December 18: Disturbing Joy!

Devotionals > December 18: Disturbing Joy!

December 18: Disturbing Joy!

December 18, 2015


fromourfamilytoyours by Josh Moody Each year our family has a tradition of opening one Advent Bible reading starting on December 1 and finishing on Christmas Day, December 25. This year I am sharing those Bible readings with some thoughts based on them for use as a devotional during this season. To receive these Advent readings directly in your inbox, sign up here. Matthew 2:3-6:

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,     are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler     who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Naturally enough, Herod is disturbed. As a controversial leader in his own time – questionable heritage, unedifyingly close relationship with the Roman powers that be, morally suspect – to be told that specially designated foreign “ambassadors” have come looking for the one who has been born king of your kingdom would inevitably be disturbing. It would be like a president of a dictatorship being told that some foreign dignitaries had come inquiring about who was going to be the next dictator in your place. You would feel threatened if you were that dictator, or in this case if you were this Herod King. But it is not only the king, it is also “all Jerusalem with him.” There is a sense in which any potential political upheaval is likely to be damaging at least initially, and would cause those who like life to stay the same to be also in some ways too “disturbed.” When you are not sure what is happening, and you know that whatever happens will have big consequences for your life, then you are likely also to be “disturbed” by news related to such a change of power coming down the road. Herod is savvy enough to proceed carefully. He knows that in his time the “king” and the “Messiah” were synonymous in prophetic thought, as “Messiah” means anointed one, and the king was the anointed one. He calls the religious authorities together and asks them to tell him where it is thought that the new Messiah King will be born. (It is interesting to note that the king himself did not know how to answer this question about the Messiah, but needed special religious instruction to find the meaning in the Scriptures, given that kings of the Jews were meant to be well schooled in the Scriptures.) The religious authorities give him the standard answer, and in so doing they reveal the common expectation, as well as the biblical prophecy from Micah, about this coming King Messiah. He will be a ruler, he will come from Bethlehem, he will shepherd his people. Perhaps they judiciously, given their perilous position before this Herod King, leave out some aspects of the quotation that might be particularly offensive. “He shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.” (Micah 5:4). Those words of greatness and fame and peace because of just rule might well have been too much for an intemperate Herod to handle. They also, perhaps not because of Herod, perhaps because of their own bias, leave out another aspect of the quotation, one that hints of the Messiah King’s divine origin: “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2). At any rate, this Messiah King brings a disturbance – and in some way or other to all. He is our peace. But first we must have our tendency to want to be kings of our own domain “disturbed.” Only when we bow before Him, this Christmas, can we find that he will shepherd us with strength and be our peace.
O little town of Bethlehem How still we see thee lie Above thy deep and dreamless sleep The silent stars go by Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting Light The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight
“O Little Town of Bethlehem” by Phillips Brooks, 1868


Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.


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