Going to Sydney.
In the BC years (Before Covid), we drove to Sydney once or twice a year. It’s not hard to go there. All you do is get onto the M1 motorway and head south from my place for a thousand kilometres. If you don’t turn off the road then, after around 10 or 12 hours, you will end up in Sydney and there is a reason for that. That’s where the road goes!
It doesn’t matter whether you are smart or dumb or handsome or not. Anyone regardless of race, creed, colour or sex who starts on that road from my town, and keeps going for 10 or so hours will end up in Sydney.
The Wise Men.
In the Christmas story (Matthew 2 if you want to look it up) we read about some blokes who left from possibly Babylon and headed west towards Jerusalem. They would have started on the Ancient royal road that left Babylon and headed north west towards Turkey. It may not have been as clearly defined nor as well paved as our road to Sydney but the Romans had rebuilt that road that had been there for centuries. After a hundred or so kilometres, they took another road leading almost due went and eventually ended up in Jerusalem. That where that road goes.
Although we call them “wise men” we think they were priests in the Zoroastrian religion. Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the ancient Iranian empires from around 600 BC to 650 AD. It declined after the Muslim conquest of the area which led to the large-scale persecution of the followers. But there are still around 110,000 Zoroastrians in the world today.
So these wise men had the job of looking at the stars every night and interpreting what they saw for other people who saw just glimmers of light. Their predictions were not as accurate as our scientists today. Pretty much the same with astrology today. If you make statements broad enough and someone will think “that’s amazing – how could you know that?” Most others think “that’s just not true – it must apply to someone else” or “it’s nonsense!” But I’m sure there were times when these wise men just knew something was right. And when they saw the king star rise in the East in the constellation they connected with Ancient Israel, they knew something was happening they needed to look into.
Being convinced they were right, they had to prepare for this long journey. Google maps says if you want to walk that 1152 Km today, it would take you about 10 days of full time walking. At best that means 20 days walking if you allow for 12 hours walking and 12 hours resting every day. This would have required considerable organisation because much of the road was through desert and they needed water and food and everything else. They couldn’t ring up any motels along the way nor stay in AirBnb places. So they needed to take bedding and cooking pots and really everything they needed to survive.
How Long on a Camel?
Wikipedia says Camels walk at 5Km/hr so they would still take about 16 days to get there. But as you are probably aware, the camels on your Christmas card the three wise men are always riding are totally fictional. An old Syrian document says there were 12 wise men anyway. We choose three because of the number of gifts they gave.
Now Matthew tells us they set out after they saw His star. V2 They asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
There have been a number of attempts from astrologers to figure out what star this was. Some have said it may have been a supernova – a star that blew up then disappeared. The light from them lasts for a couple of weeks or even months and then it’s gone forever. But recently, there has been other options put forward.
Wikipedia say Frederick Larson examined the biblical account in the Gospel of Matthew, and found the following nine qualities of Bethlehem’s Star:
It signified birth,
it signified kingship,
it was related to the Jewish nation,
it rose “in the East”;
King Herod had not been aware of it;
it appeared at an exact time;
it endured (or reappeared) over time;
it was in front of the Magi when they traveled south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (only about 2 hours walk),
and it stopped over Bethlehem.
Using the Starry Night astronomy software showing the sky from 3BC and centred on Jerusalem, Larson thinks all nine characteristics of the Star of Bethlehem are found in events that took place in the skies of 3–2 BC. These include a triple conjunction of Jupiter, called the king planet, with the fixed star Regulus, called the king star, starting in September 3 BC. Larson believes that may be the time of Jesus’ conception.
By June of 2 BC, nine months later, Jupiter had continued moving in its orbit around the sun and appeared in close conjunction with Venus.
So, astrologers would have viewed the close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus as indicating a coming new king of Israel, and Herod took them so seriously he decided to eliminate any possible new opponent even if they were aged under 2.
Australian Astronomer Dave Reneke independently found the June 2 BC planetary conjunction, and noted it would have appeared as a “bright beacon of light”. The disks of Jupiter and Venus would have appeared to touch and there has not been as close a Venus-Jupiter conjunction ever since then.
Then he noted that Jupiter is travelling around the sun as we are but it travels at a different speed, to us. So from our perspective, planets have a path that moves across the background stars, then stops and reverses direction as we pass that planet in its orbit. So it is possible for a “star” to stop in its apparent motion.
The other problem you have is finding the actual year of Jesus birth so you can examine the sky maps. We know that Jesus was not born in the year AD 0 since Herod had died by then. But Herod’s death is also disputed. He may have died in either 4BC or 2 BC depending on who you believe. So don’t hold these explanations too tightly. But you have to say, all the events in Matthews story could easily have happened and helps explain why these Gentiles set out and why the star stopped over Bethlehem. (And despite the Christmas Carol, they weren’t likely kings either.)
Walking to Jerusalem
Now if you went to the ruins of Babylon today you could still walk this road to Jerusalem. And if you set out with your GPS, or even a paper map, and walked for long enough you too would end up in the same place because that’s where the road still goes. I’m sure the road been improved and maybe shortened over the millennia but it’s still possible to follow the same path the wise men took.
But the principle you employ every time you look at a map or fire up your GPS that says roads always lead to the same place, applies to other areas of your life as well. What’s perfectly obvious in the realm of geography is not so obvious in those other areas. I believe, what’s true geographically is equally true relationally, financially, physically, academically and spiritually . There is a “law” that affects parenting, dating, marriage, our emotions, our health, and a host of other areas as well. Just as there are physical paths that lead to predictable physical locations, there are other kinds of paths that are equally predictable.
I’m sure we all know people whose lifestyle decisions led them to predictable outcome and we say “I saw that coming”. And I think there is a law that governs what happens not only on the roads but in every area of life. I call it the “law of the path.”
I refer to this as a law because this isn’t a rule you follow. The last time you broke the speed limits you thought you were breaking the law. But you weren’t. You were breaking a rule not a law in this sense. Many of you act as if speed limits are just good suggestions anyway. The reason it’s not a law by my definition, is that the government can change the speed limits and suddenly the rule is different. They can shift the signs and then the rule applies to another area. BUT you can’t do that with a law. If its a law it always applies whether you like it or not. In every area of life a laws effect is the same. The only thing you can do with a law is to use another law to offset the effect.
The Law Applies to You.
But a law doesn’t change. It apply no matter who you are or what you think. Doesn’t matter if you are male or female, clever or dumb, got lots of money or are in serious debt. It’s a law and always applies.
Curiously once this is discovered, it can be leveraged to your advantage. You can use its power to take you where you want to go. The law of the path is a powerful principle, and its power is available to anyone who is willing to use it.
If you grew up on a farm, you may be familiar with the law of the harvest. Whether or not you are familiar with it, you’ve been impacted by it. The law of the harvest states that we reap what we sow. If you sow tomato seeds and you will reap a harvest of tomatoes. If you sow watermelon seeds and you get watermelons.
This cause and effect relationship is in place whether you know about it or not. And it is in place whether you agree with it or not. Curiously, the law of the harvest applies to friendships, finances, and marriage. What you put into something impacts what you can expect to get out of it. Neglect your marriage or your health and the outcome is predictable.
School Experience at work.
You experienced this law at work in your time in school or university. What you put in determined what you got out. This law operates in the background of your life whether you were aware of it or not. And if someone had brought it to your attention and you refused to accept it as true, it really doesn’t matter. You will reap what you sow. That’s just how laws work. And the law of the path is no different. But whereas I’ve never met anyone who disputed the law of the harvest, I’ve talked to dozens of individuals and couples who refused to accept the law of the path. And the tragedy is, believing it or not believing it doesn’t change the fact that it operates in the background of our lives each and every day.
If you spend all your life living on the edge financially, the law of the path tells you where you will end up when the next financial crisis come. If you pour all your life into your work, the law of the path will tell you the end is possibly a place where you don’t want to be. If you ignore all those people around you and stay focussed on your way, then the relational outcome will not be the place you want to be.
So friends can I ask you what path you are on? If you examined your finances, can you predict that as time goes by you will be better off or worse off assuming nothing changes? If you look at the relationship you have with your spouse, when you get to retirement and spend a whole lot more time together will that be better or worse than now? There are many paths we can take and friends you are choosing your path every day. You are also choosing the destination because that’s where the paths take you.
Wise Men Still Seek Jesus.
These wise men in Matthew 2 chose to walk a path that led them to find Jesus. They really didn’t have to be that wise to find the destination. They needed to start that journey and a few last minute directions from the locals in Herod’s court, and heavenly help in the form of a star they found the right house, but the destination was set by the path they were on.
So if you haven’t begun your search for Jesus, can I encourage you to begin on that path this Christmas. He is the destination is where you need to go too. So don’t waste another Christmas. Use this one to make a start because without Him in your life, you will end up in a destination you don’t want to go to – either in this life or the next life.