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Christmas Message part 2: the first surprise

by on December 20, 2013

15-Flight-Into-Egypt

There are some surprises here. First, Matthew changes the locations, the setting. After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.”  14 So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. 

Flee to Egypt! Really?  The place this boy runs from is not Egypt but Judea, in the land of Israel. But Israel now takes the place Egypt used to have in the story – the dark, dangerous, bloody prison land. Israel is now where the baddies are.

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.

The massacre of the children, that was supposed to happen in Egypt. That’s part of the exodus story. But here it is happening right at home, in Judea, right in the heart of the promised land. Meanwhile Egypt – it becomes the place of safety, the refuge Jesus runs to. See, everything has been reversed. turned back to front. It’s a bit confusing!

What Matthew is saying is, Israel has gone wrong. He quotes these words from the prophets: V.15 out of Egypt I called my son. That’s Israel God’s talking about. Israel his son, God called them to come out of slavery and into freedom. Come out, my son. The whole prophecy goes like this:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more I called them,
the more they turned from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.           Hosea 11 

The exodus went horribly wrong. The promised freedom never arrived. Instead of being the promised land, now it’s become a land of horror and bloodshed. ‘Kill all the boys!’

This challenges us too. We live in the lucky country. The land of freedom. We have everything here. On the surface it seems like life is good…

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