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.” Matthew 2:16–18
Here in this passage, we have the very first tragedy in Matthew – the killing of children or the massacre of the innocents.
Inevitably, we are forced to ask difficult questions: How evil can man get? Would he stop at nothing to protect himself? Would he do anything and everything to achieve his own goals, even at the expense of others? Did He not care about the mothers and fathers who would lose their children to a mad and evil tyrant? Why does God allow suffering? Why does God allow innocent people or children to die? Or be subject to bad situations and madmen? Where’s the good news of the Messiah in the midst of such tragedies?
Have you not questioned God?
There are no easy answers. Allow the Word of God to speak to us, to give us the correct perspective, to provide comfort, and to direct us to the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
Understanding the “Herodian” Backdrop (Matthew 2:16)
Herod is still very much alive in our world and societies, he could even be Christian, or half-Christian if there’s even such a state. As king of his own kingdom, Herod is threatened by Jesus, the real King. He wants his own way and gets upset when others go by “another” way, the Jesus’ way. Herods are fools. In Biblical definition, a fool is proud, rebellious, unteachable, stubborn and selfish. As opposed to the wise who is humble and teachable and has the fear of the Lord, a fool refuses to heed God’s words and ways. Herods, when provoked, become angry, vindictive and aggressive. Like the Jezebel spirit, when a soft approach does not work, they become the aggressor. In Herod’s own mind, he is the “victim” and justifies his own survival actions. Instead of acknowledging mistakes and motives, they self-justify and intensify their efforts. They simply cannot lose and must win at all costs. When they do not get their way, they resort to all means to get their way, even if it means taking others down or getting them out of the way.
Discerning Depravity of Man (Sin) and Demonic Deception (Satan)
Sin alone leads to death and kills. Satan does not even have to do a thing to kill us. Do not blame the devil for everything. We are doing quite well destroying ourselves with our own sins and consequences. But because God has acted and continues to act through Jesus Christ, Satan has to do something. Satan works to thwart God’s plan of salvation (as if he can). He capitalizes on sin by deceiving and getting man to keep serving and submitting to this master. He does not have to say “serve and worship me” but simply “keep serving and worshipping yourself” and “keep worshipping the gods that you have created after your own image.” Much of today’s Christianity sounds like that, just with Jesus thrown in. Like Herod, because he did not get his way, Satan is angry (see Revelation 12:12). He knows his assignment and he is working to fulfil it. He has no time. And he works through anyone who is willing to be used by him (2 Timothy 2:26). Only truth and repentance set these free. God’s foreknowledge is something that is very difficult for our finite minds to grasp. We think in linear terms, limited by time and space. Whilst God, in His interaction with man, operates within these constraints, these do not limit Him at all. God knows the evil that would take place but He does not ordain for evil to take place. Just because He allows evil to take place does not mean He is powerless over these situations. On the contrary, because He is all-powerful and sovereign, in spite of sin and evil, He is still able to totally achieve His plan of salvation.
Kingdom Promise: Restoration and Hope (Matthew 2:17-18)
The drama in Ramah is a scene of anguish, sorrow and great pain. Captives were rounded up and collected at Ramah, 5 miles north of Jerusalem, to be deported to Babylon. Children were separated from their mothers. Families were broken up. Remember the Japanese occupation in Singapore. Some taken away into exile; others to be killed. No one knows what would happen to their children or if they could ever see each other again. Rachel is depicted as “crying from her grave” for her descendants, “refusing to be comforted”, a mother’s grief and cry is different. It can be heard all the way to Ramah (Jeremiah 31:15). Matthew uses Jeremiah 31:15 to describe the extreme sorrow experienced. It is another great calamity or low point in Israel’s history. Do not miss the prophetic pattern.
The world stage gets darker. It is time to arise, to wake up. Walk as wise not foolish, understanding the times and the will of the Lord. Beware of Herods, the agents of Satan. Be an Archippus on assignment for God’s kingdom. Identifying with Jesus means taking His name. A smooth and pain-free life is never promised or guaranteed. If you need to suffer for Jesus, make it count.
What “drama” are you experiencing now? We all struggle, some more than others.
There are consequences of our own sin, and sins of others. Do not minimize it or be in denial, faking strength and trying to manage on your own. It is okay to cry and grief. God knows the pain of seeing His Son die on the cross. But do not stay there.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).