Circuit Winkel January 2019 (Matthew 2)
- Order of Service: Matins
- Hymns: LSB #385
‘’’OUT OF EGYPT’’’
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son." (Matthew 2:13-15)
When we last saw the holy family, they had dedicated Jesus in the Temple and gone back to Nazareth. Two years have passed since the angels and shepherds visited the manger. Joseph has built a home for his little family and is providing for them as best he can.
Then these Magi from the East show up. They start disturbing Herod. And with him, all of Jerusalem. The “King of the Jews” fervor begins all over again. Another contender for Herod’s throne. Another contender who had to be dealt with quickly.
But the Magi had been sent with a two-fold purpose. First, they had come to worship the newborn King of the Jews. Second, Herod the Great had instructed them to bring back to him the child's location, "that I too may come and worship him." After they had found the Christ-Child, an angel warned them not to return to Herod. They returned back to their homes without going back to Jerusalem.
But the angels weren't done with their visions and messages that night. An angel tells Joseph to pack their bags and get out of Bethlehem: "Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you for Herod is about to search for the Child, to destroy Him." The family had just gotten settled. Jesus was enjoying his time with the other little boys in Nazareth. Now they had to uproot again and move? This couldn't have been an easy conversation for Joseph to have with Mary. But these two were well-acquainted with difficult conversations.
The family leaves at night to escape Herod's murderous plot. Knowing the Jesus was Immanuel, "God with us," Joseph and Mary knew that He would be no good were He to die at age two. Although He was God in the flesh, there is very little that a two-year-old can do to control His surroundings. Except for throwing an epic tantrum. But God doesn't throw tantrums. They had to flee. The angel said to go to Egypt. God had once saved His people by sending them into Egypt. But Egypt had been characterized as the "house of slavery" ever since the first Passover. There had to be somewhere else they could go.
They could go back to Bethlehem. But Herod was king there too. Bethlehem’s boys might have already been murdered by Herod's insane wrath. Especially since that’s where he had told the Magi to go in the first place. What kind of reception would they have, showing up with a young son when so many others had lost their young sons? Would the heartbroken parents make it unbearable?
They could live with Zechariah, Elizabeth and John. But Mary wasn't sure where they lived anymore. Rumor had it that they had moved from their home in the hill country. Some had even said that might even be with that fanatical Essene group down by the Dead Sea. They weren't known for their hospitality to strangers. Zechariah and Elizabeth weren't a viable option.
They could move to the Decapolis. There would always be work for a carpenter in towns like Scythopolis or Pella or even Damascus. But they were all pagan, Gentile areas. No good Jewish man would take his family into a crass Gentile area unless he really had to.
They could go to Mediterranean coast. The many ports along the sea would need a carpenter to repair their boats. But Tyre and Sidon were Philistine areas. All these options were unacceptable.
The only good option was to follow the angel's warning and go to Egypt. There was no other choice. It was the most Jewish place outside Herod's kingdom. There had been a great Jewish population in Alexandria ever since Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. Herod would have no influence in Egypt. Jesus would be safe there from Herod's murderous plot.
So Joseph took his family to live in Alexandria. As his namesake had prepared the way for his family to find refuge in Egypt, Joseph finds refuge for his family. Near the same region where Israel had once enjoyed the bounties of Egypt in the time of the worldwide famine. Joseph didn't know how long this exile in Egypt would be. He knew it would be much less than the four centuries his ancestors had spent there. The angel had only said, "Remain there until I tell you."
Herod killed the baby boys in his rage. An untold number of innocent boys whose only crime was their age. Herod slaughtered them and then died shortly thereafter. When Herod died, Augustus divided up his kingdom into three sections and gave them to his sons. Archelaus was given Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Antipas was given Galilee. Philip was given Herod's territory east of the Jordan River.
One night, the angel tells Joseph, “Take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” The question arises again: Where do we go? Do we go back to Nazareth or Bethlehem? Joseph has plans to go back to Bethlehem. However, Archelaus was reported to be much like his father. Joseph decided to go back to his hometown of Nazareth. Herod Antipas was the least evil of Herod the Great's three sons. Besides, his family and Mary's family was there. Nazareth was the best choice for the family.
Out of Egypt God called His Son. The holy family moved to Nazareth. Jesus grew up as the consecrated Son of God who would one day die for the sins of the world. But Jesus' death at the hands of Herod the Great or Archelaus would not have been the right death. Just as Jesus was "born of woman" "when the fullness of time had come" in Bethlehem, so also Jesus' death must be "when the fullness of time had come." Part of Jesus' "fullness of time" is His time in Egypt. Part of Jesus' "fullness of time" is His return to Nazareth. Part of Jesus' "fullness of time" is to teach you God's gracious will.
God's good and gracious will promises to bring you out of the Egypt of your sin. He has called you out of that prison-house and made you a son alongside your Savior. Your exile in Egypt will happen until the one seeking your death is dead. And Jesus is the death of death. Out of Egypt He was called. And He brings you with Him to enjoy the Promised Land of Heaven. No more “weeping and loud lamentation.” Only the songs of glory from the heavenly choir of the redeemed. Amen.
- Luke 2:40
- Matthew 2:1-3
- Matthew 2:2
- Matthew 2:8
- Matthew 2:12
- Matthew 2:13
- Genesis 46:3-4
- Exodus 20:1
- Matthew 2:8; Micah 5:2
- Matthew 2:13
- Matthew 2:20
- Matthew 2:22
- Matthew 2:23
- Matthew 2:15; Hosea 11:1
- Galatians 4:4
- Matthew 2:18; Jeremiah 31:15