© 2017 Lynn Abbott
He’s making a list, checking it twice…Gonna find out who’s naughty and who’s nice…
It’s a familiar Christmas chorus. And if I didn’t know the rest of the melodic line, I’d say the lyrics describe my dog perfectly.
Come a visiting this Christmas and you’ll soon discover that my Labradoodle conscientiously fulfills his role as director of homeland security.
Gonna find out who is naughty and who is nice.
Nothing gets past Bentley. He may be sleeping soundly under the kitchen table, but the slightest sound will draw him forth from his den.
When paws hit the floor and scramble for traction, my dog inadvertently carries the table with him for several feet.
Like Atlas and the world.
Such is Bentley’s fervor. Such is his calling.
Of course, if I welcome my guests and invite them into the house, he’s all wags. Even so, Bentley subjects all who enter to a thorough “sniffing.”
I shoulda named him Sherlock.
And even though I frequently giggle as the kitchen table gallops toward the front door, I also recognize the wisdom that my dog so well models…
Assume nothing; like the Bereans, examine everything to see whether these things be so, (Acts 17:11).
In fact, you and I are commanded to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil,” (I Thessalonians 5:21-22).
Nothing gets past Bentley.
After all, not everyone who knocks is a friend. All who smile are not without guile.
Some don’t play by the rules.
Indeed, at this time of year, I’m especially reminded of those who long ago exercised incredible wisdom.
You know the story. You’ve seen them represented in nativity scenes year after year. And while the number of the Magi likely exceeded three, their three principal gifts have inspired crèche artists all over to depict them as three royally clad easterners.
The wise men…scholars of the ancient east. Were they Jewish? No.
However, they undoubtedly studied the writings of the Hebrews, and therefore, were familiar with the prophecies regarding Messiah, the coming king.
The Magi not only did their homework–exploring Scripture, seeking spiritual discernment–but they also sought to verify their findings.
Thus, when they observed the appearance of the unusual star, they traveled to Israel to confirm their faith. In addition, they brought gifts for the expected Hebrew king.
It’s wise to sniff things out.
Although Scripture actually doesn’t give us the number of wise men in the convoy, it must have been a significant because Herod took notice. Likely a little uneasy, Herod “secretly called the Magi” for a meeting, (Matthew 2:7).
The Magi probably didn’t initially question the request. Herod’s invitation, after all, seems reasonable protocol for foreign dignitaries.
And rather than reveal his plans to eliminate any new potential rivals, Herod feigned enthusiasm for the Magi’s quest.
“‘Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him,'” (Matthew 2:8).
Yet, the Magi exercised extraordinary faith. It’s clear they cultivated their connection to God.
Scripture records that God warned them of Herod’s intentions in a dream. For this reason, after worshiping Christ, they did not return to Herod.
No hesitation. They obeyed Yahweh.
I fully appreciate the wisdom of the Magi. Matthew reveals what at first was not apparent.
Herod was foul, not fair.
Or, as Shakespeare penned, “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain,” (Hamlet, Act I, scene 5).
The Magi’s caution bought Mary and Joseph time. Having received God’s warning in a dream, they fled to Egypt and fulfilled yet another Old Testament prophecy concerning the Christ, (Matthew 2:15).
Matthew writes that Herod demanded the slaughter of all male children under two in the Bethlehem area. But Mary, Joseph and Jesus had already escaped.
Grace always wins. Ultimately, our omnipotent God has the last word.
Ultimately, our omnipotent God has the last word.
The Magi’s story proves once more that God, in His gracious sovereignty, thwarts the enemy’s ongoing schemes to curse humanity.
Christ lived to face the cross. There, as our redeemer, He fulfilled the Father’s purpose.
I wish I could say I am as wise as they were. I have to admit, though, that in times past I have listened to some dubious characters.
But the more I study God’s Word, the easier it becomes to distinguish the scent of the false one.
Indeed, armed with God’s Word and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I choose to sniff the truth out; to investigate all knocks at my door.
When I hear the noisy clatter, I choose to ask one, all-important question… Who dat?
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15).