Innocents

Everyone knows it is not wise to make a king angry.
He has all kinds of power at his command and he does not hesitate to use it. The Jesus Story is more than singing angels, trembling shepherds, and kneeling wise men. It is the story of evil at its worst seeking to destroy good at its best.

Herod Makes His Move
Deceived by the wise men who saw through his intention to “worship Him, too,” King Herod struck out against this potential rival, this infant who is called Messiah, King of the Jews. While Jesus was still in His mother’s bosom, His young life was threatened. With the assistance of the wise men through their valuable gifts, Joseph and Mary had enough to pay their taxes and make a hastily arranged, clandestine journey to Egypt. Lost in a lumbering caravan through the Sinai, retracing the steps of their ancestors, they escaped Herod’s unreasoning wrath.

Not so the baby boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding regions. In what has come to be called “The Slaughter of the Innocents,” Herod ordered the murder of every boy two years old and younger. Thus, the prophesied cry of weeping mothers became a real sound of lamentation.

Why Would God Allow This?
At first, any one reading this story will ask why. Why would God allow a wicked king to wreak such destruction? This is another way of asking what is the question of the ages: “Why does God allow evil when He has the power to stop it?” Theologians and philosophers grapple with this question in every generation and have since the beginning. The answers are beyond the scope of this writing. What do we know from Scripture?

  • God is just. (Psalm 37:27-29)
  • God is loving. (1 John 4:16)
  • Death is not the end of life. (Psalm 37:27-29)
  • God’s ways are beyond our understanding. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

These things we can understand and we cling to them by faith when faced with things we cannot understand. God does not run the universe at the level of our understanding. There will always be more questions than answers in this life.

A Fallen Creation
When God put the finishing touches on creation He said it was good, very good. When Adam and Eve believed the lies of the serpent and fell into sin, this perfect world began to rot, to decay from within. Evil stalked the land and has to this day. In the time of the Jesus Story, the world was held in the merciless grip of an evil empire. Israel was in the hands of a puppet king and her worship was led by a corrupt priesthood. Power was the coin of the realm, political power for Rome and the power of spiritual wickedness in the Temple. Power must be grasped and firmly held against all opponents, even a helpless child. What was the sound of weeping mothers to Herod? It was the sound of victory.

Another Child
Down in Egypt, another child nursed at His mother’s breast as a carpenter and his wife made do until it was safe to return to Israel. There was no fear for Joseph and Mary knew from experience that God was in control. When news of the slaughter reached them, they wept with the mothers of Bethlehem and held the Boy even closer to their hearts. There would be an answer to such evil.

Scriptures:
Matthew 2:16-18
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. 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.”
Jeremiah 31:15
Thus says the Lord: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”
Psalm 37:27-29
Depart from evil, and do good; And dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, And does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, And dwell in it forever.
1 John 4:16
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
Isaiah 55:8-9
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your ways are higher than my ways. As the Bible says they are “past finding out.” When I have questions about life that I cannot answer, help me review the things I do understand from Your Word and dwell on these things. I trust Your heart, Lord, in things I don’t understand. I know that You are loving and just and that You comfort those who suffer at the hand of the evil in this world. The time is coming when You will make all things right and dry all tears. Thank, You, Lord. Amen.

Song:
When the Morning Comes
Words and Music: Charles Albert Tindley

1. Trials dark on ev’ry hand, and we cannot understand
All the ways that God would lead us  to that blessed Promised Land;
But He’ll guide us with His eye, and we’ll follow till we die;
We will understand it better by and by.

Refrain:
By and by, when the morning comes,
When the saints of God are gathered home,
We will tell the story how we’ve overcome;
We will understand it better by and by.

2. Oft our cherished plans have failed, disappointments have prevailed,
And we’ve wandered in the darkness, heavyhearted and alone;
But we’re trusting in the Lord, and according to His Word,
We will understand it better by and by.

Refrain

3. Temptations, hidden snares often take us unawares.
And our hearts are made to bleed for some thoughtless word or deed.
And we wonder why the test when we try to do our best,
We will understand it better by and by.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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