And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word again…
Herod's fears we can well understand. He was a usurper, a foreigner, and, indeed, belonged to the Idumaean race, which was specially hated. The one thing he had to fear was the birth of a native prince, round whom the hopes of the nation might gather. He was so continually full of fears that his life was a misery to himself and every one who had to do with him. He had learned to be prompt, vigorous, and unscrupulous whenever he felt in the least alarmed, and he had often gained his end by low cunning. In connection with the visit of the Magi, he was set upon scheming to avert disaster. He had no precise knowledge about the expected Messiah; but that must be obtained, and it could best be obtained by subtlety and deception. Explain his scheme.
I. MAN'S GUILE MAY ATTEMPT TO MASTER GOD'S OMNISCIENCE. See how far man's guile may succeed. It may master his fellow-men. Herod outwitted the Magi, and outwitted the "chief priests and scribes." The Magi proposed to do his bidding; the "chief priests and scribes" answered him correctly, treating him as if he were as sincere as he seemed. And all this meant Herod trying his guilefulness upon God. He was going to manage things otherwise than as God proposed. Men did not read his wicked heart; he would act as if God did not read it either. He meant by his skilfulness to frustrate the Divine purposes. Men may try to push their plans against God. They may be clever, guileful, persistent; but the strong figure of the psalm may be used, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision." Abundant are the illustrations of conduct like Herod's; at first, seemingly effective and successful; but it does not really succeed. It never is possible for the wicked to do more than make their attempt. "Man proposes, God disposes."
II. GOD'S OMNISCIENCE MASTERING MAN'S GUILE. God's omniscience is
God knew what Herod said; but, going beyond Magi and scribes, God knew what Herod meant. So Divine action was guided by complete knowledge, and guileful Herod had no chance. God told the Magi what Herod had in his heart, so they never brought him any word. God bore away the young King into a place of safety, and all Herod's guile proved in vain. We can work with God, and reach good success. He who works against God must feel God's overmastering. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.