13 After the Wise Men were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream. He said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, because Herod will search for the child in order to kill him.”
14 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and left for Egypt. 15 He stayed there until the death of Herod. This happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1).
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Wise Men, he was furious. He issued orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under. This was in keeping with the exact time he had learned from the Wise Men. 17 Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
18 A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and she refused to be comforted, because they are no more. (Jer 31:15).
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. The angel said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
21 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus, Herod’s son, had succeeded his father as ruler in Judea, he was afraid to go there. Since he had been warned in a dream, he went to the region of Galilee. 23 When he arrived there, he settled in a city called Nazareth. So what was spoken through the prophets was fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.”Matthew 2:12-23
I’d like to start today’s message with an account of a little king. His name was Joash (II Kings 11). The priest at the temple who was following the Lord was Jehoiada. His wife, Athaliah, didn’t follow the Lord. She was on a mission to put her son on the throne. However, her son was killed so Athaliah was determined to wipe out the whole royal family. But, the daughter of the king caught wind of this evil plan and hid Joash in the temple for six years while Athaliah ruled the land. Her husband, Jehoiada, place a guard around Joash until he was 7. Then they crowned him as King and the people destroyed the Baal worship and wicked Athaliah. The Lord surrounded Joash with good advisors to rule the land until Joash was old enough to reign.
Our Gospel lesson today records the events in the early life of the Child-King. These events fulfill the Old Testament prophecies and give us a greater appreciation for God control over all things. Let us take great comfort to know
God Puts His Child on a Throne!
Because of His Rescue
When we read the account of God’s promises of the Old Testament we wonder how they could possibly come true. To Abraham God promised, “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great…. I will give this land to your descendants” (Gen 12:2,7). For many years it looked this wasn’t going to happen. Abraham didn’t have a son. When God blessed him with a son he was then commanded by God to sacrifice him on Mt Moriah. After receiving the promise from God again and saving his son, Abraham’s descendants weren’t living in Canaan, but the account of Joseph brought the family to live in Egypt! They weren’t living as royalty, but as slaves! Then after some 450 years the Lord worked out his promise by delivering them through the hand of Moses. God rescued his people and brought them back to the Promised Land. Now, listen to God’s promise when he rescued them, “5 Now if you will carefully listen to my voice and keep my covenant, then you will be my special treasure out of all the nations, although the entire earth is mine. 6 You will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation” (Ex 19:5-6). God rescued his children and gave them royal status.
You can see the connection. God lines up experiences and events of his people to paint the picture of what would happen to the Savior. He used the prophets to color in the details such as Hosea speaking about the Israelite nation, “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1). They may not have looked like royalty while in slavery until the Lord rescued them and put his stamp of Royalty on them as his special children. Likewise, God points out Jesus to be our King rescued by God. That’s where our gospel comes in: “19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. The angel said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to kill the child are dead. 21 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.” Jesus was the perfect match for the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” He may not have looked like the King of Kings while lying in a manger, or fleeing to Egypt, but God’s effort to rescue him as a fulfillment of this stamped him as God’s special Child, the Savior-King.
Compare this to a time in life when you were wondering if you had it right. Maybe you were invited to someone’s house for the first time. You get the address and put it into Google Maps and are quite sure you’ll find it. But, it helped when the people living in the house gave you some descriptions that led you to the right door. So also you may have wondered if you are believing the right things. Have you been taught correctly? Is your religion right? Then wonder no more! Remember the prophecies and see their fulfillments. God’s amazing rescue called his child from Egypt and placed his stamp of approval on his mission. This child grew and fulfilled many more prophecies that point to him as the Savior. Like the lamb’s blood painted on the doorposts in Egypt, so the blood of Jesus shed on the cross is painted on the thrones of our hearts. As such, you have been rescued by God through faith in Jesus to rule and reign with him.
Now, I know there are plenty of days when you don’t feel like you’re royal. You have been stuck in the clouds of doubt, or in the clutches of slavery of sin and temptation. You know the words that came out of your mouth, the burst of anger, the times of gloating, putting others down, speaking evil all because your tongue was held in slavery. Then we recall God’s work for us in Jesus. Jesus overcame sin and its power so that the Christmas Gospel speaks to our hearts and assures us of our status before God: “You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Peter 2:9). Rejoice! God has rescued you and put you on thrones for Jesus’ sake. Yes, because Jesus rules, you rule with him!
Because of His Rule
This account from Matthew shows the sad state of a broken world. Because of his jealousy toward any rivals, King Herod ordered his soldiers to do the unspeakable. “16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Wise Men, he was furious. He issued orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under. This was in keeping with the exact time he had learned from the Wise Men. 17 Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18 A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and she refused to be comforted, because they are no more. (Jer 31:15).” We can’t imagine the heartache for these families to have their children murdered. Yet, isn’t that what our sin has done to Jesus? Can you imagine taking the hand of little Jesus and putting a nail into his hand? Indeed, our sins caused his death on the cross. But, God was still in control! For through this crucifixion God carried out his perfect plan. This too, was foreshadowed by the flight into Egypt, and then showing us God’s complete control. “19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. The angel said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
Joseph, Mary and Jesus escaped Egypt, but if you were to ask a citizen, “Who is reigning as king in Palestine?” no one would answer, “A little child living in Egypt is King.” They would say, “King Herod is reigning as king.” God would answer differently. And once they were heading home there was another twist to the account. “21 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus, Herod’s son, had succeeded his father as ruler in Judea, he was afraid to go there. Since he had been warned in a dream, he went to the region of Galilee. 23 When he arrived there, he settled in a city called Nazareth.” So, if you ask a citizen, “Who did you say is reigning at king?” They wouldn’t say, “A little child living in Nazareth is reigning as king.” They would say, “Herod’s son, Archelaus is ruling as king.” God would answer differently. God’s answer comes from his complete control of history!
Here is God’s answer: “So what was spoken through the prophets was fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.” This isn’t a specific quote from a prophet, but a summary of the Old Testament prophets. Let me explain: This is a little village up north in the territory of Galilee. Do you get it? Who would expect a King to come from here? How can he rule if he isn’t appointed by Caesar? Without a degree from the Schools of Learning in Jerusalem? Without any royal training? Even at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry Philip told Nathaniel, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:45-46). Even at Jesus’ death Pilate thought he could insult the Jews by his sign above Jesus’ head, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews!” (John 19:19). These all are fulfillments of the prophets who said he would be, “despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Is 53:3). They were right. By all appearances Jesus was not reigning, ruling or defeating anything or anybody. That is until God puts his Child on the Throne. He was an infant in Bethlehem, but he had infinite power. He was a toddler in Egypt, but he was on top of it all. He was a child, but he was in charge. God puts his Child on the throne, and his Child reigns!
Remember that you are dressed in the robe of his righteousness and reigning with him when you get frustrated because you locked your keys in the car, when you’re made fun of because you put worship over worldly pleasures, when you may not get ahead as fast as your co-workers because you refuse to cheat, when they think you’re too pious because you ask them not to use God’s name in vain. When this sinful world seems to be winning, then remember that God has declared you his very own in your baptism and put you on a throne with Jesus.
History shows us over and over again that God is in control. Joash was the king established by God and he did the right thing. He cleansed the temple and brought God’s people back to the Lord. Jesus, the Christ-Child was established by God and also cleaned out the temple. Even thought it appeared his story ended in tragedy on a cross, Jesus rose to prove he rescued us from sin, death and the devil. His reign continues because God put his Child on a Throne to rescue us so we now reign with him. Amen!