Summary: After our exile in the dark places of Egypt we are summoned to return to the place we came from, chastened and up-built by the experience which we have been through, and equipped for whatever may lay ahead.
THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.
We have already established that Joseph Ben-David was a dreamer (Matthew 1:20). Although his angelic visitations took place in dreams, in visions of the night (Job 20:8), they were not nebulous apparitions. A real, tangible, substantial angel of the Lord continued to appear to Joseph in this medium (Matthew 2:13; Matthew 2:19), until such time as Joseph could hear the divine instructions for himself (Matthew 2:22).
1. Joseph was called into exile (Matthew 2:13). It is important that we do not linger in the place where we have been, but continue to follow God’s leading in our spiritual walk. After all, wherever God places us we are but “strangers and pilgrims” (Hebrews 11:13).
Likewise it is important to wait in the next place for only so long as it takes God to “bring us word” (Matthew 2:13). Joseph was called into exile, but only “until” that took place. There is a time to stand still, and a time to move forward (Exodus 14:13-15).
Christ’s humility was an exile, but it was also the path to His exaltation (Philippians 2:6-11). For Him, going down “by night into Egypt” (Matthew 2:14) was a further step of descent towards the nether regions of death. When we are in darkness: physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually - even in darkness like the darkness of Egypt which can be felt (Exodus 10:21) - even there our beloved Jesus is with us (Psalm 23:4).
Death is the great leveller (Luke 16:22; Hebrews 9:27). Even kings, governors, presidents and rulers must give an account of their actions before God: murderous tyrants all must also die, and face their maker (Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:19; Matthew 2:20). Jesus was in Egypt only until Herod died.
2. Matthew is an expert at demonstrating how the types and prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus. Israel is the type of our Lord, and our Lord is the ultimate manifestation of all that Israel typologically represented. Israel was called out of Egypt under Moses (Hosea 11:1); Jesus was called out of Egypt under the guardianship of Joseph (Matthew 2:15).
Notice how “the young child” is put before “His mother” (Matthew 2:13; Matthew 2:14; Matthew 2:20; Matthew 2:21). Mary is nothing without Jesus. Even the turning aside of the holy family into Nazareth was the fulfilment of a prophecy about Jesus (Matthew 2:23).
Joseph did not delay in his obedience (Matthew 2:21), yet there did seem to be obstacles to overcome (Matthew 2:22). Laying aside our fears, we may combine common sense with prayer and revelation to determine our route. The call home motivated Joseph to set out, but it was not to Israel per se, but into the region of “Galilee of the nations” (Isaiah 9:1) that Jesus thus came (Matthew 4:15).
So they came and dwelt in Nazareth. There may be a play on words when Matthew quotes an undisclosed source as saying “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23). The Jews seemed to think it a term of contempt (John 1:46; Acts 24:5), but C. H. Spurgeon suggested that the name “Nazareth” signifies sprouts or shoots and makes the connection with our Lord being called “the Branch” (Isaiah 11:1).
3. Joseph was instructed to take his young family back to Israel (Matthew 2:20), because Jesus had things to do there. After our exile in the dark places of Egypt we are summoned to return to the place we came from, chastened and up-built by the experience which we have been through, and equipped for whatever may lay ahead. Sometimes we need to unravel our past to see where we strayed from the path, and resume our lives (as best we can, under the new circumstances) from that place.