It's strange how different people react to Jesus differently. Some are mildly amused, others couldn't care less, some are violently opposed and others totally devoted. We have people today who claim that education should be enough to stamp out silly old superstitions but when we look back in Scriptures we discover that the supposedly educated and powerful people often set themselves up as opponents of God. People cry out today that anyone of any intelligence would never use religion as a crutch. It is a shame that they cannot recognize the pattern of our rebellious sin nature that causes us to want to set up gods after our own image and remain enemies of our Creator. Sometimes, people of intelligence and power are their own god.
For the last few days we have considered how God surprised people with the birth of Jesus. There were none more surprised than king Herod. He was enjoying a good life, walking a tight rope to make sure all the different political factions were appeased but that was his job and he was good at it. Now he has these men of learning from foreign countries knocking on his door asking him where the new king was, the one that the stars had announced. SURPRISE! If you ever want to bring insecurity to a man of power, start praising someone else in his presence. A new king? Really?
Immediately Herod had his people search the Scriptures; at least he still recognized the authority of the Scriptures. They discovered that the prophets foretold of the great King being born in king David's city, Bethlehem. You can almost hear king Herord thinking, "Not on my watch he isn't". Armed with this information he tried to turn these visitors who were seeking this great king into spies for his own purpose. He told them to get back to him with the location because he wanted to pay homage as well. Men using the guise of religion for their own design is nothing knew. People today look back in history and see the atrocities committed by such men and then criticize the religion. They are unable to see the difference between the men of greed and power who manipulated religion and the people of sincere devotion and belief.
This is where we should be able to see the genuineness of what was happening around Jesus. These learned men found the child (not the baby) with his mother and offered their gifts. It was likely Jesus was 2 years old at this time. No, sorry to disappoint, it was not a crowded stable on the night of Jesus' birth. After their visit they were warned by God not to return to Herod. In one simple dream God thwarted the plans of his enemy. But, as is so often the case, when the enemy can't have his way through trickery, he will make his plans more obvious through violence.
When Herod discovered that the visitors had left without divulging the information he sought, he sent in his soldiers to do a sickening thing. This shows us just how evil the man's heart was and just how desperate he was to try to spoil God's plans. He had no idea that God's plans were bigger than some small kingdom in the middle east that wasn't even in charge of it's own affairs but in a submissive relationship with Rome. God was out to bring man back to him in a manner no one could have fathomed. If God was capable of such a thing then surely he was capable of protecting a tiny baby.
Before the solders could arrive God warned Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt. Herod showed the darkness of his heart as he ordered the murder of every male child two years old and under. What a terrible lose of life with no results for Herod. Perhaps Herod died thinking he had defeated God; a number of people do. What a stupid thought to have on your death bed, "Hahaha, I have showed God who is boss. I never once obeyed him. I remained free and independent". And may I add, dead. You still end up dead and now you will discover what God was trying to save you from.
This is the saddest thing about people like Herod who think they can do what they want for their own gain, even fight against God. It also holds true for those people who have made it their mission to try to convince others to turn away from God as well. They all end up dead and they all end up facing what they wasted their life trying to deny. They chose the wrong thing. They chose to not accept the gift of life, peace, joy, hope, faith and love that God held out to them. They chose not to accept the hand of rescue. They chose wrong.
Nothing frustrates the plans of God. If we try to prevent it one way he is already aware of it and has made his plans to cover that. God's will can never be denied and life is filled with blessings when we work within that will instead of all the natural curses that come with fighting against it. Look at the beauty of Christmas and realize that the sending of this gift reveals the incredibly beautiful heart of our Father. We can choose the ugly way of Herod or we can see the beauty of God's desire for us. I hope the beauty of Christmas this year will remind you where the real joy and blessings are found because they are never found in us but always in Jesus.