Advent Devotional: Week 4, Part 4

By Bruce Benedict & Elliot Grudem  /  

week four of advent

The Darker Side of Christmas #4 – Herod and the Infants of Bethlehem

The story of Herod and the infants of Bethlehem is a horrific episode of the birth narrative that is almost universally absent from Sunday school accounts of the story. Yet it is fundamental to understanding the hope that is present in Jesus’ birth. Here is one who will finally lead his people from slavery and persecution to the Promised Land. God wants to show that this infant born in a manger is uniting himself to the history of God’s struggling people.

The story, in itself, casts shadows of Pharaoh’s slaughter of the Israelite children in Egypt (Exodus 1:22), and Matthew helps us remember the children of Rachel who were killed by the Babylonians when they plundered Israel into exile (Jer 31:15-17). Yet even in Rachel’s inconsolable grief, God promises future hope and for his child Israel in his son Jesus.

Matthew 2:16-18
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.

Shedding some light...

In Herod we see an evil king whose rule and power is threatened by one who is divinely appointed to rule. Jesus is the king who will bring a new relationship between God and man and will lead his people to true salvation and victory. In the face of insurmountable evil and sorrow, we see God working his purposes to heal, restore, and renew hope... a hope that will be ultimately secured and anchored in the cross and resurrection. As you feel the sorrow present in evil and suffering, grieve. But grieve with hope, for a new day has dawned.

Children’s Prayer

Great God, as we think about things we don’t understand, help us remember that one day you will bring an end to sickness, sorrow, pain, death, and evil.

Adults’ Prayer

Dear Father, we have all wept in the stark reality of evil and suffering in this world. We open our eyes daily to see a world still so broken from sin. Continue to give us joy and hope rooted in a savior who shared in the world’s tragedy and humanity. Soften our hard hearts with the songs of the angels and the outpouring of God’s Spirit. And continue to bring the blessings of your kingdom throughout the whole world.

Advent Singing: Who is This?

Advent Devotional Guide Download

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Compilation and Text
Bruce Benedict

Elliot Grudem

Ladye Jane Vickers

Amelia Reynolds

PO Box 10095 | Raleigh, NC 27605
919-546-0515 |