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Blessed Are the Horoscope Readers

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Blessed Are the Horoscope Readers

Christians love the notion that, “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). But I think we should probably shudder a bit at its implications—especially when it comes to religious worship and devotion. In our tribalistic era where we think we’re judged by whether or not we’re on the “right team” or belong to the right religious club, this verse reminds us that true believers will be determined by the condition of their heart and inner motivations hidden from all but God’s eyes.

Our 6th Beatitude of Bethlehem proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt 5:8). What does it mean to be “pure” in heart? Why do they see God? And who in the Christmas story exemplify this purity of heart that leads their eyes to the King of King?

The word “pure” in this context doesn’t mean morally pure, without sin, etc. Rather, it means unmixed, without alloy. We might say, “Blessed are those with unmixed motives and undivided allegiances.” The upside down Kingdom born in a Bethlehem manger demands people’s single-minded devotion.

Mary’s baby would spend his adult ministry calling for singleminded commitment saying: “No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and Money” (Matt 6:24); the narrow way leads to life and the broad way leads to destruction (Matt 7:13); “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21); or “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Jesus’ brother picked up this message and passed it along in his letter warning:

Be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do (James 1:6-8).

The idea Jesus has in mind is essentially, “Blessed are the undivided in heart or single-minded in devotion, for they will have eyes to see God when he passes by in unexpected places and wearing strange disguises.”

Myron Augsburger warns that, “Perhaps we need to examine our motives in religious exercises more than in any other area…How easy it is to cover selfish ambition with the cloak of religious service” (Communicator’s Commentary, 65). Let’s be honest for a moment and count how many times we’ve dragged ourselves to church and sat through the service while our heart remained in some other faraway place. How easy it is to give charitably and maintain our membership standing in a church, to grit our teeth and force our way through our morning devotional time, etc.—all external actions out of sync with our heart’s true condition and focus.

Again, people focus on outward things such as church attendance, dead rituals and going through the religious motions. Meanwhile, God is gazing into our hearts. Thankfully, he’s not standing with a clipboard or holding a microscope over our moral performance and measuring our sins vs. virtuous actions ratio.

No, he is checking our spiritual pulse to see if our heart beats after God’s own heart. Do we desire God more than earthly things? Are we willing to sell everything in order to purchase the field in which lies the “pearl of great price”—Jesus and the Kingdom (Matt 13:45-56)?

The true scandal is that many whose outward actions and appearances, religious affiliations and lack of devotion, seem to betray a lack of faith or good standing in Christian circles, may actually be some of the purest in heart—those best able to truly see the God revealed in Jesus!

On the other hand, many dutiful churchgoers who logged many hours volunteering at church will hear Jesus say at the Judgment, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt 7:23). But the very people we may never find sitting in a church pew on Sunday may be traveling their own long and circuitous route that ultimately leads to pure hearted worship of the Christ.

Let’s take another look at the Magi from the East who had no business being part of this Jewish story, but who nevertheless can teach us something about what it means to be “pure in heart.”

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magifrom the east came to Jerusalemand asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matt 2:1-2).

The so-called “Three Wise Men” likely came from Persia and were Astrologers (sometimes translated as “Magi” or “soothsayer”), a practice condemned by God (see e.g., Exod 20:3, 4; Deut 18:10–12; 2 Kings 23:5; Zeph 1:5; Amos 5:25–27; Acts 7:40–43). They could have been of the Persian priestly caste of Zoroastrianism who paid particular attention to the stars.

Outwardly, they were unlikely worshipers: non-Jewish priests of another religion, dabbling in dark and forbidden arts. Yet, inwardly their hearts were drawn to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords even by unorthodox means. Their spiritual openness and sincere seeking  led them to the Savior where they saw the face of God in the infant’s eyes.

The magi showed a purity of commitment, or singleness of heart, in their willingness to travel hundreds of miles on a risk-filled journey from the East. They stayed the course until they found the One. They fixed their eyes on the star that would end up fixing their eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of faith (Heb 12:1-2).

Do you think these these guys would be welcome in our churches if they showed up this Christmas Eve to worship Christ? I suspect these ouija board playing, crystal ball rubbing, tarot card reading visitors would be brushed off and awkwardly avoided if they showed up. They certainly would not be invited to come forward to play a central role in the service. But should we be surprised if the church usher looks at outward appearances, while God sees into their heart? God looks inside the heart of such visitors and often finds a pure devotion and sincere openness—even if their outward affiliations and religious sensibilities may offend and need some tweaking.

Still, the greatest gift the magi bring to the story is not Frankincense, gold and myrrh; but the gift of childlike wonder and spiritually enlightened eyes that can see God and his fingerprints in every thing! God has placed little signposts or signatures of himself all over creation—in nature, in other people, in Scripture, in worship and in the sacraments. G. M. Hopkins said, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God” and that includes the starlit sky over Bethlehem.

Here’s the problem: a divided heart will begin to divide reality into God-space and secular space, sacred days and ordinary days. Suddenly we’ve relegated God to that holy building where we expect to find him one day a week. No wonder we don’t see God Monday-Friday in everyday spaces.

But what if we purify our hearts, and begin to look for God everywhere at all times? We might start seeing God in the sunrise and sunset; in the gently falling snow and the violent thunderstorm; in the smile of a lover and the suffering of a brother; in a loaf of bread and cup of grape juice—even in the stars above! The Psalmist was preparing us for the magi’s appearance when he sang:

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The skies display his craftsmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak;

night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or word;

their voice is never heard.

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,

and their words to all the world.

(Psalm 19:1-4)

This Christmas let us all ask God for the gift of undivided hearts and spiritual eyes that search the heavens above and the earth below for the face of God hidden in plain sight. “For Christ plays in ten thousand places” (G. M. Hopkins), but his favorite place to play is the outer chambers of every human heart that is willing—single-mindedly—to prepare him room. And Heaven and nature sing joyously when magi and mall clerks alike come to see God in the most unexpected of places.

Blessed are the Ouija board players whose hands keep moving around the board until they spell ‘Christ.’

Blessed are the horoscope readers who discover their true destiny is written not in the stars, but in the Lamb’s book of life.

Blessed are the crystal ball consulters who realize their future is already secure in Christ — “an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay” (1 Pet 1:4).

Blessed are all pure-hearted pagans who seek God with the tools they’ve been given; blessed not because they’re pagans, but because they are seekers with sincere hearts and a willingness to be found.

Blessed are all the undivided hearts who carry God-binoculars around their necks at all times, for they will see God in even in the deepest thicket and darkest valleys. Yes, Jeremiah was given this 6th Beatitude of Bethlehem 600 years before Christ proclaimed it: “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me” (Jer 29:13). So, what are we waiting for? What are we looking for? Keep those God-binoculars handy!

Note: Please don’t mistake God’s merciful willingness to meet people through forbidden and foolhardy spiritual practices for an endorsement of them. The occult is real and things such as tarot cards, Ouija boards, mediums, palm readers, etc. provide real portals into the spirit realm. The Scriptures condemn such practices, and instead invite people to go directly to God through prayer. But how fitting that the God who would take on human flesh to win our hearts would not hesitate to go down some of these dark alleys and deceptive dead ends in order to seek and save the lost.

This article originally appeared here.

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Jeremy Berg is the founding and lead pastor of MainStreet Covenant Church, and Professor of Bible & Theology at Solid Rock Discipleship School in Minnesota. Jeremy is completing a doctorate in New Testament Context with Dr. Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary. He holds a M.A. from Bethel Seminary and B.A. from Bethel University. Jeremy and his wife, Kjerstin, have three kids, Peter, Isaak and Abigail. He is a freelance writer at Daily Illumination at www.jeremyberg.org.