The gifts of the wise men to the baby Jesus were no accident. They were planned with devotion and a depth of understanding that takes your breath away.
The wise men were deeply religious and had known that the Lord was sending a saviour to the world. They also knew the prophecies that he would come as a human baby in the land of Israel so when they saw the miraculous star, they knew his time had come.
When they saw the babe they worshipped him and offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The first mention of gold in the Bible associates it with the river that flowed from the Garden of Eden to nourish the earth.
Gold is used extensively in the Ark of the Covenant. This is the Ark that contained the ten commandments. It was overlaid with gold, both inside and out and the two angels above the mercy seat were made of pure gold. So gold represents God. God is understood as a river of life flowing freely and he is understood as law and justice and mercy.
Frankincense was used in offerings as a sweet perfume. When the Lord directed the offerings used in worship of him, he specifically said that frankincense was to be used only for God and never for man. (Exodus 30:34-38)
It specifically represented the offering of Christ’s life and only Christ’s life was acceptable to God to redeem us from eternal death.
So the gifts of gold and frankincense offered by the Kings to baby Jesus declared their belief that Jesus was God and his life alone was a sweetly perfumed offering to the Lord for mankind.
Myrrh has another dimension. Genesis 37:25 is the first mention of myrrh in the Bible and it is part of trade by the Ishmaelites with Egypt. It represents the sorrow of sin and enslavement to sin.
Years later, when, unknown to his family, Joseph had become Prime Minister of Egypt, Jacob sent his sons to buy grain from the Egyptians. He sent an offering that included myrrh, Genesis 43:11. Joseph represented Christ and myrrh represented the power of the sinful Egyptians over the Children of Israel.
So when the wise men offered myrrh to Baby Jesus, they showed that Jesus offered himself as a sin offering to God and that the life of Jesus was an offering for a world of sin.
In Psalm 45:8 we read of Christ that his ‘robes are all fragrant with myrrh.’ That is, Christ made the perfume of sin his own. He claimed sin. He took the sins of the whole world and offered them to God in himself.
I often wonder, do we see in the Baby Jesus what the Wise men saw? Do we bow in worship and offer gold, frankincense and myrrh in the spirit of the wise men?