"Flight into Egypt," Giotto di Bondone, ca. 1310.
“And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet, ’Out of Egypt I called my son’" (Matthew 2:15).
When Charles Spurgeon preached on this verse, he began his sermon this way:
Egypt occupies a very singular position towards Israel. It was often the shelter of the seed of Abraham. Abraham himself went there when there was a famine in the laud of his sojourn. To Egypt Joseph was taken that he might escape from the death intended for him by his envious brethren, and become the foster-father of the house of Israel. Into Egypt, as we all right well know, went the whole family of Jacob, and there they sojourned in a strange land. There Moses acquired the learning which was so useful to him.
He points out that while God sometimes sent his children to Egypt to protect them, he always delivered them from Egypt later. So Moses and the children of Egypt came “out of Egypt” in the great passage through the Red Sea. We need Egypt for protection, but we are never meant to stay there forever.
The living seed may go into strange places, but it can never be destroyed. The host of God may walk through fire, but it shall nog not be burned.
True greatness waits its time. It does not rush the Lord or complain when things happen slowly or when the plans of life suddenly are overturned. By faith we go down to Egypt in the middle of the night, knowing that one day by faith we will come “out of Egypt.” Both the going and the coming are part of God’s plan for us.
We don’t know how long Jesus and his parents stayed in Egypt, or where they stayed, or how old Jesus was at the time. But those details don’t really matter. What we do know is that God protected Jesus by sending him to Egypt at just the right moment in order to spare his life.
One writer called this the “cross-handed” providence of God because a desperate flight to escape Herod turns out to be a great mercy from the Lord. But it would only be seen in reverse. So it is for all of us. God often sends us to Egypt to protect us and to prepare us for what is to come.
Do not despair if you feel like you are in “Egypt” today. What seems like a punishment or a detour may yet turn to be a great gift from the Lord. As Egypt was the temporary home for Jesus, even so our trials when seen through the lens of God’s providence turn out to be a gift from heaven, though at the moment they may seem like a great burden.
God knows what he is doing even when we can’t see it at all.
Father, help us to trust you when the way forward seems unclear. Give us faith to take the next step with you even if it seems to lead to Egypt. Amen.