Lesson Thirty


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Memory Verse:  Jeremiah 29:13
Further Study: Matthew 2:1-18; Desire of Ages, 59-67; The Bible Story, vol. 7, pp. 47-60

In Numbers 22-24, we read the story of Balaam, a (former) prophet of God with a reputation for revelation. Considered a “wise man,” people believed he foretold the future. His reputation was so extensive that Balak, king of Moab, some 400 miles away, summoned him to curse Israel. 

Balaam fails miserably in his assignment, angered the king, and ultimately was fired. But before leaving, the failed prophet uttered his last known oracle in Scripture: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17).

Most people associate Balaam with a talking donkey and don’t think about him again. 

Most people associate Balaam with a talking donkey and don’t think about him again. Balaam, though, left a legacy. Somewhere, stored on the shelves of the Eastern philosophers, was his last prophecy. It was in searching the ancient texts that the wisemen of the Christmas story discover the Messiah. The one unwise man who didn’t listen to God was still used by Him to lead the magi to Jesus. Balaam’s prophecy caused them to search the heavens, and when the star appeared they were ready to meet the King.

This should give us pause. We, like the wise men, should be searching the Scriptures. We, too, are looking for the Messiah’s appearing—not for the first time, but for the second. Within the Bible are all the signs we need to know of His coming. Jesus dedicated a full sermon to last-day signs (Matt. 24). He personally walked John through the visions of Revelation. Heaven released three angels calling out warnings with a loud cry. God raised up a prophet for our day in Ellen White to further reveal how we can be ready.

In Matthew, Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the 10 virgins—five wise, five foolish (chapter 25). Five had oil in reserve, trimmed their wicks, and kept their lamps burning. While all grew tired from waiting and slept, the five wise virgins were ready when the call was given.

How is it with us today? Christians have been waiting for Jesus to come for a long time.  

How is it with us today? Christians have been waiting for Jesus to come for a long time. Yes, we may grow weary, but we must not relax. Tuning into the headlines, watching trends on social media, experiencing the deep divide not only outside, but inside the people of faith, all point to Jesus’ soon return. 

Let us be like the wise men from the East diligently searching for our Savior. Let us read our Bibles, pray without ceasing, scan the sky for that momentous white cloud, and listen closely for the trumpet sound. On that day, we will fall on our faces in worship, completely renewed by His coming.

Digging Deeper 

The Christmas story has been “cleaned up” over the centuries. Mary and Joseph, the Baby, shepherds, and wise men are all safely positioned around an immaculate manager with fresh-smelling cute animals lingering nearby. Most likely, that is far from reality. Let’s look at a few things we know about the visit of the wisemen.

  1. While they may have been in a stable, Mary and Joseph likely found lodging in an area reserved for animals as part of the downstairs portion of a house that served as an inn. Or they may have lodged in a cave, typical for a place to keep animals. When the wisemen visited, it appears they had settled into a family home, either one of their own or with relatives of Joseph.
  2. The Greek word for magi is translated “magician.” They were not magicians, nor were they kings. They were most likely priests or religious teachers.
  3. We don’t know how many magi there were. Tradition settles on three because of the three gifts, but there could have been as many as 12. They most likely traveled with an entourage of individuals to help with the animals, as well as for safety since they traveled at night. 
  4. No one is sure where they came from, but many commentators assume they came from Babylon. If so, they traveled nearly 900 miles.
  5. While commentators have many theories about the makeup of the star that moved across the sky as a guide, Ellen White reveals that the star was made up of a “distant company of angels” (The Desire of Ages, p. 60).
  6. When the magi arrive to see Jesus, Matthew uses the Greek word paidon. It’s usually translated “infant” or “toddler.” Many believe because of Herod’s decree to kill boys 2 years old and under, that Jesus was closer to 2 years old rather than a baby in a manager.

Making it Real

This week go out at night and look at the stars. It may be that where you live there are few to see due to light pollution. Others of you may have a canopy of stars in place. But the number of stars does not matter as we contemplate how God used the stars to guide the wisemen. Think about these kings from the east who studied the sky daily waiting for the appearance of the predicted star. As you do, think about what you might look for as you anticipate the soon return of Jesus.


Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being a grandmother to two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus, and a granddaughter, born in 2023. She is blessed to have all three living close by, continually bringing joy and delight.


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