Thus says the Lord, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

This verse foretells Herod’s massacre of innocent boys in Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’ birth. It is referenced again only in Matthew 2:16-18, where we see the fulfillment of this terrible foreshadowing. Herod ordered the murder of many children in a failed attempt to rid the country of the arrival of another king—Jesus Christ—whom Herod felt threatened by.

Ramah was a city in the tribe of Benjamin located near Jerusalem. Rachel, being the mother of Joseph, and therefore of Ephraim, was the ideal representative of the northern kingdom. “Rachel” is considered a figurative way of speaking to represent all the sorrowful Jewish mothers who were mourning the terrible massacre of their slaughtered infants. This passage signified great sorrow and distress upon a very extraordinarily barbaric occasion.

The years have passed since this was written, but tragedy, heartbreak, death, devastation, and mourning continue to exist in the broken world we live in. The reality still remains that there are hurting people all around us. Every day we will face someone who is fighting a terrible internal battle we may know nothing about. We can’t lose sight of God’s command to love our neighbors. What better time than the Christmas season to offer them help and hope?

• What are you mourning, and how is God guiding you through the grieving process?

• Where else can you recall the Lord speaking through poetic image in Scripture, like He does here?

• Ask God to bring to mind specific people who are sad or troubled whom you can be of comfort to this week.