During the Christmas season, I couldn’t write about Herod’s attempt to eradicate Christ as an infant. While I know the ending to the story is good, somehow I couldn’t delve into an attempted murder plot at the same time that I decorated the tree, sang Christmas carols, and celebrated with family and friends. Like oil and water, some things do not mix.
Prior to our break, Monday’s Marinate looked at Christ’s birth and explored how it took great courage for Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds to fulfill their divine calling. Each had an important role to play as Jesus was ushered into this world. Christ would later use His experience here on earth to reassure each of us that He understands our plight. His experiences left for us in Scripture help us to relate to Him.
Sometimes Jesus needed to be alone with God. He desired to get quiet and pray as He sought God’s guidance (see Mark 1:35). He understands our desire for intimacy. He understands our need for instruction. He understands the need for peaceful moments in the midst of a stormy season.
Jesus understands our grief and mourning as well. He, Himself, wept (see John 11:35). He soothes our sighs of sadness. He even hears our unspoken prayers. When we have no words for our lament – only groans – the Spirit Himself intercedes for us (see Romans 8:26).
Jesus understands what temptation feels like. He knows resisting temptation can be difficult for us. Turning away from the lure of whatever Satan sets before us can seem like more than we can bear. Someone says something unkind and untrue of us, and we are tempted to respond in anger. Perhaps, we are tempted with doubt and unbelief. Perhaps, we are tempted to have a bout of selfishness. Perhaps, we have a juicy morsel of information we want to share with others, but know deep down God views gossip as sin. Maybe we are tempted to disobey (or delay) whatever it is God is calling us to do, because it might take too much time, effort, or faith. Whatever the temptation, Jesus understands. He was tempted by the devil. But unlike us He never sinned in the midst of temptation (see Luke 4:1-13).
Jesus understands the need for patience and the importance of waiting for God’s preparation and timing. We don’t always like to wait, but there are reasons we likely do not understand for delays or what can seem to be a detour. Scripture that leaves a lot to our imagination are the words, “the child grew.” This is what we are told about Jesus. He’s born and then “the child grew” (see Luke 2:40, 2:52). These are applicable for us too. “She grew.” A few words can take some time to bear fruit. God teaches us and prepares us. Jesus understands that. He was about 30 years old when He began His ministry (see Luke 3:23). He entered after God had prepared Him. Jesus knew He could withstand the devil and fulfill His calling (again see Luke 4:1-13). God will make sure we can fulfill our calling as well. He will prepare us. He will help us to know through the power of Jesus Christ we can stand against the devil’s plots. We can carry out God’s plans for our lives to fruition.
Have you been hurt by someone close to you? Jesus understands betrayal. He was betrayed. Peter denied knowing Him three times (see Matthew 26:69-75). Imagine going through one of the worst experiences in your life and one of your best friends or a close family member pretends they don’t know you. Imagine how it would feel to know ahead of time they would betray you as Jesus knew. Or perhaps, someone drew near to you only to betray you once they were in your inner circle. That’s what Judas did to Jesus. Judas’ greed consumed him enough to turn traitor. Judas exchanged the life of his close confidant for 30 silver coins (see Mark 14:10-11).
As man, Jesus loved. As God, He still loves. He prayed for his companions, the disciples (see John 17:6-19), and He prayed in love for all believers including us (see John 17:20-26). He knew joy and He knew sadness. He knew we would need to know He “gets us”. There’s something about shared experiences that helps us relate to one another and to God.
I have a hunch the enemy somehow sensed that too. Satan set out to destroy Christ. Satan was not successful. Ultimately, Jesus’ death on the cross thwarted the enemy’s evil plan to bury us in hell with him.
Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin. The enemy has been defeated. The enemy’s fate has been sealed. He will live for all eternity in the fiery pit of hell where anguish and agony will consume him forever (see Luke 16:25).
If we have surrendered our lives to Christ, hell, agony, and anguish will not be our fate. We are sealed as God’s children, one day to inherit the kingdom of heaven where we will permanently be in the presence of God. I pray you know and have experienced the presence of God. I pray that your fate has been permanently sealed as a child of God. In the apostle Paul’s words,
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.—2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV
You may be wondering where Herod is in all of this. (Or maybe you forgot he was even mentioned.) Enter Herod. Imagine if the enemy would have been successful in Herod’s reign at exterminating Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem. There would be no salvation. Nor would we know we have a God who understands us because, in many ways, He has walked in our shoes. Certainly, He walks with us still.
The enemy, Satan, is called the father of lies. Here’s what Jesus says about Satan.
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” —John 8:44 (emphasis mine)
Murder, lies, and grasping for power: that’s what Herod was about. Sound familiar? Satan was a murderer, liar, and grasped for power. His desire for power is what caused his fall in the first place.
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”—Matthew 2:7-8
Herod lied to the shepherds (Magi). He had no intention of worshipping Jesus. Herod was only concerned about losing power, for if the one true King, Christ Jesus, came into power what would that do to diminish Herod’s reign? Herod was a murderous tyrant who ruled with callous brutality. He would stop at nothing to maintain his role as ruler. Our sovereign God powerfully intervened and thwarted Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus. Here’s Herod’s reaction.
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.—Matthew 2:16 NLT
Nothing short of evil would murder little boys of Bethlehem two years old and under. The enemy’s evil pestilence can only be sourced from the pit of hell. Satan would use Herod’s desire for power to carry out the enemy’s evil plans.
Here’s what scholars say about Herod.
“Herod, realizing that the wise men had returned to the East without reporting to him, had all the male children of Bethlehem two years old and under killed!
It was then only a few days before Herod’s own death. Five days before he expired, Herod had his son Antipater executed. Then he called all the leading Jews of his territory to his palace. When they came, he imprisoned them, giving orders that they were all to be killed the moment he died. He wanted to ensure that there would be national mourning at his death, rather than rejoicing!
Herod’s dream of power and glory had turned into a nightmare. The desperate king struggled to the last to maintain control over his kingdom, long after he had lost control over himself. And so he died.” *
But God is ultimately victorious over the enemy. God is sovereign. He leads and guides and directs us to safety. God’s plan will not be defeated by the enemy. The enemy will try to kill, steal, and destroy (see John 10:10). God has come so that we may have life (again, see John 10:10).
God warned the shepherds. They were able to worship Jesus. Their steps were redirected by God. Trust that He will warn you and redirect your steps too.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their county by another route.—Matthew 2:12 NIV
Remember earlier when we were discussing perceived detours? Maybe like the shepherds, God is redirecting your steps so that no harm befalls you.
God was not going to let anyone or anything get in the way of our salvation. He would protect our Savior, Christ Jesus, so that all our sins could be forgiven. Part of Joseph’s calling was to keep Jesus safe in order for Jesus to bring salvation.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”—Matthew 2:13 NIV
Again, thinking back to our discussion about delays and detours. This might have seemed like a detour. Back to Egypt? Isn’t that the location Israelites were delivered from during Moses’ tenure? Yes. Sometimes, we will go back to go forward. Clearly, God was protecting Jesus when God gave explicit instructions to Joseph. Not always do we understand why our steps are directed down a certain path, but in this instance God made that clear to Joseph as well “Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Remember, we have a sovereign God. He possesses ultimate authority. He may delay. He may detour. He will deliver us.
We have a God who possesses ultimate authority. At the same time, we have a God who understands our trials and tribulations here on earth. A God of ultimate authority and a God of understanding: two polar ideas. Yet, these polar concepts define (in part) who God is. We need both. We need to know our God understands who we are and what we go through, so He doesn’t seem far off and unable to relate. But we also need a God of ultimate authority who can reign supreme over our lives and protect us from the enemy. We need a loving God. We need a mighty God. Fortunately, we have both.
QUESTIONS / APPLICATIONS:
- Of the experiences Jesus had when He walked on earth, what was most helpful for you to consider today? (Intimacy & guidance through prayer, grief and mourning, temptation, patience & timing, or betrayal) Why?
- We have a loving God who understands us. We have a mighty God who possesses ultimate authority. Which do you need today? Ask for His help.
- How have you seen God’s hand of protection in your life through a detour or delay? If you don’t know, ask Him to show you.
- Thank God for the detours and delays He brings your way and ask Him to reveal steps of preparation you can take to fulfill your calling.
*Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.