Summary: 1) The Escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15), another to 2) The Slaughter at Ramah (Matthew 2:16–18), and the other to 3) The Return to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19–23).
When President Anwar Sadat flew from Egypt to Israel on November 19, 1977, he shocked the whole world. His journey was unprecedented in modern times. It was unheard of that an Egyptian leader should leap the barriers of prejudice to personally petition Israel for peace. We moderns have forgotten, however, that Egypt and Israel have not always been enemies. When Joseph and Mary took refuge in Egypt from the hateful Herod, they were following a well-established precedent. Throughout Israel’s history, Israelites had fled to Egypt for protection or for food. Theirs is a long and honored love-hate relationship (Lawson, L. (1986). Matthew: Unlocking the Scriptures for You (p. 22). Cincinnati, OH: Standard.).
One striking feature of Matthew’s presentation of the birth and early childhood of Jesus in the first two chapters of his Gospel is the way he views each step as the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture. He does this five times in these chapters, citing Isaiah 7:14 in 1:23; Micah 5:2 in 2:6; Hosea 11:1 in 2:15; Jeremiah 31:15 in 2:18; and an uncertain text in 2:23. These citations make an important point: Christianity is not a novelty but rather a (fact) founded by God long ago and now brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. (Boice, J. M. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 36–37). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)
As we seek out to live Godly lives in the coming year, we must determine if our steps are in line with the word of God and how we fit into His divine plan. This requires not only study, but courage and fortitude. We must know the way to go, have courage to act in the face of inward and outward opposition and resilience to continue on the path of righteousness when so many voices, often including our own, say stop.
In Matthew 2:13-12, we see God's "Divine Direction" through: 1) The Escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15), another to 2) The Slaughter at Ramah (Matthew 2:16–18), and the other to 3) The Return to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19–23).
1) The Escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)
Matthew 2:13-15 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." (ESV)
No sooner had the magi departed than an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, giving him a warning from God.
• As with everything else of Jesus and His ministry, this dream was a special occurrence. We should not expect divine revelation and guidance from dreams. Unlike Mary and Joseph, we have a completed canon of scripture for infallible direction.
This news to Mary and Joseph was not of joy and hope, but of danger and urgency. 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. Just as the magi had been warned by God to disobey Herod (v. 12), Joseph was now warned by God to flee the evil, murderous king. God does not always give us the reason for our orders, but here He did give Joseph the reason. The reason or purpose for our orders are given to encourage and prompt us to obey. They are not given to satisfy mere curiosity (Butler, J. G. (2008). Analytical Bible Expositor: Matthew (p. 29). Clinton, IA: LBC Publications.).
Flee (pheugô) is a word from which we get the translation fugitive, one who escapes from something or someone. The word is here in the present imperative, indicating the beginning of action that is to be continued. Joseph and his family were immediately to begin fleeing, and were not to stop until they were safely within Egypt and beyond the reach of Herod.
• This is the first key in receiving Divine Direction: Once we understand God's directive, we must immediately obey. Often there are time sensitive circumstances that God has sent into place. For us to delay, often mean missed blessing and increased trouble.
The distance from Bethlehem to the border of Egypt was about 75 miles, and another 100 miles or so would have been required to get to a place of safety in that country. Traveling with a baby made the trip both slower and more difficult.
• With following Divine Direction, God never promised that it would not be difficult. Often the difficult tasks that we undertake in life have the greatest reward. We often achieve little because we only undertake the easy route.