“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 search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him’” (Matt. 2:7–8, NIV).
Herod’s motives were nefarious. He had no intention of worshipping the Christ child but instead every intent to remain king over Judea. As his scribes read the Micah prophecy, he no doubt fumed in jealous anger as he plotted how to oppose the newborn Judean king in Bethlehem. Learning the exact time the star had appeared was key to the plan. For two years, King Herod heard, this royal caravan had been in route as they followed the star’s light each and every night possible. This information set the parameters for his decision: kill every male child in Bethlehem two years old and younger. Better yet, make the execution include all male boys two and under in the area surrounding Bethlehem (Ramah) as an extra precaution to make certain Herod’s throne remained intact and unopposed!
God does not plan evil nor does He participate in evil. Yet God wrote through the prophets hundreds of years before about the evil opposition that would rise up against His only begotten Son: “This is what the Lord says: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Jer. 31:15, NIV).
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi” (Matt. 2:16, NIV).
Evil has opposed good since Eden. Darkness is and always will be opposed to light: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5, NIV). The shock and horror and sadness of Bethlehem families with newborns cannot be fathomed as Roman soldiers carried out Herod’s orders. Just over one month earlier, the sky was filled with the majestic light of the powerful angelic chorus to announce the birth of Immanuel, but now darkness consumed the sky over this “house of bread” in mourning for the loss of their children.
Jesus rebuked the darkness of His day, and this rebuke continues today: “You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (Matt. 23:17–19, NIV).
The manger in Bethlehem contained the “temple.” Herod opposed this “temple,” and his foolishness to oppose proved futile. Herod’s son would, thirty-three years later, oppose the “altar” as he placed the crown of thorns, draped the purple robe, and flogged the back of the “temple” lamb at the altar itself. The foolishness of opposition failed then and fails today!
Christmas is a time for thanksgiving! “We were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world [opposition]. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Gal. 4:3–5, NIV).