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Matt 2:7-18 “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 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.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16 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. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
First, we have here the dark side to the Christmas story.
It is about a man who tried to destroy Christmas–King Herod.
Now, it seems a little bit out of place that this terrible account of the killing of the innocent boys of Bethlehem would be included right in the middle of the amazing Christmas story.
But since it is, God had his reason.
So let me point out some things from this painful event.
The FIRST thing we see is:
I. Herod’s dark heart
Here’s a little history about Herod.
By the time Jesus was born, Herod the Great was very old, very sick, and near death.
He’s been in power for over 40 years and has proven to be both clever and cruel.
Like all dictators and despots, he kept a tight grip on the reins of power and brutally removed anyone who got in his way.
Over the years, Herod murdered the unthinkable:
*He even killed two of his own sons
Caesar Augustus said, “It is safer to be Herod’s sow than his son.”
History tells us that the murder of his wife drove him insane.
He killed her because he thought she was a threat to his power…..But he never got over her.
Even though he was only 44 when he killed her, and he lived to be 70, her murder was the beginning of the end for him.
So it is a fact that Herod the Great was a killer.
That was his nature.
He killed out of spite and he killed to stay in power.
Human life meant nothing to him.
The great historian Josephus called him “barbaric,”
Another writer dubbed him “the malevolent maniac,”
Yet another named him “the great pervert.”
Bottom line—Killing was what Herod did best.
Now, here’s the first stand-out from the story:
Herod is a perfect example of why Jesus came–we human beings are sinners in need of a Savior!
The Bible says there’s a little bit of Herod in all of us!
We all have hearts darkened by sin.
Jeremiah the Prophet said, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?—17:9 NLT
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”—Romans 3:23 NLT
Isaiah said, “ALL we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, EVERYONE, to his own way, and (this is why) the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us ALL” (Is. 53:6).
Herod may have been a killer, but we, too, commit sins that are heinous in heaven.
This is why Jesus came from heaven to be born in Bethlehem—to head evil off at the pass,
to confront the devil and defeat him,
and to redeem our stained souls from the consequences of our sin!
This is why when the angel told Joseph about Mary’s pregnancy, he instructed him to give the baby the name JESUS, “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
So—Herod’s dark heart illustrates mankind’s need of a Savior!
The SECOND thing we see in the story is…
II. A Protecting Providence
God’s providence means that God is in control of every detail in the universe.
He is not only sovereign over the big picture, but is also in control of the tiniest details of life.
Jesus said that, “Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.”—Matt 10:29 NLT
And we see that God’s protective Providence oversaw every detail of His Son’s arrival to earth.
For instance, Matthew 2:12-23 mentions four separate protective dreams from God.
The FIRST dream warns the wise men to return home another way.
The SECOND dream warns Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt.
The THIRD dream instructs them to return to Israel after Herod’s death.
And the FOURTH dream warns them not to go back to Bethlehem, so they instead went to Nazareth.
3 out of 4 of these passages contain quotes from the O.T. showing that they were fulfilled Bible prophecy!
The first one (in verse 15) shows that our Lord’s stay in Egypt fulfills Hosea 11:1.
The second one (in verse 18) connects the weeping of the mothers of Bethlehem with Jeremiah’s prophecy in 31:15.
The third one (in verse 23) fulfills Judges 13:5, telling us that even the choice of a home in Nazareth was part of God’s plan from the beginning, that Jesus would be called a Nazarene!
So even in the midst of great heartache, trouble, danger, confusion, and Herod’s wrath, God’s plan was fulfilled!
Herod killed every baby he could find, but the one baby he really wanted to kill was kept safe by God’s protective Providence.
Now, you might be thinking, “But Jeff, what about those poor mothers that lost their boys?
Where was God for them?
Why didn’t God warn them?”
In one way I can’t answer that because I don’t fully understand everything God allows.
But what I CAN say is—God ALWAYS has a bigger plan than we can see from where we sit.
What I DO know is—He preserved his Son THAT DAY so that ONE DAY his Son could die on the cross for our sins.
Think about it! Jesus had to escape this time so that he would not escape the next time.
One writer put it this way: Jesus escaped the FIRST TIME so that He wouldn’t escape the SECOND TIME so that WE would escape for ALL TIME!
So in the Christmas story we see 1.) a dark heart, 2.) a protective Providence, and finally, the Christmas story reveals:
III. A promise fulfilled
Way back in the Garden of Eden, God’s plan of salvation was revealed in the form of a prophetic promise:
Gen 3:15 LB “From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers. You (Satan) will strike his heel, but he (Messiah) will crush your head.”
—From this prophetic promise forward, the entire OT points to Jesus’s death on the Cross.
—Then the gospels describe His death on the Cross.
—And the rest of the NT teaches us how to live in light of what the death and resurrection of Christ purchased for us.
At Bethlehem on that first Christas morn, God’s promised plan of salvation was officially launched in a mighty counter-offensive against Satan and evil, and it GLORIOUSLY SUCCEEDED!
Because not only was Jesus our Savior born that day, He went on to live a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
God’s plan was spectacularly successful!
So the Christmas story contains man’s sin-darkened heart, God’s protecting Providence, and Satan’s defeat.