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Out of Egypt (St. Matthew 2.13-23)

The Second Sunday after Christmas

“Out of Egypt”
Rev. Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus

Matthew 2.13-23

05 January 2020


Ancient Egypt was a place of safety to save Jacob’s family during a famine. In God’s plan Jacob’s favorite son Joseph was sent on ahead in a story that still amazes us today. His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt and by every reasonable thing he should have perished there, never to be heard about again. Yet Joseph is responsible for keeping God’s chosen people alive, having ascended to the seat of the second most powerful man in the most powerful nation of its time. The hand of God is clearly evident in protecting the nation of Israel.

However, Egypt also became a place of slavery for God’s people. A new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph enslaved God’s son Israel. It was not until God sent Moses to lead them out of Egyptian bondage that Israel again became free. Hosea’s words describe history but also point to the real Exodus from the Egypt of sin, death, and hell. And a man named Joseph is responsible for the safety of the Savior of the whole world.

All that is fulfilled in the Gospels has been rehearsed in the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews calls these things “a shadow of of the good things to come” [Heb. 10.1]. Joseph brings Israel [Father Jacob and the whole family] to Egypt to escape death by starvation. Yet, in Egypt they would eventually be enslaved, but according to God’s promise they would be led out by God himself. “I myself . . .will bring you up again” said God [Gen. 46.4].

The Gospel reading tells us about a second Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. He brings the True Israel to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous rage. Yet, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son” has a greater fulfillment. This Exodus will be the true liberation, the liberation that the first Exodus only foreshadowed, the liberation from sin, death, and hell. Christ will bring us through the desert of Sinai to the Promised Land. Christ filled them up to God’s final intent.

New Testament Joseph is an unsung hero, the world’s salvation hanging on his obedience to the Word of God. This NT Joseph will save God’s only-begotten Son, the One on whom hung the salvation of the world.

The nation of Israel was called God’s son, but he was a wayward son. Jesus often used the imagery of sons to describe Israel. The parables in particular bring us the parables about sons. Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son—probably better understood as the Parable of the Waiting Father who has two rebellious sons. Sons are also portrayed in the Parable of the Two Sons, both of whom are disobedient [Matt. 21.28-32]. Israel’s history is a sad record of failure to be the son God wanted.

One of Matthew’s motifs is that Jesus is the true Son of Israel. In other words, Jesus is the true Israel. He is everything that old Israel was not. In this prophecy and fulfillment statement of Matthew God the Holy Spirit tells us that Jesus is the obedient son that Israel had not been. In our theological jargon Israel is the type and Jesus is the antitype. Perhaps an easier way of remembering is calling it “prophecy and fulfillment,” or “shadow and reality.” Jesus is the true Son of Abraham and David. Jesus is the Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Most High God.

The Psalms describe God’s rule over all the kings and rulers on earth. Psalm 47.8 declares:

God reigns over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne. (Ps 47:8).

Of those who try to usurp his throne the Psalmist writes:

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the Lord holds them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

“As for me, I have set my King

on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:

The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have begotten you. (Ps 2:4–7).

Jesus is that true King of kings, but there have always been rivals to his throne. The Magi brought the news to Herod that they had come to worship him who had been born King of the Jews. Herod was not a Jew but half Jew and half Idumaean. Most of the Jews hated him. He was one of the most blood-thirsty men who has ever lived. He was deeply paranoid, having assassinated most of his family, including many of his own sons. When Herod reached old age he issued an edict that the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem should be arrested and imprisoned. He ordered that the moment he died, they should all be killed because he was worried that no one would mourn his death, and he was determined that tears should be shed when he died.

Herod has become the poster child of what people will do to get rid of Christ. Herod was disturbed that someone should usurp his reign, so he set about to make absolutely sure that this newborn King of the Jews did not survive. He would eliminate any potential rival to his power. The number of baby boys slaughtered at Bethlehem probably did not number more than 30 because Bethlehem was a little town, just as we sing about it in the Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Yet, the slaughter of 30 babies would certainly make international news these days, except of, course, if they are aborted.

The slaughter of what we call the Holy Innocents shows the depth of human depravity. We can liken it to any ruler who kills innocent people, even babies, to cement his own evil reign of terror. Historians tell us that Joseph Stalin [a very evil Joseph!] murdered more than 20 million of his own people, so paranoid was he about rivals to his power. We certainly can draw a parallel to the unchecked practice of abortion in our nation. Well over 50 million babies have been slaughtered on the altar of self-preservation since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Add to this the rising number of Christians who are brutally murdered for confessing the name of Christ. God’s children are increasingly ridiculed and persecuted, sometimes even killed in sanctuaries as they worship.

It isn’t just Herod. It is any one who will not have Christ on the throne. You and I keep Christ off the throne by justifying our sinful behavior. Instead, we install ourselves as the Lord and Master of our lives. It is a replay of the sin of our first parents. We put ourselves in the place of God. We put ourselves on God’s throne.

As a side note on the slaughter of the innocents, we take comfort in the fact that if these parents likely had followed the Law of Moses, and all those baby boys would have been circumcised on the eighth day and belonged to God, not to Herod’s madness. Their deaths remind us that those who confess Christ may indeed suffer violence because of. him. Yet, it is not their eternal end, but the eternal day for those who are in Christ by Holy Baptism.

New Testament Joseph is a saint, and yet sadly, few Lutherans have named their sons after this remarkable saint nor are there Lutheran congregations named in his honor. The name Joseph means “may God add” [posterity.] He’s definitely under-appreciated! He simply obeys. He listens to the angel tell him of Mary’s pregnancy and what he must do in marrying her. He believes the angel’s word that this child is from the Holy Spirit. And it is Joseph who obeys God and gives the child the name that defines his mission: Jesus, which means Savior. Jesus will save his people from their sins. [Matt. 18-25]. He will save the world by bringing his people out of the bondage of Egypt, the slavery of sin.

After the departure of the Magi the angel again appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. He was told to await further instructions. Immediately, that very night Joseph took charge, taking Jesus and Mary and headed for Egypt. And when further instructions arrived to return to Israel, Joseph shines again. Instead of heading back to Judea where Herod’s murderous son Archelaus was reigning, Joseph relocated to Galilee. And again God protected his Christ and fulfilled yet another Scripture that “He shall be called a Nazarene.” [Matt. 2.23]

The rulers of this earth think that they can thwart the plans of God, but not so! God will not be stopped by puny human beings! As Luther reminds us, the powerful of this earth can take our goods, fame, even child and wife. Even if these are snatched away from us, Satan and his legions cannot steal us from God’s kingdom. As God protected his Son Jesus through Joseph, so God protects his children by keeping them in the true faith until he delivers them.

You have been baptized into Christ and into eternal life. Today another child has been brought forth from the Egypt of sin, death, and hell, and escorted safely into God’s eternal kingdom. Robert Andrew Keller has been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Although the words “Out of Egypt I called my Son” directly refer to our Lord and the events of his infancy, they apply also to everyone who is baptized into Christ by water and the Word. When we reach the Great Vigil of Easter in Holy Week, we will hear again of the true Exodus which our Lord Jesus Christ has won for us by his innocent, life, suffering, death, and resurrection. So, God’s Son saves his people from their sins [Matt. 1.21], just as the name Jesus proclaims. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the true Israel who redeems us all from the death of sin. He is the world’s Savior. He brings you out of the Egypt of slavery and death to the Promised Land of eternal life.

There is much more here. It is a marvelous account of God’s plans being accomplished in spite of the horrific acts of a sinful madman. The salvation which comes through the True Son of God will not be derailed by the evil machinations of man. And we must take abundant comfort in that, knowing that all those who are baptized into Christ have a sure, certain, and glorious inheritance in Christ.

“Out of Egypt I called my son” fulfills the prophecy as it pertains to Christ, but it fulfills God’s will also for you who have been baptized into his death and resurrection. He has called you out of Egypt! You are his son and he will bring you to the Promised Land of eternal life!

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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