The flight, the slaughter, and the return – Matthew 2:13-23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 13, 2019
There are some things in life we have to do even if we do not like doing them: paying taxes, going to school, working, or going to the doctor. When I was a child my family moved often, so much so that I began to hate going to the supermarket to get cardboard boxes. One year we moved four times when I was in 3rd grade in the same area! Most military kids understand what I mean.
Here in these verses we discover Jesus’ family being directed by God to move for their protection. Sadly innocent folks suffered because of the ungodly choices of a madman. And yet the Lord brings this family back safely when it’s time to where Jesus can grown and be nurtured emotionally, physically, and spiritually among his own people. Let’s learn more about how God worked in the flight of a family, the slaughter of innocents, and the return of Jesus…
READ: Matthew 2:13-23
There are those in our day who have become so dependent upon the Government that they think it is the Government’s job to ensure their happiness and protect their entire life! So many have fallen into the trap of waiting for others to take care of them that they no longer depend on God for direction! Here we find God caring for Jesus’ family in…
I. The flight of Jesus! (Vv. 13-15)
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he 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.”
1. After the Wisemen had left things began to return to normal again or as normal as a family rearing the future Messiah could be! We learn that “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.” It makes one wonder if Joseph ever enjoyed a safe night’s sleep without a vision from God! God was watching over this special family for the sake of Jesus. “Get up,” the Lord tells Joseph, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Now there are those who see this as proof that the Trinity of God can’t exist because God was speaking to Joseph while God was in human flesh as Jesus. However, they forget that God is God and can do whatever he wants when he wants to. Case in point Jesus being the Son of God also prayed to God the Father. He did so to teach his band of disciples not only was prayer important but it also showed how he as God willingly laid his divine nature aside to be a human being. So don’t you think God can do two things at the same time or even more? How in the world do you think he listens to your prayers and those of the entire world; some of which are not worth listening to? And Joseph having experienced this before and being the righteous guy he is, “got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” Interestingly, I believe that Matthew may have heard these personal stories and details from either Mary or Jesus himself as they traveled together before Jesus’ crucifixion. And as Matthew often does in his gospel, he uses this incident to use the prophecy of Hosea 11:1 which does not seem to be a prophecy in the sense of a prediction. Hosea was writing of God’s calling Israel out of Egypt into the Exodus. Matthew, however, gave new understanding to these words. Matthew viewed this experience as Messiah being identified with the nation Israel as a whole. And saw it as an identifier pointing to Jesus being the Messiah. God was working in the flight of Jesus!
EXAMPLE: We often do not see God working because we do not spend time with his in order to know when he is or isn’t. It is like a parent who does not read, play with, or listen to their preschool or elementary children as they grow thinking that when they are older then they can then have a relationship. You cannot have a relationship with someone you have not invested your time with. Joseph was a righteous man and listened to God because he had invested spending time with the Lord and knew who was speaking to him in his dreams. God was working in the flight of Jesus!
We often see in movies or TV shows how folks lose their faith when bad things happen to them. However as a pastor I have seen that those who truly walk with the Lord understand that we live in a sin-fallen world and bad things happen to good and even innocent people. We discover this here in…
II. The slaughter of innocents! (Vv. 16-18)
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
1. The Bible does not sugarcoat people’s bad behavior or their ungodliness. We find that “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” Foxes do not like to be outfoxed and evil people do not like it when their ungodly plans are thwarted in any way. They often strike out at those around them that are least able to defend themselves. Abusive spouses use violence or verbal attacks against children, husbands or wives. That’s how a truly weak individual responds! Herod was no different but just like all tyrants he was corrupt to the core of his being. Again, there are those who claim that this is why they could never believe in God because “a good God would never allow this to happen to innocent children”! It has nothing to do with God and everything to do with an evil and corrupt person who made ungodly choices his entire life. Sin always affects those around it! Herod wanted power and he was willing to do whatever it took to keep it; kind of like some politicians today! Yet again Matthew points his readers to how God was at work in the details. Even the ungodly acts of a mad king pointed to the Messiah being Jesus! “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’” Herod had no right to be furious, if God was bringing the Messiah into the world during his reign he should have rejoiced and been glad. But Herod was not Israel’s true king and merely a stand in propped up by the military regime of Rome. While Herod was one of the richest people in the world at the time, he knew how he remained in power and it wasn’t because the Israelites loved him. We find the hand of God even in the slaughter of innocents!
EXAMPLE: Jesus teaches his followers that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NIV)” Paul would later teach that “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NIV)” People want to blame God for the ungodly actions of others when the innocent or those they care about suffer; yet in doing so they miss the hand of God even in such circumstances. Even here we find the hand of God in the slaughter of innocents!
Our way of thinking is a bit different than the way the Hebrews of Jesus’ day thought. History did not have to be related in chronological order and God working in the history of his people was often related in word and in theological and philosophical games. This is how the Rabbis, Chief Priests, and Teachers of the Law spent hours of each day – arguing over nuances! And here we discover it in…
III. The return of the Nazarene! (Vv. 19-23)
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
1. We learn from Matthew that “After Herod died” and by the way he died a truly awful painful death, “an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt”. You ask, “Again?” Yep, it seems as if this was the only way God could get Joseph’s attention. My wife can relate. Not that she uses dreams while I sleep to get my attention but rather it often takes me focusing totally on what she has to say to me in order for it to finally get through to me! Anyway God tells Joseph, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” Herod died in Jericho, after an excruciatingly painful and horrendous illness later known as “Herod’s Evil”. What a way to get a disease named after you! The historian Josephus states that the pain of his illness led Herod to attempt suicide by stabbing himself which was thwarted by his cousin. Makes one wonder why bad things happen to bad people, right? Nope. Anyway, Joseph “got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.” He has learned to obediently follow the Lord’s instructions. Joseph was also a good protector and “when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.” Archelaus was named as ruler of the largest part of the Judean kingdom after Herod died. Rome confirmed him but did not recognize him as king, giving him instead the lesser title of ethnarch to emphasize his dependence on Rome. Archelaus was half Idumaean and half Samaritan and, like his father, was hated by the Israelites. Later he was deposed and exiled to Gaul because Rome could not put up with him either! Joseph was again “warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” Not a Nazarene who didn’t cut his hair or beard but it is a play on word usage by Matthew. Isaiah said the Messiah would be “from [Jesse’s] roots” like “a Branch” (Isaiah 11:1). “Branch” used here is the Hebrew word neṣer, which has consonants, since there are no vowels in Hebrew, like those in the word “Nazarene” which carry the idea of an insignificant beginning. Jesus would be just as a plain child growing up in Nazareth. We find God’s protection in the return of the Nazarene!
EXAMPLE: I like reading fiction that is known as alternative history. I read a series where aliens attack during WWII and everyone on earth involved in the War must come together in order to defeat them. I’ve read others where the question “what if” is asked and how would have history progressed afterwards. There is a whole series on Amazon Prime called The Man in the High Castle. It is based on a novel that is an alternate history by Philip K. Dick. It’s set in 1962, 15 years after an alternative ending to World War II. The novel concerns intrigues between the victorious Axis Powers—primarily, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany—as they rule over the former United States, as well as daily life under the resulting totalitarian rule. We could speculate and ask, “What if God had not protected Jesus’ family the way he did?” Better yet “what if” Jesus never died on the cross or was resurrected? I for one am glad it never happened. Here we find God’s protection in the return of the Nazarene!
Today we have seen how God worked to keep the Messiah safe in his flight, in the death of innocents, and in the return of the Nazarene! How is God working in your life right now?
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.