Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”– Matthew 12:14-15 (NRSV).
God’s relationship with Egypt is fascinating. Once the greatest civilization on Earth, it is used as an instrument throughout history to illustrate God’s ultimate greatness. Perhaps this is most vivid in the Exodus story but is rather noteworthy in the life of Christ as well.
Things got hot for our Lord’s family very early. Herod, upon hearing word of this “King of the Jews”, tried to deceive the wise men and orchestrated a massacre. How fragile is your power if you need to harm the innocent in order to keep it?
Jesus’ family would stay in Egypt until Herod’s death fulfilling, as verse 15 states, the words of the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” In this instance Egypt once again is God’s instrument; a holding device where the promise is nurtured and cultivated. It fits thematically with the permanent truth that patience is necessary. There are plenty of “Hold on!” moments in Scripture (no doubt they are there as mileposts for us to be encouraged in our waiting). The waiting can feel like bondage.
Hospitals can be Egypts. Since 2012, I have been hospitalized six times. My last stay cost me the opportunity to be with my family on Thanksgiving, attend my youngest son’s Christening or be with him on his birthday. Everyday that I was able to I would look at the calendar and mark how many days I was confined to a hospital bed. I would argue with doctors and nurses with the hope that they were miscalculating the time of my discharge. One episode found me yelling at a young doctor who, around day 19 of my stay, unpreparedly estimated that I would be there ten more days. “Ten more days!” I exclaimed. It was entirely unacceptable to me. I had lost too much already, I thought, what more do you want from me!
Friends and loved ones I spoke with would hear me compare my situation to that of Batman’s in The Dark Knight Rises. It felt like lupus had broken and imprisoned me in the pit. There were no prayers there, no reading of scripture but as the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 139, God was there. The Holy Spirit is a wonderful roommate. I was broken, had nothing in the tank, no sauce but I knew this was not it. Unlike my attack in Charlotte, in which I woke up everyday thinking I had died, I did not believe that this would kill me. The situation was dire at times but the greater problem to me was not being with my family. Sometimes we consider our Egypts to be prisons when they are merely holding centers.
In both my hospital experience and in the story of our Lord’s family, timing is everything. We are not in control, there are too many variables for us to master without the Master. What we see as a crisis does not catch the Master by surprise. He is not powerless in the face of our circumstances. The severity is real. Whether Herod or lupus, there are forces in our life that seek to smother our destinies. Thanks be to God that He is a shelter.