Herod, outwitted, now furious, orders something to be carried out that is evil to the core. Bethlehem did not have a large population, some think the number was around twenty but it surely impacted the whole town.
“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)
The Jews knew the prophecy, but we need reminding.
(Jeremiah 31: 15-17) “This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” 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. So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord. Your children will return to their own land.”
Six hundred years before Christ was born in the context of the captivity of Jerusalem. It must have seemed like God had deserted his people when they were deported by the Babylonians. Jeremiah pictures Rachel weeping as the exiles pass her tomb in Ramah on the way to a strange land.
Matthew only records part of the prophecy but his readers knew the whole of it. Through Jeremiah, God was saying there is hope.
The mothers of Bethlehem were crying out. They were victims of evil. Why?! Is their cry.
The slaughter of the innocents happened, Jesus had been born.
The King of Egypt ordered the new born males to be killed and Moses had been born.
Identical beginnings and it reveals Jesus is greater than Moses.
From the beginning of his life and at the end of his life on the cross we see a violent and terrible world. A world that He came to redeem.
For Jesus, the greater Moses, living between the atrocities of Christmas and the cross came to redeem our lives but also to show us that that gospel message can survive the most dire of circumstances.
If the gospel can survive the violence of Christmas and the vulgarity of the cross it can survive anywhere in the world and in any circumstance.
So no longer do we need to say, ‘Where are you in this?’
For as we see the total vulnerability of God to expose Himself to the atrocities surrounding His incarnation, we see He exists in pain and suffering.
What is He doing there?
He is delivering us. He is bringing us out of the hell of the pain.
He is doing it not through a law but grace. Grace upon grace. Continual grace.
He is here. And where He is there is hope.
I know something of the tears, pain, bitterness and the questions – why? Why did that happen?
As we start out this year we don’t know what will come our way exactly. But there will be death. It was all around us in 2020. Death of relationships. Death of dreams and death of loved ones. Am I a pessimist? No, the opposite, but we know it is true. At those times we also know that we can feel hopeless. The meaninglessness can overwhelm us if we don’t let hope rise within us. May this year be a hope filled one! In the midst of your pain you will find Him, HOPE will be there, He always is.