The Flight into Egypt

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – December 29, 2013

When Israel was a child then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt (HOS. 11:1)

  1. During the Christmas season we’ve been looking at the main elements of the story, assembling elements from Matthew and Luke into a chronological order.

    1. An angel visits Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist

    2. An angel visits Mary to invite her to become the mother of the Messiah.

    3. An angel visits Joseph to reassure him that Mary has not taken up with another man, but that the child she is carrying is “of the Holy Spirit.” A better man than most, he accepts this explanation and protects Mary and the child.

    4. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, where the child is born in a stable.

    5. An angel announces the birth to the shepherds, who rush to find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.

    6. At 8 days of age He was taken to Jerusalem and presented in the temple - as was described in the children’s talk.

    7. Mary and Joseph find a house. Perhaps they intended to stay in Bethlehem permanently, or perhaps they intended to stay only until the baby was old enough to travel. In either case, this is where the wise men, guided by an angel that appeared to them as a star, found the family and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

    8. An angel appears to the wise men and warns them to avoid Herod, so they go home “another way.”

    9. An angel warns Mary and Joseph of Herod’s anger, so they take the baby and flee into Egypt – setting the stage for the fulfilment of the prophesy in Hosea which is our text.

      1. (Mat 2:13-23) 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.”

    10. Herod, in an effort to remove what he perceives as a rival, orders all the male children in Bethlehem under 2 years of age murdered, fulfilling yet another prophecy.

      1. {16} Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry;

    11. Herod shows his murderous intent

      1. and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. {17} Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: {18} “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”

      2. The destruction of innocence. When the love of self becomes so strong that it cannot tolerate even the idea of following the Lord’s leading.

    12. Finally, an angel tells Mary and Joseph that it is safe for them to return to Israel, and the prophecy that the Lord would be “called out of Egypt” is fulfilled as they travel back to Nazareth.

      1. {19} But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, {20} saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” {21} Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

    13. The final time Joseph is warned by “God”! This results in him turning aside from wherever he was planning on going to Nazareth. Maybe they had talked about using this trip as a chance to move away from Nazareth? After all, Mary’s reputation was in question, and it was known to be a rough part of the country. Maybe they were heading back to Bethlehem? All this is speculation, based on the following where it says they were “turned aside” and ended up in Nazareth - which just happens to fulfil the prophecies.

      1. {22} But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region 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.”

    14. Nothing more is recorded of their activities until they travel to Jerusalem when Jesus is twelve years old.

  2. Now that we’ve looked at the big picture, let’s focus on the flight to Egypt.

    1. Ancient Egypt has captured our imagination as a special place throughout recorded history.

      1. The Pyramid of Giza, the oldest and largest of the three great pyramids, is a huge technical achievement and as such represents both academic knowledge and technical knowledge, as well as the wealth to support these kind of endeavours.

      2. The Pyramids were already 500 years old when Abraham visited Egypt.

      3. The Pyramids were 1000 years old when Joseph ruled Egypt.

      4. When the Lord was in Egypt, they were 2500 years old.

      5. Then there are things like the Hieroglyphics and the Library in Alexandria.

      6. Put these things all together and you should get a sense of a place where there has been a high level of culture and learning for a long time, a place that is a living symbol of the sum total of human knowledge.

    2. Because people have associated Egypt with knowledge for so long, in the Word it represents the sum total of natural knowledge.

      1. In Genesis, Abraham represents the Lord. The internal sense of Abraham’s journeys tells us about the succession of states as the mind of the infant Jesus developed. And that’s why Abraham travelled to Egypt – to represent that part of the Lord’s life where He was learning natural truths about the world around Him.

      2. The travels of Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob to Egypt also represent aspects of this central truth: The Lord Himself, and each one of us, needs to go to “Egypt” as a part of our development. We need to acquire natural truths from studying the world around us, and use them to build a foundation upon which the rational and spiritual degrees of the mind can eventually be built.

    3. But we have to be careful. “Egypt” can be a very attractive place. We can become so fond of the truths of the natural world, and the power that mastery of them can bring, that we get stuck there.

      1. This can affect us in a variety of ways.

        1. An academic who gets so involved with the minutia of his subject that he views everything in terms of his narrow view (and yes, this can affect theologians).

        2. Commercial media. Newspapers, magazines, television, the Internet – all these things are presenting information with the intent of getting your attention, giving you what you want, and drawing you in so you will see the ads that pay the bills. If it were food, it would be sugary snacks instead of a balanced diet.

        3. A person who is fearful about the whole idea of death and the afterlife, and who instead clings to the natural world as if not thinking about it will make it all just go away.

    4. Just as the sons of Israel were eventually made slaves in Egypt, we can get so caught up in the truths of the natural world that we don’t ever raise our thoughts to things higher, to the meaning and purpose behind all these things.

      1. The children of Israel were stuck in Egypt for 400 years, and would have stayed there forever had not the Lord sent Moses (representing the Word) to lead them out.

      2. That they were slaves for 400 years is important, because it tells us that to get out of this state will be difficult. It will be a test or trial or temptation (signified by 40) multiplied by 10.

  3. Moses led the great Exodus from Egypt at the Lord’s command. Moses didn’t want to do it. He tried to argue his way out of it. Even when he was successful in getting them out of Egypt, the next 40 years were full of battles, hardships, and complaining. But, he did it because the Lord asked him to do it, and in the long run it led to the greater good for the whole nation.

    1. Mary and Joseph probably could have settled there in safety and peace. Joseph could prosper as a carpenter anywhere. But God Himself spoke to Joseph and told him to take Mary and the child and go back to Israel, to get out of Egypt.

    2. The lesson should be clear that the Lord wants us to hear the same message.

      1. Everyone of us needs to spend some time in Egypt. We need to spend time in school studying the things that the natural world can teach us.

      2. But as much fun as it is, we are not to overstay our time in Egypt. The Lord calls to us from the Word with higher truths that can rest securely on the natural truths and take us to new heights of understanding and usefulness.

      3. And, like the children of Israel following Moses, we are allowed to “borrow” from the Egyptians. There are many things that are useful to know, that support our spiritual goals, and we can bring those along without harm.

    3. Let us then step back and look at the course of our lives from this perspective.

      1. Look for the useful things learned from the natural world and borrow them so that they can serve as a support for higher things.

      2. Along the way, there will be temptations and battles. The evil spirits and your own hereditary inclinations will try to get you to turn back, to return to the “flesh pots” of Egypt. A life without risk, but of slavery. We need to fight those enemies of our spiritual life until they are dead, and we are free to travel to out true spiritual home.

MAT 2{19} But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, {20} saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” {21} Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. Amen.

First Lesson: Mat 2:13-23

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.” {16} Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. {17} Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: {18} “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” {19} But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, {20} saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” {21} Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. {22} But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region 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.” Amen

Second Lesson: AC 1462:6

That the Lord when an infant was brought into Egypt, signified the same that is here signified by Abram; and it took place for the additional reason that He might fulfil all the things that had been represented concerning Him. In the inmost sense the migration of Jacob and his sons into Egypt represented the first instruction of the Lord in knowledges from the Word, as is also manifest from the following passages. It is said of the Lord in Matthew:

An angel of the Lord appeared 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 tell thee. And he arose and took the young child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called My son (Matt. 2:13-15, 19-21);

concerning which it is said in Hosea:

When Israel was a child then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt (HOS. 11:1). Amen.