Gifts for the King

   Written by on January 4, 2018 at 12:47 pm

logo-smith-gregI hope that each of you enjoyed your gift-giving at Christmas this year. I’m sure you put a lot of thought into what you were giving your loved ones.  If you’re like me, you may have found that some people were hard to buy for!  Maybe it was because you had never met that person, and your gift was the initial ice-breaker in a relationship, or the person simply never expressed what they wanted, or quite possibly because they already have everything. What do you get for the person who has everything?  That was the question the Magi must have asked themselves as they were packing for their trip to the west.  What do you get for a king?

When the Magi left their home country, they were prepared to bring gifts for Jesus.  As far as they knew, they were going to welcome a king who was already being born into wealth and privilege.  So they chose to give gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Why did they choose these gifts?  What is their significance?

Gold is a gift of wealth.  Now certainly, the wise men didn’t know that they were going to a stable in Bethlehem, to give this gift to a poor refugee couple that desperately needed the money.  They had no way of knowing how useful this gift would be on a two-year flight to Egypt. Instead, they thought they were bringing this gift to a baby in wealthy estate.  Israel was not under a real king—Herod was just a puppet of the Roman government.  The prophecies foretold a coming Messiah who would reign in sovereignty and might, in wealth and splendor.  This was the king that the Magi sought.  Why would you bring gold to someone who was already rich?  People brought gifts of gold to kings as a form of tribute, to show the honor that they gave to the king.  A king wouldn’t need the gold, but would be flattered that the visitors saw fit to bring their riches to lay at his feet.  The gift of gold showed that the baby was a king.

Frankincense represents prayer—the song says, “Incense owns a deity nigh.”  In cultures all around the world, when people pray they burn incense, allowing the rising smoke to represent for them their prayers ascending to the throne of God.  A gift of incense shows that the giver is praying for the king.  It may also symbolize something more.  The prophecies of the Messiah said that he would be more than just a king—he would be a king and high-priest rolled into one.  While a golden gift showed the kingliness of the Messiah, the gift of incense demonstrated his priestly characteristic.  It may be even more than that—in the ancient near-east, many cultures believed that the king was himself a god, and so by giving this gift of myrrh, the magi may have been declaring Jesus as God.

Finally, myrrh was given.  Myrrh is the well-known gum resin extracted from the Arabian Balsamodendron Myrrha.  It had three purposes.  It was used as a perfume, it was used in embalming, and it was used as an ingredient in holy anointing oil.  The gift of myrrh presages the sweetness of Jesus’ ministry, his death as a man, and his anointing as High Priest of all humanity.

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Worthy gifts for a king, a man, a messiah, a god.  Generous as they were, these gifts were given by people who had no idea about the full significance of Jesus’ life.  They were given by people who thought they were visiting a temporal king, not the eternal Lord of all the universe.  While their gifts prophetically foretold Jesus’ ministry, death, and exaltation, the magi themselves probably had no real knowledge of what the gifts meant in their fullness.

But we do.  We know who Jesus is.  We know what the gifts mean.  So, when will you give Jesus your gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

Yes—you can give Jesus the same thing.

You give Jesus your gold when we offer up your treasures to him.  Each year you have the opportunity to give the King your gift of gold.  The Salvation Army bell-ringers and other charities all make us aware of the need this time of year, and you have the chance to help.  It can be so tempting to turn your ears off when you hear about the needs that are out there, because you can’t help with them all.  But you can help with some.  You may say, “If God is a king, then he doesn’t need my money.”  Yes, that’s true—but work of the Kingdom is financed by wise men and women who give their gifts of gold.

You give Jesus your gift of incense when you offer your prayers to him.  It is one thing to go to church and call yourself a Christian, and quite another thing to rejoice in God’s presence as you daily take time to pray.  Our Lord calls us not just to pay homage to a king, but to fellowship with the One who loves us.  You need to find a quiet time and place to talk with Jesus on a regular basis.  You need to quietly listen to what he has to say.  It’s tough to give gifts to someone you don’t know.  So, Jesus wants you to get to know him, as you give him your gift of prayer, your gift of quiet time spent with him.

We give Jesus our gift of myrrh in three ways.  First, our myrrh is a perfume, and we give it when we allow the fragrance of the gospel to inspire everything we do.  Second, our myrrh is used in embalming.   Romans 8:13 says, “If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  When we use myrrh in this way, we are giving God the gift of our own death—or really, the death of our sinful nature.  We embalm the old self and allow God to make us into a new person.  Third, our myrrh is an oil of anointing.  When we give God the gift of myrrh we allow God to anoint us for ministry.  As the high priest of Israel was anointed for ministry, so too are Christians to serve as priests of Almighty God.  The Holy Spirit gives each of us an anointing, a calling, and when we give God the gift of myrrh, we are saying “yes” to Jesus and the things he asks us to do.

So we can give gold, frankincense, and myrrh as well.  These gifts can have more meaning when they come from us than they did even when the wise men gave them.  They gave them unwittingly, thinking they were just giving treasures.  We give them in full knowledge of what they mean, and with full intention of following through with worship, prayer, and obedience.  I pray that this year, you can gift the gifts of the magi to Lord that you know and love.

©2018 by Gregory T. Smith.
Reprinted with permission

About Greg Smith

Greg Smith is a Baptist minister who has served churches in Central and Southside Virginia. He lives in Halifax County, VA with his wife and children. To read more of Greg’s writings check out his blog at


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