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One Dysfunctional Political Family, Part 1: A Father’s Influence

It’s bad enough to harbor a dysfunctional family behind closed doors at home, but it’s much worse when it is on the newspaper’s front page for the entire world to see.

Every day, we read about the escapades of wealthy, high-profile individuals who seem to think they’re above the law, and we react with either eye rolls, snorts of disgust, rants to our friends, or Tweets. If we wait to read the news until after our daily devotions, we may pray for the person and his family. Regardless of our reactions, we wonder why God continues to let them get away with their sins.

Some political leaders have been unable to hide their dysfunctionality for generations. The Herodian family is one example.

Roman-appointed rulers of Judea who spanned the Gospels from Matthew 1 to Acts 26, the Herod family was universally hated by their subjects. And for good reason. Besides their incest, power grabs, inter-family murders, and carefully orchestrated ‘suicides’ of political opponents, they were cruel to their subjects who were mostly Jews. They put down any dissension—or even rumors of dissension—with swift imprisonment which usually led to death without the benefit of a trial.

Their people hated them, but God loved them.

Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), the Lord began reaching out to the Herod family as far back as the Magi’s visit, and probably before that.

When the Magi followed the star they knew would lead them to the ‘King of the Jews’, naturally, they went straight to Jerusalem, where the king of Judea lived. There, they met with Herod the Great, the patriarch of the Herodian political family. He shrewdly told them to look for the baby and come back and tell him so that he could also worship him. We know what happened next: Having been divinely warned in a dream, the Wise Men didn’t report back to Herod after finding baby Jesus but instead went home a different way.

Herod the Great, himself a Jew, could have had his own Bible scholars/advisers/wise men investigate further about the prophesied king — other than just where he was to be born. If he had thoroughly searched the Scriptures, he’d have discovered that this baby, born King of the Jews, would pose no threat to him but would, instead, make a way for him—despite his wicked past—to go to Heaven for Eternity instead of to Hell, a destination he was on the fast-track to. Whereas people today get saved by looking back to Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, Herod could have gotten saved just as the people in the Old Testament did: by looking ahead in faith.

The New Testament book of Hebrews explains how people were saved thousands of years before Jesus was born. Chapter 11:4-7 lists the examples of Abel, Enoch, and Noah, for starters:

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

The writer of Hebrews sums up his examples of the ancients’ faith in Hebrews 11:13-16:

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Even if Herod had read the Old Testament Scriptures examples, he may have dismissed them as not applying to him; after all, he already HAD a city of his own—in fact, he had a country! Furious at having had one put over on him by the Magi, Herod the Great ordered all the toddlers and babies, aged two and under, in the Bethlehem region killed. With that terrible act, King Herod the Great blew his big chance of meeting the King of the Universe and being saved by Him.

Herod the Great, who practiced a convenient Judaism, died at 70. Before he went, Herod had several family members killed for one suspected plot or another; three were his own sons. The fact that, as a Jew, Herod did not eat pork was famously alluded to by Caesar Augustus at the (sham) trial of two of his (Herod’s) sons. Caesar joked in Greek, “It is better to be Herod’s hua (pig) than it is to be huia (son).” The cruel truth was that Herod wouldn’t butcher his pig, but he wouldn’t hesitate to butcher his son.

All we can do is shake our heads sadly for the descendants of this powerful ruler. How different things would have been for them had Herod the Great done what he told the Magi he would do! How wonderful could the children’s lives have been had their father kept his promise, looked ahead in faith, and worshipped the King?

Instead, the evil in the Herodian Dynasty continued for four generations. And God, in His mercy and unfailing love, continued to reach out to each generation.

What if God’s people had prayed for these influencers? The Bible gives us specifics of some who did just that. Daniel 4:26-27, & 37, and Acts 26:19-32 are two examples.

ASI prays for America’s influencers and political leaders. We pray and ask God for opportunities to get in front of them—to be agents of Hope—just as the Magi were given an audience with Herod the Great. When they submit their hearts to God, we know what a positive difference it makes to their families—and what a positive difference it will make to their descendants. And since every congressperson represents around 708,000 people, what a positive difference we’ll see in our country when they submit their lives and votes to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Thank you for praying with us.

About The Author, Steve BErger

Steve is known for his straight talk in dealing with various hot-topic cultural issues that many pastors avoid. He serves on the Executive and Pastoral Advisory Boards for Promise Keepers International, and the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast Board. Whether preaching or writing, in great joy or pain, Steve longs to be a proclaimer of the grace and hope that Jesus came to offer. Since June of 1987, he has been married to Sarah, the love of his life, and together, they have four beautiful children and four grandchildren.