And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. – Matthew 2:11
The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that were given to Jesus by the wise men have been used as evidence that there were three men. It is evident that there were three different kinds of gifts, but the quantity of each gift and the number of givers is not known. We do know that there were at least two men because wise men is plural. Persian history tells us that these groups would sometimes be as large as nine!
In scripture, each of the gifts has symbolic meaning. Gold represents royalty or purity. Frankincense is a perfume used in incense burning and represents prayer. Myrrh is most often associated with burial and was mixed with wine as a painkiller for those being crucified.
All three symbols are fitting gifts for Jesus. They have brought gold for the pure King of glory. They have brought frankincense as offering of prayer to the Son of God. And they have brought myrrh foretelling of His death for the sins of God’s people.
While I think it is very fitting that we recognize these symbols, I think there is a more practical reason for these gifts. All three were very expensive! Joseph and Mary were very poor, and God was about to send them on a long journey to Egypt. Even before the need arose for the money, God provided the means for their safe travel south.
We learn two fundamental lessons when we look at these gifts.
God deserves our very best offering. He is an awesome God that deserves our praise.
God will provide for our needs and safety. He is a loving Heavenly Father that cares deeply for His children.