And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. – Matthew 2:11
I started a Bible study recently on the Gospel of Matthew, and this verse jumped out at me. I started to think about why exactly those gifts were chosen, what significance did they hold and what spiritual importance did they carry. If those gifts were the best gifts chosen for the newborn King, then maybe we can also continue to offer those gifts through our lives to our Beloved King.
Offering Gifts to Jesus
you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:5
“Bless me”, “Help me”, “Heal me”, “Give me”. We spend a lot of time asking God for things. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, Jesus told us that when we abide in Him, we can ask what we want and it will be given to us!” (John 15:7) The important thing to note is that we ‘abide in Him’. Abiding gives a sense of dwelling, remaining with, or being in a relationship with. Jesus doesn’t want us to just visit Him from time to time when we have a request to make of Him. He requires relationship. He wants us to dwell with Him, which means a lot more is involved than just making requests. I have been married for 15 years now, but it wouldn’t have been a happy marriage if I had only spoken to my husband when I needed something from him. In the same way, Jesus is our Beloved King. When we abide with Him, we love Him, and it becomes our joy to give gifts to Him. So what gifts can we give to God?
that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. – 1 Peter 1:7-8
It is fitting that the first gift presented to Jesus was gold, which is a representation of our faith. Our first gift to Jesus is a life lived in faith – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.'” (Romans 1:16-17)
What a gift, to be able to truly trust our God. To believe Him and live in a way that expresses our faith; to show Him that we have faith in Him by living an impossible lifestyle that depends completely on Him. I know that when I tell somebody something and they don’t believe me, it grieves my heart. However, if someone puts their trust in me, it is a gift to me, and I make sure to honour their faith in my word by doing what I said I would do. What a gift then, to show God our trust in Him! “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
While Jesus walked this earth, there were two circumstances which constantly caused Him to marvel – when people had no faith, and when people showed great faith. He couldn’t quite believe it when people didn’t have faith in God – “Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.” (Mark 6:5-6). However, it truly touched His heart and amazed Him when someone showed remarkable faith – “When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!'” (Matthew 8:10)
I don’t know about you but I would love to amaze God with my faith in Him. Now it’s our turn. His disciples have entered into their rest, and we are now the chosen generation living in this world, being His hands and feet. We have the opportunity to amaze our God with our gift of faith to Him. The Bible asks us in Luke 18:8 – “…Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” I am determined that He will find faith in me! It is my gift of adoration to Him… my faith; my little lump of gold for my King.
If you are lacking in faith, look to the Word of God. Look to the Holy Spirit. Look to Jesus. That is where your faith comes from – “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17); “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Revelation 3:18).
Build up your faith and give it to Jesus as an offering of love. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 20-21).
And the Lord said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. – Exodus 30:34-36
The second gift brought to Jesus was the gift of Frankincense. Throughout the scriptures, frankincense is used as a holy incense to the Lord. It is used at the place of meeting, where the people of God can meet with their God in the Most Holy Place.
When Jesus died on the cross, He made that Holiest of Holy places available to us all. The veil which kept us separated because of our sin was torn down the middle. Jesus made atonement for our sins and made it possible for us to enter into the meeting place with God. The place of meeting is now open to you. Will you go in? Will you gift Jesus with time in His presence?
Worship and prayer is a holy offering to God, and so very pleasing to Him. He requests our presence in His holy meeting place. He loves us and wants us to spend time with Him. What a beautiful gift we can give Him, to sit at His feet and worship Him.
Our prayers are so precious to Him that He collects them and keeps them in golden bowls – “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8).
Without the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, through His death on the cross, we wouldn’t have this most holy opportunity to have an intimate relationship with our God. He tore down the wall of sin that separated us and then He drew near to us – “Who is this coming out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the merchant’s fragrant powders?” (Song of Solomon 3:6). Because His presence is so holy, sin cannot abide near Him – “But if he is not able to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then he who sinned shall bring for his offering one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a sin offering. He shall put no oil on it, nor shall he put frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering.” (Leviticus 5:11), and so without the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it would not be possible for us to meet with our God.
This means that when we worship and pray and abide in the meeting place with God, it becomes not only a gift of relationship with God but also a giving of overwhelming gratitude and thankfulness for what Jesus did for us on the cross. He paid for this great gift with His life. We cannot allow that sacrifice to fall by the wayside.
“And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the Lord.” (Leviticus 24:5-7). We come to the Lord by faith (the pure gold table), and lay our offering of worship and prayer before the Lord with thanksgiving that Jesus made it possible for us to do this. It is a holy offering, given through the holiness of Jesus.
What a privilege and wonderful thing that we can gift our God with our worship and love.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1).
Moreover the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Also take for yourself quality spices – five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane, five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil. – Exodus 30:22-25
Myrrh – the holy oil of anointing. We generally think of an anointing as being from the Lord – a gift from Him to us. But what if we can offer our lives lived under the anointing, in obedience to God’s calling and anointing on our lives, as a gift to Him? God anoints us but it is up to us to submit to that anointing, say yes to God, and live in obedience to it. What a gift to give: yielding to God’s anointing.
There are many examples of people in the Bible who were anointed to perform a special task, and that anointing came with sacrifices and hardships. It was up to each individual to agree and continue in the will of God or not. Joseph had a particularly hard time following the call of God on His life. He was thrown into a pit by his brothers and sold into slavery because of the anointing on his life, but he persevered. The anointing, then, doesn’t just represent a nice ‘feeling’ you get in a good church service or conference. It represents the hard choices, the sacrifices and challenges carrying that anointing will bring; the perseverance to continue on no matter what, and the many joys and rewards walking with the Lord bring into your life.
In the life of Joseph, it is remarkable to note that the men who bought him from his brothers were spice merchants carrying myrrh. – “And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened.” (Genesis 37:25-27). The holy oil of anointing was there for him when Joseph entered into a time of suffering because of that anointing. It is amazing to see, though, that myrrh is mentioned again when Joseph is reconciled with his brothers when his dream of being their leader comes to pass – “And their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man – a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man. And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!” So the men took that present and Benjamin, and they took double money in their hand, and arose and went down to Egypt; and they stood before Joseph.” (Genesis 43:11-15). The anointing on Joseph’s life brought great suffering and sacrifice but led him through it all into victory. Joseph’s gift to God was his obedience through it all.
Esther also carried an anointing on her life that caused much sacrifice and also victory not only for her but for all the Hebrews. Before she became queen, the Bible mentions her time being anointed with myrrh – “Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahaseurus after she had completed twelve months’ preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women.” (Esther 2:12). Despite the overwhelming danger to her, Esther said yes to God, obeying the anointing He had placed on her life. Her “Yes” was a gift to God and her reward was great.
The greatest calling and anointing ever carried by anyone, of course, was Jesus who endured such sacrifice at the cross that we cannot even begin to understand it. But His obedience to death brought about the greatest victory ever known to man. It is not surprising to know, then, that His body, when anointed for burial, was anointed with myrrh – “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19:38-40).
With the anointing of God comes great sacrifice but also great joy and victory! “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than your companions. All your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia, Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made you glad.” (Psalm 45:7-8).
God anoints each and every one of us with a task on the earth. The anointing is always given for a purpose, not just to have a nice feeling in a church service – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1, emphasis mine), “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, emphasis mine). It is up to us to say yes or no. To say “Yes” is a great gift we can lay at God’s feet!
Jesus is the hope of our calling. He sent His Spirit to anoint us, comfort us, guide us and strengthen us as we obey His calling over our lives. We say “Yes Lord! We give you the gift of our lives lived in obedience to Your calling!” We say like Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).
Give your gifts to God!
What a joy it is to be able to lay gifts at the feet of our God, and not only to do it occasionally but to lay our lives and what we do with them as an offering at His feet. That is what the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh really are. A life lived by faith; a prayerful, worshipping life; and a life lived in obedience to the anointing upon our lives. When we see these things not as just being obedient or serving or doing the right thing but as gifts that we lay lovingly at the feet of Jesus, what a difference it makes to our attitude! And in doing so, we are actually also fulfilling the two great commandments: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31).
We love God with our worship and prayer (frankincense), we love our neighbour with our anointed life (myrrh) and we do it all in faith (gold) as a pleasing sacrifice to our God.
Lay your gifts at the feet of Jesus today.