Leaving the Manger: Listening Closely

Matthew 2:11-12 11 And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.

I deeply admire the magi. Some day, when I walk through those pearly gates, I’m looking up those men who trekked their way across hill and vale to worship Jesus. I plan on asking them a few questions that will hopefully assuage my curiosity:

  • How did that star tell you that a savior was born?
  • How difficult was it for you to decide to go?
  • What did you feel the instant you saw Jesus?
  • How is it that you were still listening after you had accomplished your objective?

That last question is the one I would like us to consider for a moment. The above scripture provides some intriguing information: “And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.”

On their passage through Jerusalem, the magi seemed nearly naive as they questioned King Herod about the Savior’s birth-place. In their pursuit of finding the messiah, they overlooked the political dynamics of another king dropping into the region. Without question, Herod, King of Judah, had no intention of allowing a proclaimed King of the Jews to remain unchallenged. No chances taken…no regrets possible. That was Herod’s philosophy. This prophesied child was simply a threat to undo.

After finding and worshiping Jesus, the magi receive a warning from God by means of a dream. “Go home another way,” they were instructed. They heard, they listened, they obeyed.

How natural it would have been for them to let their guard down. They had searched for months (maybe years) to get to this spot and do what they did. Mission accomplished, right? They had achieved their objective. The job was done. It was now time to go back home and fit back into normal again.

Not a chance! This passage helps us see that when the magi found and worshiped Jesus, they found their mission! Whether they realized it before or not, they now stood at the starting line of a new race. They had witnessed something that would feed their souls forever. They had been privy to something so big they could never live life the same again. The magi had come so far and given so much, but when they looked God in the face—when they saw what He had done and grasped what He came to do, their own sacrifice and effort seemed silly. Their mission had just begun!

After meeting Jesus, the magi were infused with a completely new resolve. Vigilant to do their part, careful to not miss a step, their spiritual ears were keen on hearing the often subtle whispers of God. But God didn’t speak in a whisper. He spoke through a dream! How easy to dismiss it. No—God didn’t speak through dreams then any more than He does now. The fact is, when God spoke, they took heed and followed the command.

They were spiritually engaged.

They were eager to hear God’s direction.

By the way, here’s a little something to ponder. Each of us owns a natural pathway by which we best experience God. Some may find Him primarily through serving others, while another person finds Him by being an activist…fighting for justice on behalf of others. One individual experiences God through celebrative worship, but another primarily through intellectual discovery…another through relationships. The magi may have had the natural pathway of finding God in nature (through the heavens and astronomical movements of space). After-all, this is what first grabbed their attention so decisively that they put life-as-normal on hold to follow their hearts. Yet, in this passage, they also hear God through a contemplative means—they meet God in a dream! I’m guessing this may not have been their natural means of connecting with God, but their awakened spiritual passion, hunger for truth, readiness to serve, and intense vigilance in seeking God enabled them to hear.

Maybe God is whispering your name, but you’re not listening. Maybe He is speaking in a way you’re not expecting. As a result, it will be easy for you to dismiss the voice of God and miss this essential divine leading of the Almighty.

So—here we are at the threshold of a new year. Twelve months stand before us…365 days of opportunity, 4380 hours to get it right. Every day God speaks. Are you listening? Are you spiritually engaged? Are you eager to hear God’s voice and heed His direction for your life? Are you intent on following His directives? Are you really listening?

It’s time to re-enter your world and it’s mostly filled with normal. Who wants that? Sometimes there are even Herods out there. But that’s OK…if we’re really listening. God has a plan that He wants you to follow. But there’s only one way to get in on it. Listen well…

ACTION: Identify a couple things you hear God telling you right now.

Now, as a first-step of obedience, decide how you will follow God in each of the areas He is speaking to you about right now.