READING BETWEEN THE LINES
God, thank You for protecting our Messiah during the early years.
Read MATTHEW 2:13–23
The Escape to Egypt
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.”[a]
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.”[b]
The Return to Nazareth
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.
a Matthew 2:15 Hosea 11:1
b Matthew 2:18 Jer. 31:15
New International Version (NIV)
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“God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.” (W. Cowper, 1774)
The psalmists are said to have “reasoned from the top down” – they looked at the world from God’s perspective. We Christian believers must do the same, recognizing that beneath the surface of our life story lies another reality.
Today’s passage is a perfect example of the interweaving of events, apparently haphazard yet divinely supervised. First, Herod’s murderous threats mean that Joseph, having been warned in a dream (13), must flee to Egypt with his family, setting the stage for Hosea’s prophecy: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (15) (Hosea 11:1). Herod’s infanticide in Bethlehem was predicted by Jeremiah too (18) (Jeremiah 31:15). Matthew tells us earlier in the chapter that the family has arrived in Bethlehem because of the census called by Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1–5), the very time when the baby was born, fulfilling a prophecy spoken 700 years earlier by Micah (Micah 5:2, 4). Matthew closes the chapter with yet another twist in the story. After Herod dies, the family plans a return to the land of Israel, but further divine intervention sets in. In a dream Joseph is warned about Herod’s successor in Judea, so the family decides to settle in Nazareth. This fulfills another prophetic theme, “He will be called a Nazarene” (23, TNIV) (Maybe from Judges 13:5, Isaiah 11:1, or from the theme (eg., Isaiah 53:3) of a despised Messiah).
In all these ways, Matthew reminds us not only that the scriptures point to one person, Jesus himself, but that the events of history – the apparently haphazard or chance circumstances of life – are ultimately under divine supervision. This is true in our own lives too: God can weave together events to fulfill his good purposes, however bewildering our situation might sometimes seem. We must learn to read between the lines – and to trust him fully.
Pray Cowper’s words with gratitude: “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; / the clouds ye so much dread / are big with mercy and shall break / with blessings on your head.”
Lord, truly You are in charge of all human affairs, and You are able to control all outcomes with ease.