The Coming King - Out of Egypt
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1).
“So he [Joseph] got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son'” (Matthew 2:14–15).
I’ve been thinking a bit about Joseph this Advent season. Beyond being Mary’s husband and Jesus’ adoptive father, we really don’t talk a lot about him. Some of that is the reality that Joseph is only mentioned in the Bible when the authors are talking about Jesus’ birth or when, as a child, he gets left behind at the temple. Once Jesus is fully grown and stepping into his public ministry, Joseph is no longer mentioned as a main character in Jesus’ story. And yet, Joseph plays a very key role in not only Jesus’ birth but in the fulfillment of one of the most often referenced prophecies about Jesus’ earliest years.
Let’s back up a moment and take a look at the prophecy in Hosea. Hosea is known as the prophet who most personalized his words to Israel. He spoke primarily of the cycle of sin, forgiveness, and redemption and it was lived out in his family life. His story is an interesting one all its own and I encourage you to look into it more as we don’t have the time and space to really dive into it here. To sum it up, it is this more personalized language, such as God calling the people of Israel “my son,” and these cycles of being blessed by God, turning away from God, repenting of their sin, and being blessed by God once again which bring us to the prophecy in Hosea 11:1.
Hosea is doing two things here. He is speaking, yes, to an aspect of Jesus life as the Son of God but he is also linking the arrival of Jesus back to the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. The stories of Moses and Pharaoh would have been well known to any Jewish person and they specifically celebrate, still today, the deliverance from Pharaoh’s army as they walked across the Red Sea on dry land at Passover. Hosea is reminding them that, just as God delivered his people from Egypt over 600 years ago, His Messiah will also be called out of Egypt.
Now, given the history the Jewish people had with being held in slavery in Egypt for 430 years, it might seem odd that, when the time came, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to protect Jesus’ life. However, we must not forget that nearly 2000 years have passed since the days of the book of Exodus. And just like a lot has changed in the 2000 years since Jesus’ birth, a lot has changed in the 2000 years before Joseph and Mary take Jesus to Egypt to hide from Herod’s determination to kill the newly born king before he even has a chance to come of age.
In Matthew 2, Jesus has been born and three wise men (or magi or kings depending on your translation), have been following a star that appeared in the heavens in an attempt to find the newly born Messiah. Their travels find them in front of King Herod. Not being from the area, and so unlikely fully aware of Herod’s reputation for being constantly, almost obsessively, vigilant for even the slightest threat to his throne, they share the full purpose of their journey asking: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
This sets into motion a truly horrific plan on the part of Herod. Being determined to destroy the prophesied king before he can grow to be a serious threat to his rule and power, Herod orders that all male children born in Bethlehem and the surrounding area from two years of age down to newborns be put to death. In order to escape this horrible fate for the infant Jesus, God speaks to Joseph, once again, in a dream. Joseph is warned that his family is in danger and they must flee to a foreign land for safety.
I have to wonder if this wasn’t a moment where Joseph thought to himself, “I just wanted a nice, quiet, simple life with Mary. Is it so much to ask to be allowed to do my carpentry and raise my family in peace?” When you stop to think about it, this is the second dream Joseph has which takes his plans for the future and completely flips them around. And yet, he doesn’t argue with God. He doesn’t try to create his own path and plan for his family’s safety. He just gets up, drops his entire life he was starting to build for himself and his family, packs up Mary and the baby, and heads off to Egypt that same night. He has not made plans to stay with anyone or been able to line up any work. He hasn't checked the weather to be sure travel conditions are favorable. He just listens and goes.
In this moment, we have to give Joseph credit for his faith and willingness to stand beside and support Mary in the incredibly overwhelming task she was given as the mother of the Messiah. He marries her and raises the baby she is carrying as his own. He provides for both of them. He raises Jesus in the Jewish faith, undertaking time consuming and likely costly travel to key gatherings and festivals. His life didn’t need to include raising a child who wasn’t his or fleeing to Egypt for some amount of time to protect that child. He could have said no. But he said yes and in so doing, allowed for Hosea’s prophecy linking the Messiah to deliverance from sin to be fulfilled.
- Is there a time where your plans were completely upended by God calling you to do something else?
- Hosea’s life became a message to the people of Israel about God’s great love for, willingness to forgive, and desire to be reconciled with His people. What message will future generations see in your life?
- In what ways are you called to support others as they seek to carry out what God has called them to do?
Helpful Resources Used:
- "Joseph the Father of Jesus" as posted at allaboutjesuschrist.org
- "Saint Joseph" as posted at biography.com
- "Enduring Word Commentary" available at enduringword.com
- "Hosea" by Chuck Swindoll available at insight.org
- "What is the Basic Timeline of the Old Testament" as posted at compellingtruth.org