Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 God is in control! Christmas 1 December 29, 2019
Pastor Ken Mellon, Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Pleasant Valley Rd., West Bend, WI
God’s grace and peace are yours through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to give you confidence in God.
The Gospel lesson for today is Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
These are your words heavenly Father. Help us trust in you in all situations. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear Christians in God’s caring hands,
A flight attendant was told that a little girl was flying on a jet for the first time. She brought her a small pair of wings to pin on and offered her a few other items with hopes that the girl wouldn’t be too nervous. To her amazement, the girl said that she wasn’t nervous at all about flying. When asked why, she said, “My dad is the pilot. I know we’ll be safe.” Even if during the flight there was turbulent weather, the girl was not afraid. God wants us to have that kind of confidence in Him because
God is in control!
First, God finds ways to provide. We mentioned last Sunday that God sent an angel to tell Joseph to accept Mary as his wife since the child she carried had been conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph believed and obeyed God’s message. Now move ahead 6 months or a year after Jesus was born. Our verse it states, “After the Wise Men were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream” (v.13). Remember that Joseph didn’t dream about the angel, God sent the angel to appear in his dream and told Joseph to leave town. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had made their home in Bethlehem. They were in a house when the Wise Men arrived. But, the angel told them, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you” (v.13).
Notice how the angel worded his message. Four times in our verses Joseph’s focus is to be on the child and His mother who cared for Him. Joseph’s wants and needs came second to God’s purpose. We should learn from this that there is something higher going on in the events of our lives. In the Bible study, The Story, it’s called God’s Upper Story. God is working out His plan to save people and offer them His love instead of His punishment. In order to do that God had His Son experience life with all its temptations and troubles, including King Herod’s threats. If Joseph had questions about the angel’s command to leave, the angel told him why: “Herod will search for the child in order to kill him” (v.13).
Why go to Egypt? First, it was out of Herod’s jurisdiction and out of harm’s way. Second, there were Jews in Egypt where the family could find a place to stay and work. The greatest reason is that God wanted Jesus to travel from Egypt. Matthew stated, “So was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (v.15). The prophecy was from Hosea 1:11. It described when God called the Children of Israel from Egypt to go to the Promised Land. They were an Old Testament type of what Christ would do: leave Egypt to accomplish God’s plan for a better promised “land.” This shows that although Jesus’ family had to flee to Egypt, not even Herod’s threats could stop God from achieving His plan in Christ.
God not only told Joseph to go to Egypt, He provided for the family. The Wise Men had just honored Jesus with gold, incense, and myrrh. Those valuable gifts could be sold to provide what the family needed. We need to remember that when God tells us to accomplish His plan, He will also provide a way for us.
Joseph may have wondered about God. If Herod was so bad, why didn’t He just depose him or end his life? Why was He making His Son run away from danger instead of stopping the evil? The answer is that our God is gracious. God is patient even with the worst of people, including us! He wants everyone to repent of all sin before His judgment day. King Herod’s time of grace was not over. But, God’s grace had its limits. Herod would die within a year.
There is and always will be a limit to evil. So take note, if we are involved in evil, we are in serious trouble with God. On the other hand, if the evil is against us, the book of Revelation reminds us that evil will have its day, but believers will have eternity in heaven to thank Christ who will free us from all evil.
The third thing about allowing Herod to live is that as our Savior, Christ needed to live a humble life. That meant throughout His life people were allowed to tempt Him to do their evil will. And when He didn’t follow them, they drove Him out of their town or even tried to kill Him. Herod’s threats fit the pattern of Jesus’ life. Yet, with each problem Jesus completed another step toward God’s plan of salvation. God sent His Son to experience pain, shame, and death on a cross so that He would suffer for all sins. Through faith in Him, we have full forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with God as His loved people!
Second, how are we to respond to God’s loving control? First, we are confident in God’s control. Think of the life of an earlier Joseph in the Bible, sold by his brothers as a slave into Egypt. Late in his life Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but the Lord intended it for good” (Genesis 50:15). So also, God will work for our good. Hardships can help us learn to call on God in prayer. God’s “good” may be that we wait for God to answer our prayers as He disciplines us. To trust God means that we believe His purpose will ultimate win. Wicked King Herod eventually was stopped. Herod’s wicked son, Archelaus, ruled for only a few years before he was deposed by Rome. From this we learn that evil has its limits, but our time with Christ forever will come with certainty!
Experiencing trouble, pain, or problems is not pleasant. Yet we are to seek first God’s kingdom and His will. We are to keep praising Jesus not just with words but with obedience. We trust that God knows exactly what He is doing. So, Joseph took the child Jesus and His mother and immediately left for Egypt. When the angel appeared in another of Joseph’s dreams to tell him to return, Joseph immediately did as God commanded. He feared King Herod’s son who was ruling at the time. So, he prayed about it, and God directed him through an angel in another dream to return to Nazareth. There Jesus would grow safely.
When we face tests in life and we wonder what God has in mind, we should see from this lesson that God’s ways are gracious. He doesn’t always take the bad immediately away, but provides direction to accomplish His good. God doesn’t need to send angels with messages. But, God will give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. And we have the Bible as God’s greatest gift with words of guidance and forgiveness in Christ!
We also have God’s assurance that even though we can’t avoid trouble, we are not alone. God promised,
“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be overwhelmed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). God doesn’t promise a problem-free life. But, He does offer strength so we endure, and finally through Jesus He freely gives us heaven.
Last, we learn the importance of trust in God! Joseph already had faith to trust in God when he accepted Mary as his wife even though she was miraculously pregnant with Jesus. God continued to guide Joseph as he walked by faith away from Herod, to a foreign land, and then back to Nazareth in Galilee.
Do we have that bold a faith? The more we hear God’s Word and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the more God will give us a strong faith! On one hand, we don’t want to test God and dare His angels to keep us safe while we are living sinful lives against Him. On the other hand, we can be confident as we live in daily repentance, not being controlled by sin like King Herod, but confessing our sins and seeking God’s forgiveness in Christ. Whatever may happen each day, like the little girl on the jet whose dad was the pilot, we can trust that our God is in control. He has a plan, an upper story, which He is completing for us. As we trust in Him, we can be like Joseph, listening and serving God for good. Amen.