The Flight to Egypt and Back
Immediately after the Magi left to go home a different route than they had originally come (because Herod caught wind of their deception towards them), the angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape the coming wrath of King Herod. They had to travel approximately 175 miles to get to a habitable area in Egypt, which had become a safe haven for Jews that needed to escape any oppression from the Roman government.
The wrath of Herod was expressed through his murdering of all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. Although this was probably a relatively small number, it was still a very tragic and horrific crime against God’s people. After Herod died, the angel of the Lord told Joseph to return home, and as they traveled they came across the news that Herod’s son Archelaus was ruling now, and he had just previously (according to secular historians) murdered 3000 Jews because two rabbis tried to stage a coup, so they avoided Bethlehem and Jerusalem and went further north to their original home, Nazareth.
In this pericope we find Matthew quoting the Old Testament three times to prove to his Jewish readers that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah. All three of these quotes are obscure and may initially appear out of place, but when you consider that Matthew was writing to a Jewish crowd, then the verses make more sense. He spoke of the fact that Jesus ‘came out of Egypt’, which the original quote from Hosea was speaking of Israel being taken out of Egypt by Moses. This makes sense when we realize that Jesus – a Jew – ‘came out of Egypt’ with His forefathers, and just as Moses delivered God’s people out of the bondage (spiritual death) of Egypt, Jesus delivered His elect out of spiritual death and bondage and into the new life of salvation.
The second prophecy was taken from Jeremiah 31 and was in reference of all of the grieving mothers whose little boys were murdered by Herod. This particular quote from Jeremiah spoke of Rachel weeping over the loss of Joseph and Benjamin during the time that Joseph was taken to Egypt and was eventually raised to a position of authority that saved the future twelve tribes of Israel. Again, this is a Jewish reference, and although it is extremely tragic that these mothers (like Rachel) lost their sons (although Rachel’s sons didn’t die, but she thought they were dead), the ultimate good that came out of Joseph going to Egypt was to save Israel, and in the case of the young boy Jesus, He was protected in order to bring salvation to the elect. And we also see another comparison between Moses and Jesus: Moses was saved as an infant in order to save Israel; young Jesus was ‘saved’ in order to save the true Israel – the Church.
The third prophetic quote from Matthew had to do with the holy family settling in Nazareth, so what the “prophets said was true, ‘They would call Him a Nazarene’. The problem here is that there is no Old Testament reference to this quote! But as we saw in Jude, and as I quoted from Acts, there were many things said that weren’t written down into the text of Scripture as we have it, so if Matthew was inspired by the Holy Spirit to say it, then it’s true!
The lessons learned from this story were:
1. Jesus is without a doubt the promised Jewish Messiah – completely God and completely man. Don’t ever doubt this and don’t let anyone water down this essential truth.
2. When the Lord changes our plans, He also provides for the change.
3. Devil couldn’t stop the Messiah, and neither could wicked King Herod, so no one will stop the plans that the Lord has for you.
4. Just as Moses “saved” or delivered God’s chosen out of the bondage of Egypt, Jesus came out of Egypt as our Lord and Savior to deliver His elect out of spiritual bondage and spiritual death.