Leaving Mary and Joseph’s residence in Bethlehem, the Magi had been personally instructed by Herod to return to him and report. But Matthew records their next action, “…having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
The language does appear to indicate that they had a common dream, but the content of that dream we are not told. We are however bluntly told the content of another dream – in the next verse; ”When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
God warns the Magi about Herod, and then (and it is a separate occasion, at least one day apart) warns Joseph about Herod. Both Gentile and Hebrew are given specific instructions through a dream to avoid crossing paths with Herod. That is something worth thinking about.
Quite aside from the significant missiological implication discussed in the previous study, there is a huge theological implication – for what we are reading is that omnipresent, omniscient and omnipowerful God is supernaturally warning His followers that Herod is bent toward wickedness – even to the degree that God wants His followers (or at least these particular followers) to avoid him. One might even say that God is aware that Herod is destined to shed blood, that He does not intend to stop him, and that God is likewise determined to also save these few out of all who will suffer.
That is a lot to take in, and how it all fits in alongside God’s compassionate nature and His expressed mercy is a mystery. Certainly is head-scratching to us, who do not think as He thinks. But it is no more a mystery than the reality that He has saved and is saving some, but not all. As Paul wrote in Romans, “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”
That which God does, does not always make sense to us. Perhaps it should not, because we who are limited could not possibly figure Him or His plans out. As Isaiah wrote, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” What we do know is that in light of all He has revealed and all He has done and all He is doing – our ways are to consider and to worship, to take heed and obey. We certainly cannot second-guess Him, for to us has been given a greater salvation than rescue from Herod. Indeed, the Word says to us, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” And for us, that is enough.
Once a man has truly experienced the mercy of God in his life he will henceforth aspire only to serve.Charles Spurgeon
Meditate on the great and wonderful mercy God has shown you. How are you showing mercy to others?