Summary: This is a part of the Christmas story that is not included in the Christmas carols. I have never seen a Christmas card that depicts this part of the Christmas story, and yet it very real.
“The Real Out of Egypt Story”
Last week we examined the story of the Magi as they made the long and dangerous journey following the star to worship the new born king. They stopped at the palace (where better to find a king) but all they found was an old, treacherous and suspicious king. Herod the ruler in the land was not really a king and was not even a Jew. But when he was told of the birth of the “new” king he told the Magi that he too was interested in the location of the new king. Herod the king must have thought he was being clever when he told the Magi to be sure and come back to let him know where they found the new born king for he wanted to go and worship also(2:8). Yeah, right. Of course Herod’s real intention was to remove this usurper to his throne. But being warned in a dream the Magi took a different route as they departed (2:12).
As we pick up with the story there are three things we want to note about the days following the departure of the Magi.
First, The Flight to Egypt. (2:13-15)
“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." (14) When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, (15) and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son."
As soon as the Magi had departed from Bethle-hem, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel told him to pack up Mary and his new son and head to Egypt because Herod was going to try to kill him. Joseph got up (it appears immediately) and the family left in the night (which would mean no one would know when or where they departed). We must marvel at the obedience of this young man of God. God told him to go and he went!
But even in this account we see that Joseph is not presented as the physical father of Jesus. The angel tells Joseph, “take the young child and His mother.” It does not say “take your son” but rather “take the child and his mother.” And although Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus he takes his parental responsibilities very seriously - to do everything in his power to provide and protect his young charge.
I don’t want us to miss the connection that it is the gifts of the Magi that gave the young parents of Jesus the finances to make a journey out of the country possible. The gold given in recognition of His right to be king is a very practical provision for the journey to Egypt and the means to live on as they established themselves in a new place.
Jesus and his family survived but we should not lose sight of the fact that they did so as refugees. They left behind whatever semblance of a life they had been able to build in Bethlehem and start over with only what they could carry on their persons. Even as a child, Jesus already was experiencing the fact that the Son of Man would lack even a place to lay his head (8:20). Have you ever stopped to considered that in contrast we as Christian’s in the West have come to act as if the easy life we enjoy is a divine right.
Matthew is very concerned to show that way that the birth of Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. He will quote Old Testament scripture five times in the first two chapters alone. He has already quoted two proph-ecies (Isaiah 7:14 in 1:23 and Micah 5:2 in 2:6) and in the reminder of the chapter he will quote three more.
The first Old Testament prophecy that Matthew refers to is found in verse fifteen and is Hosea 11: 1, “…And out of Egypt I called My son.” Matthew applies the text which refers to Israel leaving Egypt to Jesus. At first glance this text does not seem to have anything to do with Jesus. But just as Israel went to Egypt to be protected and was delivered back into the land, Jesus is protected in Egypt. Matthew makes it clear that just as Israel as a nation came out of Egypt, so does the Son of God.
Secondly, The Murder of the Children of Bethlehem. (2:16-18)