CMC Eps 4 – MATTHEW 2: 13-23 – THE WRATH OF HEROD
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MATTHEW 2: 13-23
Hi I’m Gene Ort and welcome to The Common Man Commentary
This is Matthew 2: verses 13 through 23..
Vs 13 “After the scholars were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.” Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod’s death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: “I called my son out of Egypt.”
Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.) That’s when Jeremiah’s sermon was fulfilled: A sound was heard in Ramah, weeping and much lament. Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel refusing all solace, Her children gone, dead and buried.
Later, when Herod died, God’s angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt: “Up, take the child and his mother and return to Israel. All those out to murder the child are dead.”
Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother, and reentered Israel. When he heard, though, that Archelaus had succeeded his father, Herod, as king in Judea, he was afraid to go there. But then Joseph was directed in a dream to go to the hills of Galilee. On arrival, he settled in the village of Nazareth. This move was a fulfillment of the prophetic words, “He shall be called a Nazarene.””
Matthew 2:13-23 MSG
This might be one of the most difficult passages in the Bible for me. It strips all the tinsel off the tree and sets it on fire right there in the living room. All the presents..up in smoke. The holiday cheer turned to mourning. The annual Christmas programs with all the kids dressed up in the best don’t sing about this part of the story. This takes a very dark turn.
I know a bit about this first hand.
There is a strong temptation to turn this into a cultural history lesson and get past it as quickly as possible. Yes.. bad things happen.. lets move along folks.. nothing to see here.
TO BREATH THE AIR IN THE ROOM
This metaphor has become an important principle to me. It’s one of the starting points for studying the Bible. To breath the air in the room is to allow the words to step across time and space and let you experience more than a history lesson. To smell the smoke of their candles.. feel the cool of the night.. and to let yourself hear the mournful cries of the broken hearted mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters at the loss of a child. To enter into the story and chose to understand with your heart and not to limit yourself to gathering knowledge.
This requires more than a little courage and a willingness to feel pain that we normally would chose to step over. The questions that passages like this raise are still echoing two thousand years later.
To breath the air in this room.. is to acknowledge the proclaimed state of war the angel announced. The urgency with which he commanded Joe to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt should be jolting. He says flee ! Herod is hunting for the child with the intent to kill him. Joe wakes from the dream.. in the middle of the night.. and leaves.. with out telling anyone. They are now well financed thanks to the gifts from the Magi and they stay, hidden in Egypt until Herod dies.
This scene reminds me of World War Two stories like those of Anne Frank or Corrie Ten Boom and countless others who get news of eminent capture or destruction. The fear is real. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that this little Jewish family felt exactly the same way. The visiting angel was more like an air raid siren than a voice of calm and comfort. This is not a cute little bible story. There is something wicked in the air and it means to murder the child. Again.. a miraculous dream intervention at the time known only to Joseph and Mary .
But why ? What’s Herod’s problem ? He is already the richest man in Israel or close to it. He is the unchallengeable King of Israel as appointed by Roman emperor Mark Antony.
The Old Testament prophecies all predict the coming of the Messiah, The Christ which means “ Anointed King “. Could it be that Herod is afraid this anointed King would replace his families position of power ? Herod had a long history of assassinating anyone who would threaten his throne. The famous Jewish historian, Josephus labeled Herod a tyrant. Herod’s insane blood thirst does not stop with killing babies.. he murders his own family members including his wife Marianne. He was known to have suffered from depression and paranoia, again Adolf Hitler comes to mind. Herod’s painful death was caused by chronic kidney disease. He had one failed attempt at suicide. Herod had ordered the murders of a large group of distinguished men upon his death to guarantee that grieving would take place on that day. The order was not carried out.
Some historians estimate that Herod died around the time Jesus would have been 4 or 5 years old after a well documented lunar eclipse.
After Herod’s death.. the country was divided into three sections and ruled by his three sons.
So .. with the history lesson behind us what can we see ? One thing is that the world has been continuously marked by evil people who will stop at nothing to gain and retain the power to rule people. This spirit is alive and functioning in our world today as much as in any time in history.
At a recent bible study, I heard young girl.. let’s call her Franky.. asked a question: “ Why does God let all the bad people stay here ? “ here meaning on earth.
I think this question crosses the minds if not the lips of every thinking human being ever born. It’s an important question.
Nobody knows exactly how many babies were killed in Bethlehem to satisfy this lunatics insane rage but why didn’t God stop it ? Of course the question does not stop there. There is the holocaust in recent days.. but going back.. entire nations of North American Indians and South American Aztecs and Incas were massacred for the sake of gold and empire lust. No continent has been exempt from this kind of evil in any time in known history. It almost always looks the same. Some power mad lust filled lunatic comes into power and is tolerated because of some insane charisma and the ability to make money. They create a kind of progress that is deemed as justification for their ruthless treatment of human beings. Other people follow closely behind cashing in the wealth generated by their successful domination of weaker peoples. And sometimes.. it’s done in the name of God.
Back to Franky’s question.. Why does God let all the bad people stay here ? And I would add.. and let them do all these wicked things ?
We are going to have to jump ahead in the book of Matthew to find the answer Jesus gives for this.. Matthew 13: verses 24 through 30.. This is the story of the Wheat and Tares. I will give more details later on but the jest of it goes like this : Jesus says : God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in His field but an evil enemy snuck into the field at night and planted a toxic weed called darnell.
As the good seed and bad seed started to grow.. they were very hard to tell apart. They were nearly identical until the seed heads formed. The farm hands wanted to go and pull out the bad toxic weeds but the farmer told them no.. you cant do that. If you pull out the weeds you will kill the good plants at the same time. We will have to wait until we harvest the entire field.. then we can separate the good harvest from the toxic weeds.
Knowing this story won’t stop the tears of loss and grief.. the sound of mourning carries on in our world. The language of grief is universal.. it is the language of love. Those who love much.. will grieve much. No one is exempt. What it does do though is show us clearly that the heart of God is good. His decision to see humanity through to the harvest is love. This kind of love has a cost.
The covert entry of Jesus into this world of ours is proof positive that God loves His children. The day He entered our world and choose to “ Breath the Air” with us.. was the day He showed the world who He truly is. Prior to this moment, there was a very distorted view of who God really is. Jesus came to clear up that misunderstanding. It began in a little cave near Bethlehem.. in the shadow of one of Herod’s palaces. You can see Bethlehem from one of his porches.. I have seen it first hand. The wicked powers present on earth showed their hand as well. Evil kills.. wanton destruction and oppression are the calling cards.
Just as the angel told Joseph it was safe to leave Egypt and go back to Israel.. all those who were trying to kill the child are dead “ one day we also will all be able to return to our real homeland..this Kingdom of God Jesus spoke so often of.. and know full restoration with all those who love him and those we love and who have gone before us. Jesus was very clear about His plan to restore all things. Every tear will be wiped away.
I am Gene Ort.. you have been listening to The Common Man Commentary..