Officers barked directions. The sounds of doors being bashed in and the din of ransacking rumbled down the streets. Guttural wails of people reacted to the maniacal and senseless destruction.
It undoubtedly left the community emotionally disconsolate. Some stood in shock. Others were filled with outrage. Utter disbelief boggled the minds of most as they stared at the heaps. Burning grief gripped all. Perhaps it was the first born of a young couple. Perhaps a grandfather was raising an orphaned tot. Why two year-olds? Why infants? Why our innocent babies?
In the end, a heavy darkness of emotion, ripped wide by the cutting edge of grief, settled over the sorrowing community as the soldiers cleansed their stained blades from the blood of the little children they had just killed. This is the dark and tragic side of the Christmas account. We do not talk about it much. The babes of Bethlehem died because Herod sought to snuff out the life of the Christ child. Using the Old Testament Scripture as a map, he figured where the Child should be. His brutality was merely temporal fodder for his soul’s ease only.
But, let us not lose sight what this Biblical birth story of Christ is trying to communicate to us. This incident of the innocents, initially prophetic but eventually prevailing, impresses upon us compelling spiritual facts.
First, this harrowing act underscores the desperate problems that people have with Jesus Christ. The Scripture points out that when Herod heard about the birth of Christ that he became “troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”
It is a fact that the people of the world will never have peace until they cease being troubled about Christ. As long as people struggle with Christ’s prescribed way of salvation, they will remain troubled. As long as people struggle with Christ’s Sovereignty and Lordship, they will remain troubled. Only until there is repentance and submission to Jesus Christ can there be peace on earth, as well as peace in hearts. Are you yet troubled with Christ?
Another consideration with which to have impressed upon us is how this incident with the innocents at Bethlehem magnifies the spiritual struggle for the souls of men. What transpired there serves to reveal in the temporal the battleground for the spiritual. Principalities of evil and powers of darkness vie against God continually to control our eternal destination. You see, your soul and mine were on the line that brutal day in Bethlehem. Behind Herod’s brutal, self-serving scheme was none other than the devil attempting to thwart God’s perfect plan of redemption.
Yet, the overriding truth is that, despite the unfortunate travesty of innocent children caught in the middle of an evil agenda, it all verifies the victory of God’s agenda through the nearing birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. It was not the Lord’s time to die in Bethlehem! Oh, most certainly, He was coming to die. However, His death was divinely timed for a Cross of sacrifice in Jerusalem, not in Bethlehem. The “fullness of time” was set for Jerusalem, not for Bethlehem.
Recently, I held one of my granddaughters while standing at the back atrium door. We were watching squirrels and birds flit around looking for food items. But, suddenly a sobering thought occurred to me in that precious moment—-she would have qualified for Herod’s slaughter. I was intensely stirred in my soul with that disturbing consideration. I thanked God for His grace that she was not there—-that we were not there.
I cannot answer why God predicted through Prophet Jeremiah this incident of the innocents, and then allowed it to happen. I cannot fathom why mankind is so evil. But, what it does is to cause me to want to look Jesus Christ for the peace and consolation He brings to life. It makes me yearn for the sure hope and difference-making victory He gives. It causes me to depend on Him while living in this contemporary environment of unwieldy depravity. I am compelled to consider Christ—-for good reason.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio.