I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. – Matthew 2:1-12 [NRSV]

Vermilion Flycatcher [1 of 8] | Anahuac NWR | December 2020

I really enjoyed the musical Camelot. There are so many memorable songs, including “Ce Moi!” where Arthur proclaims, “If I’d been in the garden with Eve, we’d be in Eden still!” Not true by the way. But this little ditty is delightful:

I wonder what the king is doing tonight?
What merriment is the king pursuing tonight?
The candles at the court, they never burned as bright
I wonder what the king is upto tonight?

Then comes the answer:

Well, I’ll tell you what the king is feeling tonight
He’s numb, he shakes, he quails, he quakes
And that’s what the king is doing tonight.

Arthur was quaking and shaking because it was the night before his wedding. He had poured so much hope into this event, and now that it was upon him, he realized how momentous it really was. It terrified him.

Herod, too, was scared when he learned of the birth of “the king of the Jews.” Some might argue that Herod was not afraid, but deeply disturbed and troubled. The NRSV has “frightened” but the Greek word here is not normally used for afraid. Angels strike fear. But the birth of the “king of the Jews” causes trouble and deep disturbance in the heart of Herod. 

Look behind being “troubled” or “deeply disturbed” and you’ll find fear. I’m sure Kings never wish to be seen as fearful. But they’re likely Ok with being seen as troubled, or deeply distressed. But don’t let the kingly  demeanor fool you. Herod is scared. And rightly so. 

Jesus will challenge Herod without ever saying a word to him. His presence in the world is the beginning of the end of rule by power and threat. Herod will rule for a time, but within these few verses of Matthew’s gospel he will die and another will take his place. Jesus is ushering in an eternal kingdom. His rule and reign touches hearts and engenders love and faith. Herod can only cause others to fear him. Never will people add love and trust to their relationship with him. 

So do you wonder what King Herod is doing tonight? He’s looking over his shoulder. He’s checking his troops and servants for loyalty. He’s ordering his beefeaters to be doubly cautious and careful. He’s wondering what he’ll need to do to retain his power. But his head is not resting easily on his pillow at night. That’s a blessing that only those who fear, love, and trust in God alone will enjoy.


  1. “Jesus will challenge Herod without ever saying a word to him.”
    I really love the inference I hear in this statement. I am caused to think of how we, as Jesus’ hands and feet being present, active and working in our world whether it is in our own small sphere of influence or on a broader scale, can share Him without saying a word…Others might query as they observe, “What makes him tick? Why does she do these things? Where did they learn that way? How can he have peace in this present world? etc…” and so then the conversation might begin and fruit of the ” blessing that only those who fear, love, and trust in God alone” will be shared.
    I think of this being much like the Israelite’s charge when they were taken into Babylonian captivity. I am thinking here of Jeremiah 29:1-9, which for some reason (smiling here at the Holy Spirit’s insistence that I search out this particular passage this morning). This passage says to plant gardens, build houses, marry and have families. The faithful are to increase in numbers and seek peace and prosperity in the city in which they are EXILED! It seems wrong to seek the good of one’s oppressors but it sure looks like scripture says we are to do precisely that! In some odd way, this offers me comfort in our trying times of seeming “exile” while we are being “held hostage” in this foreign land of global pandemic.
    Forgive me it this is too much a stretch. Last evening this very thought came to me and your blog today has seemed to open the opportunity to share my thoughts on it.
    God’s blessings!

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree to a point. It is proper to pray for one’s oppressors. Jesus teaches this. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

      But the context of this passage is that there were false prophets in Jeremiah’s day saying that their captivity would soon end. It was not to be, it would last seventy years accord to verse 10. They were going to be there for a while, so they should make the best of it. This was more about the false hopes the false prophets had held out.

      We don’t know how long we’re going to be in exile, so it is proper that we make the best of our situation and seek the good of our city or whatever situation we might face. ________________________________

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: