Anglican Morning Devotion, 28 December 2021 Anno Domini
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” (Matthew 2:16-18; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
Our devotion for today is taken from a few verses of the Communion Lectionary Text for the day specified. The child in the womb is as innocent as any creature of God’s creation, and that innocence lingers for a time until the child is mindful of carnal knowledge. Though the blood is tainted with the sin of Adam, yet, these children of Bethlehem and the coasts thereof were martyrs for Christ. So many died for the Christ-child as He would die for them and untold millions after. In the prophecy of Jeremiah, the Lord has promised redemption to these children: “¶Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. 16Thus saith the Lord; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.” (Jeremiah 31:15-16) Ramah is the area in which Bethlehem is located. “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”
The cruelty and lust for power of the dreaded Herod is widely known in historical, as well as biblical, accounts. The murder of many innocent babies was merely a whim to Herod as he also murdered three of his own sons – Alexander, Aristobulus, and then, Antipater just five days before his (Herod’s) own death. Such inhumane depravity caused Augustus Caesar, according to Microbius, a secular historian, to proclaim: “That it was better to be Herod’s swine than his son.” The custom of the land forbade the useless killing of swine, but not innocent babies. Another point: Herod was an Edomite of Edom – a cursed race. Thus his rule was the fulfilling of prophecy at the coming of Christ – “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Genesis 49:10)
It was an outrageous act of Herod, but it was also a glorious fulfillment of a greater good to come. In the great eternity future, the martyred babes had truly lost nothing but gained the greatest reward, but the mothers suffered beyond measure in ignorance of the full meaning of the event. Imagine having your child ripped from your arms and cast in the air to be caught on the sharp spears of the soldiers. What dreadful cruelty and hate.
The events surrounding the birth of our Lord far beyond profitable for our memory. We must be always mindful of the great price paid in the blood of innocents at His coming, and also that tremendous and immeasurable price paid at His moment of passion at Calvary. “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22) Under the terms of the law ‘almost all things’ are purged with blood, but under God’s covenant, there is no remission of sin at all without the shedding of blood. Thus, our Lord satisfied the terms of the Law by shedding the only blood that could atone for our sin and suffice as the death tax required of all who seek forgiveness thereof. His sacrifice was once-and-for-all time. He paid the penalty that we were unable to afford.
The first death on earth in Eden was a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God at Golgotha. And the illustrative sacrifice of Isaac, the only begotten son of Abraham, was a preview of the hurt and pain of a loving Father sacrificing his own son for sins of others. But God would not require that sacrifice for only One was worthy of paying the penalty of death for the wages of sin – the Lord Jesus Christ. He came as a Babe in a wooden manger at Bethlehem with the shadow of a crude cross darkening His brow. He died on that wooden cross for us some thirty-three years later and rose on the third day. Our crosses we bear carry us to that same death to self, a borrowed and open tomb, and the joy of ascension to the Father in the same manner our Lord departed from among us. Regardless the sorrows of the journey, that reward is well worth any hurt or suffering.