(Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash)
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go
and make a careful search for the child...
Jesus is born. The shepherds came to see the newborn king, and the Magi, also called wise men, brought gifts and bowed down and worshiped Him. But before these wise men from the east found Jesus, they stopped in Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews?" When Herod, the Roman-appointed king of Judea, heard about this future king, he was disturbed.
WHO IS KING HEROD?
Herod, also known as Herod the Great, was a brutal king. He was known for his cruel treatment of those who opposed him or whom he considered threats. Herod murdered one of his wives and two of his sons when he suspected they were plotting against him. He had at least one other son killed as well as many others during his reign. Herod was also known for his architecture; building cities and fortresses. Masada, one of the fortresses he created, has been uncovered and can be seen in Israel today. King Herod earned his title, "the Great" because of his reputation as a great builder.
KING HEROD'S INITIAL RESPONSE TO HEARING ABOUT JESUS
Although Herod was a brilliant politician, and strong military leader, he was prone to paranoia as well as ruthlessness. When the Magi gave their story of the star and a king and Messiah being born, Herod wanted to know where the baby was. He told the Magi to come back and let him know so that he could also go and worship him. Herod called the Jewish leaders in to ask them where the Messiah was to be born. The leaders told Herod the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, so that's where the king sent the wise men. As a side note, it's interesting that the leaders knew the answer to where the Messiah was to be born and yet most never accepted Jesus as the king of the Jews.
THE MAGI FIND JESUS
Scripture tells us the star led the Magi to the place where Jesus lived (Matt 2:9); it doesn't say they ever went to Bethlehem. Luke 2:39 tells us that after Mary and Joseph had fulfilled the requirements of the law, meaning Jesus' circumcision and presentation to the Lord, they returned to Nazareth. So it is believed the star led the wise men to a house in Nazareth; and that Jesus was somewhere between three months and two years of age when the Magi arrived. Herod would have known the child's approximate age as well because the Magi told him when the star had first appeared.
KING HEROD'S REAL MOTIVE
When the wise men left, they returned home. They didn't go back to Jerusalem as Herod had instructed because they were warned in a dream not to go back. Soon after, Joseph had a dream and was told to flee to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill Jesus. When the king learned he was tricked, he was furious. In true Herod fashion, he ordered that all baby boys two years and under in Bethlehem and the vicinity were to be killed, including his own son. Matthew tells us the king's order fulfilled the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, "A cry was heard in Ramah--weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead" (Jer 31:15).
God is bigger than any of man's sinister plans. He sees and knows everything, and is in complete control. God thwarted the evil plans of King Herod, and He can do the same today. If God has a plan He wants to be accomplished, and man interferes, God will always overrule in some way. Often what man intends for harm, God intends for good as we see in the life of Joseph (Gen 50:20). And we know that God promises to work all things together for good to those who love Him (Rom 8:28). Other times, God will directly intervene and warn someone of an evil scheme as He did in the king's plot to kill Jesus. Nothing is too hard for God (Jer 32:27), and since believers know that He is for us and not against us (Rom 8:31), we can trust His plan. That doesn't mean things will always go the way we want them to, nor does it say we will understand why something bad happens to us or someone we love. It means, we can trust God. And at that moment, the question becomes, "Will I trust Him or not? Will I let this pain draw me to God or away from Him?" He alone can save or rescue! I will leave you with this verse that has meant a lot to me over the years:
The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe.