When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
The words can be a rebuke when spoken with bitterness. “Happy now?” The message is, “Now you are miserable because you did not heed my warning.”
But the words can also reflect caring concern or a simple request for information. A few days ago, people wished us a “Happy New Year!” Now that we have moved into that new year, a natural question is, “Are you happy now?”
The question carries additional weight when a major change is involved. “Are you happy in your new job?” “Are you happy about the orders to move you to a new location?” Those with young children know that travel and change can provide major challenges. Moms, especially, may not look forward to the experience—may not be happy about the prospect.
It makes us wonder how Mary and Joseph reacted to the orders to move to Egypt.
Hadn’t they already gone through enough bewildering events? Consider the shock of learning about the virgin birth? How did the people of Nazareth react to the pregnancy?
Now they were new parents living in a new place, still adjusting to the miraculous events. Then, an amazing development. Scholars from the East, claiming that a star had led them, arrived at their door bringing gifts for the child born as King of the Jews.
How about the warning that King Herod had given orders to have Jesus killed?
What were these parents to think? Was this not a special baby now placed into their hands? Wasn’t this situation the work of God? When first told about this, Mary had responded with, “From now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 2:48).
Did she still feel blessed? Was she happy now? Was Joseph happy now?
They were now “on the run.” Even though they escaped from Bethlehem, they may well have heard the report of the babies slaughtered there after they had left.
Dismay and dread may have crushed any idea of happiness.
Traveling with a baby. Trying to make a home in a foreign country. Struggling to set up a carpentry business among strangers. This was not fun!
Where was God when people needed him?
Thank God, those wise men from the East had given them valuables they could cash in!
Was this by coincidence, or was this by divine plan? Might it be that although the danger was great and the stress was real, the angels who had told Mary and Joseph of the coming birth of the child and then announced it to shepherds kept watch over this family day and night?
We are not told how Mary and Joseph reacted to the stress that came into their lives. We know they were only human, like us. Maybe they did have some doubts and fears. But those would have been groundless.
Their Father in heaven had a plan in place. He knew what Herod would do at Bethlehem.
We read, “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Matthew 2:17,18).
Rachel, Jacob’s wife, had been buried at Bethlehem long ago. Jeremiah’s prophecy was also written long ago. The slaughter of the babies under two was foreseen.
The escape to Egypt was planned. We hear, “And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matthew 2:15).
Mary and Joseph wanted to return to Bethlehem to live. The Lord God had a different plan. We learn, “But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene’” (Matthew 2:22,23).
So, it was all planned out. So, God was always in control. So, any hardship was to bring a blessing, and fear was not necessary.
Not for them. Not for us.
Through Jeremiah of old, he speaks to us yet today. This is what he says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
We should be.
Prayer: I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day from all harm and danger; and I pray you to forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen. (Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer)
Points to ponder:
- Why do we evaluate situations according to our feelings instead of God’s promises?
- Since God does not promise that we will always be able to escape danger or calamity, why is it still good to know that he is in control?
- We are not robots programmed to carry out God’s plans. How might our decisions interface with his plans?
Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.