Advent 19: The Saddest Prophecy

Zach Mabry |
September 19, 2021

Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

Jeremiah 31:15

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So Much More

People who really know who Jesus is will respond in one of two ways: anger or adoration. There is no middle ground. We see people try to do this in today’s world, but it really isn’t a possibility. I get really frustrated when I hear people say stuff about how Jesus was a “good, moral teacher” because that just isn’t an option. Jesus claimed to be God. Good, moral teachers don’t claim to create and sustain the universe. C.S. Lewis famously said in Mere Christianity:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to…”

Now that we are on the same page, we can look at this passage. This first comes to us as a prophecy in Jeremiah, but then it is quoted in Matthew 1:18, where we are told that it has been fulfilled. But what happened?

The Star

As you know, when Jesus was born, a star appeared. It’s crazy because it looks like the only people that recognized it were a group of “wise men” from somewhere in the east. They were so impressed by this star’s appearance that they set out to see the one who was born “King of the Jews.” What’s even crazier is that they weren’t even Jewish. They must have had copies of the Old Testament lying around (possibly from Daniel’s time) and put it together that God was going to announce the coming of the king with a star.

Long story short, they show up in Jerusalem asking about the baby. Of course, they would go to Jerusalem, right? This is where the kings are supposed to live. But when they get there, Israel’s king, Herod, has no clue what they are talking about, so he gets his own wise men together to figure it out. They come back and say that according to Micah 5:2, He must be born in Bethlehem. That’s not bad. These guys traveled potentially 400 miles and made it to within six miles of Jesus on their first try. Herod then sends them off while trying to trick them. He tells them that they need to come back and tell him all about it so he can go and worship him too.

The good news is that God wasn’t tricked. He knew all that was in Herod’s heart, so later on, He appears to the wise men to tell them not to stop and see Herod but to keep on going.

Polarized Responses

These wise men saw the star and came to worship Jesus. They knew that the heavenly signs were pointing to a heavenly baby. They knew that He was so much more than a baby born to be king. That is why they dropped everything to go and worship Him. Herod understood this too, but it didn’t lead him to worship. He saw Jesus as a threat and would not let this little baby grow up to displace him.

So what did Herod do? He figured out how long the star had been in the sky and sent his soldiers to go kill every little boy in the area. He wasn’t going to let anything threaten his power.

Mourning to Joy

Herod was such an evil man. I can’t imagine what would be going through someone’s mind for them to decide that their power was worth killing all those baby boys. What a terribly sad time.

But there is still good news. Herod failed. He tried to ruin God’s plan for our salvation and couldn’t do it. God warned Joseph to take the boy and flee to Egypt until Herod was gone.

Now let’s jump back to Jeremiah for just a minute. At the end of this chapter, we can see more of God’s good news. This is where we get to see that God is going to make a new covenant with His people. In this covenant, God will write His law on our hearts. He will be our God, and we will be His people. This is indeed a cause for rejoicing.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Then, as if God was anticipating our disbelief, He gives us proof that He will keep His promises. He is the God who makes the sun shine during the day, and the stars shine at night. He is the God who brings the waves onto the shore. He tells us all of this so that we can know that as long as these things keep happening, He is still in control, and we can still trust Him to keep His covenant with us.

Reflection

As we prepare for Christmas, it’s good for us to remember that Jesus came to a world broken by sin. Many prophecies were fulfilled at His birth. Most of them are so good and joyful, but not this one. This one reminds us that there are evil people in the world who hate Jesus. This was true in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, and it is true today.

But this will not stop God from keeping His promises. 

We know that He is good and that He can be trusted. And if we want confirmation of that, we can look to the same things Jeremiah told us. As long as the sun still shines during the day, as long as the moon and stars shine at night, and as long as the waves continue to crash on the shore, God can be trusted His Word.

Let’s talk about it:

  1. In these final days leading up to Christmas, everyone is getting excited. Are you using this to have conversations with people about who Jesus is?
  2. If not, what is keeping you from that?
  3. When confronted with the truth of who Jesus really is, we have to respond in one of two ways, either in anger or in worship. How are you responding to Him?

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