An Angry King Versus One Small Child
Text: Matthew 2:1-23
Herod the Great waited in vain for the return of the Wise Men. With each passing day, his hope that the Magi would bring him news about the Christ-child faded rapidly. When he finally accepted that the Wise Men had left Judea for their own country, his wrath knew no bounds. Matthew could not but take note of the evil deed of wicked King Herod.
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived
by the Wise Men, was exceedingly angry; and
he sent forth and put to death all the male 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.”
Matthew captured an important glimpse of what it was like to live in a country controlled by a powerful despot. Herod had virtually unlimited powers. Rome was too far away to care about how he vented his frustration and anger on his subjects. As long as Rome itself was not threatened, it left the governing of the provinces to the kings approved by the Emperor.
THE VERY REAL PRESENCE OF EVIL
The Book of Psalms made many references to the Messiah. It also made many references to the wicked and the evil deeds they threatened or perpetrated. As we look at Matthew’s description of the wicked deed of Herod, we are reminded of some of the psalms that made reference to the wicked.
1. The Wicked are capable of perpetrating great evil
“Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity;
Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth
His trouble shall return upon his own head,
And his violent dealing shall come down on
his own crown.”
Psalm 7:14, 16
The order Herod gave to his soldiers to kill all children less than two years of age in Bethlehem and in the surrounding districts only confirmed what the Scriptures taught about the presence of evil.
2. The Wicked will be Judged
Herod may have thought that he could get away with his wicked deeds. Perhaps on this earth he could, but not in the final analysis.
The Book of Psalms has a text that brings some consolation to the aggrieved heart.
“You sat on the throne judging in
You have rebuked the nations,
You have destroyed the wicked;
You have blotted out their name
forever and ever.
O enemy, destructions are finished
And you have destroyed cities;
Even their memory has perished.
The wicked shall be turned into hell
And all the nations that forget God.”
Psalm 9:4b-6, 17
Yes, many innocent perished because of the wickedness of Herod. However, he would be judged by God and be turned into hell for his evil deed(s).
THE SORROWS OF LIFE
A great tragedy had occurred. Matthew held Herod responsible for this tragedy. At no time did he attach blame to the Magi for having gone to King Herod to ask for directions to the birthplace of Jesus. Wicked people need very little to bring out the evil that is in their hearts.
As the Herodian soldiers acting under orders killed children, we are reminded of a similar order issued against male children, in ancient Egypt.
“So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying,
‘Every son who is born you shall cast into the river,
and every daughter you shall save alive.'”
Pharaoh’s order was not prompted by anything but the sheer evil that lay deep in his heart! Evil has always reared its ugly head and bared its fangs against humanity.
Matthew sadly recorded the impact of the wicked deed of Herod the Great.
“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah
the prophet, saying,
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted.
Because they are no more.'”
He recalled this ancient prophecy from the Book of Jeremiah. The original context of Jeremiah’s prophecy was a description of the sorrows that befell the nation because it had departed from God, and had walked in the paths of sin and apostasy! The sense of sorrow in this text was borrowed and applied to describe the sorrow felt by those who saw their children killed by Herod’s soldiers!