(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.”
We are not told in Scripture how many wise men actually visited the Lord Jesus. We do know it was some time after the birth in Bethlehem, and not the night of His birth, because they visited Joseph and Mary in a “house.” The three gifts they presented may seem strange today because the only item most of us are familiar with is gold. But in the ancient world, these items were considered valuable and worthy to offer a king or deity. “…these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E.”1 God knew the coming horrific events would require the family to make an expensive journey to escape Herod’s attempt to kill the young Saviour. These gifts would allow them to pay for a way out as the angel of the Lord commanded Joseph. But there was also a spiritual significance behind these gifts that another proof that Jesus was in fact the Messiah.
Gold was considered a gift and symbol worthy of a king. In Daniel 2:38, as Daniel was interpreting king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the image he proclaims, “Thou art this head of gold.” Kings and their kingdoms are associated with gold throughout the Bible.
(2 Chronicles 9:20) “And all the drinking vessels of king Solomon were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold: none were of silver; it was not any thing accounted of in the days of Solomon.”
Frankincense is an aromatic substance used in incense and perfumes. It is found 9 times in the Pentateuch. 7 of those times it is found in the book of Leviticus in relation to the priestly duties of worship.
(Leviticus 2:2) “And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD:”
Myrrh is another type of substance used in incense and perfumes but in the the New Testament had quite a different purpose than frankincense. Myrrh was used in the burial of of the Lord.
(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.”
What is God trying to communicate to us by providing the details of these gifts? Dr. J. Vernon McGee tells us that, “Gold speaks of His birth. He is born a King. Frankincense speaks of the fragrance of His life. Myrrh speaks of His death. All of this is indicated in the gifts that were brought to Him at His first coming.” – Thru The Bible. Nelson Publishing. 1983. vol. IV, p. 16.
But we also see something more in these gifts that show us who Jesus really is:
- He is called a King – In 1 Tim 6:15, He is named “King of Kings.” It is not hard to understand the meaning of the gold.
- He is called a Priest – In Heb 4:14, He is called “a great high priest.” It is not hard to understand the meaning of the frankincense.
- He is called a Prophet – In Jn 6:14, He is called “the Prophet” referring to the prophesied Prophet in the Old Testament that would come. But we also know the history of Israel was to kill her prophets. Christ Himself even testified of this on several occasions.
(Matthew 23:31) “Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.”
The Lord Jesus would also be rejected and killed just as the prophets sent by God before Him.It is not hard to understand the meaning of the myrrh.
In God’s sovereignty and grace, even at His birth, we see that Jesus is the unique and exclusive Savior. Step back and appreciate all that God reveals to us. His ways are so much above our ways! His thoughts are so far above our thoughts! Jesus Christ really is Lord of Lords!
Renewed Thought – We often miss the wisdom of God on display in the little details of life.
1 – http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/why-did-the-magi-bring-gold-frankincense-and-myrrh/