins and for your sins through the shedding of His blood.
When we sin as Christians, we do not need to confess to a priest, or offer an animal sacrifice; Christ is our intercessor.
Once we accept Christ as our savior, His death on the cross cleanses us from our past, present, and future sins.
Because He is eternal by His very nature, so is the power of His shed blood to cleanse our sins eternally.
The Bible clearly teaches the priesthood of Christ:
The Bible declares, Hebrews 6:20, Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Romans 8:34, Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Hebrews 5:5, So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
The Bible also reveals that when Christ died, there was a great earthquake, and the veil of the temple was torn.
This represented the fact that we no longer need a High Priest of the law; Christ is our High Priest.
Mark 15:37,38, And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. 38 And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.
Jesus our High Priest, once and for all, made a way to enter into the Holy of Holies.
Now Myrrh, obtained from a bushy tree and a gum-like resin, similar to frankincense is the third gift given to Jesus.
Myrrh has a pleasing aroma, and it had many uses in Biblical times (such as incense or perfume).
In the Bible, myrrh is most frequently associated with suffering and death.
It was often used as an embalming fluid since the potent aroma would help mask the stench of a decaying body.
The gift of myrrh symbolized the suffering and death that Jesus would face:
For example, before suffering on the cross, the soldiers offered Jesus strong drink mixed with myrrh.
Christ rejected this drink, refusing to dull the agony He was about to experience while paying the full penalty for our sins.
Mark 15:23, And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
The Bible also reveals that Nicodemus brought myrrh for the burial of Jesus after His death on the cross.
John 19:39, And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Some identify the Wise Men as Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar.
But the Bible, is silent even on the number of Wise Men, let alone their identities and names.
Even though three gifts were mentioned, there could well have been more than three men.
But let us as believers not forget at this Christmas season of gift giving and receiving, the gifts truly valued by Jesus are those that come to Him freely.
We are given the privilege of extending this free gift of salvation to the whole world by the preaching and teaching of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Throughout the world, our Savior is drawing men, and women, boys and girls to Him.
And in exchange for the gift of our heart, He will fill it with peace, joy, and love, with assurance that we have passed from death unto life eternal.
One day there will be an innumerable number of people from the four corners of the Earth who have received this greatest of gifts from their Savior Jesus Christ and who will rejoice in His kingdom.
Rev. 7:9,10, After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
This Christmas be sure to be in that number by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for whosoever shall call upon His name shall be saved.