Calvary Road Baptist Church

“OUT OF EGYPT”

Matthew 2.1-23, Luke 2.38-39

 

Think how difficult it would be for someone to predict the exact city in which the birth of a future U.S. president would take place seven hundred years from now. The prophet Micah accurately predicted similar information—the birthplace and birth date of the Messiah seven hundred years prior to the event (Mic. 5:2). How difficult do you think it would be to indicate the precise form of death that a new, unknown religious leader would experience a thousand years from today? Could you predict a new method of execution not currently known—one that will not even be invented for hundreds of years? That’s what David did in 1000 B.C. when he wrote Psalm 22.

On the other hand, if you were able to think up fifty specific prophecies about some man in the future you will never meet, how difficult do you think it would be for that man to fulfill all fifty of your predictions?

For example, how could someone “arrange” to be born into a specific family (Gen. 12:2-3; 17:1, 5-7; 22:18; Matt. 1; Gal. 3:15-16) in a specified city, which is not even the family’s hometown (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:5-6; Luke 2:1-7)? How does one “arrange” to be virgin born (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-24; Luke 1:26-35)? How does one “arrange” to have God inform and send a proper messenger to go before him (Mal. 3:1; Matt. 11:10)? How does one arrange to be considered a prophet “like Moses” (Deut. 18:15; John 1:45; 5:46; 6:14; 7:40; Acts 3:17-26; 7:37)?

How does one “arrange” to be betrayed for a specific amount of money, 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:13; Matt. 27:3-10)? How does someone orchestrate his own death, which included being put to death by the strange method of crucifixion, and then arrange to have his executioners gamble for his clothes during the execution (Ps. 22; Isa. 53; Matt. 27:31-38)? How does one plan in advance that his executioners will carry out their regular practice of breaking the legs of the two victims on either side of him, but not his own (Ps. 34:20; John 19:33)? Finally, how does a pretender to being the Messiah “arrange” to be God (Isa. 9:6; Zech. 12:10; John 1:1; 10:30; 14:6), and how could he possibly escape from a grave and appear to people after he has been killed (Ps. 22; Isa. 53:9, 11; Luke 24; 1 Cor. 15:3-8)?

It might be possible to fake one or two of these predictions, but it would be impossible for any man to arrange and fulfill all these predictions (and many others) in advance. So, if it can be proven that such prophecies were predicted about the Messiah hundreds of years in advance, and one man fulfilled all of them, then that man would logically have to be this predicted Messiah of the Old Testament.

God gave hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah for at least two reasons: to make identifying the Messiah obvious, and to make an imposter’s task impossible. With all the identifying characteristics in the Old Testament that point to one man, the science of probability tells us that, not only is this particular man the Messiah, but also that God indeed exists.[1]

 

Thus, you see that there is incredible evidence available for the inquiring mind, for the sincere seeker, for the intellectually honest person who is willing to examine the facts of history and archaeology, as well as rely upon the conclusions of logic. The problem, of course, is that we are all sinful creatures, and not honest by nature, not logical by inclination, and certainly not true to well-established facts that would lead us contrary to our desires. Therefore, the preacher’s task is to lay out the details provided in God’s Word, to pray that the Spirit of God will breathe on dead men’s souls to impart faith and life, and to keep our eyes open for evidence of the Spirit’s wooing and convicting of the lost, and the Father’s drawing of men to His Son.

This being the Christmas time of year, we have spent the last two weeks reviewing the Biblical record of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks that night, the Shekinah glory that appeared round about them after more than five centuries absent, the angel who spoke to the shepherds, and the angelic choir’s magnificent performance. We then took note of the shepherds running into Bethlehem to see the Christ child before spreading the good news, followed by our Lord’s circumcision on the eighth day, and the purification of His mother Mary and His presentation at the Temple a little more than a month after He was born.

If you will turn to Luke chapter two, you will see that our narrative to this point brings us to the Temple courtyard in Jerusalem and Luke 2.38, with the aged Anna’s comments after seeing the Christ child in Simeon’s arms: “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Notice that in the very next verse of Luke chapter two, verse 39, we are informed, “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”

If you are not careful to consider Matthew’s gospel, you might think that after Christ was presented at the Temple and then redeemed, Joseph and Mary straightway took Him and moved back to Nazareth after the encounters with Simeon and Anna. Matthew’s gospel, however, gives evidence that Joseph and Mary kept a household for Jesus in Bethlehem for about two years before returning to Nazareth, and even then they did not return directly to Nazareth. Since Matthew’s gospel was written primarily for a Jewish audience, a number of details related to Old Testament predictions and Luke does not include their fulfillments that would be unfamiliar to the Gentiles in his gospel account. Therefore, to consider how the Christ child was taken from Bethlehem to Nazareth, turn to Matthew chapter two.

Stand and read this chapter with me:

 

1      Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2      Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3      When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4      And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5      And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6      And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7      Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8      And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9      When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10     When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11     And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12     And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

13     And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee 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 into Egypt:

15     And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

16     Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.

17     Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

18     In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

19     But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20     Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.

21     And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22     But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

23     And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

 

As you might realize, Matthew chapter two provides a narrative that encompasses the roughly two year span that falls between Luke 2.38 and 39. Why the disparity? Why this omission by Luke? The purpose of gospel record of Matthew and the purpose of the gospel record of Luke are not the same.

As previously mentioned, Luke’s gospel was written for maximum impact to the primarily Gentile world, while Matthew was written to relate the gospel story to those who had the rich heritage of the Jewish covenant people, with their Hebrew scriptures and heightened awareness of predictive Old Testament prophecies. This will become obvious as we consider each of the major points of the narrative that describes our Lord Jesus Christ’s journey from Bethlehem to Nazareth.

 

First, However, THE GIFTS

 

Matthew 2.1-12 relates to us the story of the wise men that came from the east, magi who came from either Babylon or the Arabian Peninsula, to present gifts to this one born king of the Jews.

Several questions beg to be addressed in connection with the wise men:

First, how did they know the one they sought was born king of the Jews? There are two possible answers to that question: First, in Numbers chapters 22-24, remember that Barak, the king of Moab, hired a man by the name of Balaam to prophesy against the children of Israel who had come out of Egypt and were on their way through Moab to their promised land. This man was from Mesopotamia, which means he came out of the region near Babylonia, and may have had some connection with the Babylonian astrologers and wise men. Though the Israelites slew Balaam for his wicked counsel to their enemies, Numbers 31.8, it is very likely that his prediction found in Numbers 24.17, was known to generations of Babylonian scholars for centuries leading up to Christ’s birth. Let me read it to you: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.” This is obviously a Messianic prophecy. Though the Balaam connection is very possible, the more likely connection is with the prophet Daniel, who was a captive in Babylon almost nine hundred years after the time of Balaam, and somewhat more than five hundred years before the birth of Christ. Daniel, you will remember, predicted to the day when Jesus would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey.[2] What is sometimes overlooked, however, is that the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2.48, had elevated this same Daniel where we read, “Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.” Thus, Daniel was himself chief magi in the king’s court in Babylon, making it very likely succeeding generations of wise men would study his predictions.

Second, what caused them to associate the star that appeared with Christ’s birth? I suspect there were two causes to associate the star with Christ’s birth: First, Balaam predicted “there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.” The star that appeared, then, would naturally be associated with the scepter, a symbol of kingly authority, and Israel. Accompanying those details, of course, is the supernatural appearance of this star. Since the magi, these wise men from the east, were astrologers, stargazers, it would be expected for them to connect the never before seen star with the centuries-old prophecy they were anticipating to be fulfilled.

Third, why did they give Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh? The queen of Sheba gave such gifts to Solomon, First Kings 10.2. Isaiah 60.6 predicts such gifts would be given to Him. As well, it is appropriate that such lavish gifts be given to a king. One gives to the Lord Jesus Christ the best you have, not the least that you have. The example of the wise men should be followed. There is, however, a second reason the Lord Jesus was given gold, frankincense, and myrrh, that I will point out shortly.

 

Following The Gifts Came THE FLIGHT

 

That Herod ordered the slaughter of boys aged two and younger is strong evidence that the wise men from the east did not arrive immediately after Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. Two year olds and newborns do not look alike. My guess is that the magi arrived on the scene some 12 to 18 months after Christ was born, and Herod killed those two years old and younger to make sure he killed the one he was after. Thank God for the warning of the angel to Joseph, again in his sleep. As well, thank God that Joseph was not a procrastinator, and that he woke up and removed his family to safety without delay.

The flight of Joseph and Mary into Egypt with the Christ child gives rise to the second explanation for the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We know from Mary’s sacrifice at her purification of two birds instead of a considerably more expensive lamb that she and Joseph were poor. How could they have fled into Egypt, but for the valuable gifts given to Jesus by the wise men, that were no doubt used in barter for food and animals to travel in haste. Though the distance to Egypt was roughly the same as the distance to Nazareth, Egypt put them in a Roman jurisdiction that was beyond Herod’s reach, had he discovered their whereabouts. In any case, it is likely that Herod died a matter of weeks after their flight into the safety of Egypt.

 

But Not Before THE SLAUGHTER

 

Herod the Great was a brutal sociopath. He had blood all over his hands. Not only do we see that he ordered the murder of the innocents in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the Christ child, but also about this time he ordered that thousands of prominent Jews be rounded up and held in the circus in Jericho to be executed at the time of his death, so there would be no lack of mourning in the land when he died. However, when Herod did die his daughter Salome, who was not the young woman who would dance for the head of John the Baptist thirty years later, arranged for the Jews to be released unharmed.[3] Sadly, nothing was done for the little babies in Bethlehem, fulfilling yet another prophecy.

You might wonder what sense it made for a dying old man to be concerned about a young baby, who could not rise to any kind of power until long after the old ruler was dead. Surely, Herod the Great was not so concerned about his legacy, or his children. History records that he murdered his first wife, his mother in law, and his two oldest sons.[4] Therefore, we wonder why Herod resorted to such wholesale slaughter. The answer is simple enough. Wholesale slaughter was how he rose to power, how he clung to power over the years, and was what so impressed the Romans about him (besides his ability to collect taxes from a hostile population). What were the lives of dozens to hundreds of children to a butcher, if it meant crushing an opponent?

The prophecy fulfilled by the slaughter of the innocents is found in Jeremiah 31.15: “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.”[5] How sad and brutal are the fruits of sin. Thank God that He sent His Son to save us from sins and their rotten fruit.

 

Fourth, THE RETURN From Egypt

 

14     When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

15     And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

 

19     But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20     Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.

21     And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

 

As I mentioned previously, the death of Herod came very shortly after the visit by the wise men, so there is no reason to believe Joseph kept his family in Egypt any longer than a few weeks to a few months. There was nothing to be accomplished in Egypt, beyond going there for safety and coming from there for identity.

The phrase, “Out of Egypt have I called my son,” comes from Hosea 11.1, which reads, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” The verse so obviously looks back to the past experience of the nation of Israel that you might wonder how Matthew could refer to Christ’s experience as a fulfillment of that verse, as though it is a look forward and not a look back.

“Matthew saw Israel’s history as a type of God’s future dealing with His people. An Old Testament type is a prophecy, and Matthew used the historical incident as a prophetic type of what God would do in returning His exiled Son to the Land of Promise.”[6] This shows how the Lord Jesus Christ identified not only with the sinners He would die for on Calvary’s cross more than thirty years later, but also how He identified with the nation of Israel. As Israel came out of Egypt, so the Christ child came out of Egypt.

 

Finally, THE RELOCATION

 

22     But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

23     And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

 

Another fulfilled prophecy, brought about by yet another dream given to Joseph in his sleep. I wonder if Joseph was afraid to go to sleep, for fear of what God would arrange to be done to him in dreams, either through angels or otherwise, or if he was excited to go to sleep, greatly anticipating the adventures that would be revealed to him one he drifted off.

Since there is no specific prediction in the Old Testament about Jesus being called a Nazarene, what was meant by Matthew’s comment in verse 23? “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” I am persuaded Matthew’s comment is not only extremely appropriate and accurate, but that it can be understood on two levels: First, the root word from which Nazarene is derived is the exact equivalent of the word found in Isaiah 11.1, where it is translated by the English word branch: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”[7] He very much was a Branch sprung out of David’s roots, with Nazarene being an accurate description of Him in that respect. The other way in which Matthew’s comment can be understood is rather shockingly different. Nazareth, as well as the whole region surrounding Nazareth, Galilee, was a place of prosperity and intermingling of cultures, with Romans and Greek speaking Gentiles living throughout the region. That made the whole area despised to Jews living in and around Jerusalem, particularly Jewish religious leaders. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ was “despised and rejected of men,” just as Isaiah 53.3 predicted, just because He grew up where He grew up, as well as because He is the Light of the world and the darkness hated Him.

 

Is there a single, hard hitting point to be made from this passage we have looked at this morning? I don’t think so.

Is there benefit to tracing the movements of Joseph, Mary and the Christ child as they fled to Egypt to avoid the slaughter of the innocents, and then as they shortly thereafter came out of Egypt and relocated in Nazareth? There are several benefits:

First, we are reminded of the miraculous intervention of God in connection with the wise men’s journey to worship the One born king of the Jews. Oh, how antisupernaturalists have tried to explain away that star that guided them.

Second, we are reminded of the providence of God. I am quite sure those wise men had no idea the gifts they gave to worship the baby Jesus would be immediately useful to Joseph to transport his family to the safety of Egypt.

Third, we are reminded of the ministry of angels in Joseph’s life, though always communicating to him in his dreams.

Fourth, we are reminded of the centuries-old predictions that were fulfilled in connection with our Savior’s birth and infancy.

Fifth, in His coming out of Egypt and identifying with Israel as they were led out by Moses, we are reminded that He is our substitutionary sacrifice for sins who so identified with us that He become sin for us Who knew no sin and died in our place on Calvary’s cross.

I could go on and on. However, I will leave you with this. The Lord Jesus Christ stands up to close scrutiny. Regardless of what aspect of His life and ministry, or anything else connected with Him, is investigated, He comes through it with flying colors.

Do you doubt the written Word whose subject is Jesus? I caution you. The Bible stands. Do you question anything the Bible says about Jesus, be it His deity, His humanity, or His ability to save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him? Investigate. Seriously consider. Probe and analyze. You will find that the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as the Christian faith and the Bible that informs us of it, holds up very well.

In closing, let me remind you that you have had 2007 to turn from your sins and embrace Christ in preparation for eternity. However, 2007 is rapidly coming to a close, and you have no assurances that you will have any of 2008, or much of 2008, to tend to business you should already have taken care of.

God has been very good to you. He has shown you much grace and mercy. I urge you not to take anything for granted. Do not try His patience any longer, but strive to enter in at the strait gate right this moment.



[1] Fulfilled Messianic Prophecies, written by John F. Ankerberg in Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, (AMG Publishers, 2000), page 1006.

[2] Daniel 9.24-27

[3] The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol IV, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939), page 2664 and J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works Of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), page 71.

[4] The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol III, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939), page 1380.

[5] See J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works Of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pages 70-71 for an explanation.

[6] Pentecost, page 70.

[7] Ibid., page 521.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org