Voices of Christmas: Herod

Not everybody was thrilled with the news of One “born King of the Jews.”  Herod was about as nasty as any “king” has ever been.  He had only become king through political and social machination.  Besides, he wasn’t even a Jew.  He was an Edomite!

There was a lot of unrest under his rule.  When he heard the news of men searching for One “born King,” the Scripture says, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, Matthew 2:3.  Now, the Jews weren’t concerned about him; they were concerned about what he might do!  A concern borne out by his actions several months later.

Something I’d never really paid attention to until just now.  Having found out from the chief priests and scribes of the people where the Messiah was to be born, HEROD sent the wise men to Bethlehem, Matthew 2:8!  It ought to be a matter of some concern when the ungodly express an interest in the things of God.  It can mean no good!  Now, the wise men probably didn’t know about Herod, but took what he said at face value.  And perhaps it had only seemed to them the thing to do to look in the capitol city of Israel to find Israel’s king.  So they were apparently fooled by Herod’s expressed desire to worship with them this One for whom they looking.  Except for God intervening and spoiling Herod’s evil plan, they might have led to the murder of the Messiah.  Such a thing would have been impossible, but it took divine intervention to prevent it.

I think Herod may be considered emblematic of a world under Satan’s control.  This doesn’t cancel out God’s overall control of things, but Satan is called the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:4 (KJV).  Paul wrote to the Ephesian church about their preconversion life:  you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in [“energizes”] the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves…, Ephesians 2:2, 3 (NKJV).

In the Garden of Eden, Satan usurped God’s place as the one to whom men would look for guidance.  Where the Word of God has been valued and obeyed, Satan’s influence is minimized.  However, where the Word is unknown, ignored or rejected, as is increasingly the case here in the US, Satan blinds the minds of men to the fact that the way(s) of life he leads them in is or are ultimately only destructive, never beneficial.  He promises them “freedom” from the old Puritanical taboos, but in reality enslaves them to the desires of their own selfish being.  There is more than one kind of slavery.

In Herod and the magi, we clearly see the two-fold division of mankind:  those who are truly seeking the Savior and those who are not.  Granted, many do not know anything about the Savior, and many others have found Him, or, rather, have been found by Him, John 10:14-16.  Nevertheless, humanity may be divided into two classes, not rich or poor, but lost or saved.  We’re every one of us either one or the other.

The difference is found in our reaction to and our relationship with that One “born King of the Jews.”

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Voices of Christmas: The Magi.

We’ve not dealt with these posts in a strictly “chronological” order.  The magi, or wise men, would have been the last to visit, perhaps as much as a year-and-a-half after the birth of Jesus.  He was likely a toddler when they were there, though it’s hard to picture the Lord of glory as having to learn how to walk.  Though they’re shown in nativity scenes at the manger with the shepherds and the animals , Matthew 2:11 tells us that they found the young child and His mother in a “house,” not in a stable.  This is the first of several reasons we believe they were there later.

A second reason is found in the offering Mary gave for her purification according to the law of Moses; she offered a couple of turtledoves or young pigeons, Luke 2:22-24; Leviticus 12:2, 8.  This was the offering for poor people.  If the wise men had already been there and given their gifts, Mary and Joseph would have been rich and would have had to offer a lamb for that sacrifice.  The wise men got there in time to finance the trip to Egypt and the family’s stay there.  This would have been at least 66 days after Jesus’ birth, for that’s how long the “purification” took.

A third reason is Herod’s order to slaughter all the male children two years old and younger, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men, Matthew 2:16.

Tradition tells us there were three wise men, this from the gifts they gave: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  However, one journey from from Babylon to Jerusalem, Ezra 7:9 took about five months.  Granted, there were hundreds of people on this journey, so it probably took longer than normal.  It was still a long trip.  We don’t know for certain where they started, but there would certainly have been more than three solitary men travelling all that way.  There would have been supplies for the trip, guards for protection, cf. Ezra 8:22, and servants to care for them and the animals, so that it was no doubt an impressive array of people and animals which came into Jerusalem, seeking One born King of the Jews.  Or perhaps they joined a trade caravan.  Either way, there were a lot more than three people involved, as well as an unknown number of wise men.

Why did they decide to make this arduous and  dangerous journey?  The wise men told Herod that they had seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him, Matthew 2:2.  There’s a lot of conjecture about all this.  We really don’t know what it was they saw, but they knew what it was.  This brings up the question, how did they know?

They knew because of the writings of Daniel, and because of him, they probably had at least some of the Old Testament as well.  Daniel had been very influential, Daniel 2:49. There’s no way of knowing for sure.  We’re not going to try to figure it out.  It’s enough that God saw to it they knew it was time, and they came to find and to worship the One around whom time revolves.

And they found Him.

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.  And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Matthew 2:11.

The young child and His mother….

This phrase occurs several times in Matthew 2.  Even the Angel who told Joseph to flee to Egypt, and then later told him to come home, uses it.  The emphasis was on the Child, not the mother.  The one time Mary tried to influence her Son to do something, John 2:1-5, He rebuffed her.  That wasn’t her place.  How did she respond?  She told the servants, Whatever He says to you, do,”  Some versions add “it” to this statement, though it’s not really necessary. This is Mary’s last recorded statement, “Whatever He says to you….”  That’s still good advice.

What does the Son say?  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.  You don’t need Mary.  You don’t need the saints.  You don’t need some priest or preacher.  Jesus Himself says, “Come to Me.”  Almost the last verses in the Bible tell us to come.  And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  And let him who hears say, “Come!”  And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take of the water of life freely,” Revelation 22:17.

Come.

As a commercial here on TV says, “It’s really that simple.”

Come.