A Pathway Paved By Prophecy

December 23, 2001 / No. 3077

Dear Radio Friends,

Today we want to consider the life of Jesus Christ immediately after His birth. We want to look into those events that are recorded for us in Matthew 2, beginning at verse 13 – those events that took place after He was born and when Herod the king tried to kill Him and when Joseph and Mary fled with Him into the land of Egypt. These events are recorded for us to show that, from the very beginning, our Lord Jesus Christ walked in obedience to the Father – that He walked the pathway that had been paved by prophecies. Let us look at them.

First of all, we read in those verses that the wise men who had come to worship Jesus Christ, when they had finished their worship, were warned by God in a dream that they should not go back to Herod. They should depart to their country another way. Wicked Herod had sent them to find Jesus in order that he might find Christ, to kill the Christ, whom Herod viewed as a threat to his throne. Herod had tried to fool the wise men into thinking that he was interested in worshiping Jesus, too. He had said to them, while they were in Jerusalem, “Find him and bring me word so that I may come and worship him too.” But God knew Herod’s heart. That is a wonderful thing. The world’s mighty, who strive against God in all of their counsels, are defeated. For the Lord knows their heart.

It must have been on the very night that the wise men departed that “the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” God is going to protect His Son. God has sent His Son into this world to die upon the cross. There shall be no premature death, no frustration of God’s purpose. God shall protect His Son.

The world’s mighty, who strive against God
in all of their counsels, are defeated.
We read that Joseph obeyed. He awoke from his dream in the middle of the night and, with only hurried and brief words of explanation to Mary, he arose and took the young child and His mother by night and departed into Egypt. “Mary, we have to go. Throw a few things together. Wrap the young child. We have to leave in the quiet of the night when the streets are deserted.” And the house was found empty in the morning.

That, of course, was by faith – faith in the Word of God. Joseph and Mary, not knowing what would happen to them in Egypt, nevertheless went – because God had told them to go. As children of God, they rested and trusted in the word of God.

We are told by the Holy Spirit in Matthew chapter 2 that all of this was done because it must be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” That is, this event had been foretold by Old Testament prophets. The Son of God must walk the pathway paved by the prophets. God had said that He would call His Son out of Egypt. The prophecy that is referred to is found in Hosea 11:1. We read, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”

Now, briefly, the book of the prophet Hosea sets forth God’s love that reclaims and restores. It prophesies to the ten tribes who had forsaken God through Ahab and Jehu, and who were serving other gods, that God would yet reclaim a remnant of His people. To show what He would do, God told Hosea to marry a harlot and to have children with her. Then, if you know the book of Hosea, Gomer his wife left Hosea and went back to those who used her in whoredom and lived with them. But Hosea was told that he must go and reclaim her for fifteen pieces of silver. Why? Because of God’s love, which saves the wholly undeserved, and because of His grace, which forms a people which is completely of God alone. So God will draw His people out of the bondage of their own sins with cords of irresistible love.

So we read that Christ, now, must go down to Egypt. “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Christ must go. The child Christ must go down to Egypt. Egypt is a picture of the bondage of our sin and death, of our misery. God is going to call His Son out of Egypt as a picture that He has given His Son to be laden with, to be bound with, the bondage of our sins and that He is going to deliver us out of the bondage of sin through His Son.

A very beautiful picture of our redemption is being played out before us. God will graphically foretell, or play out, the exact purpose of the sending of His Son to earth. He says, “You see that little babe brought by Mary and Joseph down to Egypt? I’m going to call Him out of Egypt. I’m going to picture you the truth that I have placed upon My Son the bondage of the guilt of My people. I have bound Him with the iron chains of the sins that they have formed. But My Son is going to burst those chains. He is going to come out of Egypt. He is going to lead My church out of the land of sin and death and bring my church into the realm of eternal life.”

The next event that took place as it is given to us in Matthew 2 is that wicked king Herod, when he sees that the wise men knew his true plans and have sent him no word, was wroth, exceedingly angry, beside himself in rage. Some time had passed, evidently, as he awaits word from these wise men – a day, two or three days, a week? But it becomes very plain that the wise men are on to him. And in fury Herod acts in a horrible and cruel way. Seeing this child that is born king of the Jews as a rival to his own throne, he determines that he shall kill the child. There are two things that he knows. He knows the general location of the child: Bethlehem, for the chief priests have told him that the child was to be born in Bethlehem. And he knows the general age of the child: somewhere under the age of two. From those two facts that he knew, and being a heartless, wretched, and cruel man, he decides to err on the side of safety. He gives swift orders to his soldiers to go that very moment to Bethlehem and in all the coasts of Bethlehem and to kill all the children from two years old and under. And his servants ruthlessly carry out his orders so that in all of Bethlehem and the surrounding vicinity every child under three is killed – torn from their parents, despite the pleas and cries of the mothers, and put to the sword.

That act, of course, showed the enmity or hatred of the world against Jesus Christ. The real world is not what you see. It is what the Bible says. The Bible says that there is hatred, enmity, deepest despising between the world of sin and the living and true God and His Son Jesus Christ. Psalm 2, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” Always the focal point of the enmity of the world is God’s Christ, through whom God would establish His kingdom.

This is what is happening here. What Herod does is simply a phase of the battle of all the ages – the only important battle. The attempt of the devil and of the wicked world to destroy the promise of God by destroying the Christ-child. Apart from grace, a man hates Jesus Christ! Even if his hatred is coated over with politeness. But God protects and God preserves. His Son, Jesus, is gone, carried away by the parents into Egypt. And Herod’s soldiers, when they descend upon Bethlehem, will not destroy the Christ-child.

Always the focal point of the enmity of the world
is God’s Christ, through whom God would establish His kingdom.
But again, Matthew wants us to see that there is more in this event. He says that this also is Christ walking the pathway of the prophets. He reminds us of a passage in the prophecy of Jeremiah, chapter 31:15-17. We read, “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” Jeremiah the prophet spoke of days when Nebuchadnezzar deported many of the Jews to Babylon and when, at that time, mothers were separated from their little babies. Children were torn from their arms and mothers wept and lamented in great sorrow. We can hardly imagine it. It will happen again. A godless state has no qualms over the butchery of infants, the killing of the unborn – no pity. When the world deems Christian parents to be a threat to their godless state, they will again tear from their arms their children. And Jeremiah hears in that weeping, the weeping of Rachel. Rachel was Jacob’s wife. And Rachel died in Bethlehem when she gave birth to Jacob’s son Benjamin.

Now we need to read also what we find in Jeremiah 31:16, “Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they (that is, thy children) shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” In the life of Christ, this too must be played out. The deepest sorrow and death, the most heart-rending grief – to lose a child – sorrow which cannot be matched in this world. A sorrow that seems beyond comfort. But the Word of the gospel? The Word of the gospel is this: There is hope now in this Child Jesus Christ who will come out of Egypt, who will come victorious out of the death of our sin, so that He shall save His people. And He shall save also His own elect, covenant children, even though they are led, perhaps, in ways of death and sorrow. In Christ they shall be brought back to their own borders. Christ shall gather the little ones in His arms, the little ones of His covenant, and bring them in the joy of His redemption.

We are told, finally, that when wicked king Herod died, another angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.”

How long did Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stay in Egypt? We do not know for certain. A number of years, perhaps. Not too long, for Christ is still referred to as a young child when He is brought back by Joseph and Mary. Maybe He is four or five years old – old enough to have a few memories. Joseph could go back because those who sought to kill Jesus were dead.

And, of course, there is coming a day when all who set themselves against the child Jesus Christ (not the child but Jesus Christ Himself), shall all be dead, all who mock Him, all who hate Him. And on that day His people will enter into the safety of eternal rest. But again Joseph, we read, obeys the word of the Lord. “He arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.” That is a wonderful example, again. For the third time Matthew tells us that when Joseph is told something from God he arises and he does it.

But Joseph does have a concern. His concern was that he was very hesitant to go back to Bethlehem. Could it be that there is resentment against him and this child in Bethlehem? The people had to know why Herod did what he did, who he was looking for – Joseph and Mary’s son. And then there was their strange disappearance in the night. Perhaps that is so. But we are told that Archelaus, a man who was as wicked as Herod, reigned in Judea in the room of his father Herod. And Joseph was afraid to go thither. “Notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth.” Nazareth is sixty miles or so north of Bethlehem. Nazareth was the place where Mary and Joseph were originally from. They had both lived there before they were married. They had left Nazareth for Bethlehem to register for Caesar’s tax. They had remained for a while in Bethlehem. Now, as they return to the land of Canaan, they do not seek to go to Bethlehem, but they go to Nazareth.

It is in Nazareth that Jesus is to grow up as a young boy and a young man. He is going to be subject to His parents as they live in Nazareth. Here Joseph and Mary will have six more children. And Jesus, in a family of seven children, with father and mother, will grow up in meager circumstances – poor. Joseph is a carpenter. Not much wages in that type of work then. And Joseph died, so Jesus, as the oldest in the family, no doubt took on the responsibilities of the family, the care of His mother and His half-brothers and sisters. Jesus then lives in a family of seven children, with a widowed mother, in poverty.

Once again Matthew sees this as the fulfillment of prophecy. He sees it again as the deliberate steps of Jesus Christ to walk the pathway paved by the prophets. We read that Joseph “came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He (that is, Jesus) shall be called a Nazarene.”

This was a prophecy, most likely, from Isaiah 11:1. There Isaiah said, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” The branch that shall grow out of his roots or stump refers to those branches that spring out of a stump. When you cut down a tree, then those sucker branches come up. And that refers to Nazareth, or that which is of no account. To be called a Nazarene is to be given a term of reproach, to be not of much significance, a twig, a branch growing out of an old stump. “He shall be called a Nazarene,” he shall be called of no account. He shall be entitled with a word of reproach. That was a byword, then, of reproach.

The city of Nazareth is not even mentioned once in the Old Testament. When Pilate puts upon the cross of Jesus, “Jesus of Nazareth – the King of the Jews,” it was an attempt to show scorn and reproach and contempt. Again we read in John 7:52 that the Jews said, “Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” – out of Nazareth.

So the Scriptures were fulfilled – the Scriptures which had foretold that Jesus Christ would come in all lowliness and reproach among men; that when He would appear, there should be no beauty that we would desire Him; that He would be despised and rejected of men; that He would be as a worm and no man, a reproach among men and despised among the people (Ps. 22:6). The fact that He was born in Bethlehem, the city of king David, is forgotten. He becomes known as the Nazarene – from that wretched, poor, little town, that excuse for a city called Nazareth.

Now, of course, where you are among men means a lot to men – today, and even more so back then. Jesus was assigned a place of lowliness. He was associated with reproach and contempt so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. God has given His Son to take our place. That is the glory of the message of the gospel today and always. Jesus Christ is born in Bethlehem. Jesus Christ has come to take upon Himself our nature, our flesh, in order that He might die for the sins of God’s people. Christ has come, not to be clothed with honor and repute, but with shame and disrepute, scorn and humility. Why? Because He has come for sinners, for all the sinners given to Him of the Father, for you and for me. And we have no honor. Ours is contempt and reproach. He came to take that upon Himself. He does not despise it. He does not refuse to stoop low. He came exactly where we need Him – under our sins – to remove them and to give to us heavenly life, the city of God, the eternal Jerusalem. For Jesus is Messiah! He has come to walk the pathway of the prophets. He has come to fulfill all the will of God concerning our redemption and salvation. Therefore, He is both Savior and Lord. To Him be glory for ever! Blessed are all they who put their trust in Him!

Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. Apply it to our hearts and look upon us in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.