Throughout the centuries since Jesus' birth, man has marveled at the wonder of His person and work. An unknown author declared: "He became a man that we might become the sons of God. In infancy He troubled a king. In boyhood He puzzled the teachers. In manhood He ruled the course of nature, He walked upon the billows, hushed the sea to sleep, and healed the multitudes without medicine." "He never wrote a book, yet the libraries of the world are filled with volumes that have been written about Him." He never penned a musical note, yet He is the theme of more songs than any other subject." "Great men have come and gone, yet He lives on. Herod could not kill Him. Satan could not seduce Him. All others have failed in some way, but not Jesus! This perfect One is altogether lovely."
What a wonderful Person! Of Him Pilate said, "I find no fault in this Man" (Luke 23:4). A Roman soldier declared, "Certainly this was a righteous Man" (Luke 23:47). And God Himself announce from heaven, "This is My Beloved Son, hear Him" (Mark 9:7). Not only is Christ matchless and majestic in His Person and work, but He is know ans Savior and Friend by the most lowly believer.~Adapted from Daily Bread, December 25, 1990
While it is a great delight to celebrate the wonder of Jesus, have you ever paused to ponder what life was like for the Christ-Child at the First Christmas? Life was not comfortable and cozy for the Christ-Child. In fact, His life was in danger of being snuffed out at the First Christmas by the enemy. But thanks be to God, He stepped in to thwart the cruel and clandestine plans of the enemy in order to advance His plans for the Christ-Child.
This brings me to the main idea of the message God has given me from His word to deliver to you at this urgent hour in your life and my life. Please I want yo to listen attentively to it, not just with your head, but more importantly with your heart, where the Holy Spirit, the eternal Spirit of truth and transformation is so eager and enthused to plant the seed of God's eternal and enduring truth, in order to transform genuine born-again believers-more into the blessed likeness of Jesus Christ-the Bridegroom and Builder of the Church-and to turn the unsaved, the unbelieving, the unregenerate from their sin of unbelief-tenderly and truthfully leading them to genuine repentance and personal saving faith in Jesus Christ- the Seeker and Savior of lost sinners-of whom I am the chief. So here is our message in a nutshell! Please I urge you to pay very close attention to it with an open heart and an open mind. God is fully aware of and overturns the evil schemes of the adversaries of believers in order to accomplish His divine purposes for them. In other words, God is always a step ahead of the enemies of His believing children.
Folk, friends, faithful followers of Christ among us here today, and fellow believers in the fold and flock, fellowship and family of the one true God of the universe, that is, Yahweh, the self-existing, the self-sufficient, the sovereign and supreme Deity of the universe, the Bible is going to vividly and visually show us that God knows far ahead in advance all about the cruel and clandestine plans and purposes of the enemies of His people and divinely steps in to overthrow, overturn, topple and thwart them in order to advance His purposes His people. I tell you friends, anyone who walks in God's will is immortal until God's work in and through him/her is completed. In fact, nowhere is this biblical teaching and truth found graphically portrayed than in the First Christmas story recorded in Matthew 2:13-15. So if you have your Bibles, turn them to Matthew 2:13-15. Actually, Matthew is the only Gospel writer who recorded the escape to Egypt.
We have before us a passage of Scripture which is only two sentences in the original. The NASB, the most literal translation of the Bible into our English language, also rendered it in two sentences. It is a passage that can be accurately described as a passage of vivid contrast. On the one hand it depicts the enemy's secret plan for the destruction of the Christ-Child at the First Christmas. The Bible minces no words in disclosing to us all about the clandestine plot of Herod to destroy the Christ-Child at the First Christmas. Herod the Great, the butcher and brutal murderer knew only one way to remove who threatens his throne. And that one way is: Destroy by putting to death. On the other hand, our gospel story visually describes God's timely deliverance of the Christ-Child from the hand of the enemy at the First Christmas. It's as if God is sending a strong message to the enemy of the Christ-Child and His believing children! He says: "I know all about your evil schemes against My Beloved Son and My Believing Saints. I am always a step ahead of you and I know exactly when to step in to overthrow your diabolical schemes against them in order to advance My divine plans for them. I will prevail over you until I have fulfilled all My good intentions purposed form My Beloved Son and My Believing Saints. I am in control. I am in charge and I will conquer and prevail over you. My purposed cannot be thwarted or defeated." What a strong message!
Having just whetted your spiritual appetite, please allow me to give you a brief overview of how the Holy Spirit has prepared me to present to to you our gospel story at the First Christmas from start to finish. First of all, we will look at the dramatic introduction of the story to be told in verse 13a. The Christmas Story is a story of great drama. In fact, one can say that it is the drama of the ages ever staged in human history. It is the greatest drama and the drama of the ages because it tells the story one who is truly and fully God becoming truly and fully Man in the person of Jesus Christ. And may I say to us, it will remain the greatest drama ever performed here on earth to the end of the age. The dramatic introduction of the story to be told is vividly captured in the expression-"behold." Before and after the birth of Christ, a lot of drama unfolded in the lives of Joseph and Mary. One of them is vividly recorded for us in this passage. Second, we will discuss the directives given to Joseph in verse 13b. The directives given to Joseph are divine and definitive. They are clear and concise. What are the directives given to Joseph? Well, the Bible itself will spell them all out to us. Third, we will examine what the Bible reveals about the desire of Herod in verse 13c. The Bible is going to make it crystal clear that Herod's desire for the Christ-Child at the First Christmas was nothing short of being diabolical, devious, and destructive in nature. But the question is: Will Herod's diabolical desire formed against the Christ Child succeed? Well, the Bible itself will address that question for us. Fourth, we will consider the decisive response of Joseph in verses 14-15a. If the directives given to Joseph through the angelic messenger were divine and definitive, Joseph's response to them was decisive and demonstrative of his love for God. Though the flight to Egypt would be inconvenient and dangerous for the Christ Child and His mother, yet Joseph was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. In fact, he made no objection. As soon as he had received his marching orders, he immediately arose and departed for Egypt that very night-taking the Child and His mother. Believer in Jesus, how will you describe your obedience to God? Complete or casual? Decisive or one of dilly dallying? Fifth and finally, we will focus on what the Bible reveals as the divine purpose for the flight to Egypt in verse 15b. I tell you friends, God always has a purpose for everything He does. The Bible powerfully portrays this truth at the end of our gospel story.
Having given you a concise overview of our gospel story, let's now dig deeper into it to discover the precious and practical lessons the Holy Spirit is desirous and delighted to impress upon our hearts in order to do His divine work of changing true believers more into the glorious likeness of Jesus Christ-the eternal Son of God, who is also our Emmanuel-"God with us." We begin first of all, by considering the:
I. Dramatic introduction of the story to be told in verse 13a.
Would you please notice what the Bible says in the first part of verse 13: "Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying," (Matthew 2:13a - NASB). Actually, the verb translated "had departed" [Greek: anachoresanton] (v. 13) comes from the same root "anachoreo" as "departed" [Greek: anechoresan] in verse 12. This ties the two accounts, namely the visit and departure of the Magi and the escape to Egypt together. So the Bible is saying that when the Magi had gone or departed something dramatic and unexpected happened. It's as if the spotlight turns away from the Magi and turns on Joseph and Mary and the Christ-Child to help us see the drama about to unfold in their lives. The dramatic introduction of the story to be told is literally captured in these words: "behold, an angel of the Lord appears by a dream to Joseph, saying." The verb "appears" [Greek: phanetai] is a historic present. It gives a vivid touch to the unfolding drama. The word translated "behold," [Greek: idou] is an important word. Unfortunately, it is missing in the NIV because the translators omitted it in their translation. "Behold" sometimes serves to enliven a narrative by arousing the attention of of the hearers and readers. It also introduces something new, which calls for special attention, or something quite extraordinary. So the Bible is saying to us that God is about to do something dramatic, which calls for special attention. He is on the move to take sovereign and special action to preserve, protect, defend, and deliver His Messiah-His Unique Son, something which the Lord Jesus Himself understood so well. Actually, this is not the first time an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream in a dramatic fashion. And this will not be his last. On three different occasions, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph introducing some drama into his life. Matthew recorded them all for us in his gospel account-in 1:20; 2:13, 19. The word "behold" is used in each case to draw special attention to the unfolding drama in Joseph's life. My friend, may I say to you, if God chooses, He can introduce some drama into your life as a believer in Jesus Christ. You may not like it because when God introduces dram in your life, it will take you out of your comfort zone, as was the case in Joseph's life. But if you faithfully follow and trust God in the midst of the drama he is introducing in your life, it will result in a special blessing in your life and in the lives of others.
Years ago when I was living in Vancouver, British Columbia, God introduced some drama in my life. I was then working a part-time job at a printing press. I had asked God to wake me to spend time with Him before leaving for work. The work environment was full of temptations and attacks of the enemy. One day, it happened that I was in deep sleep and had no idea that I was going to be late unless something jolted me out of my sleep. It so happened that I was dreaming. In the dream, I saw one like an angel approaching me with his hands raised. Then something dramatic and unthinkable happened. I was struck on my thigh. The pain was so sharp that I kicked my leg so hard, it woke me up. Lo and behold, when I looked at the clock, I had only about twenty minutes to spend with the Lord before dashing out to take the bus. Yes, I didn't take a shower. I could not have responded in a godly manner had God not dramatically awakened me up and prepared me in my time of meeting with Him. You see, the ancient world had no doubt that God sent His messages to men in dreams. So Joseph was warned in a dream in a dramatic way to escape to Egypt.
Having colorfully set forth the dramatic introduction of the story to be told, the Bible now cogently spells out the:
II. Directives given to Joseph in verse 13b.
Would you please notice the directives given to Joseph on that memorable and marvelous night. The Bible says: "Arise and take the Child and His Mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;..." (Matthew 2:13b - NASB). I tell you friends, the directives given to Joseph are very clear and concise. In other words, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand them. They are simple and straightforward. Not only that, the directives and definitive. This is because "the angel of the Lord," "angelos kuriou," whose name is not mentioned, was not speaking on his own authority. He was only doing exactly what God had commissioned him to do on His behalf. You see, the holy angels only and always do the will of God (see Psalm 103:20). Since the angel of the Lord was doing the will of God, he spoke authoritatively and definitively as if God Himself were speaking to Joseph in the dream.
Please notice that four clear and concise directives were spelled out to Joseph in rapid succession. The first is "Arise." Literally, "rising," "egertheis," from the verb "egeiro." Whenever God says "arise," it means get going now. It means start now. In other words, the directive to "arise," is urgent and demands immediate response from Joseph. Second, Joseph is specifically directed to "take the Child and His mother." You see, God entrusted Joseph with responsibility of taking care of the Christ-Child and His mother. Although Joseph was not the natural father of Jesus, he was His legal father and was responsible for His safety and well-being. It was an honor and privilege to be the legal father of the Christ-Child. But that honor and privilege came with the responsibility. It is important to point out at this juncture that every time the Child Jesus and His mother are mentioned together, He is mentioned first (see Matthew 2:13-14, 20-21). But you ask: What's the significance of that? What's the big deal about that? Please listen carefully now! Here is the significance. The Holy Spirit, who inspired Matthew to mention the Christ Child first, is Himself giving preeminence to Jesus over Mary. In other words, He is saying, Jesus is the One to worshiped, exalted, magnified, honored, adored, and celebrated, not Mary. Unfortunately, some have exalted Mary to a status God never purposed for her. How sad! Third, Joseph is commanded to "flee to Egypt." Let's briefly trace the steps of Joseph and Mary. Before their flight Egypt, Joseph and Mary undertook a difficult,energy draining and grueling journey of more than 75 miles, through the mountainous terrain from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-7). Then they traveled a few more miles (about 5 miles) from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for Jesus' presentation at the temple (Luke 2:22). Then they went down from Jerusalem to Bethlehem where they received the Magi's visit (Matthew 2:1-12). Not long after that, Joseph is given the marching orders to escape to Egypt. The Egyptian border lay 90 miles (146 km) from Bethlehem. Please remember they were no trains, cars or airplanes to use as transportation for their flight to Egypt. Their best mode of transportation would be a donkey-if they owned one. Now the question is: Why Egypt? Why flee to Egypt which was notorious for idolatry, tyranny, a place where there was so much hatred and animosity toward God's chosen people? Why escape to Egypt-a place which had been a house of bondage or slavery to Israel? Why flee to Egypt which had been particularly cruel to the infant sons of Israel-whom Pharaoh ordered to be cast into the Nile to perish? The answer, when God chooses, when God pleases, He can make the worst of places serve the best of purposes. May I say to you that the earth is the Lord's and He makes use of it as He pleases or chooses. He sovereignly chose Egypt to be a place of refuge for His Holy Child. Furthermore, going to Egypt was not unusual because there were colonies of Jews in several major Egyptian cities. It is estimated that the population of Jews living in these colonies which had developed during the time of the great captivity (see Jeremiah 43, 44) included about a million Jews. Also Egypt was a well-ordered Roman-province outside of Herod's jurisdiction. Earlier generations of the children of Israel fleeing their homeland (see 1 Kings 11:40; Jeremiah 26:21-13; 43:7) had sought refuge in Egypt. So Egypt was a natural place to which to flee. The interesting thing to note here is that before the Lord Jesus would teach His disciple about fleeing persecution from one city to another, He Himself experienced it as the Christ-Child at the First Christmas. "But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next-literally, to the other" (Matthew 10:23a-NASB). The fourth and final directive given to Joseph is: "remain there until I tell you." Literally, "be there until I tell you." This command was stated very clearly. It was explicit. Joseph, Mary, and the Christ-Child must stay in Egypt, not till the death of Herod, but till given express permission to leave Egypt. It's as if God is saying to Joseph: "I am the One who ordered you to "arise" and where to flee to. And you must wait on Me till the time I tell you to depart Egypt. Be there till I bring you word. Until then, stay put! Stand still! Take Me at My word! Trust Me, for I do all things beautiful in My time. I tell you friends and fellow believers, divine guidance comes only to those who trust God, those who take Him at His Word, and to those who are receptive and responsive and responsive to God. Do you have such a heart? Are you desiring such a heart?Are you trusting God to guide you into His plan for your life? Please understand that all the directives given to Joseph are actually an expression of God's protective care and personal concern for His own. The same God who expressed His protective care and personal concern for the Christ-Child is willing to do the same for you. Turn to Him! Trust Him! Take Him at His Word. Where do you need God's care today? Ask Jesus! He understands that need very well. Do you sense God's protective care for you today? Do you have assurance in your heart today that Jesus is personally concerned about you and your future?
Having colorfully set forth the dramatic introduction of the story to be told, having also cogently spelled out the directives given to Joseph, the Bible now clearly shows us the:
III. Desire of Herod in verse 13c.
Indeed, the Lord Jesus was "a man of sorrows" even from His infancy. Trouble awaits Him as soon as He enters into the world as the God-Man. Oh how early was the Blessed Savior in affliction and adversity! His life and suffering began together. Most of us had a peaceable and placid childhood. But it was not so with our Blessed Lord. He was not only a man of sorrows, but also suffering, strife and struggle. Notice what the Bible says in verse 13c: "for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him" (Matthew 2:13c-NASB). Literally, this reads: "for Herod is about to seek the Child to destroy Him." No doubt, the Christ-Child's life is in grave danger from Herod's hatred. Please understand that Joseph knew neither the danger in which the Christ-Child was, nor where to escape and how to escape the danger. But the now the danger is revealed to him and the destination for his escape is also made know to him. And what is the danger the Christ-Child was facing at the First Christmas? It's Herod's desire to destroy Him. The Bible uses one of the most powerful words to describe the diabolical, devilish and devious desire of Herod the Great. It's the word "destroy," [Greek: apollumi]-which also means "to bring to ruin," "put to death," "to destroy utterly." You see, Herod was about to embark on his search and destroy mission. But I tell you friends, God was a step ahead of Herod. That is all He needed. But you say, "I am not comfortable with God just being a step ahead of the enemy. What if He slips? I want Him to be a thousand steps ahead of the enemy." My friend, Almighty God is never going to slip. Even if He is just half a step ahead of the enemy, He will not fail to fulfill all that He has purposed for your life and my life. Before the Lord Jesus taught His disciples in John 10:10 of the desire of then enemy or the thief who comes only to steal, and kill and destroy, He actually experienced as the Christ-Child.
The Greek name for "Herod" is "Heroides," in ancient Greek. In biblical Greek, it is "Herodes." It comes "heros," meaning "hero, warrior," and "oide," meaning "song, ode." Together, "Heroides" or "Herod" probably means "song of the hero." Herod the Great was not a Jew. His father, Antipater, was an Edomite (Idumean). Before his father's death, Herod had shown himself both masterful and merciless. According to Josephus-the first century Jewish historian, more than once the Pharisees flung the reproach "half-Jew" in the teeth of Herod. His temperament was one of headlong passion, and when in the later period of his life, the power and suspiciousness of the tyrant had sapped the real magnanimity of his nature, it converted him to a butcher, exercising his trade upon his own household as well as upon his opponents. Herod thirsted for power. Having achieved it, he grew increasingly unstable and suspicious. His own household became a nest of intrigue. In a fit of jealousy, he ordered his beautiful wife Mariamme executed, her brother the priest, he had drown. Sinking deeper into madness, he had three of his sons killed, two by strangulation. Herod was vicious, violent, vindictive and vengeful. He was cruel, cunning, and cold-blooded. He got his throne and kept it by crimes of unspeakable brutality. He killed two of his five wives. Statically, becoming Herod's wife means that you have a 40 percent chance of being butchered. As stated earlier, Herod murdered three of his own ten sons. So being a son of Herod means you have a 30 percent chance of being slaughtered. Emperor Augustus (27 B. C.-A.D. 14) once said that it was better to be Herod's pig than his son (a word-play, since the Greek word for pig and son sound very much alike.~ Robert H. Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament, p. 11.
It was this brutal murderer of his own wives and sons and opponents who was going to try to kill the Christ-Child to add to his list of victims. But Jesus would not be a victim, but a Victor in the midst of this strife. Why? God is always a step ahead of the enemy and overturns his evil schemes in order to accomplish His divine purposes for those who are His. In other words, God foresees the enemy's threats and dangers and personally provides a way of overcoming them. Don't you think that God who personally provided a way of the danger in the Christ-Child's life, can do the same for you and me who believe in Him and belong to Him? In fact, he had done that many times for you and for me.
It is clear from this verse that rulers/leaders are rarely friendly to the the cause of Christ. The Son of God, that God becoming Man in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, comes down from heaven to seek and save wretched, wayward, wicked and woeful sinners, and at once we are told that Herod the king seeks to destroy Him. Believer in Jesus Christ, please don't make the mistake of thinking that the cause of Christ depends on the power and patronage of princes, presidents, prime ministers, and prominent leaders. The truth is, they have rarely done much to advance the cause of Christ. They have far more frequently been the staunch enemies of the truth. Rulers like Herod who opposed the cause of Christ abound. Those who are like David, Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, Josiah of Israel and Edward VI of England are few.~Adapted from J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, Matthew, p. 10.
Having colorfully set forth the dramatic introduction of our gospel story, having cogently spelled out the directives given to Joseph, having also clearly shown the diabolical desire of Herod toward the Christ-Child, the Bible now convincingly speaks of the:
IV. Decisive Response of Joseph in verses 14-15a.
Since the directives given to Joseph were urgent and unmistakable, Joseph left at once, setting out by night to begin the 90-mile journey to the border of Egypt from Bethlehem. I tell you friends and fellow believers, this was not the time of dragging one's feet. Certainly, it was not the time of dilly-dallying. For sure, it was not the time of delaying in one's response. It was not the time for making excuses or seeking further explanations. No. It was not a time of procrastination, but of promptness. It was not a time of hesitating and holding back, but hastening and hurrying to do God's bidding. Please carefully notice what the Bible says of the decisive response of Joseph: "And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod" (Matthew 2:14-15a-NASB). Literally this reads: "So he rising took the Child and the mother of Him of (by) night and departed to Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod." Please notice that Joseph was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. He made no objection. I think if it were me, I would have made several pertinent objections. Such as, "Lord, if this is indeed the very Son of God, as we have been told that He is, do You have no other way to protect Him form Herod, who is but a worm? Lord, can't You summon Your legions of angels to guard His life? Can't You direct Your cherubim with their flaming swords to guard Him who is the Life? Can't You with Your supernatural cause Herod's hand that is stretched against the Christ-Child to wither as You once did to King Jeroboam (1 Kings 13:4-5) and save us all this trouble of fleeing to Egypt? But Joseph, not me, made no such objections. His faith being tried and tested was found firm. God performed no miracle for the preservation of the Christ-Child. But Joseph simply trusted and obeyed. Mary must also be commended. She co-operated with Joseph. She didn't throw up a fit. She didn't argue with Joseph about how she hadn't prepared for such a long journey to Egypt-which started at such an odd time-by night. They worked together as a team and obeyed the angel's message to flee to Egypt.
Joseph's obedience to God's marching orders was complete, decisive, and immediate despite the inconvenience his obedience would cause him and the danger the journey to Egypt would cause both to the Christ-Child and His mother. If you were wondering whether Joseph had provisions for the journey to Egypt, remember the gifts the Magi brought to the Babe of Bethlehem. Contrary to tradition, the Magi did not visit Jesus at the manger on the night of His birth as did the shepherds. The Magi came some months later and visited Him as a "Child" in a house. "And they [referring to the Magi] came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worship Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11-NASB). The point here is that the gold which the wise men brought to the Christ-Child would be used to pay for their flight to Egypt. Truly, God does all things well. When He guides, He will also provide. Notice that the focus on God's protection of the Child is unmistakable. That is why the Bible carefully says: "Joseph took the Child and His mother," not the other way round. The Christ-Child is the Principal person in the story unfolding before us. Now here is something I don't want you to miss. Joseph's obedient response to God was not only decisive, but it was also demonstrative of his love for God. Before the Lord Jesus taught His disciples-"He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me...If anyone loves Me, He will keep My word" (John 14:21, 23)-Joseph demonstrated this principle in his life.You see, one sure way you can tell whether or not your love for Jesus is sincere, genuine, or true, is to obey Him. Joseph didn't just talk the talk of loving God. He also walked the walk of loving God. His was not cheap talk. There are a lot of "cheap-talking Christians" today- who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. Joseph would not be among them.
What directives has God given to you today? To bless those who persecute you? To bear with one another? To give thanks in all things? To give generously from what He has given you? To praise Him? To pray for one another? To seek the things that are above? To set your mind on the things that are above? To tell others about Christ? To treat others the way you want them to treat you? How are you responding to them? Is your response one of dragging your feet? Or is it one of being decisive in doing what God has directed you to do? Is your response one of procrastination? Or is it one of being prompt in doing God's bidding? Actually, this is not the first decisive obedient response of Joseph to God's instructions in his life and this will not be his last (see Matthew 1:24; 2:19-21).
Now please notice that the place in Egypt where Joseph took the Christ-Child and His mother to reside is not disclosed to us. Tradition says it was On, also known as Heliopolis from which another Joseph had ruled Egypt long centuries before (Genesis 41:45). Also, the Bible does not tell us how long they stayed in Egypt. For sure, it was very short compared to the 400-430 years that the nation of Israel lived in Egypt. What we do know for sure is that they were there till the death of Herod the Great-which occurred in 4 B.C. History tells us that Herod died of intestinal cancer and dropsy. Please take note of this, God not only thwarts the wicked plans of the enemy of His people, He also in His sovereign wisdom and way takes out the enemy. We have a God God who thwarts the evil schemes of the adversary to His people and takes them out in His own time and way. This clearly teaches us that death can remove the rulers and kings of this world just like other people. J.C. Ryle aptly writes: "The rulers of millions have no power to hold on to life when the hour of their departure comes. The murderer of helpless infants must himself die...What has become of the Pharaohs, Neros, and Diocletians who at one time fiercely persecuted the people of God? Where is the enmity of Charles IX of France, and Bloody Mary of England? They did their utmost to cast the truth down to the ground. But the truth rose again from the earth, and still lives, and they are dead and moldering in the grave. Let not the heart of any believer fail. Death is a mighty leveler, and can take any mountain out of the way of Christ's Church. The Lord lives forever. His enemies are only human. The truth will always prevail."- J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, Matthew, p. 11.
The death of Herod brought relief to many. Not only that, Herod's death paved the way for the return of the Christ-Child, Mary, and Joseph, who expectantly awaited a word from from the Lord. But before Joseph would receive a word from the Lord as to what to do next, the Holy Spirit led Matthew to confidently and concisely disclose the:
V. Divine purpose for the flight to Egypt in verse 15b.
Please mark this well. God always has a purpose for everything He does. He is the God of purpose. Of all the gospel writers, Matthew gives the most attention to the fulfillment of the Scripture as it relates particularly to the life of Jesus Christ. One can call Matthew's gospel, "the gospel of fulfillment." The fulfillment of Scripture is a dominant theme in his gospel (see Matthew 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 3:14; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 13:14; 21:4-5; 26:31, 54, 56; 27:9-10). Remember, Matthew's gospel was written by a Jew to Jews about a Jew named Jesus. The theme of fulfillment would add much strength and support to his message to the Jews. And so, led by the Holy Spirit, Matthew now tells us the divine purpose for the flight to Egypt in verse 15b. There, the Bible simply and succinctly says: "that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 'OUT OF EGYPT DID I CALL MY SON'" (Matthew 2:15b-NASB). Please notice that the last part of verse 15 begins with the conjunction "that," literally, "in order that.' This expression comes from the Greek term 'hina," which is primarily used to introduce the purpose of the clause. You see at the time of his flight to Egypt, Joseph didn't know everything about why God directed him to flee to Egypt. He was only told that Herod was about to go on a search and destroy mission. It's likely Joseph died before the Gospel of Matthew was written in which the divine purpose for his flight was strongly and specifically stated. Joseph simply obeyed God. Joseph simply trusted God and left the rest to God. Please take note of this. Whatever God permits in your life, you can be certain that God has a purpose for it. Whether or not God chooses to reveal His purpose for allowing trials, tests, troubles, and tribulations in your life, your responsibility as a believer in Jesus Christ is to obey and trust Him. That is what Joseph did.
Now by confidently saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son," which is a direct quotation from Hosea 11:1; the Bible is saying that Matthew saw a parallel relationship between the experiences of Jesus and Israel. In other words, Matthew understood by the Holy Spirit's inspiration and illumination that Hosea's prophecy applied to both, namely, the nation of Israel and Jesus, the Christ-Child. To put it another way, the prophecy which originally referred to God's calling of the nation of Israel out of Egypt in the time of Moses, the prophet of God and the man of God, applies also to Jesus, the unique Son of God. You will recall that in Exodus 4:22, 23, Yahweh, the God of Israel, the God of the Hebrews, prophetically and personally referred to the nation of Israel as "My firstborn son" and "My Son." So under the inspiration and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, Matthew says: "Just as Israel as an infant nation went down into Egypt, so the Child Jesus went there. And as Israel was led by God out of Egypt, so also was Jesus. In other words, just as the nation of Israel was dearly loved by God as a youth and was released from Egypt, so also the Christ-Child was dearly loved by God as a youth and released from Egypt. In short, Matthew explains how Jesus' personal history repeats certain aspects of Israel's national history.
Bible commentator William MacDonald shares this interesting thought on the future of Egypt in the light of being a sanctuary for the Christ-Child. He writes: "When the Lord returns to reign in righteousness, Egypt will be one of the countries sharing in the blessing of the Millennium (Isaiah 19:21-25; Zephaniah 3:9-10; Psalm 68:3). Why should that nation, a traditional enemy of Israel, be so favored? Could it be a token of divine gratitude for its granting sanctuary to the Lord?"- William MacDonald, The Believer's Bible Commentary, p. 1208.
So how does this Christmas story apply to you and me? If you are a genuine born-again believer in Jesus Christ, here is how it applies to you. In a day in which the enemy's desire to steal, and kill, and destroy has reached heights never seen before in the world, the true believer in Jesus should never live in fear. Terrorists, suicide bombers, gun men, and lone wolves are out in their numbers to destroy their enemies, especially Christians. Oh yes, our enemies may be strong and steadfast in their desire and determination to destroy us, and we may be weak and worn out; but still believers ought not to be afraid. We must not be paralyzed by fear and stop living fully and faithfully for our Jesus. Why? Jesus, the Lord of your life and my life, who is the Lord of all, the Lord of the universe, is always a step ahead of your enemies and mine. He is fully aware of the evil plots and plans of your adversaries and mine. He knows the dangers and death traps ahead of you. Not only does He foresees them, He will also forewarn you against them in the nick of time. But the question to you the believer in Jesus is: Are you seeking His guidance for your life? Are you submitting to His instructions to you in the Word of God? Are you willing to step out in faith and in obedience when He gives you the marching orders, "Arise...and flee to Egypt?" Are you willing to wait on Jesus until He gives you His next marching orders? Or are you going to willfully jump the gun? Believer in Jesus, what are your struggles today? What suffering are you facing today? What sorrow is weighing you down today? What stressful situations are you dealing with today? Please listen! The Lord Jesus is exactly the One that the struggling and suffering, the stressful and sorrowful need today. Why? He understands. He knows very well what you mean when you tell Him in prayer about all your struggles and sorrows. Jesus has had great experience of affliction and adversity, suffering and sorrow, even from His Childhood as the God-Man. As such, He can sympathize with you when you cry out to Him concerning your sufferings, struggles, sorrows, and stressful situations that threaten to drown you. Not only that, Jesus is able, yes more than able to supply abundantly the help you need to become a victor in the midst of the strife. Believer in Jesus Christ, be reminded today that whatever God permits in your life today or in the future, you can be sure that He has a specific purpose for it. He may or not reveal to you what His purpose is. But you must in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, devote yourself to trusting Him and be decisive and diligent in obeying His directives to you. Be confident that Jesus will accomplish for you without fail.
Now, if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, may I humbly and honestly say to you, you have no defense against the archenemy of your life, that is, the devil, who has come to steal, and kill, and destroy your life! Your life, as it is now in your state of unbelief, is on the path of doom and damnation, destruction and death-leading to your eternal separation from the presence of the Living and the Loving God. But all that can change for you today. How? The good news to you today is that God in His love and grace, is giving you a wonderful opportunity to receive forgiveness and salvation which are in Jesus Christ in order to change the course of your eternal destiny. Simply, admit to Jesus today that you are a sinner who has no defense against the one who is seeking to destroy your life, that is, the devil. Acknowledge to Jesus today that you cannot save yourself from your sins and the destroyer of your life. Accept today, Jesus' free and full offer of forgiveness for all your sins, past, present, and future, on the basis of His once for all perfect sacrifice on the cross for your sins and mine, His burial to put away your sins and mine, and His victorious resurrection from the dead on the third day, to bring you into a right standing with a holy and righteous God, and you will be saved and set apart for His purposes not only in this life, but also in the life to come.
Now I pronounce Your blessings upon Your people! "No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me, declares the LORD" (Isaiah 54:17).
By Joseph Ametepe.
We Proclaim Jesus.