The sacred trees that produce Frankincense and Myrrh are almost impossible to grow outside of the Arabian Peninsula, which meant they were constantly in short supply and high demand in the ancient world. According to a famous Roman historian, the sap made the Arabians the richest people on earth by Jesus’s time, and more valuable than gold. Frankincense alone is responsible for creating the trade routes linking southern Arabia to India, the Mediterranean, and the Silk Road in China.
It's not hard to understand that these gifts were brought to honor the baby Jesus. In fact, the three "Wise Men" were actually three "Magi" or spiritual advisors [also known as dream interpreters]. They held the same position as the magicians/astrologers/dream interpreters who Daniel competed with in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar. And I don't think it is too far off base to speculate that during the 70 years Daniel remained in captivity in Babylon, he taught the prophecy of a coming King of the Jews to his fellow maji and the expectation was handed down through the generations.
Anyway, in Matthew 2, these maji came looking for the "child who is born King of the Jewish people", and they came bearing valuable gifts representing one kingdom (the Roman empire, having been sent by King Herod) to another (the Kingdom of God). They believed in the prophecy of a coming King and they came to bow before Him in worship.
But I've always struggled with reconciling this image of gold, frankincense and myrrh being brought to the manger in which the baby Jesus was born. There has to be more to the story than they believed in an ancient prophecy and that this child was the fulfillment of it. I understand that, culturally, this would have been the appropriate gift to bring before any new recognized king, It just seems strange that a young, poor couple from the backwaters of the Roman empire would receive such treasure, and what happened to those valuable gifts? Ahhh, that's where prospicience comes in.
The word means "seeing ahead; knowing in advance; foreseeing". And I believe it is another characteristic of God; similar to His omniscience, which means "knowing everything". You see, God does know everything; He knows the beginning from the end. He says, in Isaiah 46:10, I declare from the beginning how it will end and foretell from the start what has not yet happened. I decree that my purpose will stand, and I will fulfill my every plan.
God sees time and history differently than we do. We see it as a linear span; progressing from one point to the next. Time is multi-dimensional to God, and He sees it from a different perspective, having created it, and He can move in and out of it according to His will. He can see into the future, while still in the present, and can act in advance and deal with a coming situation to provide our every need when we need it. That's exactly what prospicience is and what He did for Joseph and his new, little family.
You see, God foresaw that the government of Rome would not yield to His heavenly government's appearance on earth in the person of the infant, Jesus. He foresaw that Herod would try to kill the child and that it would be necessary for Joseph to escape with his family into Egypt, where Herod's power did not extend. Furthermore, they would be there for awhile as essentially refugees; [NOTE: Historical opinions as to how long the family remained in Egypt vary substantially; everything from one year in the History of Joseph, to eight years, according to Baronius, an Italian cardinal and
ecclesiastical historian of the Roman Catholic Church]. But regardless of how long they were there, Joseph would need to provide for his family while they traveled to Egypt [and back] and to pay expenses for as long as the family remained away from their homeland. The valuable gifts from the three maji would certainly have provided those necessary means of survival in a strange land.
Now, I know that there is no Chapter or verse that substantiates this theory, and I do not claim that it represents the truth of Scripture. But I believe that it has as much credibility as the unprovable traditions mainstream Christianity purports today, namely: as referred to in the Christmas carol, "We Three Kings" the gifts symbolize three aspects of Christ's future life. The gold represents kingship; frankincense represents worship, and myrrh stands for death and mourning. Or try this one: Mary and Joseph used the gold to pay for the stable; the frankincense to perfume it; and the myrrh as an ointment for the newborn baby.
I know the Bible is full of symbolism and allegory, but in this case, I believe that once we see the bigger picture of why the maji from the East understood the prophecy of the King of the Jews being born, and why it was expedient for Joseph to flee to Egypt to escape the long arm of Roman rule, it is not out of the realm of possibility that God predetermined to have valuable gifts brought to the Christ child that would provide Joseph with the resources to support his family until he could return to Nazareth and resume his work as a carpenter.
Whether my theory has any significance is not the purpose of this blog. Rather, it is to come to a higher understanding that God sees and knows and works in the dimensions of time, and while we may not perceive what He is doing, we can trust, just like Joseph did, that He is moving several steps ahead of us. He can foresee our future and He can act in advance to give us favor and provision at just the right moment. I invite you to look back over your life and see all the instances when His prospicience overtook you and confirmed His presence in your life.... and then thank and praise Him!
Matthew 2:11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary, His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.