These early chapters of Matthew are surely a treasure trove of fulfilled gems from the Old Testament. It is the inauguration of the time frame where God is introducing his only begotten Son to the world in person and he is presenting the long awaited hope, the Messiah to His people Israel and Judah. This introduction is scattered with reminders to those first century Jews about what had been written, what had been promised.
As we continue with the very early years of Jesus earthly life, we find Joseph receiving a direct message from another angel. You might think that Joseph is on a first name basis with this heavenly messenger, as this is the second of three times that God communicated through his Heavenly courier.
In Matthew 2:13-15 Joseph is warned to flee with the child to Egypt.
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Matthew 2:13-15
The angel in formed Joseph that in order to protect the infant Son of God from the wicked Herod he would need to flee to Egypt. Oh what a journey of faith for this Jewish Carpenter of the house and lineage of David. We often overlook what inconvenience, suffering and persecution that Joseph went through as he cared for both Jesus and Mary. But behind this apparent retreat, God had another plan. God surely intended to protect the Messiah as all through the Old Testament history we see instance after instance of God intervening to protect the line of Messiah, would he do any less now that this long awaited one had been born? No, but that was not the only motive for sending this Hebrew family to Egypt.
It is a good thing that God sent an angel to deliver this message, for Joseph would probably been reluctant to actually go to Egypt. This is not a favorite place of any jew. The history between these two countries was never very good after Joseph died at the end of the book of Genesis. In addition to that in preparing the Tribe of Judah for the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar and subsequent captivity in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah went to great lengths to warn the Jews of that day, NOT to flee to Egypt.
“And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there;Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die. So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them. For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As mine anger and my fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my fury be poured forth upon you, when ye shall enter into Egypt: and ye shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and ye shall see this place no more. The LORD hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah; Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day.” Jeremiah 42:15-19
“Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there:” Jeremiah 43:2
I think God was very clear about any Jew who would think to flee to Egypt. Only cursing, judgment and destruction would result. So perhaps Joseph would be hard to convince to take Mary and the baby to Egypt. But amazingly, that is exactly what the angel told him to do. The purpose behind it was again; fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy, shadow and type.
” — that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Matthew 2:15
This is a direct quote of Hosea11:1.
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” Hosea 11:1
But what is the significance of this prophecy and its subsequent fulfillment? I believe that the answer to that question is found in the typology of the Old Testament. Israel was a type of Christ. Both the Person Israel who had been named Jacob, and the nation itself. Both portrayed characteristics of the Messiah to come. I think though that the primary type described in the calling out of Egypt, the Son of God, is more to the point of the nation of Israel. If we go back one chapter in Hosea we see that Israel is likened to a vine.
“Israel is an empty vine; he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.” Hosea 10:1
Israel is compared to a vine, but alas Israel is an empty fruitless vine. In other places in the Old Testament we see this picture (type) expanded.
“Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt : thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself.It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.“ Psalm 80:8-16
This is not a good story. This was the vine that God brought out of Egypt. He cleared the land, planted the vine, caused it to take root, and yet because of her idolatry and fruitlessness, God sent judgment upon this vine.
The story is not any better when we read in Isaiah 5:
“Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.” Isaiah 5:1-7
Here we see the same sad tale. Israel is an unfruitful vine, they had every advantage as a people, as a nation, but they turned from the one who blessed them and they forced God’s hand until he had to judge them.
This is the Vine that was taken out of Egypt, just as the Son was taken out of Egypt. When we get to the New Testament we read in John 15:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” John 15:1-7
In this passage Jesus is declaring himself to be the “True”, or “Authentic” vine. Israel the Old Testament people of God, the nation was the vine that failed. Christ Jesus is the vine that succeeded, both having been called out of Egypt. Jesus goes on in this passage to describe how he will provide fruitfulness through the simplicity of abiding. There is no work attached to bearing fruit we in the New Covenant must merely abide in Christ. He continues with comparing those who are abiding in Him with those Old Covenant people who insisted on continuing to abide in that old vine. To remain in that old vine, the nation of Israel would be death. But God is so merciful that he has provided a vine that will ensure our fruitfulness and it is this fruitful vine that he has called out of Egypt; His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.