A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on December 30, 2007 by Pastor Dale Raether The Man Who Would Stay King Matthew 2:13-23 This part of God’s Word is perhaps one of my least favorites. I don’t like what happened. I don’t like to think about what happened. Yet God put this in the Bible for our learning, and so there are truths here we need to learn, truths that will help us understand ourselves and God’s love a little better. Estimates are there were between 15 and 20 baby boys in Bethlehem at the time. So, where was God’s love in allowing their murder? Well, whenever a person commits a sin, we can’t blame God. God didn’t program us to sin neither does He strike us dead before we can get to that sin. Rather, He gives us all time – time to come to faith, time to grow in faith and time to live our faith. However, the seed of faith doesn’t always germinate on the first planting. Also, once that seed germinates, it takes a life to grow and grow and bear fruit. In fact as long as we live, we are not done. In the meanwhile we also continue to sin – sometimes in little ways, sometimes in big ways. And so, if God were to strike people dead before they could get to a sin, how many of us would still be alive? Still we might argue: God shouldn’t have been as patient with Herod. He should have struck him down, before he did what he did. Wait a minute, did you hear an attitude in my last comment? Isn’t the attitude, “I want to be king over God; I want to tell Him how to run this world”? Actually that was also Herod’s problem. As we get into our text, we’re going to find out that Herod murdered the babies in Bethlehem, because: He wanted to stay king. 1. Herod moves to retain his throne. 2. God moves to enthrone His Son. The third part is a question, Who is the king of MY life? Herod was king of the Jews, but he wasn’t a Jew. He was a descendent of Esau and appointed king over Judea by Mark Anthony, who later became Cleopatra’s boyfriend. From the very start, Herod acted to make sure he stayed king. He converted to Judaism and spent lots of money fixing up the temple in Jerusalem. But his motive wasn’t love for God. He was just trying to buy people’s favor and convince them that what he DID for them was more important than his character. And Herod was quite a character. Over the years he had 10 wives. When he got sick of one, he’d have her murdered and marry another. He even murdered a wife he loved along with their children, because he was afraid they might get rid of him and seize the throne. Yet because he loved her, he kept her body in his room for years and years. One other thing Herod did to secure his power, is he destroyed all the family records of King David’s royal line. He figured if no one could prove he was a descendent of David, no one could ever claim to be the Messiah. And then came the wisemen asking, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” We can understand why all Jerusalem started shaking. Everyone knew someone was going to get murdered over that. Anyway Herod found out from the wisemen when the star first appeared and sent them on their way, before anyone could warn them what he was like. He also told the wisemen to come back and tell him where the newborn King was, so that he could go and worship Him too.Herod’s comment made sense to the wisemen, because they correctly thought of the Messiah as a spiritual king, and so in their thinking, why wouldn’t Herod want to worship Him? Herod, on the other hand, only thought of the Messiah as an earthly king and therefore a threat to his power. Also, He could have cared less that the Messiah came to be his Savior. As believers, we find this hard to understand. No matter what Herod did to stay in power, he had to know he was going to live forever, and someday he would be standing before God. Also, did Herod really think he was more powerful than God, and could keep himself king, if that wasn’t God’s will? Apparently he did, and that’s why He murdered so many people. And now here’s what we can learn from this story about ourselves. The sin in our heart is like the roots of a weed. At home I got a few little weeds around my flowers. I don’t mind them so much because I don’t time, and because they’re little and there aren’t that many of them – yet. However, I know what’s going to happen. They’re going to get bigger and then they’re going to multiply. In the same way, what Herod did shows us is how big and how many sins sin’s root can produce in our lives also. But we say, “I’ll never be that bad.” That’s great, but we still need to be concerned about the root that’s in us. And the root is this, that we want to be in control of our life instead of God, that we want to tell God what is or isn’t true, and how best to live our lives to be the happiest. Granted, maybe right now we just want God to leave us alone our “little” sins and failures. And if that’s what we’re insisting on, God isn’t going to strike us dead. However, those “little” sins of omission and commission will keep on growing, and then how long can the seed of our faith survive in a heart that’s crowded with the root of sin? We don’t want to test the limits on that one, do we. And so, when we read this account and we’re tempted to ask, “God why didn’t you stop Herod”, it would be better if we just prayed, “Create in ME a clean heart, oh Lord.” And now this is a prayer God is eager to answer, and we see that in how He moved to enthrone His Son. We read, “When the wisemen had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where 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."” In eternity God already foresaw Herod’s murderous rage, and so in eternity God planned what He would do to protect His Son. In fact God even prophesied 500 years before it happened that the baby Jesus would have to live for awhile in Egypt. Actually this wasn’t the first time God’s special family lived in Egypt. It happened before when Jacob and his 12 sons moved there, and the phrase in this passage, “Out of Egypt I called my son”, was about Moses and the Exodus. Nevertheless the Holy Spirit also applies this phrase to Jesus, because many things that happened in the Old Testament were foreshadows of the Savior. For example, just as David defeated Goliath for the Children of Israel, David’s descendent would defeat sin, death, and Satan in behalf of all people. Or, just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, because he loved the Lord, so God was willing to sacrifice His Son, because He loved us. There are many types of Christ in the Old Testament. And so as you read it, always ask yourself, “How is this like what happened to Jesus or what Jesus did”? In addition to types of Christ in the Old Testament, there are also 100s of direct prophecies about Jesus. Anyway, God’s prophecies are always 100% accurate, because God sees the future as clearly as we he sees the past. And so, it’s never His will that someone commit a sin, much less a murder. Yet foreseeing that sin, He ALWAYS works around that sin according to His purpose. And so, for example, Herod could not prevent God from enthroning His Son. On the contrary, Herod’s feeble attempts against Jesus only helped establish Him as Lord of lords and King of kings, because in attacking Him, Herod was inadvertently confirming the truthfulness of God’s Word. Today Jesus is still Lord of lords and King of king. For example, the assassination of the former prime minister of Pakistan is very disturbing. Lots of people are fearful of what could happen next. And yes, more bad can come out of this before it’s done. Yet do not be afraid. Though this assassination was not God’s will, He is still ruling in all things for sake His Gospel – globally. In the same way, He is also ruling in our lives, so that we may grow in faith and that our faith may be pruned to produce even great and more fruits of faith. Sometimes His ruling means letting us see and experience how sinful sin is. Yet He doesn’t force us to turn to Him. Instead He invites us. He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” When we can’t stand anymore the corruption of this world, and especially when we’re starting to see more and more clearly the sin and failures of our own heart, come to the Christ child! Come because God has enthroned Him as our King! And so, when He promises that because of what He did, we will stand before God pure and holy, it’s going to happen! Or, when He promises to guard our faith in Him through His Word and Sacrament, He’s going to do it! For example, one of the last things Paul wrote before being led out into the Roman Coliseum to be murdered was, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” But we might say, “My faith isn’t as strong Paul’s was to face all the evil that’s in this world.” Well, don’t look at the strength of your faith. Through Word and Sacrament, look to the strength of Jesus, and let Him be your King! But what does it mean to let Jesus be our King? It means keep coming to Jesus for R and R – repentance and rest. Repentance in turning from our pride and our excuses and our insistence that we’re smarter than God, because look at Herod and see where that gets you! Then rest in Jesus! Trust His love for you, and until that love changes your heart. Then instead of Jesus being a king we forced to serve, He becomes a King we love to serve. This means obeying His commandments. It also means campaigning for Jesus, so to speak, by telling every one of His character, and His accomplishments and the certainty of His Word and promises. At the start I said this section of the Bible wasn’t my favorite. Quite honestly it still isn’t. I still don’t like what happened. I still don’t like thinking about it. Nevertheless if Herod’s story warns us about sin, and destroys our love for the things of this life, and drives us closer to Jesus, well, we still might not like this story, but we got to like what this story does for us. It strengthens us to gladly, firmly say, “Jesus is my King.” Amen.

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