Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the spry Christian missionary woman who retired to Virginia. Living alone at her rural home, nestled in the foot hills of Appalachia’s Blue Ridge Mountains just outside of Roanoke, she enjoyed her golden years in fellowship with God. As a woman of deep faith, her prayers were copious; she and Jesus had many conversations, discussing everything in life.
This vibrant widow woman made a habit of praying out loud each morning, while stationed on her front porch overlooking a beautiful mountain meadow, dappled in wildflowers. Heedless of her advancing years and petite form, she had a robust voice that reverberated through the mountains and valleys.
To the south, the prayer warrior’s property adjoined a neighbor’s lot where an avowed atheist, a sexagenarian, had recently moved in. It didn’t take the man long to tire of the daily irritation—hearing the widow’s morning praises to the Almighty. So, he began to push against it.
The first time it happened was on a sultry Tuesday morning that sported a commanding sunrise. Standing beside the front porch post, she began to pray. “Oh Lord, what a beautiful day you’ve given us! Thank you for revealing such splendor that You have created. I praise you Father, for you’ve provided everything I could possibly need.”
Suddenly the atheist’s voice sounded with contrived laughter from his concealed position behind a hedge. “Aha-ha-ha-ha—there is no God! You’re just talking to the air.”
But the woman simply kept praying. “Lord Jesus, please grant my neighbor faith. Bless him real good. Take the blindfold off of him and let him see.”
Further irritated, the atheist went back inside, only to return the next morning, shouting the same words, “Aha-ha-ha-ha—there is no God!”
This went on for many days, but one morning the heathen thought he’d found a crack in the woman’s joy-filled armor.
She had prayed, “Heavenly Father you are so very faithful. Thank you for your tender mercies. You, Lord, have always provided me with all I could possibly need, and even those secret things I wanted. Father, as usual, the bills are all paid, and You’ve given me this wonderful home and clothes. But this month is different, because I have no money left to buy groceries. I know that You, Lord, will provide somehow, just as You always have.” Her prayer continued with praises and talk of her past work and her family that was mostly all in heaven now.
Oddly, her difficult neighbor did not shout his usual diatribe against God—he simply went back inside.
As the sun rose the next day, the widow came out onto the porch to offer her morning praises. There, sitting on the porch were five bags full of a variety of food. Instantly, she began to thank and praise God. “Oh, holy Father, you are such an awesome God! Thank you, Lord for providing these groceries…”
Once again, she heard her rival taunt.
“Ah-ha-ha-ha,” roared the neighbor, this time bursting through the hedge to stand akimbo in front of the woman. “I bought you those groceries, Lady! You see, I told you, there is no God.”
Without missing a beat, the woman simply continued her prayer. “Oh, this is so wonderful, Lord. I thank you for providing all of these wonderful groceries…and You even made the devil pay for them! ☺
What an inspiration it is when we meet people of great faith like the widow woman in our story—what great power we witness in their lives. Her story came to mind as I read about the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.
We’re all familiar with the Christmas story and all the characters involved: the inn-keeper, Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus, the shepherds in the field watching over their flocks, heavenly angels, and later on the three wise men from the East. And we even remember ‘Herodes Magnus’, Herod the Great, infamous for the slaughter of the innocents.
Interested in knowing more about the three wise men—the magi, I dug into a bit of a word-study. The word “magi’ is from the Greek ‘magus’, from which our word “magic” is derived. Technically these three who visited Jesus’ family were practitioners of foresight into the future, usually, the immediate future. We also know from the bible as well as from many fine historians, researchers, scholars and biblical detectives that these three wise men were astrologers…not to be confused with astronomists. This point does have its detractors. Some people reject the idea simply because they think the wise men had to have been righteous men, which is not at all necessary for God to use them in the way that He did. There are multitudinous examples in the bible of God using heathen idolaters and terrible sinners to advance His grand plan. Besides, all of us are born into sin.
We’ll get back to these particular astrologers momentarily, as the need for a word of caution about astrology is profoundly needed here.
Astrology is the earliest recorded type of formal, systematized idolatry—the same thing was practiced by the people who’d gathered together in biblical Shinar, aka- Babylonia, to build the Tower of Babel. Perhaps it would not be improper to call the Tower of Babel the first elevated observatory to the heavenly constellations. Could that have been the birth of astrology, some 4200 years ago? Some historians believe astrology to be only 2400 years old. I’m still digging, but I think the older date might hold true. For now, I’ll forego stating it dogmatically.
What we know for certain is that in Old Testament times, kings from every nation, with the exception of Israel, would not go into battle before checking their fortune in the stars—they hoped for the heavenly luminaries to portend victory in their conquests. All across the known world people idolized the sun, moon and stars, and presaged their futures from them, encouraged through the subtlety of Satan’s agents of darkness. The spiritual realm is quite real, so, of course, there’s real supernatural power there. Two sources of supernatural power, that’s all there are—God, and the fallen angels, led by the Prince of Darkness.
Today, people think reading their horoscope is harmless fun. But be advised, God forbids it and warns of the dangers associated with astrology, also called horoscope. It’s probable that by looking to astrological signs we inadvertently give demons permission to attack our minds—to oppress, depress and deceive us. An apt name for it would be “horrorscope”, yikes!
The spiritual realm is just as real, if not more so, than the material world of matter, time and energy to which our earthly bodies are confined. But often in scripture, the veil between these two worlds has been pulled back so that a finite person could see spiritual things, places and beings. Prophets received knowledge of future events from God and His messengers. The heavenly angels heralded the birth of Messiah in spectacular audio-visual fashion. Evidently, fallen angels or demons are also, in a limited capacity, able to see some future events.
Now, let’s get back to our original topic.
We know that Jesus’ mother and earthly father, Joseph were not among the aristocracy of their day. In fact, Mary and Joseph were considered poor, as evidenced by their offering of two young pigeons for the sacrifice instead of a lamb: recorded in Luke 2: 24. (See Leviticus 12:7-8 to see God’s directives concerning this sacrifice.)
The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that the three magi gave to Jesus and His family were all extremely valuable commodities. It is my belief that God was providing for the material things Jesus’ family would need. God always provides for all His children, so certainly He’d provide for His only begotten Son.
We just never know when God may cause the devil himself to foot the bill.