"Christmas 02: Flight to Egypt"
by Tim Suttle
2016.01.01 Christmas 02
Matthew 2:13-23 – Flight to Egypt
Opening Exercise: (8th day of Christmas… 8 maids a milking, 8 beatitudes)
Biggest joy of the past year? (keep it clean… hang on the wire…)
Biggest challenge of the past year?
What is this next year going to be about for you?
Last one blank, come back to it.
Matthew 2:13-23 — 13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
16When 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. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
So, this passage comes in 3 sections, & each is dependent upon a command that generates an action, and then each section ends w/quote from the OT.
Section 1 – Command is from an angel who tells Joseph: get up, flee to Egypt, stay there until I tell you to come home. Then comes the action: Joseph gets up in the middle of the night & heads for Egypt. And there’s a quote from Hosea 11:1. The original passage says:
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. 2 As they called them, [Israel] so they went from them [Egypt]: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.”
It’s talking about when Joseph was Pharaoh’s right hand man & saved the house of his father Jacob (called Israel).
They came to Egypt as a family, & left centuries later as a nation.
The national life of Israel began in Egypt & was immediately corrupted.
So, “when Israel was a child [a brand new nation state] I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: [that’s the Exodus… but that’s where the good stuff ended] they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.” …while Moses was up on the mtn.
Why is Matt. quoting this? Well, the book of Matthew portrays Jesus as the New Moses, reconstituting Israel & then leading them toward a new Exodus.
And Jesus will be faithful where Israel was not.
Mathew is filled w/images of JS as the new Moses… all these parallels.
Pharaoh felt threatened by Israel… orders male children to be killed.
Herod threatened by tales of new king orders male children to be killed.
Moses was hidden from Pharaoh in the basket by his family.
Jesus was hidden from Herod by his family.
Moses flees from Egypt at one point… to Midian.
Jesus & his family flee to Egypt, to wait out the threat.
Moses gave the law on mt. Sinai.
Jesus give a new law—SOTM—also on a mountain.
PT: In Matt. we’re meant to see JS as a kind of Israel-in-person, succeeding where Israel had failed, & making Israel’s story complete. That’s section one.
Section 2 – The command comes from Herod to kill all the boys under the age of 2. The action is… that’s exactly what they do… can you imagine?
The nearest analog for us is Sandy Hook Elementary school.
20 first graders were killed… Newtown, CT = never gotten over it.
So this is our world, too… you know… stuff still happens.
Bethlehem btw = famous for another thing besides being city of David.
Bethlehem is where Jacob buried his beloved wife: Rachel.
She was like the patron saint of the city.
So Rachel is is weeping for the children killed by a ruthless king Herod.
The quote is from Jer 31:15. But there’s more to the quote. He goes onto say:
“Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country.”
It’s a promise to those in exile… that help is on the way.
There’s weeping & mourning for awhile, but help is coming.
Matthew taps into that hope of return… when he uses this quote.
He’s trying to tell them help is on the way.
Section 3 – Another angel appears to Joseph & says Herod is dead. Command is: You can head home to Israel.
The action is: Joseph takes his family back toward Judea.
Then another dream warns Joseph that a crazy man named Archelaus was ruling in Judea where Bethlehem was.
Again, Joseph responds in obedience, & they went up to the Galilee, to this backwater town called Nazareth.
And the quote is not really a quote, but an allusion to Isaiah… it says:
”…so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
This hearkens back to Isaiah 11:1, that we studied a few weeks ago.
The shoot that will come from the stump of Jesse.
In Hebrew nazir means branch…. Or shoot.
God is raising up a nazir from the house of David… a Messiah… JS.
Okay, let’s step back for a moment & look at this section as a whole. There’s so much we could say, but I want to hone in on one thing… so remarkable.
It’s the way that Joseph responds when the Lord speaks to him.
Did you notice: Joseph didn’t flee to Egypt in response to the threat.
He left in response to an angel who comes to him in a dream?
He returned to Israel not because he heard that Herod was dead, but because the Lord told him to in a dream & he obeyed.
Then another dream saying, don’t head back to Bethlehem, you’ve gotta go up to the Galilee.
(which was like saying you’ve got to move to the Ozarks or Appalachia)
PT: I’m just struck by the reality that Jesus was raised by 2 parents who listened to God & moved in response to God’s speaking to them. This is a big undercurrent in the OT that’s now brought into the NT… this idea that God is always speaking. The problem is that not many people are listening… and if they do listen, even fewer actually act in response to what they hear.
What if God had spoken to a lot of different 15 year old girls & said:
I want you to carry the one who will save Israel from exile.
It’s just that Mary was the only one who said yes?
PT: Jesus was raised by these parents who cultivated a receptivity to the voice of God. They had this relationship with God in which they were listening for God to speak, and then they were prepared to act in response to God’s voice.
When was the last time God spoke to you & you responded in obedience?
My sense is that for most of us… we just don’t have that kind of relationship w/God.
And the result is that God kind of has a hard time moving us, and helping us to navigate our lives.
We don’t cultivate a receptivity to God’s voice, so we never hear it.
And even if we did hear it, we’re not really experience at moving in response or obedience to that voice.
The result is that God has limited influence over the shape of our lives.
So, our lives take on the shape of culture which has tons of influence…
The culture has a vested interest in shaping our lives. In fact there’s a kind of typical shape that our lives are really supposed to take on… the American thing:
Risk Early: When you’re younger it’s OK to take chances. We call it, sowing your wild oats. Just get it out of your system while you’re young. That’s when you make impulsive moves: backpack thru Europe, move to a new city, work for a start-up. Risk early before you have enough money to really do some damage by taking a bad risk. Then once you get that out of your system you’ve got to…
Find your groove: Find a career that fits you so that you can make something of your life: finish college, get a job, move out of your parents’ house. This usually involves some trial & error. You try one job & figure out, that’s not my groove. Then you try another… that’s not my groove. Eventually you find it. This is also where you decided if you’re going to get married or not. You pick a spouse, pick a career, find your groove & then it’s time to…
Settle & Establish: You settle down. You pick a home & decide to stick around for awhile. You put down roots, get a neighborhood, church, and friends; have some kids, & you settle down. And you begin to establish yourself at work. You stick with a job for awhile, & climb the ladder of success. You get a bigger cubicle & more responsibility. You start to make some money, then it’s time to…
Earn & Save: You start to figure out that money can buy things, so you invest in things like a house, a 401k, savings accounts. And the more you earn the more you store that money in possessions, mutual funds, & retirement accounts. And pretty soon you’ve got a lot of equity built up in your life. You’re actually worth something, materially. And then it’s time to…
Consolidate & maintain speed: This is the part where you try to get your stuff in the biggest pile possible. You consolidate it all so that you can manage it, & you just try to maintain speed. You’re not trying to floor it anymore, like in your 20s. Your life’s not a sports car. It’s a cruise ship. It doesn’t turn on a dime anymore. You just want to keep from hitting any icebergs. So you consolidate & maintain speed until you can finally…
Retire & Coast: You move someplace warm, play a little golf, & eat at Cracker Barrel all the time. You start to coast a little bit, and just take it easy.
And, no corollary to the Cracker Barrel… but then you die.
PT: That’s the American thing: risk early, find your groove, settle & establish, earn & save, retire & coast, & then die… that’s the shape of the American Life.
And it can be a pretty good life… the only problem is: God didn’t make you to do the American thing… that’s really not the Christian story at all.
All throughout the story of God you have these people who listen to the voice of God & act in response to that voice.
And it’s not just when they are young.
Settled & established people are often called upon by God to take risks.
When God came to Moses, he had already done his risky thing. He killed a man impulsively, gave up his lavish home in Pharaoh’s palace..
He took off to another region of the world, settled down, got a job, married a Midianite woman, went to work for her father.
He climbed the ladder… Made some money.
He was deep into the consolidate & maintain speed phase of life when God called him to go speak to Pharaoh.
When God came to Abraham he was an old man as well.
I’m talking retire & coast age here…
But God spoke & said, you need to take a risk here.
And Abraham acted.
PT: Over and over God would come to people in all different stages of life & say, “I’ve got more for you to do in your life.”
I think the reality is that, for most of us, God doesn’t have enough influence in our lives to overcome this conventional wisdom.
We’re pretty much locked in on this American thing…
Risk early, find your groove, settle & establish, earn & save, retire & coast, and then you die.
There’s nothing wrong with that kind of life… it’s just not the KOG.
And the more locked in on the American thing we are…
The less likely it becomes that we’ll actually hear God speaking to us, calling us out of that life, and asking us to take risks for the KOG.
PT: If we don’t have the kind of relationship with God where God can speak to us & we respond, then our lives will just naturally conform to the conventional wisdom of our culture. And it can be a really decent life. It’s just not the life we’ve been called to live… it’s not what it means to be part of the KOG.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote about this. He said:
“Our life is not a simple straight-line that our will and reason draw. Rather, life is something that is formed from two different lines, two different elements, two different powers. Life is composed of human ideas and God’s ways, and in truth there is no human way at all, for “the human mind plans the way” (Prov. 16:9) – meaning that it’s only a sketch of a way, an idea of a way, a way in theory, in illusion. But there is only one real way that we inevitably have to go, and that is God’s way. The difference between the two lives is that human beings would like to foresee the whole of their life at one time, but God’s way goes just step-by-step. “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.” … God would like for people to go step-by-step, led not by their own ideas about life, but by God’s Word which comes to them at each step, whenever they ask. There is no word from God for the whole of our life. God’s word is new and open today and tomorrow, and it can only be related to the moment in which we hear it.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I love this… Human life consists of two time-lines, or elements, or powers:
1) The human mind that plans the way.
2) The Lord, who directs the steps.
The human mind wants to foresee the whole of their life at one time.
We want God to tell our fortune… give us a calling.
God wants to reveal the way step by step… not all at once.
And so, the big advantage that conventional wisdom has (over & against the KOG) is that it offers a word for the whole of our life.
Risk early, find your groove, settle & establish, earn & save, retire & coast, and then you die.
The problem is, Bonhoeffer says, that this is an illusion… a theory about what makes for a good life… but the theory turns out to be wrong.
And so, what God means to do is to intercept our lives in the middle of them, & run the other direction with them from time to time.
The problem is that God only does this step by step.
And if we’re not listening to God when God tries to get us to take a step in the other direction, we’ll just go along w/the culture.
It’s part of the human condition.
We want the burning bush… the flash of lightning.
We want the big call on our life… a chance at greatness.
Bonhoeffer says it doesn’t work that way.
You never really get to see the big picture.
You just have to go step by step & trust that God has you.
God didn’t even tell Abraham where he was going. He just said, go to the land that I will show you.
Moses kept asking God: how is this going to work? God said, what’s in your hand? You got a staff there? Ok, that’s it then. I’ll do it all through your staff.
Mary & Joseph had things all planned out … the 1st century version of risk early, find your groove, settle & establish, earn & save, retire & coast, & die.
The difference is, they were both the kind of people who were willing to allow God to direct their steps…
Don’t divorce her Joseph, stick w/her & you’ll see where this is going.
Okay God… you’re the boss… I’ll marry her.
I’m on the move Mary, and I want you to be a part of it…
It’s going to be a scandal to your friends & family… have to trust me.
Okay God…may it be unto me according to your world.
PT: That’s how it works. Step by step, listening to the voice of God in our lives, and responding.
It reminds me of what Dallas Willard said about discipleship.
The Goal isn’t: to figure out God’s grand plan for my life.
The Goal is just: “Do the next right thing you know you need to do.”
We ask God re: who to marry, what career, buy this house… like that.
But in the moment to moment … the next right thing we need to do?
I don’t know if God has a lot of say in that… but the moment to moment: That’s where Bonhoeffer says God begins to hijack our lives.
Should I talk to this stranger, send this email, give this money?
How should I spend my free time today?
What should I say to my spouse, kid, boss, coworker who’s struggling?
Lord, give me the words. Lord, direct my steps.
That’s how it works: one step at a time.
PT: And either we begin to do this, or we simply arrange our lives according to the conventional wisdom of the day.
What about you & your life? What if you tried something different this year? What if you listened for the voice of God & followed it step by step?
For my part: I think you’re here for a reason.
Not just this morning, but here at RC.
I think God is trying to get to you.
I think God is trying to hijack your life, but God’s not going to do it by asking you to cure cancer or solve homelessness.
God’s going to ask you to follow one step at a time… one simple, seemingly unimportant decision at a time.
But since life is a long journey, that one or two degrees of a change at any given point will radically alter the trajectory later on.
It may sound like a contradiction that God may want us to take big risks at any time in our lives…find a new groove because we talk a lot about how:
God asks us to live in fidelity to a community, a place, a people…
How can both of those things be true?
There’s plenty of adventure to be had right here in this neighborhood.
I think you are here for a reason…
And at RC, we are asking you to rope up with this crazy bunch of ragamuffins & chase the KOG together… we try to focus on 4 things.
Our 4 pursuits: Worship, Mission, Discipleship, and Wholeness.
So maybe think of it this way:
What’s the next right thing you need to do in worship?
Maybe it’s just: commit to come to church every single week.
Stop w/the hit or miss.
Make worship a priority.
Maybe it’s to actually open up while you’re here....heart to God, people
What’s the next right thing you need to do in terms of mission?
At redemption we want to be good news to this neighborhood & this part of the city.
What’s the next right thing you need to do in terms of mission:
Did you know that if poverty was a city it would be the 5th largest city in Johnson County; and the fastest growing?
37,000 people, or 6.5% of JoCo, live with income below the poverty level ($11,770 for 1 person; $20,090 for 3).
Most of them work at wage jobs for less than $10/hr (it takes $28/hr to meet the basic needs of a household.
That’s our neighborhood.
What’s the next right thing for you to do about it?
Come to ESL… do homework help.
Buy a house & be a good landlord?
Start a small business & be a good employer?
Get involved w/the ministries of Redemption Church?
Help out w/Via de Esperanza?
Strengthening Families: coming up after the first of the year.
Every time we do this we turn tons of people away.
You could learn the ropes & run a SF class on your own.
We could do 4-5 of these a year & still turn people away.
Homeless ministries: you could…
Learn the routes, pick people up, hang out before & after service
Get involved with Uplift during the week… lots to do…
What’s the next right thing in terms of your discipleship?
You can’t do it alone.
So maybe the next right step is to join a triad.
Hook up with 2 other people from Redemption for 90 minutes a week.
Talk about your lives, & the 4 pursuits of RC.
Cheer each other on & bear each other’s burdens.
What’s the next right thing in terms of emotional & relational wholeness?
Maybe 2017 is the year you need to finally go see a counselor.
Start to face your stuff & change.
Grow past the cycles of relational & emotional brokenness & be healed.
It’s scary, I know, but u don’t have to do it all at once…1 step at a time.
We’re going to end w/a short Closing Exercise: Look back at your slip of paper
You wrote: biggest joy, challenge of the past year… next year about??
We left the last one blank there… take some time and listen to God.
What’s the next right thing you need to do… not the grand plan?
Will you open up & listen & write down… hang them up on line.
Giglio: the normal American thing.
Behavioral Research: fear of loss is big motivator.
I know this is how it’s supposed to work. But it’s not actually how most people live their lives. For the most part we go by conventional wisdom. Giglio: how could a command from God interrupt any of that? A couple of examples: a generosity example of someone who gave sacrificially.
Exz; my life… next year about sabbatical, rest, family.
God still speaks. Jesus is God’s word to us
I spent a few days with Richard Rohr last fall, and one of the things he said was actually quite stunning.
He said, “Evil people didn’t kill Jesus. Conventional wisdom killed Jesus.” Think about that statement for a moment.
I’m absolutely convinced that he’s right… I mean…
JS ≠killed for saying what everybody already believed 2b true!
He was challenging their conventional wisdom.
They were just highly committed to the status quo.
Conventional wisdom is so powerful precisely because it feels self-evident… it’s the ground on which we are standing.
You mess w/that & people will react quickly & harshly.
This was really quite amazing because they were all good Jews. And the Jews had created a whole language through which to connect with God.
Words like temple, sacrifice, righteousness, holy, clean…
But fewer & fewer could speak that language.
God’s love was not getting through to the world.
But when the word …became flesh …and dwelt among us.
God began to speak into creation again thru Jesus… & w/God there are no empty words… when God speaks stuff happens.
And this time he will speak into being “New Creation.”
“Our life is not a simple straight-line that our will and reason draw. Rather, life is something that is formed from two different lines, two different elements, two different powers. Life is composed of human ideas and gods ways, and in truth there is no human way at all, for “the human mind plans the way” (Prov. 16:9) – meaning that it’s only a sketch of away, and idea of the way, away in theory, in illusion. But there is only one real way that we inevitably have to go, and that is God’s way. The difference between the two lives is that human beings would like to foresee the whole of their life at one time, but God’s way goes just step-by-step. “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.” … God would like for people to go step-by-step, led not by their own ideas about life but by God’s Word, which comes to them at each step, whenever they ask. There is no word from God for the whole of our life. God’s word is new an open today and tomorrow, and it can only be related to the moment in which we hear it.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“I believe that God can and will produce good out of all things, even out of the most evil. For this he needs people who let themselves serve all things the best they can. I believe that in every plate God wants to give us as much power of resistance as we need. But he does not give it in advance, so that we will rely not on ourselves, but on him alone. In such faith all anxiety about the future would have to be overcome. I believe that even our errors and mistakes are not in vain, and that it is not harder for God to deal with them then with our presumed good deeds. I believe that God is not timeless fate, But that he waits for and answers sincere prayers and responsible deeds.”
God didn’t make you to do the American thing
Risk Early: Sow your wild oats, get it out of your system
Find your groove: Get a career, make something of your life. Lots of trial and error.
Settle & Establish: Settle down, stick around for awhile.
Earn & Save: Socking away money for retirement
Consolidate & maintain speed: Get my stuff in the biggest pile possible.
Retire & Coast: Go someplace warm. Eat at Cracker Barrel more often. No corollary to the Cracker Barrel but then you die.
The Jesus way is different. It requires us to be willing to follow Jesus with abandon at every stage of our life, with an eager expectation that I will always walk by faith not by sight.
1. Mary and Joseph were individually (and collectively) willing to take a risk by accepting God’s call on their lives. In what ways have you undertaken a risk for God’s purposes? Have you also been reluctant to risk for Him? If so, talk about why – and what it would take for you to be more bold going forward.
2. In what ways have you heard God speak into your life?
3. Mary and Joseph each received a visit from angels. Although scripture tells of other times when that happened, it is rare. In what ways have you heard from God? Scripture tells us to “test the spirits” to be sure that what we hear is truly from Him. In what ways can we test what we hear to be sure a “risk” is God-inspired?
4. If God is always speaking and we struggle with listening, what keeps you from being a willing listener? What keeps you from taking action when you do hear God nudge you in a direction?
5. What scares you about allowing God to hijack your life? What is exciting about allowing God to hijack your life?
6. What is the “next right thing” in your life?