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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.’ King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.”—Matthew 2:2–3 (NLT)
I am an avid sports fan. I love baseball, football, and basketball. I even pay attention during the offseason when it’s free agency and draft time. There’s something that happens in these sports that I always find immensely awkward . . . watching a team sign or draft someone’s successor/replacement. Here are some examples: In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys drafted QB Dak Prescott even though they still had a Pro Bowl QB in Tony Romo. A year later, Romo is retired and Prescott is an up-and-coming superstar and leader of the team. In 1996, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Shaquille O’Neal, one of the greatest centers of all time to replace the solid but unspectacular Vlade Divac, whom they proceeded to trade away.
What’s my point? Simple: It must be really uncomfortable, stressful, and hard to handle when your replacement arrives on the scene. Some, like Tony Romo, handled it with grace and class, humbly giving way to the younger, healthier, and more dynamic Prescott. Others don’t handle the arrival of their superior successor as well . . . like Herod the Great. We see this clearly in the first few chapters of Matthew. The Gospel explains that when the wise men arrived and spoke of the “newborn king of the Jews,” Herod was troubled.
Now, try to imagine yourself in his shoes: You’re just strolling along, enjoying your day as the ruler of Israel, going about your business, probably planning the construction of another great building, when along comes a group of foreign wise guys who pretty much tell you that your much greater, more important replacement has been born . . . you know, the One whom your people have waited thousands of years for.
I don’t know about you, but in my selfishness, I would probably start getting a little worried about my present standing. In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, then Chancellor (soon to be Emperor) Palpatine tells young Jedi Anakin Skywalker, “All who gain power are afraid to lose it." For the most part, humanity has proven this quote to be true, and Herod was no exception. The Greek word for “troubled” here is etarachthē, which means “to be disturbed, anxious, terrified, causing inner perplexity (emotional agitation) from getting too stirred up inside.”
According to English theologian Charles Benson, “Being a prince of a very suspicious temper, and his cruelties having rendered him obnoxious to his subjects, he feared losing his kingdom, especially as he had taken Jerusalem by force, and was settled on his throne by the aid of the Romans. Hence it is no wonder that he was concerned to hear of the birth of one that was to be king, and especially to have such an extraordinary confirmation of it, as that of persons coming from a far country, directed by an extraordinary impulse upon the sight of a new star, which pointed to Judea as the seat of his empire.” Herod believed if the people believed this newborn was the promised Messiah, they would all rally behind Him and rise up to remove Herod from his position. So, he was troubled.
But Matthew 2 also says the people were troubled. Why? Because they were afraid of the horrors and tyranny Herod’s fear could potentially lead him to. And they were right in their dread, because, as we know, Herod ordered what is now referred to as the massacre of the innocents (Matthew 2:16–18).
What lesson can we learn here? Fear often leads to sin. Fear has a way of causing us to try to get in the way of God’s plan, which often leads to suffering and pain for ourselves and others. It happened to Jonah, and it happened to Abraham and Sarah. Don’t let it happen to you! Trust God’s plan and His timing. Don’t cling to worldly things. It will only lead to trouble.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.