TEEN TREE OF LIFE

You’re A Mean One,

King Herod!

Part 1

December 11, 2016

BEFORE we begin, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, take a moment to name your sins to God the Father. This will allow you to be filled with the power of The Holy Spirit as you read this booklet (EPH 5:18 & 1JO 1:9). IF YOU HAVE never believed in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have that opportunity right now. Simply tell God the Father that you are believing on His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you make that decision, you are now a believer and will always be a child of God! When you die, you will spend eternity with Him forever in heaven! (JOH 3:16 & ACT 16:31).

In this study, we are going to look at a man who hated Christmas even more than the Grinch and Scrooge combined!  In fact, he tried to kill Christmas. It’s a story that doesn’t quite fit with the beautiful Christmas carols, the colorful, bright lights and the magnificent decorations we associate with this special holiday. In any case, there’s one man who wasn’t happy about Christmas when it originally took place. In fact, he was pretty angry about the whole thing. He hated Christmas, and he hadn’t ever even heard the word. He’s the man history calls Herod the Great. His story is told in MAT 2.

Born into a politically well-connected family, Herod was destined to a life of hardball and power. At twenty-five years of age, he was named the governor of Galilee – a high position for such a young man. The Romans were hoping that Herod could control the Jews who lived in that area. In 40 B .C., the Roman Senate named him “King of the Jews.” It was a title the Jews hated because he wasn’t religious nor was he even a Jew.

Herod was the ultimate villain, exhibiting four classic villainous characteristics. The first characteristic is preoccupation with power. Our King said in MAT 28:18: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Herod was addicted to power. Power was his ultimate human obsession. Power is defined as the ability to control resources and assets in order to secure one’s own destiny; and Herod was the epitome of power. His life and his use of power can be summed up in three words which describe him to a tee — capable, crafty, and cruel.

Herod was extremely capable and he succeeded at most everything he was asked to do. Soon after becoming King, he wiped out several bands of guerrillas who were terrorizing the countryside and used subtle diplomacy to make peace with many competing factions. Because he had a morbid distrust of anyone who might desire to dethrone him, he was also known as a cruel man. He held tightly to the reins of power and brutally removed anyone who got in his way. Over the years, he killed many people including his brother-in-law, his mother-in-law, two of his sons, and even his wife!! Above everything else, Herod the Great was a cruel killer. That was his nature. He murdered out of spite and he killed to stay in power. Human life meant nothing to him. The intensity of Herod’s cruelty grew in direct proportion to the amount of power he possessed. At least we can say that he lived a consistent life.

The second characteristic is preoccupation with possessions. Our King said in LUK 9:25: “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” Herod wanted it all. He wanted everything a Roman Caesar had. Herod built seven palaces and seven theaters, one of which seated 9,500 people. He even built stadiums for sporting events; the largest could seat 300,000 fans. He also constructed a new temple for the Jews. These were all of his possessions!

The third characteristic is preoccupation with prestige. Our King said in JOH 5:41: “I do not receive glory from men…” Unlike Jesus Christ, Herod loved to make an impression on others. He built entire cities with state-of-the-art architecture and named them after his superiors. He was also a smooth talker and had a special ability to win over his opponents. Several of his ten marriages were done for prestige and were politically motivated. He once married the daughter of his leading rival in order to gain prestige and power.

The fourth characteristic is preoccupation with paranoia. According to Our King, the solution to paranoia or insecurity is found in JOH 8:32: “and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” An enemy poisoned Herod’s father who was also a king and ever since then, Herod was plagued with paranoia. When he became king, he commissioned tens of thousands of slaves to build over 10 emergency fortresses, all heavily armed and well provisioned. In addition, he established an elaborate network of spies to watch out for him.  Anyone with a plot to dethrone Herod was sniffed out and eliminated. He ruled for more than 40 years — until he clashed with another King — one who was also called, the King of the Jews. And we know how that turned out!

With all of that as background, let’s fast-forward to the final months of Herod’s life. Herod the Great King of the Jews is slowly dying of a disease. His body racked with convulsions, his breath foul, his skin covered with open sores, he’s rapidly losing his mind. But he is still the King. One day word comes to him in Jerusalem that some visitors have arrived from the East: Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem… (MAT 2:1)

The Magi were an ancient fraternity which drew a lot of attention when they came into Jerusalem. So the visitation of the Magi into Jerusalem was a dramatic event!  They were well-respected by all the nations in the ancient world and many individuals actually lived in fear of them. They were considered to be very strange people!

Who were they? The Magi were basically all Gentiles. They were great teachers, physicians, chemists, astrologers, astronomers, and mathematicians. With their knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, and astrology, they were able to develop a system for predicting the lives of people and history.

As far as we can tell, a portion of this fraternity was made up of born-again believers; it may be that they were all born-again believers but we have no way of knowing for sure. We do know that there were many believers among them and they did travel hundreds of miles to follow the star!

So, these were strange men with a strange question. They had read the stars from heaven and were then compelled to request an interview with Herod. And when Herod received them, they asked him a question that shook him to his core: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” (MAT 2:2) Because they were looking for someone who was born King of the Jews, Herod was probably thinking “What’s up with that?? That’s supposed to be me!! What are these men talking about? Why didn’t my spies tell me about this threat to my throne?”

MAT 2:3 describes Herod’s reaction to the Magi’s question: And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. The word “disturbed” means to shake violently, and no wonder! He had finally subdued and killed all of his enemies and was ready to die triumphantly. Now these strangers appear with their strange question.

So now there was one more person to kill, a young baby claiming to be King. No wonder the Bible says that all of Jerusalem was shaken — no one knew what this wacko would do next!

{to be continued}

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