When Pain and Prophecy Meet

by Brent Dyer

Pain and ProphecyWe have been working our way through the prophecies in Matthew 2. The first (Mt 2:6) highlighted Jesus as a righteous king, the second (Mt 2:15) as a new Moses bringing a new people from captivity. Today we look at Matthew 2:18.

Here it is in context:

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’ ” (Mt 2:16–18).

Here we have a tragic parenthesis to the glorious story of Jesus’ birth and development. While the King of Kings is coming of age, a greedy, lying ruler attempts to stamp Him out regardless of the collateral damage. This is a sad commentary on the corruption of power, but an even sadder story of human anguish. Yet, none of this escapes the eyes of God. Long before Herod committed this grievous infanticide, God had seen it coming. While the questions of “Why me?” would no doubt plague the mothers and fathers of these poor children, there is a peace that comes from knowing that God’s plans are not stopped by the actions of evil men.

But, the prophecy itself has an unlikely context; it is from Jeremiah 31. Although many of Jeremiah’s prophecies foreshadow doom and gloom for the people of God, this chapter is about a glorious hope of restoration when the people of Israel come back from exile.

In the midst of tambourines and dancing is a single verse of sadness: the one Matthew quotes here. And it is immediately negated in the following verse, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears,’ .” The weeping and wailing is immediately lost in what comes next.

So, what does the context of Jeremiah 31 add to Matthew? It reminds us that not only does God see and foresee the suffering and the heartache of loss, but that He quickly washes over the pain with the glory of what is coming, in this case, Christ Jesus our King. Sin and evil will wreak havoc on innocent people, but what we find in Jesus overshadows all the sorrow as the travail of this life gives birth to a beautiful future in the New Covenant of God.

Today, we can find comfort in our darkest hours by remembering that God doesn’t change. He still foresees the troubles of our life, and He still cares for us in those moments. Waves may come and evil may abound, but nothing can impede God’s greatest plan: our salvation. This life is not an easy one. Yet, we know that—though there will be days when we cannot fathom how—the glory of Heaven and the hope we gain from Christ will far outshine any pain we feel in this life.

Last modification: Wed 18 Nov 2020