Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." (Matthew 2:1-2 NASB)
Many have speculated about the early years of Jesus and his parents. We don't really have a lot of details. He's born in Bethlehem because Joseph needed to go there for the census. Otherwise, they would have been back home in Nazareth. He's born in a stable, because all the Inns are booked up. Shepherds find him that first night in a manger.
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 'AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'" Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. (Matthew 2:3-7 NASB)
Now we have some wise men (magi) coming out of the East. They don't believe in the God of Israel, yet they are being drawn into His Story. The new star got their attention. They made it close to Jesus. Jerusalem is less than 5 miles away from Bethlehem, plus it would make sense that the new king would be born in the big Capital city. That's how they met Herod. Further research told them the place would be Bethlehem, so they headed South a little bit. Five miles isn't that long on foot - especially considering the distance they've already traveled...
All we know is that they came from the "East." Travelling from India would have brought them 2500+ miles. China would have been nearly twice that distance (4400+ miles). A camel caravan, traveling 25 miles a day, would take anywhere from 4 months to a year travel time alone. That is, of course, dependent on the actual distance and their willingness to "stay on task" and keep moving. It could have taken much, much longer. So, five miles South to Bethlehem wouldn't even qualify as a "day trip."
And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him." After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:8-11 NASB)
It's been a long time coming. They've been travelling perhaps a year or more to find this newborn King. They found him, in Bethlehem, in a house. The child was no longer in a manger, but he was still in Bethlehem. He hadn't gone home yet to Nazareth which, according to Luke (2:39) , took place after the 8th day ceremonies described in my last blog. Jesus was still in Bethlehem when they arrived. Then they presented him the gifts they had traveled many months to share with him - the new King of the Jews.
And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:12 NASB)
The magi, non God-followers, found themselves following God. They followed His star perhaps for years of their lives. Now, they follow His directions to get out of town to save Jesus from certain death. Perhaps they were God-followers after all! Herod, however, is another story.
Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi... (Matthew 2:16-18 NASB)
God's timing is perfect, isn't it? Often times we don't understand it when we are going through it, but His timing is always perfect. God got the wise men out of town so they wouldn't be hurt and so Mary and Joseph would have the opportunity to get Jesus out of town. God prophesied about the birth of Jesus hundreds of years before he was born, and had people on hand in Jerusalem who had preserved these prophecies when the magi came to town. God even put a star in the sky two years before Jesus was born, giving these wise men from the East plenty of time to see it, investigate it's meaning, then travel the far distance necessary to meet the new King. Yeah, God's timing is perfect...and worth trusting.