Lying Tyrants Still Reign
Al-Assad, gasses his own people, bombs civilians in Aleppo, and pushes even closer to reclaiming Syria as his kingdom. Putin continues to support Assad with Russian war planes and military expertise while presenting himself as an ally in the fight against international terrorism, and Xi Jinping of China keeps flexing his muscles in the Far East. Power, crushing opponents, doing whatever it takes to win—sounds like the real politik of the 21st century that started out with the pretense of peace. But what can we learn from the Christmas Story in Matthew about all this posturing, deception, and murder? God is the final judge and what did He have to say about King Herod’s murderous plots and deception?
King Herod could compete with any of our present day tyrants. He drowned young rivals, executed his sons for supposed treason, and even Mariamme, his beloved Jewish wife, fell victim to the intrigue and suspicion in Herod’s family circle. Near the end of his reign his paranoia intensified—the very time when Jesus was born. In Matthew’s account Herod plays the role of the cunning ruler who is not above faking religious devotion to get at the baby king who could challenge his throne.
“Then Herod secretly called Magi and found out precisely from them when the star had appeared. Before he sent them to Bethlehem he said, ‘Go, search carefully for the child and when you find him, report to me so that I too may come to worship him.’” Matthew 2:8
When Joseph, the step father of Jesus, thought his fiancée was pregnant, he planned to divorce her secretly to protect her. Herod, on the other hand, uses secrecy to begin to implement his murderous plot against Jesus. A good person uses secrecy to protect. An evil person uses secrecy to hide deadly plots. An evil ruler not only plots in secret, but will also fake spiritual devotion to get the information they need.
By the example of Joseph and Herod, Matthew challenges me to ask as I begin the New Year, will I be on the side of those who use secrecy to protect others or as a ploy to carry out destructive schemes against those I believe are a threat? Will I submit to Jesus’ Spirit within and be like Joseph or will I live under my own power and become cunning like Herod?
Lord, thank you that the real story of Jesus’ birth powerfully exposes the human heart: both the righteous Joseph and the murderous Herod. Help me to keep confidences and allow your Spirit to help me not to be threatened by the giftedness of others you are raising up to serve your Kingdom.
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