December 29, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
I don’t want to end The Time-Line of Christmas series on a downer, but what we will look at today is a very real chapter in the account of the first Christmas. It is not told as part of the warm and fuzzy story about Jesus birth. But it is related to the visit of the wise men. In the last blog we looked their visit and the presentation of the gifts they bore – “…gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11). And although we ended at verse 12, there is no break between in the narrative between verses 12 and 13. In Matthew 2:13 through 23 the story continues. I will try to shorten the scripture to save space without losing the flow of what is written.
Now when…[the wise men] had departed…an angel…appeared to Joseph in a
dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I bring you word: for Herod will seek the young Child to
destroy Him.” When he arose, he…departed for Egypt, and was there until
the death of Herod….Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the
wise men, was exceedingly angry, and…put to death all the children who
were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under,
according to the time which he had determined from the wise men….But
when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream
to Joseph…saying, “Arise…and go into the land of Israel, for those who
sought the young Child’s life are dead.”And he arose, and took the young
child and his mother, and came into…Israel. But when he heard that
Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was
afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside
into…Galilee: And he came and dwelt in…Nazareth….
They had come asking, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? ” (Matthew 2:2) But Herod was king of the Jews! The Roman senate had elected him to that position with that title 36 years before! He planned to keep his throne – whatever it took to do it!
It’s called the slaughter of the innocents, and perhaps 20 or so boys – infants and toddlers – were murdered by Herod’s soldiers in the environs in and around Bethlehem. But in a small town of about a thousand at that time – and where residents were often related and knew each other quite well – the heinous act would have resulted in great grief and many tears (see verses 17 and 18 left out of the account above).
This incident was entirely in keeping with the twisted personality of aging, sick and demented King Herod. Any perceived threat to his throne resulted in the death of the offender. Among those were his wife, her mother, his own sons, in-laws and many others who crossed him. Emperor Augustus remarked that “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son!” Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century wrote that Herod was concerned no one would mourn his death. So as the time approached, he invited many distinguished Jews to come to Jericho where he was, and commanded them to be killed when he died. That way there would be proper mourning going on! Mercifully, Herod’s order was not carried out.
But why would God let such a horrendous event take place? These children were truly innocent! We have to remember that we live in a fallen world, and the one who pulls the strings of godless society is described in John 10:10 as “The thief [who] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” Jesus came to redeem us out of this world, although we remain in it for a time. And that time can be tough, painful and frightening. But as the Savior said in John 16:33, “…in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
If you would desire to know more about the devil and how he works his evil, I wrote 21 blogs from May 6 through June 21 on Know Your Enemy!
Something else – that many people overlook – is found in Isaiah 57:1 and 2 (NIV):
The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken
away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared
from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie
Children – being considered righteous before the age of accountability – do not lose out if they die young. And neither does any true believer lose out if they are called to go through terrible trials such as what these Bethlehem mothers went through. And who knows that if those children lived, they might have to have gone through tremendous suffering later on!
Also Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” In heaven God will more than make up for any difficulties in this phase of life. Read the blog for July 10, The L – O – N – G View!
And so, in twelve blogs, we have looked at The Time-Line of Christmas. I hope this has added new insight to your understanding of the events surrounding the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.