“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”
As the wise men came to the end of their journey, they encountered King Herod. We know from Scripture and from history books that Herod was serious about preserving his throne. Not necessarily serious about preserving the throne for his sons and grandsons who would come after him, but serious about staying on the throne without any interference. As a result, we know that he even killed some of his own sons and wives because he though they were plotting against him. So, when the wise men came to his palace stating that they were searching for the King of the Jews, Herod was very alarmed. He considered himself to be the king of the Jews, as he was king over their holy city. There’s no way that Herod would allow a nameless baby to steal his power. He had been heartless enough to kill his own family members; surely a little baby’s life would not be hard to find and put to an end.
So Herod did what he had to do (according to the end result he desired, which was NO opposition to his throne) – he tried to butter up the wise men as he lied about his own desire to worship the new king of the Jews. As the wise men shared details of the star and quoted the revealing prophecies, Herod grew anxious. The wise men had the brains and insight to find the baby, and Herod would benefit from their findings. He ordered them to return to the palace as soon as they had succeeded in their search, so that, in Herod’s words, “I, too, may come and worship him.” Yeah, right…
Oh, Herod, if only it were that simple. No earthly man can thwart the Lord’s plans. The wise men did find Jesus. They fell down to worship him (even though another earthily king was still alive and would not allow the worship of another), and they brought expensive gifts to Him, gifts that would foreshadow Jesus’ life. Matthew reveals that the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. So, even though they had orders from Herod to return, they listened to the command in their dreams instead. They did not return to Herod as he had wished. The Lord knew of Herod’s deceptive heart and motives, and God was much bigger than that!
Herod, after realizing that the wise men did not come back to him as he ordered, devised a second plan to kill Jesus. He ordered that all of the children 2-years-old and younger should be killed. Before Herod’s soldiers could reach the place where Jesus was staying, an angel warned Joseph in a dream to get up and travel to Egypt because of Herod’s plan. So, as we know from Joseph’s immediate obedience, they got up right at that moment, and left for Egypt, once again escaping Herod’s evil, selfish plots. After the bloodshed, Herod’s mind may have been put to ease, thinking that he had accomplished his plans. But the King of Kings’ life was spared because it was not His time yet.
By reflecting on Herod’s part in the story, I’m reminded of the immeasurable sovereignty of God. His plans cannot be thwarted. In human terms, it seems that the wise men were planning to go back to Herod to reveal Jesus’ whereabouts. In human terms, it seems as if killing every baby will accomplish Herod’s plans. In human terms, we know that Herod is not above killing family members to keep his throne, so we can certainly assume that he would kill anyone – even (and especially) and professed king – in order to keep his throne. So in human terms, how could Herod not succeed? However, as believers whose citizenship is in an earthly kingdom, we can’t view this story or our own lives in earthly, human terms. We know that the Lord is sovereign over all, and He is working all things together for our good and His glory. He is sovereign over evil kings and human intentions. There is so much comfort in that!
Job 42:2 - "“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted."
Psalm 33:11 - "But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations."
Isaiah 14:27 - "For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?"
So, this Christmas season, remember that whatever you are going through, battling against, or suffering with, the King of Kings sees you, knows your circumstances, loves you, and is sovereign over what is happening. Praise Him that just as He was in control even when King Herod had sinister plans to kill Jesus, He is still in control over the evil intentions of humankind today. The Lord’s plans will not be thwarted. He will receive glory. The Holy Spirit will accomplish His work here on earth. His people will be with Him one day. And Satan will never have eternal victory!