Three gifts with deep symbolism. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Laid at the feet of a Child. What is the significance? Why the Holy Child?
The birth of Jesus was one many were looking for. A Messiah, Redeemer, and Savior to come. But the King many expected arrived in swaddling cloths.
I’ve been wanting to cover the gifts of the wise men for a couple of years now. A devotional prompted my interest and helped me fill in the gaps I didn’t know before. (If you are on YouVersion, the devotional is here.)
It’s important to note, we don’t know the exact number of wise men, except that there were three gifts. Christ was NOT a baby, rather a little older, when the wise men arrived. It seems His parents were able to find a home after the birth. (Matthew 2:10-11)
Gold is indeed for a King, and both frankincense and myrrh are precious and expensive spices…but there is a lot more to it.
I hope this study speaks to you, as it did to me.
Gold & Innermost Room
Gold relates to the temple. You can go over the description of the temple in 1 Kings 5-6. It is also good to note that even before Solomon and the temple, in the desert, when the people of Israel prepared the sanctuary, the tabernacle for the Lord, gold was involved for a lot of fixtures. (Read about tabernacle and garments here- Exodus 25-31 and 36-40)
One of the most significant fixtures relating to the temple was the innermost room. In 1 Kings 5:21 we see that King Solomon made the inside of the temple with pure gold. The alter, the inner sanctuary, as well as the outside. (2 Chronicles 3-4)
It was not the gold itself but the locations that are very significant. The innermost room was the Holy of Holies. The Most Holy Place. It is here the alter burns with incense, a sweet smelling aroma. Here the atonement offering for sin would be given every year for the people.
(NIV) Matthew 23:17, “You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?”
The birth of Christ changed everything. Jesus would soon become our final offering of atonement. Jesus would become our intercessor. He would take the place of the Most Holy room and become our temple, giving us His Spirit. He would be our true King. Our Messiah.
Frankincense- Incense & Crucifixion
I was more than shocked at discovering the significance of frankincense.
Following gold and how I mentioned incense and sin offerings, frankincense is a high quality incense. In Exodus 30:34-38, frankincense is part of the holy incense God instructs Moses to create. This compound incense of sweet spices, stacte (possibly something like cinnamon), onycha (another warm oil), galbanum (spicy forest scent, balsamic like), and pure frankincense would only be for the Lord. It was burned daily. It was holy to the people, they were told not to make any for themselves.
Now…here is the REALLY interesting part of frankincense. It’s the process in which frankincense is extracted from trees. The tree first has to have a small cut (a wound) made and the first sap that flows is not collected. This sap helps rid impurities. Then more cuts are made and a “refined” liquid has to “bleed out” into tears. It then hardens before being taken. Afterward, it is crushed.
Similarly with Jesus, He refines us. He was wounded and crushed for our sake.
(NIV) Proverbs 20:30, “Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.”
(NIV) Psalm 89:32, “I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging.” God’s punishment to us.
(NIV) 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins” in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by His wounds you have been healed.”
Myrrh & Wounds
In scripture we see myrrh used as a perfume in the Old Testament, as well as an anointing oil. But in the New Testament we see myrrh used to lessen pain. It was also used for embalming a dead body.
Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. (Luke 4:18)
Jesus refused to drink the drugged wine mixed with myrrh to help lessen His pain on the cross. (Mark 15:23)
Nicodemus had about 75 pounds of myrrh, and they wrapped this and other spices in the layers of linen that covered Jesus’ body after He was crucified. (John 19:39)
I think it’s amazing to see how these gifts, which probably helped Christ’s parents travel as well, held deep symbolism of what was to happen.
- Jesus is our adorning gold.
- Jesus is our sweet incense of sin atonement, the unblemished Lamb.
- Jesus, who was wrapped in swaddling cloths at birth, died with wrapped cloth around His body.
Cloth that was found folded in an empty grave a few days later.
“1.” The Gift – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, but We Often Find Ourselves Hustling through the Holidays. This Christmas, What If We Reclaimed Wonder? In This 5-Day Bible Plan Accompanying Pastor Craig Groeschel’s Series, The Gift, We’ll Discover How the Three Gifts the Wise Men Gave Jesus Can Lead Us to a Place of Wonder and Worship Today., https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/17391-the-gift/day/1.
Does this change your mind on the significance of the gifts?
Monthly Scripture – (NIV) 2 Corinthians 2:11, “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
Community Prayer Requests | December’19– Join us in requesting prayer, praying for each other and lifting each other up.
Second Blog: Peeking Beneath