Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Wouldn’t it be nice if God always directed us with miraculous signs? Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’re wanting to have the star there all the time, pointing us, “Yes! Go that way. Go that way. Yes! Go that way. Yes, God’s will is that way.” We want to know by visible sight which way God is leading us.

But there are times when there is no star we can see, and we have to walk on obediently, in faith, on the basis of what we’ve already seen. We’re trusting God to keep leading us as we put one step in front of another.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for January 6, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Do you know that the Bible has quite a bit to say about stars? One star in particular serves an important role in the Christmas story. Today, Nancy’s going to talk about the purpose of stars and how their creation points us to the Lord. Let’s continue in the series “Of Wise Men, Kings, and Providence.”

Nancy: Well, today’s the day in the Church calendar that many faith traditions celebrate Epiphany, January 6. Epiphany means appearance or revelation. And this is a feast day that follows the twelve days of Christmas—December 25 to January 5. And this feast day is linked with a visit of the wise men, the Magi, to visit the Christ Child.

This day celebrates the manifestation of God to the Gentile world. And aren’t you glad that He came, not just for His people the Jews, but that His intent all along was for the nations and the peoples of the earth to know and love and follow and belong to Jesus. So, Happy Epiphany! If you’ve heard that word before, that’s where it comes from.

Now, join me, if you would, in your Bible to Matthew chapter 2. You can open there or scroll there, if you are in a place where you can look. I always love to have you follow along in your Bible where possible. Again, I would say, if you’re driving, just keep listening. Don’t try and open there. But if you can, I want you to see the Word with your own eyes because what God has to say is far more important than anything I might have to say about it.

And, Lord, would You open our eyes, our ears, our hearts to see and receive Your Word and Your Holy Spirit and Christ in these moments? I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Matthew chapter 2, verse 1: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea . . .”

This is why we’re airing this series in January because it followed the birth of Christ, unlike all the créshes and the nativity scenes that we’ve just put away, packed up in boxes. This is something that didn’t take place at the manger with the shepherds. This is something that took place some weeks or months or even maybe a couple of years after the birth of Christ.

So the Scripture just tells us, 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose . . .

Now, I want you to highlight that word star—maybe underline it or circle it—you’re going to see it several times in this passage, and I want you to notice each time that it appears.

We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. 

A star . . . His star. Sometimes called the Star of Bethlehem. This star made known to them the birth—not just of a king of the Jews. Herod was a king of the Jews. But God was manifesting to them, giving them this epiphany, this revelation of The King of the Jews—capital K—the Messiah, the long-promised, long-awaited of Israel who would also be King of the entire world.

“We saw His star. We’ve come to worship Him.” Verse 3: 

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled [He didn’t celebrate, as you might have thought he would] and all Jerusalem was troubled with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ [the Messiah] was to be born. And they told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

And then you see the prophecy from Micah, chapter 5, that they quoted. They knew this prophecy. They knew the Messiah was coming, and they knew where He was going to be born.

Then verse 7: 

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 

“How long ago did you see it? When was it in the sky? When did it appear to you? How long has it been?”

And with that knowledge, then, verse 8: “He sent them to Bethlehem . . .” He didn’t go with them. He didn’t say, “Let me send some people to go with you.”

He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”

And as we said yesterday, if he really wanted to worship this Child, if that was the true intent of his heart, (which we know it wasn’t), he would or could have gone with them. He sent them.

Well, verse 9: 

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star [here it appears again—the star] that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, [fourth reference to the star in this passage] they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Now, we’ve pictured, and I mentioned this earlier in this series, that the star rose above Jerusalem. They saw it from their place in the Far East—whether that was Babylon or Persia or Yemen today—somewhere in that part of the world, probably a thousand miles away. But they were students of the stars. They were students of the skies. They saw this star. And then they followed the star all the way to Jerusalem.

But Scripture doesn’t say that. It suggests, in fact, that the star they had first seen, when they were in their own country, pointed them to Jerusalem. They saw where it was, but then they lost sight of the star as they traveled.

They had to keep in mind where they were being sent. They undertook this journey in faith. And now, when they got to Jerusalem, the star reappeared to lead them to Bethlehem, to point them to the object of their search.

We always want to have visible evidence. Right? We want to have the star there all the time, pointing us, “Yes! Go that way. Go that way. Yes! Go that way. Yes, God’s will is that way. Yes, you’ll find Him.”

We want to see. We want to feel. We want to be able to touch. We want to know by our feelings, by visible sight which way God is leading us. But there are times when there is no star we can see, and we have to walk on obediently, in faith, on the basis of what we have already seen, trusting God to keep leading us as we put one step in front of another.

So it was intriguing to me that probably this star was not seen by them through this whole journey. It appeared. They headed in that direction, put one foot in front of another, got to Jerusalem. And then for the last part, this six-mile part of their journey, from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the star guided them, led them to the place where Jesus was born.

God knows when you need what in your life. He knows when you need evidence. And He knows when you just need to walk by faith in what He’s already shown to you.

So today we want to look at: What does God’s Word have to say about stars? Now, I want to tell you in advance, this could be a whole series, and maybe someday it will be. So I’m just going to pull out some of what the Scripture has to say about stars.

I also want to talk briefly about: What do we know about this star that led the wise men to Bethlehem when Jesus was born?

And, finally: What does it mean for us (the appearance of this star) when it comes to knowing and following Jesus?

First of all, we see in the Scripture that stars that we look at and enjoy so greatly in the night sky, most of us know very little about. Even those who are astronomers and experts know very little about the stars out there. But here’s what we do know: We know that they were made by God, and that they were made for His pleasure and His purposes.

Psalm 33, verse 6 says, “The heavens were made by the word of the Lord, and all the stars, by the breath of his mouth.”

By the word of the Lord, by the breath of His mouth. You remember that on the first day of creation, Genesis chapter 1, God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” But it was some sort of a general light.

Then we come to the fourth day of creation where God created multiple sources or generators of light—sun, moon, and stars. We see that He had a purpose in mind for these lights. Genesis 1, beginning in verse 14:

And God said, “Let there be lights [earlier in the chapter, He says, “Let there be light.” Now He says, “Let there be lights”] in the expanse of the heavens [here’s one purpose] to separate the day from the night. And let them be [here’s another purpose] for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens [another purpose] to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light [the moon] to rule the night—and the stars. [Don’t forget the stars. They’re not the greatest lights, but they are lights that God made—and the stars.] And God set them [sun, moon, stars] in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Created by God, for His pleasure, for His purposes.

Now, in ancient times, many people worshipped the sun, the moon, and the stars as gods—small g. But this passage, Genesis 1, reminds us that the stars, the sun, and the moon were not to be worshipped. They are not gods. They were created by the one true and living God. He created them to shine in an orderly pattern, not random, but predictable, to divide day and night and season from another. That was no small feat that God created the sun, the moon, and all the stars.

Astronomers estimate that there are about 100 thousand million stars in our Milky Way alone. That’s a lot of zeroes. That’s a lot of stars.

There are some 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe. We don’t know how many there are that we can’t see. There is a professor of astrophysics in the UK who says that there are about 100 million stars in the average galaxy and 2 trillion galaxies that we know about, and 100 thousand million stars in our galaxy alone. That’s a lot of stars! And God is the Creator of it all.

And Psalm 147, verse 4, says, “He determines the number of the stars.”

Those numbers I just gave you, they are estimates to be sure. We don’t know how many stars there are, but God does. And not only does He know that, Psalm 147: “He gives to all of them their names.”

He knows what they're named. He names them. He knows each one from all the others. He knows their distinctives. They’re not just a massive picture of a skyscape of stars. He knows each one by name, and knows how many there are.

Stars reveal the power of God, the skill of God, the character of God. We see this in the Scripture.

Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (v. 1).

It’s a sermon about the power of God, the skill of God, the greatness of God when you go out and you look into the night sky.

Job chapter 9, verse 4 says, “He is wise in heart and mighty in strength . . . [He who] He makes the stars: the Bear, Orion,the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky. He does great and unsearchable things,wonders without number” (v. 4 ESV, vv. 9–10 CSB).

You see the stars, the moon, the sun, the day sky, the night sky, and you can’t come away without being amazed at how great God is, how vast His creation is, how infinite He is, yet how personal He is that He would know the number and the names of all those stars.

Stars also tell us something about God’s heart for us, God’s heart for mankind. The psalmist felt this in Psalm 8, verse 3, when he said: “When I look at your heavens . . .” something maybe we don’t take enough time to do—to look, to ponder. 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (vv. 3–4)

This powerful, majestic, omnipotent God, who flung the stars and the planets and the sun and the moon and the earth into space—all of it—and holds it together by the breath of His mouth, the word of His mouth and by the work of His hands, He knows where each one is. He has set each one in place.

What does that tell us about how God cares for us? Seven billion people on this planet, and God knows how many there are exactly. He doesn’t have to round off the number. He knows how many were born and how many died in the last hour—what the new number is. And He knows each one by name. He knows the differences, the distinctives, the characteristics of each one.

And He cares for us. If He cares for those stars, does He not much more care for us who were created in His image?

Now, in the book of Numbers, chapter 24, and this brings us closer to the wise men and the star of Bethlehem. In Numbers 24, there’s a prophecy about a star that would signal a King who would rise out of Israel. This prophecy comes from an unexpected source—the prophet Balaam.

(We’ve done a whole series on Balaam in the past on Revive Our Hearts. You can check that out.)

Balaam was a pagan prophet who, in an unusual way, was used by God. He lived close to Babylon. He may have been a predecessor to the wise men of Babylon in Daniel’s day, who may have been predecessors to the wise men in Jesus’ day that we’re talking about this week.

And Balaam in Numbers chapter 24, beginning in verse 17, here’s a prophecy, words that the Spirit of God is putting in the mouth of Balaam the prophet. And he says, verse 17: “A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter . . .” What’s a scepter? Something kings use to rule. It’s a symbol of authority. “. . . a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”

And then verse 19 tells us, “And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!”

Now, we won’t unpack that whole prophecy, but it’s clear that in this Old Testament period, there was a prophecy of a star coming that would be a signal that a King was rising out of Israel, and this King would have authority, not just over Israel, but over all the nations of the earth. And He would use His rule to judge those who opposed Him.

And we see another passage that He would use His rule to bless and bring salvation to those who believed Him—a star, a scepter.

The wise men in Jesus’ day descended from the wise men of Daniel’s day, who likely knew the prophecies of Balaam’s day. The wise men in Jesus’ day may well have known this prophecy. So it would have been another clue that showed them this star in the sky is something special. It’s not normal. It’s unusual. And it would have said to them: This is the symbol, the sign, that this King has been born.

So, what was this star that led the wise men to Bethlehem?

Now, I’m going to start by telling you: I don’t know. And you don’t know either.

I was talking about this with a friend last week, and he said, “I always thought that it was the North Star that led the wise men to Jesus.”

You may have thought that, too. I don’t think that it was. What made that North Star any different on that night on any other time when it shines brightly? But, I think a lot of people think that.

There have been many attempts to give a scientific explanation for this star.

Some people believe that it was a comet. That is sometimes associated with important historical events, such as the birth of kings. But records of comet sightings don’t match up with when Jesus was born.

Others have said that perhaps it was a conjunction of two or more planets that lit up the sky at night because they came so close to each other. But that kind of planetary conjunction happens fairly often, so it probably would not have seemed all that unusual to the wise men in Jesus’ day. And usually, the planets don’t come close enough to each other to look like a single light source.

Others have said perhaps it was a supernova, which is a very rare, exploding star. It’s extremely bright. It can be seen during the day. There are none of those super-novas recorded around the time of Jesus’ birth. But I read one commentator, who has a background in science, and he thinks that may be the most likely explanation.

It’s also been suggested that perhaps the glow they saw on the horizon (from their places, their countries in the East) was the glory of the Lord that the shepherds saw when the angel hosts lit up the skies near Bethlehem the night that Jesus was born, that it would have looked like a star to the Magi from their homeland far away. (I think that’s an interesting hypothesis, and one that’s worth considering.)

I would just say that there is no way to know for sure. But we do know that stars were created to be used for signs. Genesis 1 told us that God created the stars for day and night, for times and for seasons. I think it’s likely, just based on what I’ve read—I’m not an expert on this. I’m not an astronomer. And Scripture doesn’t tell us for sure. It does use the word “star.” I think it was likely a supernatural, astronomical phenomenon that God created for this occasion. It was a star, but unlike any previous star since.

Don’t you think it’s fitting that God should announce the birth of Jesus with a special star that had never been seen before? The wise men said, “We have seen His star. We saw His star.” It’s not just the star of Bethlehem. It’s the star that God put or caused to shine more brightly or in some way caused to be in the sky, when Jesus was born, to lead the Magi to the Christ Child.

Now, as we think about this star—and a lot of this is perhaps speculation. I’ll just say again, “We “don’t know.” And Scripture would have told us more if we needed to know more.

But here are some things that, as I think about, “What does this mean for us? What does it mean for our lives today?” Here are a few take-it-home points.

Number one: We walk in darkness in this world. This world is in darkness. The prince of the power of the air is the prince of darkness. This world is in darkness, and we need light from heaven to motivate us to seek after Christ and to help us find Christ. We will never find Him on our own; this world is too dark. We won’t be able to see Jesus.

We won’t know where to find Him, how to find Him, and we won’t want to find Him until God puts light, the light of His Spirit, in our hearts. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. He illumines our dark hearts because it’s not just our dark world that is dark. It’s our hearts that are dark and sinful. So we need light from heaven.

There’s a wonderful prayer in Psalm 43, verse 3. I’ve prayed it many times over the years. And it struck me this week that this prayer was appropriate as we think about the wise men. It says:

Send out your light and your truth;
   let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
   and to your dwelling!

We’re praying, “Lord, if You don’t lead me, if You don’t give me light in my heart, the light of Your Word, the light of Your Spirit, the light of Christ to lead me to You, I will never find You. I will stay in darkness.”

And then we mentioned this a few moments ago: We tend to want some kind of supernatural phenomenon to confirm our faith and to sustain our faith through hard and dark times.

Remember how the disciples, Peter, James, and John, saw the glorified Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration? Unearthly glory—the glory of God seen in Christ. It was just like God had pulled back the curtain from heaven so they could see the glory that Christ had from eternity past. And years later, now as an old man, Peter recalled that instance. And he says in 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse 16:

We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. [Like, wouldn’t you love to have been there? “I am Peter, so I was there. I saw it with my own eyes!”] For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain (vv. 16–18).

Peter is saying, “We saw Him in His glory. We heard the voice of God. We were there with Him in this amazing, supernatural moment.”

But then Peter goes on to remind us that what they saw and heard and experienced in that moment was no greater a testimony or no more powerful a light than what we have in the Word of God:

We have the prophetic word, “more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (v. 19).

What’s he saying? “The Word of God, illuminating our hearts by the power of the Spirit of God, shines into our darkness and leads us to Jesus. That’s the point of this Book, to be a light to our path, to be a light leading us to Christ. And he said, “You do well to pay attention to this. You don’t need a Mount of Transfiguration experience. We’ll have one soon enough in heaven.”

“But,” he said, “short of that, you have a Word that is more fully confirmed than anything they could see or touch or taste or smell in that experience, and it’s the precious Word of God.”

And then, we’re reminded that Jesus is the Light of the world, the Star—capital S—that leads us to the Father.

Revelation 22, verse 16, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

You see, we’re not following just a book, an old religious book. We’re following a Book that points us to Jesus, and we’re following Jesus who says, “I am the bright and morning star.”

He is the Star. He is the brilliance. He is the beauty. He is the one that came to this earth to be the bright morning star to lead us in our darkness to the Father.

So, thank You, Lord, for Your Word. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for that star that led those wise men to Jesus. And for Christ, the bright morning star that leads us today into Your holy presence. We give You thanks, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dannah: Amen! How amazing that the Lord used a star to make the birth of Jesus known. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth took us to an in-depth look at how the Lord uses stars and His creation to point us to Himself.

Nancy, you just talked about Jesus being the bright morning star, as described in Revelation 22. And there is no light more powerful than His Word.

Nancy: Exactly, Dannah. That’s because the Word of God is a light that leads us to Jesus. So when we study the Bible, the written Word of God, we’re ultimately studying Jesus, who is the Living Word of God.

That’s what we do day after day here at Revive Our Hearts, now in our twentieth year. We want to provide you with biblically rich resources that take you to God’s Word, which will take you to Jesus.

I’m excited to announce to you one of our newest resources. It’s in the Women of the Bible series. It’s a study on the life of Ruth, and it’s called, “Experiencing a Life Restored.” As you get into God’s Word in this study, you’re going to find yourself, through this wonderful Old Testament narrative account, pointed to Jesus, who is the only one who can bring restoration to each of our lives.

Dannah: He’s certainly brought restoration to mine. In this six-week study, you’re going to see how God worked in powerful ways through the book of Ruth, and how He’s still working today. You’ll discover how Christ can meet you at your point of need in every situation and every season of life.

Nancy: We’d like to send you a copy of the new Ruth study when you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

Now, we’re just coming off of the December year-end challenge, and so many gave generously during the month to help us with our year-end need. We’ll be giving you an update on how that all turned out tomorrow.

And now, here we are in January, once again, with needs this month. That’s why your gift at this time is so important to us. When you make a gift, we want to send you this resource, this study on Ruth, as our way to say “thank you.” It’s our hope that this resource will encourage you to seek the Lord and to go deeper in His Word at the start of this year.

To make your gift, you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. And when you make your gift, be sure to ask us for a copy of the new study on Ruth.

Dannah: And to go along with your study, don’t miss the Ruth, Women of the Bible podcast, releasing next week. You can join Erin Davis and friends as they walk through the study with you and share experiences of the Lord’s restoration in their own lives.

Nancy: And I want to mention that this podcast is part of the new podcast family from Revive Our Hearts.

Now, another one of those podcasts is Grounded. And, Dannah, I think you may know a little bit about this one. (laughter)

Dannah: Yes, I do, I do. I had the joy of serving as one of the four co-hosts for this weekly videocast, and it’s now becoming a podcast.

If you’re not familiar with it, we started this production last March in response to the pandemic, and the Lord has used it through difficult times in the lives of so many women as we offer them hope and perspective on a regular basis.

After we stopped doing it on a daily basis, we decided to bring it back in a weekly format this past fall with more co-host friends. Here’s a clip from one of the Grounded podcast episodes.

Erin Davis: Steve and Debby, I know that this isn’t just something you teach. This is something that you live. And I’m curious why living generously, or what you guys call “Living/Giving Principles,” why has that become such an essential part of your life message?

Debby Canfield: I have never gotten over what Jesus did for me. He brought me out of the pit, and He set me on solid ground. He’s given me such a life that I just want to give back to Him.

Nancy: And, Dannah, I love listening to Grounded week after week, and thank you for your part in making that possible.

Well, you can hear this full episode of Grounded—and more—atReviveOurHearts.com.

Dannah: Thank you, Nancy.

Well, friend, you probably heard about gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the gifts the wise men brought for Baby Jesus. Tomorrow we’re going to look at the significance of these, and what our gifts mean to the Lord. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Helping you see the glory of the Lord, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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