When 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. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “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.” Matthew 2:16-18
I’ll admit: whenever I read these verses, I’m conflicted. Why did God spare His Son and not the other hundreds, maybe thousands, of other human sons around Bethlehem? When Herod learned he had been spurned, he decided to kill every young boy in the area. If he couldn’t find the Messiah in the crowd, he’d simply kill the crowd. This is the part we don’t show in our Christmas Nativities. It harkens forward to Revelation 12, where a dragon swoops in to kill God’s Son (an event Chad Bird refers to as “when a dragon tried to eat Jesus”). It’s violent and visceral and murderous; hardly what you think of when you think of the story of those wise men.
Sort of like Chicago every weekend. Or north Texas, where, on Christmas, a grandfather brutally murdered his 8-year-old grandson for reasons unknown. Why did God spare His Son and not the sons of the families in northern Israel?
Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves that we aren’t God. That God tolerates our sins. He doesn’t cause them; we do. Instead, He works in our world to use the consequences of our sins to advance His kingdom, and His good purposes. Here again, God fulfills a prophecy, this one from Jeremiah, brutally fulfilled twice in Scripture. Knowing that, name one time in the Bible or your own life when God caused you to sin, or even one time when He said (or even inferred), “do this sin to get out of sin.” It hasn’t ever happened.
Nor will it because God loves us. He loves us with a deep power we can’t even fathom. He loves us enough to tolerate even our worst actions so that His Spirit might work among us afterwards. Killings in the hood, Islamic terrorism, the Holocaust, slaughter at the Somme, Torquemada’s worst fantasies, Aztec sacrifices, Cain with a rock in his hand: God tolerates our terrible, sinful choices so that He might redeem us from their deathly spiritual outcome.
The children murdered by Herod didn’t deserve it, but it happened. Blame Herod; blame his conspiring advisors; blame the soldiers who carried out their heinous orders. Blame the people who are actually to blame, not God. Our sins, even the worst murders, aren’t God’s fault. He doesn’t sin. We do.
For more reading: Genesis 35:19, Jeremiah 31:15, Revelation 12:4, Matthew 2:19
Lord, I pray for the peace of those innocents killed by Herod, and for those suffering from our sins today.