God Protects His Son – Matthew 2:13-23

January 5, 1992
Scott L. Harris

(See Also: Jesus’ Childhood, April 2013)

God Protects His Son
Matthew 2:13-23

My appreciation to Bruce Parker and to Lester Rigden for bringing their encouraging messages to us last week. I especially appreciate their willingness to come and bring a message from the Bible given such short notice. I trust each of you who heard them were encouraged by what they shared.

In the weeks prior to Christmas I was concentrating on how different people responded to the birth of Jesus. I hope that those messages helped to make this past Christmas more meaningful to you. In my stress on the response of different people to Jesus’ birth, I did not want to overlook another very important point that is brought out in a passage we have already looked at briefly. We have already looked at Matthew 2:13-18 and seen the tragic response of Herod and how his fear and hatred lead to the slaughter of the baby boys two years and younger in the area around Bethlehem. (See: Responses to Jesus’ Birth, Part 3). This morning we are going to look at that passage again, but today I want to stress how the hand of God was moving in this situation to protect His Son. I believe as we gain a better insight into how God dealt with His own son, Jesus Christ, we will also gain a better understanding of how He deals with us, his adopted children.

One of the reasons for dealing with this passage in this way is that American Christianity has been very swayed by the message of the health, wealth, prosperity preachers. Those men and women who teach that tragedy will not fall upon the Christian that is truly “walking in the Spirit.” They teach that your physical condition is a direct reflection of your spiritual condition. If you are sick then it is because there must be some sinful condition in your life. If you are not wealthy, it is because you are failing in some way to do every thing that God says that you should do in following Him. If you are not prosperous, then it is because you do not exercise your faith enough. Men such as Larry Lea who teach, “He shed His blood to remove the curse of failure, frustration, futility, and inferiority.” And go on to say, “Because Jesus has taken the curse away, we are not bound by the laws of this world. Therefore, we are totally free from the curse of moral, financial, emotional, social, or spiritual failure.” (Interesting to note that Larry Lea has announced an end to his TV ministry after he was exposed by Prime Time – ABC News.) Others such as Oral Roberts, Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Kenneth Haigan and others are well known for their teachings in this area. Other men have also fallen in to this teaching that health and wealth belongs to the Christian by divine right. Pat Robertson has said, “Most people ask God for a miracle but may omit a key requirement – the spoken word. God has given us authority over disease, over demons, over sickness, over storms, over finances. We are to declare that authority in Jesus’ name.” “We are,” says Robertson, “to command the money to come to us . . .”. Fredrick Price does not do much better saying, “You, as a Christian are supposed to be the master of your circumstances . . . There is no way in the world you can reign as a king in life and be poverty stricken.” Why do I mention the names? Because I know that these people are having an impact on American Christianity and possibly on you or on people you know. I would to God that for every hour someone may watch one of these “TV Evangelists” that they would spend 5 hours in the Bible for themselves.

Now there is a small grain of truth in what they say. Scripture does tell us that we will reap what we sow (Gal 6:7-9 [Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but he one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary”]; 2 Corinthians 9:6, etc.). When we sow sinful seeds, we shall reap sinful fruit. If we sow seeds of righteousness, there shall be righteous fruit. That is why we should not become weary in doing good. If a person sins, he or she will bear the consequences of that sin. However, it is not true that a lack of health, wealth or prosperity is always the result of one’s own sin. It is often the result of the sins of others and/or the general effect the degeneration of all things because sin is in the world. The teaching of these preachers is only a half truth, and a half truth is nothing more than a lie for when truth is mixed with error, the result is error. Our passage today will prove this point because it brings out the beginnings of the sufferings of Jesus. And we know that since Jesus was sinless (Hebrews 4:15), then none of His sufferings were do to His own sin.

Flight to Egypt

Turn to Matthew 2:13 and lets see the warning given to Joseph and his response.

Warning & Response

13 “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”

14 And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt;

15 And was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “OUT OF EGYPT DID I CALL MY SON.” (Hosea 11:1)

The first thing to note is in verse 13. Who are the “they” that departed? The context immediately prior to this passage tells us that the “they” are the Magi who came to worship Jesus (Verses 1,2, 7-12). The Magi are the ones that, in a practical manner of speaking, sparked Herod’s interest and consequently his rage as well. You will recall from a couple of weeks ago that these Magi were very powerful men from the Parthian (Persian) empire to the east. In a real sense these men were king makers. Their question to Herod about “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” struck fear into Herod’s heart. A lot of people had died at the hands of Herod in his effort to gain and secure the throne. Herod had only recently killed his own sons, so there would be no hesitation on his part to seek to kill again, especially one who had a legitimate claim to the throne.

Verse 12 tells us that God warned the Magi to go home another route and not to return to Herod. This was the first event in God’s sovereign plan to protect Jesus from Herod’s murderous intentions. God did not allow Herod to find out the exact whereabouts of Jesus. After the Magi had worshiped Jesus and then departed, God instituted the second part of His plan. An angel of the Lord was sent to warn Joseph in a dream. This was the same manner that the angel of the Lord had appeared to Joseph earlier when God told him to take Mary as his wife for the child she carried was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20). The angel’s warning is direct, “Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”

There are several things of interest in this warning. Note first the person who is of key importance. Usually the emphasis is placed upon the adult with the child being spoken of in relation to the parent, i.e. “a mother with her child.” But notice here that situation is reversed, i.e. “the Child and His mother.” The emphasis of Scripture is upon the person of Jesus Christ, and the emphasis in the warning was the protection of the child, for it was the child that was the threat to the forces of evil. In a sense the mother is a continuation of the protection of the child, because Jesus would need the care and nurture of Mary in Egypt. Note as well the prophetic nature of the warning. At this time Herod had not given indication of his plans. The magi had to be warned by God or they would have returned to Herod to fulfill his request to know the location of the child for the supposed purpose of him coming to worship too (2:8).

But understand that God knows the end from the beginning. The prophet Isaiah put it this way in 46:8-10 “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure . . .”. It is no difficult thing for God to know what the future will bring. In fact that is one of the things that marks God as God. There is no other that can declare the end from the beginning. The prophets of God were to be identified by 100% accuracy in their predictions. Deut. 18:20 says that someone who incorrectly predicts the future in the name of the Lord was to be killed for it indicated he was a false prophet. This being true, how foolish that our society is still so interested in the predictions of the so called “psychics” when those predictions are so often in error. When I was in the market on Monday, I noticed that many of the magazines at the checkout counter were touting the latest predictions by the psychics. Even the local free paper, the Wappingers Weekly, got into the act with a front page article, “Area psychics offer their predictions for 1992.” I wonder how many of these psychics would say the things they do if they were held to the Biblical standard? Would any of them survived 1991? Did anyone predict the course of events in the Persian Gulf or in the USSR? Yet, these were all events known to God.

Joseph understood the prophetic nature of the warning he received. God said that Herod would search for the Child to destroy Him, and Joseph believed the report. So it is with us. When God says something about the future, we had better believe it! When God says that there will be a coming judgement, then we had better believe it and be prepared.

Notice something else about this warning given to Joseph. He was told to go to a certain place. Why? Why did Joseph have to go to Egypt? Wouldn’t it be enough for him to just get out of the area where Herod had control? Verse 15 gives us the answer. The child had to go to Egypt so that a prophecy concerning him could be fulfilled.

The prophecy is taken from Hosea 11:1 and reads, “When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.” This passage is making an historical reference to God bringing the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt some 700 years earlier. Israel was referred to as God’s son. When Moses went to Pharaoh, God told Moses to say to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, ‘Let My son go, that he may serve Me'” (Ex 4:22,23). How could this then be a prophecy?

Well, this is not a direct prophecy, because Hosea 11 does not make a direct reference to Jesus. This what is called a typico-prophetic prophecy. A non-verbal prophecy in which something in the Old Testament (a person or an event) was a type (a picture, an illustration) of some aspect of the person or work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The writer had no way to see the future antitype (how it would be fulfilled), yet the prophecy was true. We have to be careful though to make sure that we do not call an Old Testament event or person a type of Christ except as the Bible itself tells us of it. Because types are veiled revelation it takes divine testimony as given by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament to establish their identity. Ignoring these limits to interpretation leads to freedom to allegorize, spiritualize and typify the Old Testament by whimsy. We know that the calling of the nation of Israel out of Egypt was a type, a picture or illustration, of what would later occur in the life of Jesus Himself only because the apostle Matthew identifies that is true in this passage. I should also point out here that since Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience, he would expect them to understand both the meaning of the book of Hosea (from which the prophecy is taken) and the Exodus, which is what the reference is talking about. God has an enduring love for Israel even in their rebellion and God will call them to serve Him. Messiah is testimony to God’s love for Israel, and He will call them back to serve the Lord.

The warning given by the angel of the Lord was centered on the protection of the Child. It was prophetic in nature and it was a call to go to a certain place in order to fulfill prophecy. Joseph was to remain in Egypt until God told him otherwise.

Joseph’s response was immediate. Verse 14,15 says, “And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; And was there until the death of Herod.” Joseph gave no debate to the issue. He simply obeyed the command given to him. He gathered Mary and Jesus and left for Egypt while it was still night which gave them additional protection of leaving secretly. It was 75 miles to the border of Egypt and about 100 more to the city of Alexandria where there was already a large population of Jews. That is the most likely place that he brought the family to stay. The verb tense of the command given to Joseph was one that indicates and expectation of immediate response until the task was completed, and judging by Joseph’s quick obedience, it is probable that he did not stop until they were all safe in Egypt. God’s provision can be seen in the warning given Joseph, Joseph’s immediate obedience, and the fact that the gifts from the Magi would have been able to finance the trip and stay in Egypt.

It is not known how long they stayed in Egypt except that it was until sometime after the death of Herod in the Spring of 4 B.C. The exact year of Jesus birth is not known. Estimates of the year range from 6 – 4 B.C. From that we can conclude that Jesus spent anywhere from just a few months to a couple of years in Egypt. But however long it was, it was God’s method of protecting Jesus from the wrath of Herod.

Herod’s Wrath

Verses 16-18 tell of Herod’s attempt to destroy the one “born king of the Jews.” 16 Then when Herod say that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. 17 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, 18 “A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.” (Jeremiah 13:11)

Herod was enraged. A strong word made stronger by the adjective “very” or “exceedingly.” The verb tense indicates he had lost control of his emotions to his senseless hatred and fear. Why was he so mad? From Herod’s view the magi had “tricked” him. The King James here translates the word as “mocked” because it carries the sense of being played the fool. Herod felt the Magi had not only disobeyed his command to them to report back (2:8), but had made a fool out of him. In reality, the Magi were simply obeying God rather than man. Herod made a fool out of himself.

The proper definition of a fool according to Scripture is a person who says there is no God, or at least lives as if there was not one. Herod fits that definition. Consider that though Herod was not himself Jewish (possibly only partly Jewish at best), he was well aware of Jewish teachings and the promise of the Messiah. Herod had specifically inquired of the priest and scribes when the Magi first came of where the Messiah was to be born. Herod was well aware of who this child was, yet he arrogantly, and utterly foolishly set Himself against God’s very anointed one. If Herod had even thought about it a little bit he should have figured out that the Magi had not come back because they had figured out his plan to destroy the child, and if they knew, then they would have warned the family and they all would have long since departed to a safe place. Yet, Herod in his blind and foolish hatred did not consider this, or if he did, then even worse, he purposed to slaughter the innocent babies in the place of the baby he could not kill.

Herod’s slaughter of all the male babies two years and under was the evil attempt of a man to keep that which was not even his. He had no intention of fulfilling prophecy, yet Matthew says that is what he did. In Jeremiah 31:15 the prophet was speaking of the great sorrow that would soon be experienced in Israel when most of her people would be deported to Babylon. Ramah was a town about 5 miles north of Jerusalem and was the place where Jewish captives were assembled for deportation to Babylon. Rachel weeping for her children represented all the Jewish mothers who wept over Israel’s great tragedy in the days of Jeremiah. This passage is also a typico-prophetic. What occurred in the days of Jeremiah was a type, an illustration of what occurred at the time of Christ of the mothers weeping for their children that were slaughtered by Herod. This slaughter was just one of many suffered by Israel at the hands of evil men. In just two generations (A.D.70), Jerusalem would see its temple destroyed and over a million of its people massacred by the troops of Titus. But that slaughter, and even that by Hitler will pale in comparison to that which will come at the hands of Anti-Christ during the Great Tribulation.

This was as far as I reached in my typed notes before preaching the sermon. I finished preaching the sermon from the outline below.

Return from Egypt

Continuing Danger

A New Home

19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying,

20 “Arise and take the Child wand His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.”

21 And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee,

23 and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called (a) Nazarene.”

Lesson to Us

(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click here)

Grace Bible Church Home Page |  Sermon Archives

For comments, please e-mail  Church office