A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
Matthew 2:11 (ESV)
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.
Isaiah 60 is a prophecy that points the people of God toward his ultimate promise of restoration. While the world has been dark, the promise is that the light of God will come and shine upon his people. God promises healing and a reversal of fortune for his children. He promises that his people will be, like a restored city, made strong and beautiful.
I don’t know that, though I have read this passage many times before, I have ever noticed verse 6. As God points his people toward his promise of restoration, he mentions that people from other nations will come to his people bearing gifts. The Bible tells us, “They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.” How fascinating. As God points toward the fulfillment of his promise of favoring his people with everlasting peace and joy, he indicates that people from foreign lands will bring gold and frankincense.
Of course, many of us are familiar with the passage in Matthew 2 that tells us of the magi bringing gifts to the young Jesus. They bring the promised gold and frankincense. What does this mean? It means that the child born to Mary is very special. The child born to Mary is the fulfillment of God’s promises. Somehow, the little one the magi bow down to worship is the one who will bring about the perfect fulfillment of all of God’s promises.
By the way, also note that the magi bring one more gift, myrrh. Add to the kingly gift of God and the godly (worship) gift of frankincense, the gift of something often used to perfume a body and prepare it for burial. God had these men from afar bring the perfect gifts to point to the person and work of Jesus. Jesus is God. Jesus is King. Jesus is the one who would bring about all of God’s promises of restoration. And, somehow, Jesus would do this, not through initial conquest, but instead, he would accomplish God’s plan by dying as a sacrifice for the sins of all who would put their faith in him.
I write this while sitting at my mom’s house, the remnants of Christmas day still all around. How fitting it is to recognize that the coming of Christ, even the coming of the magi, is a perfect fulfilling of God’s promises as well as a pointer toward the final fulfillment of all of God’s promises. God will always be faithful. God will restore his people. There is a perfect eternity ahead of the people of God because of the person and work of Jesus. And the gifts of the magi, predicted centuries earlier, help us see the certainty of our hope in Jesus.