Hosea: Out of Egypt
“Out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1; quoted in Matthew 2:15).
When Charles Spurgeon preached on this verse, he began his sermon this way:
“Egypt occupies a very singular position towards Israel. It was often the shelter of the seed of Abraham. Abraham himself went there when there was a famine in the land of his sojourn. To Egypt Joseph was taken that he might escape from the death intended for him by his envious brethren, and become the foster-father of the house of Israel. Into Egypt, as we all well know, went the whole family of Jacob, and there they sojourned in a strange land. There Moses acquired the learning which was so useful to him.”
He points out that while God sometimes sent his children to Egypt to protect them, he always delivered them from Egypt later. So Moses and the children of Israel came “out of Egypt” in the great passage through the Red Sea. They needed Egypt for protection, but they were never meant to stay there forever.
We don’t know how long Jesus and his parents stayed in Egypt, or where they stayed, or how old Jesus was at the time. But those details don’t matter. God protected Jesus by sending him to Egypt at just the right moment to spare his life. One writer called this the “cross-handed” providence of God because a desperate flight to escape Herod turns out to be a great mercy from the Lord. But it would only be seen in reverse.
My favorite definition of faith comes from Philip Yancey: “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” Many things in this life make no sense to us. We all have deep and personal questions that defy all human answers. We want to know why things happen the way they do and why couldn’t things have happened some other way. It would be wrong to say that faith provides all the answers. It doesn’t. Perhaps in heaven we will fully understand, or in heaven our desire to know will be transformed by our vision of the Lord. By faith we see things that are invisible to others and by faith we believe in advance those things that right now make no sense but one day will make perfect sense because we will view them in reverse.
It’s only as we look back that we say, “I can see why it had to happen that way.” So it is for all of us. God often sends us to “Egypt” to protect us and to prepare us for what is to come.
Do not despair if you feel like you are in “Egypt” today. What seems like a punishment or a detour may turn out to be a great gift from the Lord. When we view our trials through the lens of God’s providence, they turn out to be gifts from heaven. This is true even when our trials seem like a great burden.
God knows what he is doing even when we can’t see it.
Father, help us to trust you when the way forward seems unclear. Give us faith to take the next step with you even if it seems to lead to Egypt. Amen.
Musical bonus: Today’s song started as a French carol, but became very popular in America after it was translated into English in the late 1800s. Let’s listen as David Phelps sings O Holy Night.