This seems to be a strange thing to talk about during a joyful time like Christmas. Murder and weeping. Perhaps that’s because we don’t stop to consider all that was involved in bringing that time to us. Not everyone was as excited as the Jews about their coming Messiah. Not everyone understands the coming of the Lord Jesus to this earth.
Although the fulfillment of this verse is found in Matthew 2:18 and Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, as it’s called, the prophecy itself is found in Jeremiah 31:15. The whole section of Jeremiah 30-33 should be read and studied to get a full view of the context.
Without going into a lot of detail, Jeremiah is in prison, the city is about to be captured and destroyed and the Israelites dispersed into other countries, with folks from other countries brought in to replace them. In the midst of all this coming strife and turmoil, the Lord tells Jeremiah to buy a particular piece of land. Jeremiah was utterly confused by all this. After all, the Lord told him that He was going to give the city and the land into the hand of Israel’s enemies – before He told Jeremiah to buy this land. Jeremiah’s confusion is seen in Jeremiah 32:25, “And You have said to me, O LORD God, ‘Buy the field for money, and take witnesses’! – yet the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.” You can almost hear his perplexity. In chs. 32 and 33, God fully answers Jeremiah. Though the city is indeed to be judged for her continuing sin and rebellion against God, still, there is coming a time when she will be inhabited again.
I know that these and similar verses are commonly said to have fulfilled at the return of the Jews from Babylon under Nehemiah and Ezra. Although there might have been some partial fulfillment at that time, it’s difficult to me to see how verses like Jeremiah 31:34 were fulfilled in the records of Ezra, Nehemiah, Habakkuk and Malachi. That verse reads, No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
However, in order for that to happen, something else has to happen. It couldn’t have happened at the Return, because that “something else” hadn’t happened yet.
I’ll admit, I’ve had some trouble getting this post to come together. It wasn’t until I remembered to whom Matthew was writing, indeed who Matthew was himself, that it began to jell. The godly or believing Jew would have been familiar with the passage in Jeremiah. Matthew puts it into historical context because there’s nothing in Jeremiah that really explains the significance of the verse. Just reading it in Jeremiah might lead one to believe that it might have something to do with the bloodshed and sorrow of Israel as she was battered by her enemies and carried into captivity. There’s so much more to it than that. Matthew reveals that it was prophesying something that would happen when the Deliverer of Israel was born. Without Him, the redemptive promises – the “deliverance” – in Jeremiah would never happen.
As we look at the Babe in the Manger, do we really remember who He was and why He came? Or is it more about the Christmas festivities, the baking and cooking, the presents, the decorations, the family get-togethers, with Jesus just sort of thrown into the mix, perhaps not as an afterthought, but still not the center of attention. That is, if He’s there at all.
I remember several years ago some lady being upset that “they” had injected religion into Christmas. And today, witness the turning away of society even from the term “Christmas.” It’s no longer politically correct even to say “Merry Christmas.” We must now say “Happy Holidays,” lest we offend unbelievers. Never mind that we offend God in the process. Nativity scenes are no longer permitted in civic displays because that’s “establishing religion.” Better, apparently, to establish non-religion.
Rachel “wept” because some in her day thought so, too. The murder of infants and toddlers occurred because God dared to “interfere” in human affairs. We’ll talk about this some more in another post.
For now, remember “the reason for the season.” It has nothing to do with our joy, but with our sin. The Babe reminds us that, though we need saving from our sins, there’s not a single thing we can do to make that happen.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…, 2 Corinthians 8:9.