18th December 2010

Co-Heirs, Not Rivals

“Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
Herod to the wise men, Matthew 2:8 (NIV)

To stay a king you sometimes need to get rid of obstacles in your way, including potential rivals. Monarchs such as Henry VIII understood this and so did the biblical King Herod.

Herod the Great succeeded his father, who had acquired the Kingdom of Judaea by conquest. He was a friend of the hero and general, Anthony, and an acquaintance of the Emperor Augustus, who confirmed Herod’s kingship and expanded his territories. It is said that Herod declined the seductive advances of Cleopatra. He was also a visionary builder, commissioning such notable architectural achievements as the Second Temple and the fortress of Masada.

But, despite his imperial connections and his cultural genius, Herod was paranoid over how secure he was as a king. Being the son of an Edomite father and an Arab mother, he was not a Jew by birth.  The Jewish Hasmonean dynasty had ended when Herod’s father came to power, and Herod was afraid that a Jew by blood would usurp him. His first wife, Doris, had had her day when Herod divorced her in order to strengthen his position by marrying the Hasmonean princess, Mariamne, whose too popular teenage brother was drowned in a swimming pool at Herod’s command. Herod later had Mariamne killed upon the advice of Herod’s own spiteful sister. He had ten wives and numerous children, and three of his sons were executed for alleged seditious conspiracies. 

In the passage above Herod enquires about where Jesus could be found on the pretext of wanting to worship him. We, however, know better because, subsequently, he orders the frenzied slaughter of the young boys in Bethlehem. This fits right in with what we know historically of Herod’s character.

Jesus, of course, is the complete opposite. Instead of getting rid of us, he dies so that we can become co-heirs of the kingdom with him. He does not see our existence as a threat, but rather as a joy. Romans 8:16-17 tells us “the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”

And, by the way, if at work you have someone who is your rival, don’t conspire to get him or her removed and/or get nasty about it. Herod’s paranoia and jealousy died with him when, according to the historian Josephus, “he had a fever, though not a raging fever, an intolerable itching of the whole skin, continuous pains in the intestines, tumours of the feet as in dropsy, inflammation of the abdomen, and gangrene of the privy parts”. Not that I’m saying that would happen to you…

Eternal God, thank you that we are co-heirs with Christ and that we have nothing to fear. In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson 

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