How can it possibly be true that God is glorified, even when people are so opposed to him? How is His will being done, when we actively resist Him? It’s a tough question to crack. Here’s an awesome and beautiful truth; God’s will is done. Nobody can foil God’s intent; if we try, we will eventually be exposed as fools.
I read Matthew 2 this evening. Have a read. Think about Herod in particular.
In Matthew 2, Herod is the king of God’s people. He rules in Jerusalem. He is scared, however, of God’s plans. Upon hearing of the birth of one who will be called Messiah, he tries to track that baby down. But it is clear thoughout the passage that Jesus is the promised Messiah; God will not allow Herod to kill him.
Here’s a brief list of ways that Herod is not in control, when it is put in perspective:
- The cosmos heralds Jesus as king. Herod is trying to oppose something that the universe is geared towards.
- Herod tries to use the magi to reach Jesus. Fat chance; they are told in a dream to avoid him. God calls trumps.
- It’s weird that the magi even got there; God has chosen to reveal Jesus to people who are using astronomy to find out about the world. That’s usually a pretty abstract and indefinite art. God speaks through it this time – Jesus is bigger than just the Jews.
- The birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem is following prophecy in Micah 5; that the shepherd of Israel will come from Bethlehem, and rule.
- Herod tries to get rid of Jesus with a mass killing of babies. The thing is, he’s always a step behind. He fails to kill Jesus. In trying, though, he actually does damage to his cause – Jesus is taken to Egypt to escape, and there is a mass killing of infants. These fulfil two more Old Testament scriptures.
- In this, Herod is revealed as clearly against what God is doing; God is one step ahead, whispering instructions that will ensure Jesus’ safety.
- Jesus’ life reflects (re-enacts) the history of Israel; he is born, there is a killing of the children (think Moses in a basket), he spends a bunch of time in Egypt, and then comes back through the water (his baptism matches with crossing either the Jordan or the Red Sea). He spends 40 days in the desert being tempted (but doesn’t give in to it, unlike the Israelites in the desert), and then goes up on a mountain to deliver the law. Herod is directly responsible for the killing of the kids, and causing the time in Egypt.
Herod is shown to be impotent and foolish; a “ruler” of God’s people, who is clearly lacking God’s blessing. Instead, he is trying to kill the child God is bringing for the salvation of Israel and the world. God’s will is still done. It is emphatically clear that despite his attempts to foil God’s plan, he actually causes it to happen.
Oedipus comes to mind, as might any number of Greek tragedies. A baby has a prophecy declared over them; their fate is to (for example) kill their father and marry their mother. The parties involved do all they can to avoid this situation, but it happens regardless. The actions of those involved are actually the very things that allow this to take place.
It is similar with Herod. His very opposition to God achieves a purpose of God’s. He is far from obedient, however. Herod demonstrates that it is possible to stand actively in opposition to God, yet sill be used for his purposes.
How can God be glorified in a world that hates him? I don’t know how it plays out from day to day. Somehow, God is being glorified. If your actions are not glorifying Him by honouring Him, then they are undoubtedly glorifying him by showing his sovereignty. God’s plans are still enacted, but many (most!) people sit on the wrong side of them. They, like Herod, unwittingly serve that which they are trying tio prevent or ignore. The idea that we can get by without God is a delusion.
When we turn to Him, He is glorified in our salvation and praise. When we turn away, He is glorified in our foolishness. I know which one I’d prefer.