Today’s Scripture – July 21, 2016

Matthew 2:4-8 (NIV)

When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:  ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Herod, the “king of the Jews,” was not Jewish by descent, but an Idumean who had been raised in the Jewish faith.  He did not adhere to God’s moral law at all, although he observed some of the ceremonial and dietary laws.  (After He murdered one of his own sons, local pundits observed that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than his son!)

So it was quite natural that Herod had little knowledge himself of the Hebrew Scriptures, or of the Messianic prophesies.  When he needed to know where the Messiah would come from, he resorted to the scribes, who were able to point him to the second chapter of Micah, where Bethlehem, a village 6 miles south of Jerusalem, was identified as the location from which the Messiah would rise.

Herod also betrayed His lack of true Jewishness by his response to the Messiah’s arrival.  Instead of rejoicing that God was at last fulfilling His promise to His people of sending the One who would provide deliverance from sin and death for them, all that he felt was hatred.  He saw the Messiah principally as a threat to his reign, a usurper of his throne that had to be put down.

Herod put on a pious act for the wise men, pretending that he wanted them to find the Messiah and report his whereabouts to him so that he himself could go and worship Him.  But murder was in his heart from the very beginning.

The Messiah was foretold to be not only a leader, but a shepherd for God’s people, Israel – someone to care for them, and to faithfully guide them in the ways of God.  Herod had no desire to shepherd God’s people.  He just wanted to use them to accomplish his own agenda, and to exalt himself.  Therefore, he feared and hated the One who had now come, and set himself up to destroy Him so that his own throne, his own power, would be protected.

In the end, though, his plan failed.  God intervened; Jesus lived; Herod died.

Father, I am reminded of Psalm 33:10-11 (NIV):  “The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.  But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”  Thank You that, no matter what the wicked plot against You, or against Your people, Your plan will ultimately prevail.  Help me, Lord, to stay right in the center of your plan always, where I can experience Your blessing every day.  Amen.

 

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