Wise Men Still Seek Him

3 Kings

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Is the song We Three Kings Biblically accurate?  That is a tricky question, the answer is no and yes, depending on the part you are referring to.

Were there three wise men?  That is also a tricky question.  We don’t know how many there where, the Bible doesn’t tell us how many or few.  There were three gifts, we do know that.  This is similar to the birthdate of Christ, the Bible doesn’t tell us what day he was born on.  Although many of the scholars say it was spring time, due to the fact that the Shepherds were watching their flocks through the night, some say it was in the fall.  That is not a date that was given to us.  We will talk more about the amount of the wisemen later, but first I want to discuss the origin of the song  and then get to the gifts that the song talks about.

The words and the music was written by John Henry Hopkins in 1857; At the time, he was working at the General Theological Seminary in New York City. During his final year of teaching at the seminary, Hopkins wrote "We Three Kings" for a Christmas pageant held at the college. Originally titled "Three Kings of Orient", it was sung within his circle of family and friends. Because of the popularity it achieved among them, Hopkins decided to publish the carol in 1863 in his book Carols, Hymns, and Songs.

There are many different articles that can be found regarding various aspects of the song, such as were they kings? The Scripture doesn’t use the word Kings, but there are other things that lead to that belief.  What about the names?  In some hymnals you will see that verses 2 through 4 are named.  They are to be sung by three different male soloists: Kaspar or Gaspard, Melchior, and Balthazar.  

Where did the names come from, they sound Persian, what’s behind that?  There are articles on that, as well as some studies of Old Testament scriptures that seem to prophesy wisemen coming and bringing gifts, and where they are from, and so on and so forth.  So if you are interested in digging a little bit deeper, there’s a lot more information out there on this song, that what I am going to be talking about today.   I would be happy to share some interesting articles with those of you who let me know you would like them, because it is quite fascinating-the history of the song, and where the different concepts came from. Especially when we look into the Bible study, because I had not realized until I was researching this, how much there  is behind this visit of these individuals.

Let’s talk about the gifts now:

Perhaps you have not thought about that until today, but the symbolism of the gifts are right in the song.  I remember very early on, when I was a new Christian (because Christmas songs were not out of a hymnal for me growing up) I thought this was such a strange song.  But when you break it down, it’s really not.

So Let’s review them really quick:


Frankincense-Diety/Worship/ Not in the song is the symbolism of Healing

Myrrh-Death of Sacrifice/Not in the song is the symbolism of Healing -Just a note: Healing and Save physically and spiritually are the same original word in the scriptures.  When you think about that, Jesus really can’t do one without doing the other.  If He is dealing sin, He is dealing with all of it’s results, consequences and effects. Amen.

Here are some excerpts from a devotional on the gifts:

“We understand the GOLD. With actual gold, Joseph might have retired from carpentry or the hungry might have been fed. Most likely this gift of precious metal is symbolic, fit for the little Prince of Peace, the King of Kings”.

Born a King on Bethlehem plain, Gold I bring to crown Him again,

King for ever,

Ceasing never Over us all to reign.

The song picks that up very plainly.

“And we understand FRANKINCENSE, the fragrant resinous dried sap harvested from Boswellia sacra trees and used since ancient times in religious ceremonies. … Its smoke mingles with prayer and praise and lifts our earth-burdened thoughts to the heavens where the angels sing.  //Where have we read of this type of scene?   In the holy place of the Sanctuary, the Alter of Incense, where Christ is interceding on our behalf.”

Frankincense to offer have I, Incense owns a Deity nigh:

Prayer and praising

All men raising, Worship Him God on High.

Are we grateful for the Alter of Incense?  As it represents Christ interceding on our behalf and taking our petitions t the throne of Grace.  Can we do that ourselves? No.  Only Christ, who is divine could do that for us.

“But the MYRRH!  That’s another story. What kind of gift is this for a baby? “Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom; sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.”

Would you show up to a baby shower with Myrrh? No, of course not.  But the symbolism there-

“…the gift of myrrh would be considered “foreshadowing.” Used for anointing the dead and embalming corpses, myrrh brings an image of death into … our imaginations [not so much today, as it would have been back then.] We want to look away, tell the Magi to take it back, but we can’t. We know the suffering that lies ahead for the holy child, “God and King and sacrifice.” Sacrifice! This carol, even with its glorious refrain about the star’s royal beauty bright, won’t let us forget [the sacrifice].”

Sometimes we do want to look, oh Jesus is so lovely.  But we must look at what He has done and why.

Did any of the gifts from the wisemen make Jesus a King? No, Did they make Him Divine? No. Do those gifts cause Him to be able to be that perfect Sacrifice?  No.  What about the Spiritual and physical healing that we get from Him, did those gifts make that possible? They didn’t.  

The gifts simply reflected who He was and what His mission was.  I just find that so interesting to contemplate at this time of year-the gifts were a reflection of who He was.  Now when we consider that every good and perfect gift is from above,  any good thing, that we give, is a reflection of the lovely Jesus.  We want to keep that in mind.

Now a brief consideration on the amount of wisemen.  I really like that we are not told how many there were, and I think at least part of the reason for that is-there is no limit on the number of people who can seek after Him.  Amen? Amen! I believe this also applies to the lack of a date for Christ’s birth.  His birthday is not the important thing, but the reason He was born.  The good news that we have a saviour who can understand us, having become one of us, and living that perfect life to be our acceptable sacrifice.  That, Brothers and Sisters, is news we need to share all year, not just the one specific time a year when it seems to be an acceptable topic in our world.  Do we avail ourselves of the openess that our family members, neighbors, and co-workers have at this time of year?, Of course-absolutely, but we don’t relegate the good news and the reason for His birth just to one time a year examination.

So as you think about the gifts that you are sharing with your family and friends, in this season of gift time, don’t forget the gifts that the Lord has brought.  He is our King, He is our God, He is our perfect sacrifice. Every good thing is only a reflection of Him, that we get to rejoice in.  We are told that we are going to have a crown, but we are going to cast in to His feet, because who deserves that honor and reward? Only Jesus!  But what an incredible privilege He gives us to take part in this experience in His ministry and mission!


By Belinda Lowry