Another Word from the Lord
Text: Matthew 2:1-23
The angel of the Lord had given clear instructions to Joseph to flee the country to evade the wrath of King Herod. Arousing Joseph from his sleep, he said,
“Arise, take the young Child and His mother,
flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you
word; for Herod will seek the Young Child
to destroy Him.”
Joseph had done as the angel instructed him. Swiftly he made preparation and left immediately for Egypt. Joseph had custody of Jesus. He was the legal father of Jesus. He made sure that he did not fail in his duties. To assist him in carrying out his duties, Joseph was given a word now and then from an angel.
How would Joseph know when he was supposed to return to Israel? He knew that the flight to Egypt was to escape the wicked plan of Herod to kill Jesus. Joseph believed that the Lord would send another word to him in due time, as promised. Soon that word came.
“But when Herod was dead, behold, an
angel of the Lord appeared in a dream
to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Arise, take
the young Child and His mother, and go
to the land of Israel, for those who sought
the young Child’s life are dead.’ Then he
arose, took the young Child and His mother,
and came into the land of Israel. ”
This was now the third word that God spoke to Joseph through one of His angels. Joseph was privileged indeed to have had so many visitations from an angel of the Lord, notwithstanding that these appearances were through “dreams”. Once again, we note the obedient spirit that Joseph displayed. He acted upon the instructions of the angel of the Lord.
Once again, Joseph made preparation to return to Israel. Herod and others who shared in his evil plan to kill the Christ-child were now dead. It was now quite safe to return to Israel. (Matthew did not disclose the identity of the other people who supported Herod’s wicked plan to kill Jesus. Herod apparently did not act alone. Perhaps, he informed his sons concerning the plan to kill Jesus. They probably became his active collaborators).
THE NEXT KING OF JUDEA
There were no newspapers back then. If you wanted to be informed, you would have to make every effort to glean whatever news you could. Joseph was wise in doing his part. Of course it was wonderful to have an angel speak to you in a special dream, but these dreams were few and far in between. Matthew noted how Joseph acted upon knowledge gleaned.
“But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning
over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was
afraid to go there.”
Was Joseph wrong to follow his instincts? Archelaus was the son of Herod. Was he all that different from his wicked father? Joseph feared that he was cut from the same cloth. Yes, the angel said that he was to return to Israel. However, the angel of the Lord had not given him specific instructions as to which part of the country he should make a home for Jesus.
A FOURTH WORD FROM THE LORD
God graciously spoke to Joseph a fourth time. Matthew noted this,
“And being warned by God in a dream, he
turned aside into the region of Galilee. And
he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth,
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by
the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’ ”
Joseph was not wrong after all. The dream had confirmed that he was right in not choosing to live in Judea. Archelaus was similar to his father in many ways. He finally decided to live in Nazareth, Galilee. The Messiah would grow up in a small, despised little town. He would in time be called, “Jesus of Nazareth”.
A DIFFICULT TEXT TO UNDERSTAND
Matthew knew his Scriptures. No one would dispute that fact. However, he did not always explain why he wrote what he did. The text above is a case in point. The phrase, “He shall be called a Nazarene” was not a specific prophetic text stated in any of the prophetic books. We may believe that Matthew was right, but we may not be able to fully fathom his reasoning. How do we understand what Matthew meant when he wrote “He shall be called a Nazarene”. Two thoughts may be suggested:-
1. A reference to the fact that some would despise Jesus
In this case, Matthew could be making a veiled reference to what Isaiah the prophet wrote,
“He is despised and rejected by men…”
2. A reference to the fact that he came from the district of Galilee
In this case, Jesus fulfilled the prophetic text found in Isaiah 9:1-2, where “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 9:1) was specifically mentioned. (There are passages that will remain obscure even to the sharpest of scholars. This is one of those passages).