Herod’s Self-Protection and God’s Sovereignty

April 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God | 1 Comment

Herod the Great is an interesting study in light of God’s sovereignty.   There are many things that could be said along that line, but one in particular stood out in my devotional reading of Matthew 2 today.  When the Magi say they are looking for the one who was born “King of the Jews,” Herod asks the priests and scribes where the “Christ” was to be born.  When he gets the scriptural answer of Bethlehem, he tells the Magi where to find the answer to their search.  All this indicates that Herod believes, at least to some degree, the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.  He believes the one born King of the Jews is the same as the Christ (Greek word for Hebrew Messiah); he believes, or maybe fears, that the Christ would come; and he believes that the scriptures which foretell of the Christ’s birthplace are accurate.  That is interesting.  Somewhere in the back of his mind, he must know, or fear, that God can orchestrate all the events of history to bring the right child to the predicted place at the right time.  If he didn’t believe that, Herod would have viewed the appearance of the Magi as some crazy Easterners who follow the myths of the stars and would have ignored them.  Instead, he feels compelled to act on their information and on the scriptures.

Yet this same Herod still believes he can overrule God’s sovereign activity by his choices and actions.  “Though God has moved the entire world to bring this about,” Herod seems to think, “I can upset his plan with one stroke.”  Do you see the inconsistency in that?

Herod’s action stems from fear and self-protection.  (Much of what he did in his reign stemmed from fear and self-protection.  For example, Herod killed some of his sons and wives because they became a threat to his throne.  So, by the way, his actions in Bethlehem, though not recorded anywhere else than Matthew, are consistent with Herod’s character.)  In other words, out of fear that God, in sovereignty, would replace him with someone else, Herod acts on his own sovereignty to overrule God.  From an outsider’s perspective, Herod’s action in this matter is completely mad.  His best and only reasonable choice would be to trust that God will carry out his plan.  But Herod can’t go there.

Now we may laugh at the seeming senselessness of Herod, but don’t we do a similar thing?  Don’t we, in many ways, believe God is sovereign, but, out of fear and self-protection, hope that he is not?  It’s good to praise God as sovereign when mountains are moved for me to get a job, but I can’t believe he is sovereign when I lose my job in what seems to be an unfair judgment (I’ve been there myself).  It’s easy to praise God as sovereign when our miracle baby is born (We’ve been there too), but it’s much harder when someone we love dies a seemingly premature death.  When good things happen, God is to be praised for his sovereign control; when something shakes our world, we hold on to our own sovereignty.  Oh that we would see God’s hand in all that happens and trust that he is in ultimate control.


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  1. To see a simplified family tree of Herod’s family click here:

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