Dueling Kingdoms

“So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night and left for Egypt.”  Matthew 2:14
 If you’re anything like me, you’ve been troubled by much of what has been happening around the world.  It seems that anytime I read the news, it is about something terrible that is going on.  One of the things that has concerned me is the increasing godlessness coming from governments and institutions all over the world.  Whatever your opinion on Covid-19, it is undeniable that many of the policies surrounding it, since the first lockdowns began, have been extreme.  It’s a trend that has continued with a push for vaccine mandates, among other measures.  For example, Australia’s government has even been forcing people into “quarantine camps,” where three were recently arrested for escaping.  It is in man’s fallen nature to push for power and control over others, a pattern seen throughout history.
When we look at the Christmas story found in the Bible, we can see this pattern at work in the life and reign of King Herod “The Great.”  While Herod did prompt many great architectural achievements during his reign over Judaea, including the second Jewish temple, he was far from great.  He divorced his first wife, murdered his second along with her family, disinherited and then killed his firstborn son and failed an attempt at suicide.  What he is best known for in the scriptures is found in Matthew 2:16-18, where he ordered the genocide of every firstborn male two years old or younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.  It all began when Magi came to Jerusalem looking for the King of the Jews, since they had seen His star in the east.  They followed it until reaching Herod’s palace, where they inquired further.  However, the birth was news to Herod, who had no understanding of what was happening astrologically.  Matthew 2:3 tells us that when he heard what the Magi said, “he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”  Clearly, word spread fast of these strange wise men and their claims, to the point that it left both Herod and Jerusalem “troubled.”  I think given Herod’s later actions that he had different reasons for being troubled than the rest of Jerusalem.  He tried to convince the Magi to return with the exact location of Jesus, “So that I too may come and worship Him,” as stated in verse eight.
The Magi set off following the star to the very home of Mary and Joseph where, upon entering, “They fell to the ground and worshiped Him.”  Then they presented Jesus with three distinct gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  These gifts were not just random offerings, but held much symbolism.  It is believed that the gold represented Christ’s royalty, the frankincense His divinity and the myrrh His humanity.  It also foreshadowed His future death, as myrrh was typically used for embalming.  It would be the oil used on His crucified body after His death, as seen in John 19:39.  It’s also important to note that these were costly gifts, and would have met the immediate needs of the family.  For after the Magi gave their gifts, they were then warned in a dream not to return to Herod, who at some point realized he’d been tricked and ordered the genocide.  But despite the evil actions and intentions of King Herod, whose jealousy over the throne of Judaea led him to order the slaughter of innocent children, it did not hinder God’s plan.  Here, a group of Magi from a distant land, who had been watching the stars intently throughout their lifetimes, discerned the sign of Christ’s coming and then traveled likely for months to find Him - it was they who brought exactly what Mary and Joseph needed at the exact right moment.  Matthew 2:13-14 states, “Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.’  So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.”  These costly gifts would have financed their travels, supplies and eventual shelter.  A humble family such as theirs could not have afforded such an endeavor had the Lord not provided for their journey.  It is a remarkable picture of God’s provision and of Mary and Joseph’s obedience.  Can you imagine being awoken by such a divine encounter, only to have to drop everything and run for your life?  Yes, following the Lord is often inconvenient and full of challenges, but He will provide what is needed, for He is faithful!
What I find most remarkable of all from this part of the Christmas story is that Herod, the murderous and petty ruler of Judaea, thought he could stop what God had foretold in the stars.  And what a tragic picture of fallen man: that this “great” king, who had already tried to end his own life through suicide, would still order the genocide of babes and infants because he felt his throne was threatened.  He placed no value on human life, not even his own - only on his thirst for power and control.  And what irony that he was trying to murder His very Creator, who took on human flesh so that He might bring life to all who would receive Him, through His future death upon a cross.  As we see increasing evil within once trusted governments and institutions both here and abroad, let us remember that no kingdom of man can stop the coming Kingdom of God, one that will see it’s fulfillment upon Christ’s return to this Earth!
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