Who sent the Wise Men to find where Jesus was?

Q. Who sent the Wise Men to find where Jesus was?

It appears that no one actually “sent” the Wise Men to find Jesus. When they arrived in Herod’s court, they told him, “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Apparently the Wise Men had some expectation of the Jewish Messiah or “king of the Jews,” and they were watching for signs of his birth. I discuss that further in this post:

Why would the Magi have wanted to worship the king of the Jews?

From where did Jesus and his parents flee to Egypt?

Q. From where did Jesus and his parents flee to Egypt? According to Luke, the family went back to Nazareth after Jesus was presented to God in the temple.

Thank you for your question. I discuss it in this earlier post:

Why do Matthew and Luke seem to disagree about the circumstances of Jesus’ birth?

Does each person have their own star?

Q. Is it true that each and every person has their own star? If that is true, is it a star that they can see?

There’s nothing in the Bible that says or suggests that each person has their own star. However, there are a couple of ideas in the Bible that you could put together along those lines to realize something encouraging.

First, the Bible does say that God knows all of the stars. Isaiah says, for example:

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

Psalm 147 says similarly that God “determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”

We can put that thought together with the Bible’s affirmation that God knows each person individually. Psalm 139 marvels about this, saying:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

So when you look up at the sky at night and see the stars, you can say to yourself, “God must be very great in knowledge, and he must care a great deal about His creation, to know all of the stars by name. And since there are many more people on earth than there are stars visible in the sky from the earth, God must be even greater in knowledge and love to know each person by name and care about them.”

You could even pick out one particular star in the sky, call it “your star” (or at least your “favorite star”), and when you see it, use it as a reminder of God’s love and care for you.

Nebuchadnezzar and Amytis

Q. At what age did King Nebuchadnezzar get married? And at what age was Amytis married?

The Bible gives us no information about the marriage of Nebuchadnezzar and Amytis. Legend says that he built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for her because she was homesick for the landscape and foliage of her native Media. But this is another case like the one I discuss in my post, “Why are the pyramids of Giza never mentioned in the Bible?” As I say there, “The Bible’s silence about ancient wonders doesn’t indicate that it actually lacks a firsthand perspective on the events it describes. Rather, the Bible wants us to ‘praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven,’ not any earthly ruler, whatever their achievements.” (And whatever Median princess they may have married.)

 

How can I obtain copies of the Luke-Acts study guide?

Q. Can I get your Luke-Acts study guide directly from you, since IVP no longer offers it? I want to offer a men’s Bible study at my church. I’d like either to purchase multiple copies or to obtain the rights to reproduce a digital version.

I have made all of the study guides in my Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series available for free download through this blog, since they are no longer in print. You can access them through the “Free Study Guides” link at the top of this page. The Luke-Acts guide specifically is available in PDF format at this link.

As I say on that page that makes all of the guides available, “In reading or downloading the guides, I ask only that you respect ‘fair use.’ The content of the guides may not be sold in any way (for example, by being incorporated into another published book). If you quote from the guides, please acknowledge the source. You may print out copies of individual lessons to distribute to participants in Bible studies, but I ask that you not charge anyone for their copy. Rather, I would like you or your church or other organization to pay even the printing costs. As you can tell, I’m eager for this resource to be made available truly free to everyone. Thank you.”

So you may distribute the Luke-Acts guide to the participants in your group either in printed or electronic form, at no cost. I hope you have a great study with the men in your church. And if any questions come up while you’re using the guide, please feel free to ask them here.

Saved by calling on the name of the Lord, but what about . . .?

Q. I have a question that troubles me from time to time that perhaps you can answer. We read in the book of Romans, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Great news, right? But then there seem to some other passages that put qualifying conditions on that. Here are a few cases that come to mind. “Whoever shall say ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.” “It is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (I’m certainly rich compared to the rest of the world.) “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” I am sure you are aware of even more statements that Jesus made that cause people like me to question their salvation, even though they follow Jesus. I love Jesus, but I realize that in my humanness I fail each day to be like him. I am so thankful for God’s love and grace. Sometimes I just worry that when I stand before God he will say, “Thanks for loving me, but you said ‘you fool’ one too many times.”

One thing I’d say right away in response to your question is that if you know that you love Jesus and you have a continual desire to become more like him, those are signs that you truly do belong to him. They are what the book of Hebrews calls “better things . . . that have to do with salvation.”

I would then encourage you to consider the context of each of the seemingly qualifying statements you’re concerned about. For example, the point of the statement, “Whoever shall say ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna,” is not that we need to avoid saying certain words in order not to go to hell. Rather, in that whole section of the Sermon on the Mount (the so-called “antitheses”), Jesus is stressing that fulfillment of the law is not an external or surface matter, but a matter of inward attitudes and intentions. His listeners were reassuring themselves in this case that only “anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” So long as they didn’t go that far, they thought, they were safe. Jesus warns them instead that the goal of this commandment in the law is not merely to prevent murder, but to promote love instead of hatred.

Our attitudes and words are indicators of our inner intentions, and so they show whether we are fulfilling this commandment by loving, or breaking it by hating. Using the characteristic form of Hebrew poetry, Jesus makes this point by presenting a series of parallels in which the judgment intensifies on a person who hates instead of loves:

Anyone who is angry with a brother or sister ~ will be subject to judgment.
Anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ ~ is answerable to the court.
Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ ~ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

So the takeaway for us isn’t, “I shouldn’t say those words if I want to escape hell.” The takeaway is, “If I’m truly a follower of Jesus, I need to cultivate love instead of hate.”

I won’t discuss all the passages you mention, but let me refer to another passage, in 1 Corinthians, that many people have similar concerns about. Paul says that people who do various kinds of things “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” But this doesn’t mean that if, for example, you’re greedy, or you say something bad about somebody, this will send you straight to hell. Paul isn’t saying that people won’t inherit the kingdom because they do such things; rather, he’s saying that people do such things because they won’t inherit the kingdom. That is, they’re currently outside the community of Jesus’ followers, and so they’re not being transformed by the influence of the Holy Spirit within.

Put another way, “progress in sanctification is necessary for assurance of salvation.” But the key word here is “progress.” So long as you can tell that the Holy Spirit is steadily transforming you as you love and follow Jesus, you don’t need to question whether you are truly saved.

God wants us to have this assurance and the peace that it brings. Scripture tells us in 1 John: “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

I hope this gives you encouragement and reassurance.