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.”