When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” – Matthew 1:3-8
I have a strong judgmental streak within my heart. I cannot deny it. On the highway today a large pickup truck came from an entrance ramp on our right, accelerating rapidly, and cut in front of me. I was in the right lane, ready to exit, and I knew he didn’t want to exit. He didn’t. So he cut in front of another vehicle to his left and got into the slow crawl of that lane. I’m sure if there was even an inch between cars to his left he would have cut in front of them as well. I had an unkind word by which I identified him. It was out of my mouth before I could stop myself. I have little patience or grace for pushy people.
I guess that’s why I have little patience or grace for Herod. He is big and pushy. He will demand his way. He is king, after all. He will have his way. He will stop traffic if he needs to. He is in charge.
Contrast that to the Good Shepherd. Jesus is King of the Universe, yet he will not bully his way to the front of the line. He commands angels. He will still storms, and walk on water. Yet he was never pushy. His influence is of a kinder and deeper kind. He will lead his people like a shepherd leading his sheep. Protecting, guiding, correcting, inspiring, and transforming them into the most powerful and influential people in the world. He is a world changer, but not by means of power plays or bullying.
When our sons were teenagers we decided that we would rather have their hearts than their compliance with our rules. We wanted them, not just that they would do what we wanted them to do. You will have to ask them how well we succeeded, but though we might adjust one or two details of our approach, I would not change the goal or the approach. I believe that is what God does for us: he woos and welcomes, challenges and invites, urges and waits for his people to follow him.
It all becomes more clear in Bethlehem. Here is the One born King of the Jews, worthy of worship, feared by despots such as the Herods of the world. Those who are humble, repentant, and faithful find Jesus to be a humble, gracious, loving, and kind shepherd.