Herod The Great- Definitely Not so Great

This portion of the Advent story is not very pleasant. It shows how evil, greed and the thirst for absolute power can consume a person. It shows how selfish desires can cause irreparable damage to those around us.  Matthew 2:16-18 tells of Herod’s reaction and subsequent actions when he heard that the Magi had not returned to tell him about the child born ‘king of the Jews’.

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”

Herod was an evil, self-centered, tyrannical dictator who wanted no one else to come between him and his reign. He saw the child, who would be king, as a personal threat to his power and throne. God protected Jesus and his family by sending them to Egypt to escape the reaches of Herod and the Magi God sent home by another route after appearing to them in a dream. There was no excusing or escaping the intentional evil Herod showed by killing all the male babies under 2 in Bethlehem. The anguish and sadness brought upon the people of Bethlehem at his hand is unspeakable. You might ask the age old question, why God? Why did God allow this to happen? My only answer is that, we as believers live in a sin-filled world. We have to cling to the goodness of God and that His purposes are just and bring goodness to us and glory to Him. Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him”. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

This action towards the innocents of Bethlehem shows the omniscient power of God to know the future as the prophecy in verse 18 from Jeremiah was given hundreds of years before. God knows the heart of mankind and the evil that our sin natures can cause. We have seen evil in the world century after century and the destruction it brings. We only need to remember the times of Noah, Judges and David in the Old Testament and those who plotted to kill Jesus, Paul, Stephen and Peter. It is by God’s grace that we are saved through faith and can rise above the desires and pressures of this sin-filled world. We can know God’s love, forgiveness and comfort even as the world struggles with sin that effects all the world around us. We can thank God for His eternal protection and salvation. We can know that in Him all is right. Take heart in these verses from Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Linda

After Advent…Wise Men, what a story they have!

Our nativity scenes with the shepherds and Wiseman all present at Jesus’ birth are not actually accurate. The shepherds received the message from the host of angels and went in search of Jesus the night of his birth. Luke 2. However, the wise men did not appear for about 2 years after Jesus’ birth. They saw the star announcing his birth, studied what this star could mean and then decided to follow it. The journey from Persia would have taken months. Their story is recorded in Matthew 2:1-8.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
    who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

Our story has several important players that impacted Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Herod also known as Herod the Great was an evil king who was a controlling, power hungry, non-Jew put in power by the Roman Senate in 40, B.C. He was known to have murdered his wife, his three sons, his brother-in-law and many others. He was ruthless and would do anything to protect his reign. There were the Wise men who were learned scholars seeking truth and this new king who’s birth was announced in the stars. And there were the Jewish scholars who served Herod who knew the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah King. The arrival of the Magi, or Wise Men, in Jerusalem would have created quite a stir and their message was one to put fear into jealous Herod’s mind and heart.

I have always wondered why Herod did not send soldier right then to seek out this ‘king’ but his hesitancy was God’s provision to protect Mary, Joseph and young Jesus. It allowed the Wise Men to find Jesus, worship him and present him with gifts. It allowed time for the young family to escape Herod’s grasp and for the Wise Men, we’ll see, to not be involved with evil Herod’s plans.

Where do you see God’s providential care in your life? Has He rescued, provided or comforted you in some way in 2021? I can only imagine the story the Wise Men had to tell when they returned home about the child king who God protected. What story do you have to tell about God’s provision? It is yours to proclaim and is irrefutable proof of God’s hand in your life. Speak up about God and His loving care for you.

Linda