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Let us observe in this passage how true it is that the rulers of this world are seldom friendly to the cause of God. The Lord Jesus comes down from heaven to save sinners, and at once we are told that Herod the king seeks to destroy him.
Greatness and riches are a perilous possession for the soul. Those who seek to have them know not what they seek. They lead men into many temptations. They are likely to fill the heart with pride, and to chain the affections down to things below. “Not many mighty; not many noble are called.”“How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26; Mark 10:23)
Do we envy the rich and great? Does our heart sometimes say, “Oh, that I had their place, and rank, and substance?” Let us beware of giving way to such feelings. The very wealth which we admire may be gradually sinking its possessors down into hell. A little more money might be our ruin. Like Herod, we might run into every excess of wickedness and cruelty. “Take heed and beware of covetousness.” “Be content with such things as ye have.” (Luke 12:15; Hebrews 13:5)
Do we think that Christ’s cause depends on the power and patronage of princes? We are mistaken. They have seldom done much for the advancement true religion; they have far more frequently been the enemies of the truth. “Put not your trust in princes.” (Psalm 146:3) They who are like Herod are many. They who are like Josiah and Edward the Sixth of England are few.
Let us observe for another thing how the Lord Jesus was a “Man of Sorrows,” even from His infancy. Trouble awaits Him as soon as He enters into the world. His life is in danger from Herod’s hatred. His mother and Joseph are obliged to take him away by night, and “flee into Egypt.”It was only a type and figure of all his experience upon earth. The waves of humiliation began to beat over him even when he was a sucking child.
The Lord Jesus is just the Saviour that the suffering and sorrowful need. He knows well what we mean when we tell him in prayer of our troubles. He can sympathize with us when we cry to him under cruel persecution. Let us keep nothing back from him. Let us make him our bosom friend. Let us pour out our hearts before him. He has had great experience of affliction.
Let us observe for another thing how death can remove the kings of this world like other men. The rulers of millions have no power to retain life, when the hour of their departure comes. The murderer of helpless infants must himself die. Joseph and Mary hear the tidings that Herod is dead and at once they return in safety to their own land.
True Christians should never be greatly moved by the persecution of man. Their enemies may be strong, and they may be weak; but still they ought not to be afraid. They should remember that “the triumphing of the wicked is but short.” (Job 20:5) What has become of the Pharaohs, Neros and Diocletians who at one time fiercely persecuted the people of God? Where is the enmity of Charles IX of France, and bloody Mary of England? They did their utmost to cast the truth down to the ground. But the truth rose again from the earth, and still lives; and they are dead and mouldering in the grave. Let not the heart of any believer fail. Death is a mighty leveller, and can take any mountain out of the way of Christ’s church. “The Lord liveth” for ever. His enemies are only men. The truth shall always prevail.
Let us observe in the last place, what a lesson in humility is taught us by the dwelling place of the Son of God, when he was on earth. He dwelt with his mother and Joseph “in a city called Nazareth.”
Nazareth was a small town in Galilee. It was an obscure retired place, not so much as once mentioned in the Old Testament. Hebron, and Shiloh, and Gibeon, and Ramah and Bethel were far more important places. But the Lord Jesus passed by them all, and chose Nazareth. This was humility!
In Nazareth the Lord Jesus lived thirty years. It was there he grew up from infancy to childhood, and from childhood to boyhood, and from boyhood to youth, and from youth to man’s estate. We know little of the manner in which those thirty years were spent. That he was subject to Mary and Joseph we are expressly told. (Luke 2:41) That he worked in the carpenter’s shop with Joseph is highly probable. We only know that almost five-sixths of the time that the Saviour of the world was on earth was passed among the poor of this world and past in complete retirement. Truly this was humility!
Let us learn wisdom from our Saviour’s example. We are most of us far too ready to “seek great things” in this world: let us “seek them not.” (Jeremiah 45:5) To have a place and a title and a position in society is not nearly so important as people think. It is a great sin to be covetous and worldly and proud: but it is no sin to be poor. It matters not so much what money we have, and where we live, as what we are in the sight of God. Where are we going when we die? Shall we live forever in heaven? These are the main things to which we should attend.
Above all, let us daily strive to copy our Saviour’s humility. Pride is the oldest and commonest of sins; humility is the rarest and most beautiful of graces. For humility let us labour; for humility let us pray. Our knowledge may be scanty, our faith may be weak, our strength may be small; but if we are disciples of him who “dwelt at Nazareth,” let us at any rate be humble.
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