God’s Reversal of Fortune

The visit of the Magi in Matthew 2 occurred after Jesus’ birth, but it points to the significance of God’s promise centuries earlier that he would one day dwell among his people and be Immanuel, God with us.

These Magi, or wise men, were likely royal counselors or other government officials, according to commentaries I’ve read, possibly from the region of ancient Babylon. Yet they left their lives of privilege and those royal courts they served in and enjoyed.

These people left the royalty they knew and traveled far in search of a different kind of King, a King who stepped down from his own throne and traveled far in order to search for his people.

The Irony of Jesus’ Birth

Soon after Isaiah prophesied about the birth of the Messiah Immanuel, Jerusalem was conquered and its people carried off. The conquering king, Nebuchadnezzar, brought the defeated Israelites to Babylon, his capital city. With the drawing of the Magi to his cradle, God brought Babylon to Jerusalem. The reversals are striking:

  • Babylon’s conquest of Jerusalem came at the tip of a sword, an act of God’s righteous judgment on his faithless people; the Son of God’s birth came in a manger in Bethlehem, an act of loving faithfulness fulfilling the promise God had made to his people.
  • The Jews were exiled to the east and forced to serve a pagan king; the Magi made their way west in search of a King they willingly worshiped and adored.
  • Nebuchadnezzar looted Jerusalem’s temple and royal palace, bringing their treasures to Babylon; the Magi brought treasures with them from the east to lay at the feet of the new-born King.

God’s graciously gave us himself. He chose to leave his heavenly throne to be with us: you, me, and every single one of his people in all times and for all eternity. Now that’s a King worth worshiping.


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16 Responses to God’s Reversal of Fortune

  1. Aimee Byrd says:

    I never thought of this Tim. Thanks for bringing this to my attention this advent season. You could write forever from your line, “God graciously gave himself.” The theology behind that statement is utterly magnificent.

  2. Speaking of reversal, great points by the way, how much did a Nebuchadnezzar’s own reversal affect the bowing and worshipping of the Magi?

    The greatest difference in Christianity between any other faith or religion can be summed up in two words “God Came” The greatest lack of understanding in the Christian faith is four words as a result of his coming “I can be no-one” because he was someone. So in effect a truth the separates our faith, we have so little understanding of.

    Thanks for the reminder today Tim.

    • Tim says:

      I would imagine the Magi knew their history lessons, and understood teh significance of going to see the King in Israel in light of their own country’s royal lineage. One cam eo tan end, and one is eternal. How blessed they must have considered themselves to be able to travel willingly to see Jesus.

  3. Jeannie says:

    “…a King who stepped down from his own throne and traveled far in order to search for his people.” That’s beautiful, Tim; thank you!

  4. Sarah Beals says:

    Thought provoking! Made me also wonder if their gifts to Mary and Joseph had an economic reversal for them as well. It’s not every day that someone gives such riches to such a young, poor family. I’m sure it helped!

  5. Lyndsay says:

    This has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but it is about traveling, and giving. I am so proud of what this company has done in Canada. [Deleted content]

    • Tim says:

      Sorry about deleting the link, Lyndsay, but I am prohibited from activity that looks like it is promoting commercial enterprises and charitable fund-raising. Sorry!

  6. wiseblooding says:

    Beautiful reminder! How often God ministers through reversals: Redemption transforms sinners into saints, we move from the darkness of sin to His glorious light, we who were enemies of God now enjoy peace with Him. I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis’s description of the deeper Magic where Death itself begins working backwards.

  7. Jeremy M. says:

    I like the connection between what happens after Isaiah’s prophesies about the Messiah and the details of Jesus’ birth. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone parallel the two like this. It’s pretty interesting. It was only the beginning of how the coming of Jesus would reverse things as well.

  8. Pingback: Wanderings of the Week 12/22/13 – Two Week Edition | My Life on the Balance Beam

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