Thursday, October 1, 2009

10/1- Matthew 2:14-18 Murder of the Innocents

(killing of the Innocents- Flemish)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Matthew 2:14-18
15where 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." 16When 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. 17Then 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."
Jeremiah 31:16,17: 16 This is what the LORD says: "Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded," declares the LORD. "They will return from the land of the enemy. 17 So there is hope for your future," declares the LORD. "Your children will return to their own land.”

Calvin abridged: This is how the passage (quoted from Hosea 11:1) ought to be interpreted: “When Israel was
yet a child, I brought him out of that wretched bondage in which he had been plunged. He was formerly like a dead man, and Egypt served him for a grave; but I drew him out of it as from the womb, and brought him into
the light of life.” That deliverance from Egypt was the birth of a nation, in which they were adopted by God (Deut. 32:9; 1 Pt. 2:9) becoming a nation of priests, being rescued from a deep whirlpool of death in that foreign country. Now our redemption by Christ is a resurrection from the dead and a commencement to a new life. The light of salvation had almost been extinguished when God began the Church anew in the person of Christ. Before the whole nation was formerly shut up in Egypt, now it was Christ-the head of the Church alone- who was concealed there. Yet he carries the salvation and life for all within himself.
16-“When Herod saw…”- Herod saw that the Magi recognized his own deception and trickery (he said he wanted to pay homage) and did not want to take part in his pretense or his cruelty. Josephus does not make mention of this event, but the historian Macrobius in his second book of Saturnalia does: “When he heard that, by Herod’s command, the children in Syria under two years of age had been slain, and that his own son had been slain among the crowd, ‘I would rather’ said he, ‘have been Herod’s hog than his son.’” But Matthew’s authority alone is sufficient. Josephus certainly mentions other acts of cruelties of Herod that show his murderous character- like the killing of the Sanhedrin by Herod. Matthew says that Herod killed those two and under from which we may understand that Christ may have been as old as two years- but we do not know. It probably was not a two year journey for them. When the Magi came they asked for “a king who had been born” not after one that was two years old. 18 “a voice was heard in Ramah”- It is certain that Jeremiah 31:15 (quoted here) was speaking of the destruction of the tribe of Benjamin, putting these words in the mouth of Benjamin’s mother, Rachel, who had been long dead. Herod’s murder was a renewal of that mourning over the killing of children. Jeremiah goes on to promise a restoration, and Matthew promises a restoration through Christ- despite the massacre. After this passage Jeremiah says, “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears for your work will be rewarded and you will return from the land of exile.” (31:16,17).

Thoughts: Herod is an example of a very smart, but very jealous ruler. He did all he could to eliminate his competition. This passage is a lesson for all those who want to eliminate criticism (probably in the name of unity). Herod had killed not only the judges mentioned in Calvin’s commentary, but his own son and his own wife. Yet, He rebuilt the temple, built up Masada, and a magnificent palace. He was enthralled with human power and glory to the point of jealousy toward even God’s interference in the fulfillment of a prophecy. I have often wondered why rulers or even others persecute Christians. Maybe in part it is to preserve their own power against the power of God. The best thing we can do is to submit to God’s power. In the end- He alone is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jealousy and a desire to preserve our own status no matter what consequence it is to another is another form of human pride and rebellion against God. In sharp contrast to Herod’s killing to preserve his temporary crown is Christ’s cross that in the end allows him to be crowned King of kings. In our competitive dog-eat-dog world (made even more competitive by the recession), we would do well to follow Christ’s admonition to love our neighbor and even our enemies instead of Herod’s example of killing (or hating) our neighbor and our enemies!

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to follow you. Give us grace to handle threats to our power and status with strength and trust in you.

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