Travel Light (5) - The Flight to Egypt
We are continuing our message series called Travel Light, remembering that this world is not our home, that we were created for so much more. And as we turn to the Bible today, we recognize God’s purpose for life, his design for life, and that we are God’s workmanship, created to do good works. Therefore, we believe that from the moment of conception all life is precious and valuable to God, and we don’t have the right to interfere because he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
The psalmist said it so well in Psalm chapter 139, as he praised God saying,
“You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).
And so, we worship the Lord who gives us life, who is our life, and we praise him; because all of our days were written in his book before one of them ever came to be.
In other words, he is our life from beginning to end, he is the A through the Z, and therefore no one, not even King Herod, has the right to steal, kill, or destroy even one day. Because this day the Bible says,
“This is the day the Lord has made” (Psalms 118:24).
And so today, we recognize the sanctity of life, the sacredness of life, recognizing God’s plan for humanity, and that he created everything for a purpose.
It’s in that context that we read of a troubling time, a great tragedy in Matthew chapter two. Verse 16 says,
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi” (Matthew 2:16).
“Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:17-18).
In this text we discover that Jesus was born into trouble, born into a culture of hostility, pain and sorrow. And so, if you’d like to follow along in your Bible, turn to Matthew chapter two, because we are going to continue in this part we didn’t get to last week.
We left off talking about the Magi, astrologers from the East who came to Jerusalem following this unusual star. And in spite of our sentimental feelings about the Christmas story, we saw that they were late, and they actually missed the manger scene in Bethlehem. The important thing was that they didn’t miss the significance of Christmas, they understood the meaning of Christmas, and so Matthew told us that when the Magi came to the house where the child was, they worshiped him and gave him gifts of great worth.
Then, verse 12 tells us,
“Having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:11-12).
And so, the Lord warned them, he rerouted them, and he said you’re going to have to go back another way. In other words, whatever Herod was planning, it wasn’t going to happen like that, and so let’s continue reading where we left off in verse 13.
The Magi had returned to their country by another route and Matthew tells us,
“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him" (Matthew 2:13).
“So, he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son" (Matthew 2:14-15).
Now, let’s skip down to verse 19. My title for today’s message is “The Flight to Egypt,” and this is the part we don’t normally get to on Christmas. But all of these words are inspired by the Holy Spirit, they are given to Matthew by God himself, and therefore I believe these details are significant, and they are meant to be much more than just a history lesson. In other words, none of this is meaningless, and so we need to consider carefully the significance of what God is telling us. Verse 19 says,
“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead" (Matthew 2:19-20).
“So, he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene" (Matthew 2:21-23).
In this text, there’s a lot of traveling, a lot of movement, as the Magi came and left, and then Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with their son before returning and settling in Nazareth.
We’ve been talking about traveling light and I don’t want you to miss the significance of this because God’s Word is meant to be more than just a history lesson.
In other words, Christ being born in obscurity, born in the little town of Bethlehem is significant because there are blessings in seasons of darkness that you don’t get in broad daylight. And so, we saw the Magi traveling all the way to Jerusalem in the darkness, following a great light, only to discover that the chief priests and teachers of the law, the people who should have known where Christ was were still living in darkness. In other words, they missed the significance of the shepherds’ testimony, they didn’t pay them any attention, they didn’t know where the child was, and all they knew was what the Scriptures said, and so they sent the Magi to look in Bethlehem.
What we discover in this text is that God is repositioning the figures in our manger scene, because we’re not flexible enough to change and go from the place that we thought was the place. And so, the teachers of the law said, “You’ve just got five more miles to go to Bethlehem,” but God reroutes the Magi and they continue following the star, because sometimes we get so close to the place that we thought was the place, but it’s not the place. And so, they found the child in a house. The Bible says,
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:11-12).
In other words, sometimes, not only do you have to go somewhere you didn’t expect to go, but you’ve got to be prepared to go back another way. I know it’s difficult because many of us are stuck in one way, we can only do things one way, only do business one way, only have church one way, but God says you’re going to have to be more flexible than that. You’re going to have to learn how to get back another way, you have to return by another route, going against the grain of your culture, because the enemy has set a trap for you. And so, the Bible says that the Magi returned to the country by another route.
“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." (Matthew 2:13).
Now, from our perspective, nothing is going right, everything seems to be going wrong, and it’s just one problem after another. But when we look at this from the perspective of heaven, we recognize that God often disguises prophecy as a problem, but we don’t recognize it until we look back in hindsight.
Joseph is awakened in the night and verse 14 says,
“He got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt” (Matthew 2:14).
The flight to Egypt wasn’t in their plans, they weren’t packed for this, but sometimes you have to follow God in the dark. In fact, God does a lot of things at night, he’s mysterious that way, because he wants us to walk by faith and not by what? Sight, right?
And so, Easter started in the dark, Jesus didn’t get up when the sun came out, but the Bible says,
“While it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb” (John 20:1).
Now, I have trouble finding the kitchen at night without tripping over things, but God does a lot of things at night when nobody else can see. And in this text, there is only one person who knows where they’re going, and he was just a toddler. Nobody else knew, Joseph and Mary didn’t know, the Magi didn’t know, because God was watching over his Word.
In other words, Herod can search all he wants, he can look all he wants, but it’s the Word of God in Mary’s arms that is going to prosper because the Lord has said,
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17, NKJV).
And so, God sent Joseph and Mary away in the dark, and he hid his son in the same place that the Hebrew people had been captives for 400 years. No one expected Jesus to go back to the place where Moses was hidden, back to the place where God said,
“Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1).
But God hid his son in Egypt, keeping him safe in the same place that Moses was hidden. In doing so, it was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet,
"Out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1).
And so, on one hand it looks like Jesus was going to Egypt to fulfill prophecy, but on the other hand he was going to Egypt to escape Herod. And the truth is that it was really both, not one or the other, because God often disguises prophecy as a problem.
You see, 42 generations earlier the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt and said,
“Say to Pharaoh, 'This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, "Let my son go, so he may worship me" (Exodus 4:22-23).
And so, God brought Israel, his son out of Egypt, but then 42 generations later he sent his Son back to Egypt because Herod was trying to kill him. And it’s important that we understand the significance of God sending his son back to the place where he had previously delivered his people from, because you don’t have to be in the place you expect to be for God to fulfill his purpose for your life. The Bible says,
“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
And so, your positioning or your conditions are not nearly as important as your calling.
God called his son out of Egypt, and when the people of God left Egypt under Moses command, the Bible says in Exodus chapter 12, that the Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people.
“And they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:36).
In other words, they left Egypt in the darkness, they left captivity with treasure, and now Jesus goes back to the place that represented their captivity.
Sometime later, God spoke to Joseph saying, “You can go home, come out of Egypt.” Fulfilling what he said to the prophet,
"Out of Egypt I called my son" (Matthew 2:15).
And so, God declared into that place that represented captivity to Israel,
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
And I think sometimes we miss it, we miss the significance of him being caught out of Egypt, because we get so caught up in the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. And so, it was just weeks ago that we were singing songs about that little town of Bethlehem, but I didn’t hear anybody singing about being called out of Egypt.
It makes me wonder, you know, what if the Word of God was true and the devil is a liar. You know, I wonder today what God might be calling you out of? Calling you out of the darkness, calling you out of Egypt, calling you to plunder your enemies, because if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
You know, what if Joseph found himself in Egypt again? Not this Joseph, but the Old Testament Joseph. You know the one who saw the stars and the grain bowing down to him in a dream (Genesis 37:5-9). He saw that, but what he didn’t know was that his brothers,
“Took him and threw him into the cistern” (Genesis 37:24).
What he didn’t see was himself being sold into slavery in Egypt. He didn’t see himself in prison, forgotten by the cupbearer and baker. But what if the Word of God is true and everything really works out for your good? When he’s riding around Egypt in a chariot with the Pharaoh, what if God really takes what the enemy meant for evil? What if it really works out for your good?
There may be some of you here today who feel like you don’t fit your circumstances. You don’t deserve to be in that situation. But let me encourage you not to doubt the significance of what you have received from God. Joseph said to his brothers in Egypt,
“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20, ESV).
If you don’t know the Word of God, you may not be able to receive this, but what if that is a fact about the purpose of God in your life? What if in the context of your life, all you can see are problems, you may be in the dark right now, but what if it’s prophecy? What if something good was coming out of this?
“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel” (Matthew 2:19-20).
He said, you don’t have to hide, you don’t have to worry, you don’t have to be afraid of what you used to be afraid of. God said, those who were trying to take the child’s life, they are dead now.
And so, Joseph took Jesus and left Egypt, but he didn’t go back to Judea. He went back another way, he didn’t go back to Jerusalem, because he was afraid to go there. He wanted to, he intended to, but the Bible says,
“Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee” (Matthew 2:22).
Over and over and over we find the characters in our manger scene repositioned. People being rerouted, going directions they never planned, going back another way, and so let’s just add another one to it. “He withdrew to the district of Galilee” and verse 23 says,
“He went and lived in a town called Nazareth" (Matthew 2:23).
And so, not only was he born in obscurity, O Little town of Bethlehem, not only did he escape to Egypt, but he was called out of Egypt, and went back to Nazareth.
“So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene" (Matthew 2:23).
Now, if you think Emmitsburg is small, you can’t even find Nazareth on the map, you can’t find it on GPS. And so, we find our Savior Jesus Christ raised in a town that is known for its obscurity, a town that was too small and too insignificant to even be mentioned in the Old Testament. But Philip said something good came from Nazareth, he said,
“We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).
Nathanael asked. "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" "Come and see," said Philip” (John 1:46).
“Come and see.” Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He was born in Bethlehem, called out of Egypt, and called a Nazarene. But we need to remember what God called him, he said,
“He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Today, I want to encourage you to remember that something significant came out of Nazareth, not forgetting where you came from. Not forgetting what you were called out of, what you were brought out of, but remembering that,
“He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
You see, you’ve been called something, you’ve been called out of darkness, and brought into the kingdom of Christ. You may be going through something right now that seems like a nightmare, you’re in the dark, it’s the fourth watch of the night, but remember Jesus. Remember he does some of his best work in the dark.
Before I go any deeper, I’d like to pause right here and ask the ushers to pass out the elements of the bread and grape juice. And for those of you watching online, I want to celebrate this with you also, and so if you can, go ahead and grab a piece of bread and something to drink.
This moment is so important because we can be so forgetful, and I am just as guilty as anyone. That’s why the Bible encourages us to examine ourselves before partaking of this meal. And so, we want to take a moment to look within, and if there is a habitual sin, this is the opportunity to repent of it. To make up our minds to stop and ask Jesus to forgive us and help us to walk away from it.
It’s also an opportunity to go deeper, to remember what you were called out of. You know, what was your Egypt, what was it that held you captive? Maybe you were called out of addiction, lust and immorality, anger and bitterness? What were you called out of? What was your Egypt?
Take a moment to remember where God showed up in your life. Where God did something to reveal himself to you. And don’t forget what he has done.
On the night before Jesus was offered up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. He brought them together to remember that fateful night in Egypt when the death Angel passed over the houses of those who had applied the blood of the Lamb to the door posts. He brought them together to remember and my prayer is that many of you will understand the Scriptures in a deeper way as we experience Jesus as the Lamb of God in this meal.
If you’ve got a wafer of bread, just hold it up, and consider it as we read the Scriptures. The Bible says,
“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).
Let’s all eat together as we remember the body of our Lord Jesus Christ offered for us. He said, do this in remembrance of me.
“In the same way, after supper Jesus took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).
Let’s drink together, remembering the shed blood of Jesus, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.
As Jesus celebrated this meal with his disciples, he said this is a new covenant in my blood. And so, he replaced the blood of the lamb on the door posts with his own blood. He gave us a new way of remembering, a new memory, a new way of identifying with him. He said, whenever you do this, you are letting me know that you still remember. He said,
“Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
In other words, Jesus doesn’t want you to ever get so depressed, so lonely, so discouraged, that you forget that he’s coming again.
And so, Jesus said, whenever you do this, do it in remembrance of me. In other words, whenever we celebrate the Lord’s supper, do it in remembrance of his suffering, in remembrance of his body, in remembrance of his blood, and in remembrance of his coming again.
I wonder how many of you remember something that God did for you? You know that he is alive, because you can remember it, you know he did that for you and you praise him.
I’m reminded of Job, he lost his flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, his servants, his sons and his daughters, but he remembered the Lord. He said all of that might be true, but…
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes…” (Job 19:25-27).
Jesus said, do this in remembrance of me, because sometimes the devil will try to make you forget what you know about God. He will try to confuse you, snatching away your memory, but we remember and so we’re not going to let him get that part because it belongs to God.
For some of you, it may be dark out, but you know that your Redeemer lives. You may have lost some things along the way, but your heart is his, and so you’re being careful and watching yourself closely, so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live…” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
And so, we want to remember what he called us out of, called out of the dark, called out of the Egypt of our lives, and we want to praise him. There ought to be something about God, something God did for you that you don’t need a worship team to praise him. There ought to be something about God, something God did for you, that all you need to do is think on his goodness and all that he’s done for you.
I hope you remember something he called you out of, something he got you through. Remembering how he raised you up, how he brought you out, and you’re ready to give him some praise. Because the Bible says,
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2, NKJV).
Some of you like the Magi, like Joseph and Mary, you’ve been lied to and betrayed, you may have been through great hardship, but remember that the Lord is good. Every now and then you’ve got to praise him, you’ve got to remember the goodness of the Lord, and say,
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord” (Psalm 34:1-2, NKJV).
When you think about his love and his goodness, how he died on the cross and rose again. When I think about his grace that brought us through, how could I forget his love, how could I forget his mercies?
It may be dark out, the devil may be trying to wear you down, people may turn their back and walk away from you, but the Lord remembers you and will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10).
This morning, I come to you asking you to remember Jesus, remember what he did for you, remembering what he called you out of, remembering the times he brought you through things that you thought you would never make it through. We’ve got to remember and give him praise. We can’t forget him because he hasn’t forgotten us. In fact, he said,
“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).
As we close, I want to encourage you to remember, remember the palms of his hands. Look at the palms of his hands, because he wants you to remember. Just a week after his resurrection, Jesus came and stood among his disciples,
“He said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands" (John 20:27).
Can I encourage you to remember him today? Jesus said whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, do it in remembrance of me. He said, remember that I am the one that called you out of Egypt. I’m the one that brought you out of captivity. I’m the one that brought you out of the darkness, and the one that brought you through the wilderness. As we close in prayer would you remember?
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, PC Study Bible, Preaching Library, and Sermon Central. Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.