Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Character Spotlight: Herod - and how it relates to us today

In the few weeks leading up to Christmas, let’s take a step back from the decorating, shopping, and commercialism, and focus on the true meaning of Christmas - the Bethlehem story. One person at a time, we’ll go through the story in a character-study format, and try to put ourselves in the shoes of those individuals that were there on that first Christmas. Want to do some study for yourself? Here is the schedule:

November 29: Joseph
December 4: Mary
December 6: Gabriel
December 11: Shepherds
December 13: Wise men
December 19: Herod
December 24: Jesus
Today's character: King Herod - and how this story relates to us today
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When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a city in Judea, Herod the Great sat on the throne as king. He was a descendant of Esau, twin brother of Jacob, the father of the Israelite nation. Herod was a wicked, Godless king, who had erected heathen temples in Palestine for the worship of idols. It was to this political environment that the Saviour of the world was born.

We don’t hear too much about Herod other than in the events surrounding the wise men’s visit from the East in Matthew 2. As we already saw, these wise men went first to Jerusalem, and sought the location of the baby King there.

Herod’s response? Jealousy. He was furious that a new King had been born, supposing that this King was going to take his throne and destroy his power over Judea. Little did he know that the baby born was not coming to set up an earthly throne, but to establish a heavenly throne, and bring light to a dark, sinful world.

Herod falsely told the wise men that he desired to worship this new King as well, and sent them on their way, with a promise of their return. Had they not been warned by God, Herod would have tried to kill baby Jesus. But His time to die had not yet come. God kept Him safe to accomplish His purpose in His timing.

But Herod did not stop. In a furious display of his power and wickedness, he killed all the babies under two years of age.

All of them. Dead.

Except One, who, by God’s grace and protection, made it out of Bethlehem in time.

But what of the people? The families, who had just had their babies ripped mercilessly from their arms, and brutally murdered at the command of a wicked king? The older children who lost siblings? The grandparents, aunts, uncles...all were affected by this city-wide tragedy.

Jeremiah prophesied that this would happen. Both Jeremiah 31:15 and Matthew 2:18 tell us the mothers could not be comforted...because their little ones lived no longer. The sound of weeping was heard far and wide as this city mourned.

Two thousand years later, we hear that sound again.

Children, whose lives were mercilessly taken from them, at a time of year that should bring “peace on earth.” Children that were left, who have been robbed of their security and innocence. Families, crying for their little ones who will never again walk through the door of their homes. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles...all are affected by this tragedy that has swept our nation.

Yet perhaps, it will serve a purpose.

In Jesus’ day it did. God was able to use a city-wide tragedy to accomplish His will - fulfilling prophecy of Jesus dwelling in Egypt. Perhaps there were other ramifications that we can’t perceive in scripture. Even a tragedy can be used by God.

We can’t see the purpose that the Sandy Hook tragedy will serve. The pain is too raw, the grieving too fresh, and we humans can not see beyond that. But I believe that God will use this tragic slaughter to accomplish something great in our lives.

If nothing else, it causes us to hold our loved ones closer, to cherish more the time with family and friends. It causes us to step back from the hectic pre-Christmas days and focus more on the living. More on the loving. More on the blessings that Christ had given us this Christmas.

I did not intend to turn this character spotlight into a post on the recent Sandy Hook tragedy, but the story of wicked King Herod was too similar to ignore. I believe there are lessons to be learned today, as well as lessons to be learned from Matthew 2. Feel free to share in the comments how this tragedy has affected you or someone you love. I know I, for one, will be treasuring every moment next week that I spend with family.

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