#S4-012: Why You Need to Understand What the Star of Bethlehem Really Means [Podcast]

The Christmas Podcast

Understanding the Reason Behind the Star of Bethlehem Will Help Your Faith in God.

God’s plan was thought up and set in motion before the foundations of the world (Eph. 1:4). Particular courses of events and situations, at times, align to bring into a focus a particular aspect of God’s wisdom and plan. Today, we are going to look at the birth of Jesus in this way. We are going to look at some of the events that came into view and we are going to ask a rather startling question about one of those events, the appearing of the star. Here is the question: ‘What would have happened, had the Star not appeared?’

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You can view a basic transcript of this podcast at the bottom of this section.

Accept the Challenge

Each week’s podcast contains a call to action. The Word of God will not produce in your life unless you put into operation.
This week’s call is:

Are you fulfilling your purpose? Are you walking in the very plan God has ordered for your life? How complex and marvelous are God’s workings and ways as we have seen in this familiar story of the star of Bethlehem? The will of God and your particular set of events have brought you to such a time as this. Rejoice in God’s plan for your life and seek Him continually along these lines.

Join the Conversation

Each week’s podcast also contains a question designed to encourage testimony. Testimony is vital to a believer’s life. We overcome by it (Rev. 12:11).
This week’s question is:

Question: How have you successfully used the Name of Jesus in your life? Please share your comments, in the comments section below.

About Emery

Emery committed his life to the Lord Jesus Christ over 40 years ago and has served as both a full-time pastor and an itinerant minister. Both he and his wife Sharon of 35 years emphasize personal growth and development through the Word of God. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is both the focus and the hallmark of their mission. Read more about them here.

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If you enjoyed the podcast, please rate it on Stitcher Radio and leave a review. If you have a suggestion for a Bible topic you would like to see taught, or if you have a question, please e-mail me at emery@emeryhorvath.com


Podcast Notes

 The Familiarity of the Account of the Birth of Jesus

  • Have you heard the saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” and children?
  • Familiarity also breeds inattention.
  • When you hear something so often, you have a tendency to think ‘I already know that’ and your brain turns off.
  • The Christmas story is so familiar to us that our brains turn off because we think, ‘Oh I know that…’ and so your brain gets bored and, desiring something to chew on, consequently checks out.
  • We are born again Christians not ‘bored again’ Christians.
  • So check-in here– don’t check-out – keep reading! ‘There are probably some things that you may not have noticed in this ultra-familiar passage.’

Matthew 2:1 (ESV)
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,

The Players and Places of Verse One


  • Jesus was born.
  • But, the Word pre-existed – John 1:1.

Bethlehem of Judea

  • The town of Bethlehem is located approximately 5-6 miles south of Jerusalem.
  • It is the birthplace of kings being the birthplace of David the king (1Sam. 17:12) as well as the birthplace of Jesus the King.
  • In the first century, it had a population of between 4-5 thousand.

Herod the King

  • Herod the Great, father of Herod Antipas (Antipas who was the Herod that had John the Baptist beheaded and before whom Jesus stood trial), a cruel and despot king as were many of the rulers of that day.
  • The Great Herod was Idumean by birth.
  • Idumea was the Greek name for Edom and was located 50 miles south of Jerusalem.
  • Edom originated from the loins of Esau.
  • Jacob and Esau were twin brothers and so this Christmas story features Esau in the person of Herod trying to hunt down Jacob in the person of Jesus.
  • Herod was a butcher where people were concerned.
  • This king was a cruel and wicked despot.
  • He was a builder where his works were concerned.
    • Theaters, amphitheaters, fortresses, whole cities and the Temple which took an extraordinary amount of time to construct.
  • He died a gruesome death (his genitals were eaten with worms) shortly after the events of the wise men.
  • One of the special significances of knowing the story of Herod? We have a historical record of his death. Herod died in 4 B.C.
  • So, what does that tell you about the Christian calendar that was supposed to start at year zero with the birth of Jesus? Couple this with the fact that Jesus was two years old at the time of the visit of the wise men.
  • What it tells you is that the A.D. calendar is approximately 6 years off.
  • How does that help us studying the Bible?
    • You have to factor at least 6 years into your Bible prophecy timeline.

The Wise Men from the East

  • They are an interesting bunch, these wise men when you start drilling down into them.
  • Only the little mentioned in these verses is what is certainly known about them.
    • That is that they were from the east, meaning they were outside Israel or Gentile.
    • If they came from Babylon, (which was east and who had wise men as part of their culture), then the trip would take months to get Israel.
    • Which means they were pretty serious about finding this king.
  • Wiseman scriptural facts:
    • They followed a star to find Jesus.
    • And, they brought gifts.
    • They were familiar with the prophecies concerning the king of the Jews.
    • But they were not looking for a Messiah.
    • Instead, they were looking for a great king.
    • They were sensitive to and or had dreams as part of their spiritual belief system.


  • The primary capital city of Israel.
  • The epicenter of Jewish-ness if you would.
  • The core of religious racial bigotry. If you were not fully Jewish, you were nothing.
  • Some Jews thought the Gentiles only existed to serve them.

Events Surrounding the Birth of Jesus

Matthew 2:2-18
2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And 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.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

  • Now after this long segment observe closely the sequence of events.
    • The Star Appears.
    • The Wise Men inquire.
    • Jerusalem tumults.
    • Herod inquires.
    • Herod lays a trap.
    • The Wise Men find Jesus.
    • God tells the Wise Men by a dream not to return to Herod.
    • Herod gets angry when he realizes his deal fell through.
    • Herod Murders the Male Children two years old and down.
  • Did you observe how one event precipitated the next event?
  • These events end in the death of between fifty to sixty, two-year-old male children as some scholars estimate.
  • But, ask yourself the 50 million dollar question, ‘What would have happened if there had been no star?’
  • Is it possible that ‘no star’ would have spared the life of 50 innocent children?
  • What is it about our Bible reading, when we read stories like the slaughter of these little ones?
  • Why doesn’t it register with us?
  • Part of it is desensitization.
  • You know we read these stories in the Bible and we are so desensitized by all the murder and death we take in on a day by day, week by week basis that SWOOSH it just never registers with us as it should.
  • Fifty children died! Each one just as precious to their parents and grandparents as yours are to you.
  • Have you ever seen images on television coming from 3rd world countries who have just experienced some major devastation like flooding, a tsunami or a great earthquake? You see the images of those parents crying over their children. Do you think just because we are American our children mean more to us than those children mean to their parents?
  • So, when you understand this sequence in Matthew 2, you must ask the question, ‘What is so important about the star?’

What is the Big Deal with the Star?

  • Why are the wise men so important?
  • What about these children?
  • Some have conjectured this whole trip of the wise men was about funding Mary and Joseph’s trip to Egypt with the gifts they brought, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
  • This can’t be the main reason.
  • It’s a side issue some have made the main issue.
  • One of the secrets to being successful in life is to keep the main thing, the main thing.
  • The main thing here is not a pile of money.
  • God could have gotten money any number of ways to Mary and Joseph without causing the death of 50 children.
  • No, money is way too low a value point in this episode.
  • Who were the wise men?
  • Who represent people of all races.
  • They represent people of all cultures.
  • No, these wise men who bowed to the King of Kings were Gentiles.
  • The visit of the wise men had to do with the proclamation that the Gentiles were a part of the Messiah’s salvation. Jesus was not just a Jewish Savior.
  • The Most High God wanted all Gentiles to understand how important they were to his heart.
  • And so, the order for the star to appear goes forth.
  • And, the course of events put in motion for this purpose.
  • The Magi appear in Bethlehem, albeit unbeknownst to them, to prove the love of God to foreign nations of men. God sent them to that end.
  • If we now fast forward approximately 40 years or so, we come to Cornelius in Acts 10.
  • The church, having begun in a blaze of Holy Spirit activity, is at this point nothing but a Jewish church.
  • Those coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus were Jews.
  • Saved Jews are witnessing to unsaved Jews and the entire plan of God is in danger.
  • So, a supernatural move of God manifests again.
  • An angel dispatches to a Gentile.
  • A vision befalls Peter a Jew.
  • Two groups unite.
  • This is the same precedent, the same piece of road, already paid for 40 years before by the blood of 50 innocent children.
  • The church finally, finally got it.
  • They finally understood.

Acts 11:18 (ESV)
18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

  • The apostle Paul is an establisher of this truth.
  • He is an apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13) at that at a terrible personal cost (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
  • What about the cost of truth?
  • The tremendous idea we must see is the prodigious cost of truth.
  • The high and lofty price to establish a spiritual truth in the world of men.
  • How vital it is that we understand this and how important it is that we properly value and handle rightly the treasures of spiritual truth that have been provided for us?
  • How motivated should we be to never allow a spirit of compromise to sway us from holding fast to things which we have heard?
  • When we compromise the truth of the Word of God, we dishonor the sacrifices of those who have gone on before us.
  • Our mindset ought to be instead to honor those witnesses in the cloud (Hebrews 12:1) like these little children who paved the way of opportunity for us in order that we, in our day, might say we are sons of God.

Your Valuable Purpose

  • Ask yourself this question. Who is really responsible for the death of these children?
  • Many lay the blame squarely at the feet of Herod the Great.
    • What a butcher he was…
    • A madman to the max.
  • What about the devil, was he to blame for these children’s death?
    • Surely he was desperately trying to destroy Jesus. All murder and death emanate from him.
  • Have you thought about the failed responsibility of the children of Israel?
    • Had Israel done its job as a nation of people, had Israel fulfilled its purpose to be a witness of God to the Gentiles, there would have been no opening for the devil to get in and facilitate the murder of innocent children.
    • There would have been no need for…
      • The star
      • Or the wise men
      • Or for a special notification message to the Gentiles because they would have already known.
      • They would have already been introduced to the God of Israel.
  • So as we close today, here are some Bible verses on the subject of ‘Purpose’.

Are You Fulfilling Your Purpose?

1 John 3:8 (NKJV)
8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV)
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)
4 The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.