Dec 29, 2019 – 1st Christmas – Out of Egypt
Out of Egypt I have called my son – that’s the phrase that really stuck out to my reading this gospel lesson this week. Out of Egypt I have called my son. The reason it stuck out was because for that prophecy to be fulfilled required great patience on the part of Joseph. You’ve heard of the patience of Job, but it’s the patience of Joseph, the righteous man we talked of last week, that’s so impressive in today’s lesson.
Look at verse 13 “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.”
That part about the angel telling Joseph stay there until I tell you is also a kicker for me. For how long a time that stay there was we don’t know with any certainty. This passage, as we talked about in our opening, tells us that Herod had all the male babies 2 and under killed in and around Bethlehem. Also, that when the angel of the Lord had Joseph return to Israel, Archelus was reigning as king since his father Herod had died. That would seem to indicate that Joseph likely was waiting in Egypt for something along the lines of a year and a half to two years at least. But when he went down to Egypt at the direction of the angel of the Lord, Joseph was told only, to wait there till I tell you and the reason was to protect the life of the Child, Jesus.
There was much that Joseph wasn’t told or knew about. He surely had no idea of the slaughter of the innocents that would follow his leaving for Egypt with Mary and Jesus. He had no way to know of the coming death and martyrdom of those who died. He also had no idea how long he would wait or sojourn in Egypt. He wasn’t told anything other than to go, take the child and His mother. Go to Egypt to protect the Child and wait for word from the angel of the Lord.
God put him in Egypt and he waited… with his young family to be called home to Israel. God said to wait there in safety and I will call you and bring you back. That was the promise God made to Joseph. God also made a promise to the father of another man named Joseph to return him also to the land of Canaan.
In the book of Genesis God promises Joseph’s father, (remember the patriarch Joseph that was sold into slavery by his brothers), God promises Joseph’s father Jacob that he should go down into Egypt during the famine to save his family and that God promised to then bring him back. That’s one reason why the land of Canaan, the land of Israel, is known as the Promised Land. It’s the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and then to Jacob, Joseph’s father. And Canaan is the land that Joseph swore to return Jacob to. That’s the land of promise.
And in today’s gospel lesson, Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, is given the same promise by God. ‘Go down to Egypt, protect your family, and wait there till I call you back.’ God made a promise to return Joseph and his young family back to the land of Israel. There’s such beautiful symmetry to what God does isn’t there? And it isn’t there just for the beauty of it either. It’s there to teach us to trust God and His word of promise. That promise is there for all who will believe in Him.
God, sent Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus down to Egypt with the promise to Joseph that by this his family, like the patriarch Joseph’s family during the famine, his little family would be saved from death and then He would call Him back home. Egypt was not to be the land of promise; it was the land of sojourn and safety till the promise was fulfilled at the right time.
God always does the right thing at the right time. And there’s also a lesson in that for us. He’s made us a promise through the boy Jesus that Joseph takes down to Egypt; to one day call us home to the promised land… of heaven. But that will only be at that right day and time. Not before and not later either, just as He did with Jacob and Joseph, sending them into Egypt during the famine and bringing them back. And as He did with Joseph and Mary and Jesus sending them to Egypt to escape death and returning them by His word of promise, so He will also restore us to His land of promise… at the right time.
In today’s lesson Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to wait in Egypt till Herod died before it was the right time. Joseph, when he went down to Egypt couldn’t see that plan. It’s like a tapestry. When you see only the working side of it you can’t see the finished and completed pattern the craftsman is putting into the design. So also with God’s timing. This side of the tapestry we can’t see the pattern God is creating. But we trust that all things are happening in His time.
As we come to the close of one year and the exciting start of a new year, it’s the right time to remember that God is in charge of the timing of all things. For the life of our congregation and for our individual lives, God knows where He’s safely taking us. Like Joseph, we’ve been given God’s promise that He’ll call us home when the time is right, but also like Joseph we’re to make a living while we wait. We’re to be about the task of raising our family.
For us, as a congregation, that means moving ahead with Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. We do those things while we sojourn here on earth. Joseph went as He was told and took care of his family while He waited. And then, when God called Him home, He obediently went.
But while He was in Egypt, like when all Israel was in Egypt under pharaoh, God was tempering him. That is, God was making him ready for what came next. Being in Egypt wasn’t simply a safe placeholder; it was a furnace, or a kiln of sorts. It was a time that was used to prepare Joseph and Mary for what was to follow.
You know when you make a piece of pottery you don’t just take the clay, make a pot and use it. You have to put the pot in the kiln, in the fire, to temper it, to make it useful. All the hard work that goes into making the pot will be wasted if the clay isn’t tempered by fire and made sturdy so that what’s put into it is preserved and doesn’t run all over the place. Tempering makes the pot keep its shape and makes it safe to use. Once it’s fired, then it can be glazed and decorated. And that decorating means going back into the fire. That can happen multiple times depending on what the pot’s to be used for. God sometimes puts us in the fire more than once to temper us. He knows what He wants to accomplish with us. And He uses things, like a sojourn in Egypt, to make us useful.
Sometime when you’re at C&C or Wal-Mart, go into the garden section and look at the flowerpots you can buy. Notice that their maker usually marks them. They’re proud of the work they did. Be sure to look at that mark. And then remember that God does that with you. He’s put His mark on you in your baptism. You bear His seal on you and He wants others to know you are His. You belong in His family, and He’s familiar with you. Just as the potter’s mark was made on the flowerpot you buy, so you’ve been given the ‘family’ mark. It’s the mark of the cross where Jesus, the Lamb of God, died for the sins of the world. That mark is on your forehead and your heart, and it identifies you as one redeemed by the blood of Christ, the Son God called out of Egypt according to His promise.
At any rate, when Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt he had to leave behind all that was familiar. All the comfortable relatives and friends and places; all of that, he left behind at the word of the angel of the Lord. It surely wasn’t an easy thing to do, but he did it. He left what was known and what was comfortable and went to where God directed him, to a place of safety. But he had God’s promise that he would return… when the time was right. And it didn’t happen in a few days or weeks. It was months and years. It was time spent living only on the promise of God.
And as Joseph waited, with such great patience, he kept busy taking care of his family. I’ve no doubt that Joseph practiced his carpentry while waiting for God’s call to return to Israel. In fact, Joseph may have learned a new thing or two about carpentry while he was there. Things he wouldn’t have learned if he had simply returned to Nazareth straight away after Jesus was born. The timing of that return was in God’s hands and Joseph simply had to wait.
That’s like us. We too have the promise of Jesus that what He, the Lamb of God, did in dying on the cross and in His resurrection from the grave, has given us the guarantee that we too will be called home. To our home in heaven. This Boy that we’re told in verse 15 that, God out of Egypt calls His son, this Son, this Boy gives us the assurance that we have God’s promise to call us out from our sojourn here on earth, into the promised land of heaven, there!
Yes, we’ve seen another year come to a close. But that also means an exciting new year is ahead for us. It brings us a year closer to that promise of going home being fulfilled. And in this coming year we wait… like Joseph. And we do… like Joseph did. We do what we can to take care of our family, to take care of one another in our church family here. We wait in hope and faith and trust, in the safety of the word of God, which promises us that we too will be called to the Promised Land.
But not yet, …not while God is still tempering us. And as He does so we use the skills and talents and gifts He’s given us, like the carpenter, to practice and grow in. God will use this next year to further temper us and make us even more useful to Him while we sojourn in this time and place. We learn today from Joseph to be patient and to be faithful to the promises God has given us through the Lamb of God which is His word, His living Word, His Son that He’s called out of Egypt – our Lord Jesus Christ. In His name, amen.
Sermon #1063 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 63:7-14
7 I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. 8 He said, “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me”; and so he became their Savior. 9 In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. 10 Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them.
11 Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people—where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, 12 who sent his glorious arm of power to be at Moses’ right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for himself everlasting renown, 13 who led them through the depths? Like a horse in open country, they did not stumble; 14 like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name.
Epistle Reading Galatians 4:4-7
4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Holy Gospel Matthew 2:13-23
13 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.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 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.”
16 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. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “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.”
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 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.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 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, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.