UP, OUT OF EGYPT
A Study of Matthew 2:13-23
Do you sometimes feel as though your life is in the doldrums and that you are not moving ahead to the extent that you had hoped? Does it seem as if there is not enough time left for you to achieve your dreams? A believer's time is not wasted. God has a purpose and a plan for the life of every person of faith, and it often includes a period of apparent inactivity. The text shows how you can recognize when you are experiencing this planned downtime. It also reveals what you should be doing during it. Finally, it indicates how you will emerge from your perceived hiatus with a renewed sense of direction – just as God had all-along planned. In sum, the fulfillment of God’s purpose for us as believers includes our being “hidden” until God is ready to use us.
Pastor Paul from the pulpit
My wife and I recently saw the movie Julie and Julia, which intertwines the stories of Julia Child’s early career and the challenge that the blogger Julie Powell set for herself to cook all the recipes in the legendary chef’s first cookbook. What struck me was the revelation that Julia Child was a late bloomer in terms of her calling. The movie's protagonists were also driven by a desire to do something that would enrich their lives with purpose and meaning. The movie provided a window into Julia Child’s life, and showed how God presented an ordinary woman with opportunities. Because Julia Child also knew how to capitalize on those opportunities, she went on to achieve international fame and acclaim. The fact that Julia Child’s latter years were more blessed and rewarding than her former years further struck me.
As I think about the early life of Julia Child, I see a parallel with the early years of Jesus. Julia Child was unknown until she was well past 40. Similarly, there is little available information on two periods in the early life of Jesus. Scripture omits details of Jesus’ life when he was aged between two and 12, and 13 and 30. Hence, God kept Jesus and Julia Child hidden for most of their lives, until He saw fit for them to begin fulfilling His will and purpose.
When we feel as though our lives are lacking purpose and meaning, we should realize God is hiding us, and that He will use us at some future date.
In comparing Julia Child and Jesus, we see two very different individuals who had two very different callings in life. In both cases, however, God used them relatively late in their lives. Indeed, it is never too late.
Some would say a lack of presence and visible activity in life points to time wasted. I would counter that God does not waste time. A lack of personal presence and visible activity is part of God’s plan – God is hiding us.
Consider that …
– before a baby is born, it is hidden inside its mother’s womb. The womb acts as a protective covering and, while inside, the child is being shaped, formed, developed and nurtured. The mother’s labor pains are nature’s way of alerting her that it is time to bring the child out of hiding.
– before a gift is given, it is hidden from the recipient. The wrapping around the gift acts as a shield from prying eyes. When it is time to know, the wrapping comes off and the gift is revealed.
– before potential is realized, it is hidden within us. In most cases, others see and recognize our potential long before we do.
Each example points to the need for God to hide us until He is ready to use us. These examples reflect our text, which tells how God uses Egypt as a place where he hides His people before they emerge to fulfill their mission and calling in life.
– Jacob and his family had to go to Egypt because of a severe famine in the land.
– Jesus and his family had to go to Egypt because of a threat to their existence.
We must also keep in mind that Egypt was not their final destination, but merely a stop along the way.
– While Jacob led his family in, God, through Moses, led the people out.
– The angel of God that led Jesus and his family in was also the same angel that led them out.
The temptation is to get comfortable where we are and be content flying under the radar. But God has a plan and a purpose for us – as well as a timetable.
God leads us into “Egypt” – or hiding – so that He may reveal His plan to us. While there, we are also able to conform to His timetable for the fulfillment of His purpose for us.
Some will ask whether God has to go through all of this. It would be easier if He just revealed what He wanted us to do. I agree, but for this thought …
Ask yourselves how many times God has revealed things to you that you either did not do, or insisted on doing your way? Furthermore, how did those instances work out?
As we examine our text, we see that it is necessary for God to hide us …
A short time after the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him ...
– “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt…for Herod is going to search for the child and kill him.”
God needs to hide us for our protection.
There are people, places, situations and circumstances that have the potential to cause us physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual harm. If we are exposed to these nefarious elements unprepared, they can kill our dreams, hopes, ambitions and aspirations. Misery loves company.
People who lack vision and drive are quick to point out negatives:
– You can’t do that …
– What you’re trying will not work …
– That’s never been tried before …
– We’ve tried it and it did not work before.
By hiding us, God shields us from one dimensional, shortsighted, and narrow-minded people. God is protecting us from having others who will try to impose their will on us or who do not see the validity of our ideas or the potential within us.
Herod represents all the people, places and things in this world that desire to stifle, suffocate and kill our dreams, hopes, ambitions and aspirations.
One of the reasons I am still here today is because God worked through my parents to hide and shield me from exposure to certain people, places and things. I thought I was missing something, but there were friends of mine or people that I knew who are not here today because their desire to be exposed was greater than their willingness to be hidden and shielded.
One of the challenges to leading God’s people is knowing when and how much vision to share. The Bible says,
– “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
On the other hand, where there is too much vision the people go blind – they can neither see it nor do they comprehend it all.
If God gives you vision and people are not receptive to it, perhaps it is time for you to allow God to hide you in Egypt until such time He makes the way clear for your offering to be received.
The text recounts what Joseph did in response to the word he received from God:
– “He got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.”
While in Egypt, Joseph prepared. He did this from the time he received the word to go to Egypt to the time God signaled he should leave.
It is necessary for God to hide us so that He can give us time to prepare. That’s because success and greatness in life demand preparation …
– Before becoming a minister, God had to prepare me. God paved the way for me to go to seminary, to do pulpit supply and to face life’s challenges. It was all to prepare me for the pastorate.
– Before serving God on Christmas Eve, the young people of this church and the Ladies Ensemble had to prepare. How? Through rehearsal, rehearsal, and more rehearsal.
– Before functioning in positions of leadership in and beyond the church, servants of God have to prepare. Today, there is ample information for training and to better help us understand leadership roles and functions.
– Before getting our own building, God has to prepare us by teaching us about the nature of service, leadership, stewardship, worship and personal devotion to Him.
To be honest, I did not always feel this way. I can recall many instances where I took on positions without adequate training and preparation – and failed miserably.
In the movie Julie and Julia, Julia Child desired to teach preparation of French cuisine. She enrolled in a cooking school, and told a person who asked she was there because she wanted to become a teacher. The person told her she did not have to go to school to do that. Julia Child’s response was that she wanted a diploma.
I love that! She wanted a credential that would inform her students she had taken the time to be prepared.
During periods of inactivity in our lives, God is giving us the opportunity to prepare for our departure from the downtime. But are we prepared for when God is ready to use us? Are we ready for the next opportunity that life presents?
Following the period of preparation, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph again 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.”
Sometimes it is necessary for God to hide us until the landscape is conducive for us to fulfill God’s purpose and plan for our lives.
No one likes to fail or be unsuccessful in his or her endeavors – we all want things to work out well. I would submit to you that in some cases the lack of success we experience is a matter of a non-conducive landscape and environment.
– Suppose you have done everything possible to land your dream job or work in a field that reflects your training. When a field becomes flooded, job opportunities dry up and salaries become depressed. A non-conducive landscape and environment prevails.
– Suppose you have done everything possible to raise your credit score, yet you still find it difficult to obtain a loan. It is not personal: banks are not lending as we emerge from the recession. The landscape and environment are non-conducive.
When the landscape and environment are non-conducive to our being successful, God steps in and provides redirection.
– “Having been warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.”
Joseph prepared to go to Israel, but God redirected him to Nazareth. The problem is that most of us do not want to go to the place God indicates.
When people found out that Jesus was from Nazareth, they asked,
– “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
The problem with going to Nazareth is one of perception. By making “Nazareth” our destination, we must veer from our “perceived” intended course. I would suggest we look again. Doing so allows us to see that, while it is comfortable and, in some cases, even convenient to stay the course, greater opportunity awaits us if we allow God to lead us by way of Nazareth.
Geographically, Nazareth overlooked two of the most important caravan routes in the ancient world. One road led up from Egypt to Damascus; the other led along the seacoast to the east. So it had its advantages …
Let us stop acting as though God can accomplish things for us only if he permits us to maintain the status quo. If this is our attitude, then we missed the entire point of why God hides us in “Egypt.”
Egypt is the place where God re-establishes His control over our lives. God draws us there in order to reveal His plan and purpose to us. It is where God fine-tunes us and paves the way for us to fulfill His will.
The text asks us to consider some questions:
– Do we believe God has a plan for our lives, the lives of our children, our marriage and relationships, and our church or business?
– Have we received, or are we open to receiving God’s plan?
– Will we allow God to provide the direction and, when necessary, the redirection we need to help us navigate through a potentially hostile landscape and environment?
Of course, we could choose to do it ourselves. But if we do, we must understand that we would then assume responsibility for our own protection, preparation and direction, and that God would remove Himself from the process completely.
My household and I will follow Joseph’s example and allow God to provide the plan and the direction we need.
When God is at the helm and calls us up, out of Egypt, it is the right time. That’s because God has taken care of all the details, and is ready to use us.
If you are experiencing one of those down periods, or a period of inactivity in your life, and are struggling to make sense of it all, I want to encourage you to allow God to lead you, too, up, out of Egypt. How? Through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. If you do not know Jesus, take a moment to introduce yourself to Him. Jesus will lead you up, out of Egypt.
I know and acknowledge that I am a sinner. I repent, right now, of all my sins, and I am asking you to forgive me. You said in your Word, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). I am calling on the name of your Son, Jesus, to come into my heart and be my Savior.
You also said, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I believe with my heart that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead so that I may have eternal life. I confess Him, right now, as my Lord.
I ask you Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to live on the inside of me, and help me to live a life that is pleasing to both you and God, the Father.
In the name of Jesus, I submit this prayer.
Sunday 27 December 2009
May God Bless You