The second half of Matt 2:15 is meant to stop you in your tracks. You are to stop and ask some questions. Matthew is relating how Joseph received a warning from the angel about Herod and his plan to find the child and kill him. Joseph then takes Mary and the baby Jesus and escapes by night into Egypt. So far so good. But before Matthew moves on in the story, he adds something very odd. He adds that this event of baby Jesus going into Egypt fulfills Hosea 11:1, which says, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”
Make sense to you? You must stop and ponder this for a while. How in the world does the baby Jesus going into Egypt fulfill this statement in Hosea? The statement in Hosea doesn’t even seem like a prophecy, does it? It is just a statement of fact. In the Old Testament Israel was called God’s son. In the exodus God called his son out of Egypt. The Hosea passage is looking back to Israel in the exodus. How is this story of baby Jesus going into Egypt the fulfillment of that verse in Hosea?
This leads to another question Matthew wanted you to ponder. Why does Matthew insert his comment in v. 15, when Jesus was first going into Egypt? If Matthew is comparing Israel coming out of Egypt with Jesus coming out of Egypt, why not place this comment after v. 21, when Jesus actually comes out of Egypt? Do you see how awkward the order seems to be? Jesus is about to enter *into* Egypt, and Matthew writes that this event fulfills the time when God called his son *out* of Egypt?
There are many riches wrapped up in this glorious verse. To appreciate its glory it will be helpful if you put your first century Jewish hat on for a moment. In the time of Christ there was one hope that united Jews from all over the world. If you were a Jew in those days, no matter how you differed from other Jews, you all would share one common hope. That hope was the coming exodus for the people of Israel back to the land of Israel.
Remember that up until the time of Christ, all hope of having a relationship with God was wrapped around the people and land of Israel. Even as a Gentile your relationship with God was dependent upon your relationship with Israel. If you wanted to be God’s child, you must become an Israelite. If you wanted to worship the true God, you looked to God’s temple in Jerusalem. The equation was clear: you curse Israel; God curses you. You attach yourself to Israel; you had hope in God’s blessings.
There were millions of Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Culturally the Eastern Jews were very different from the Western Jews, but they were all bound by an undying love for Israel. Throughout the Roman Empire, every Jew turned toward Jerusalem when he prayed. It was considered a great sin if he had irreverent thoughts when looking in that direction.
Every Jew held the same hope. God would soon send the messiah to restore Israel. The messiah would gather every Jew from the four corners of the earth and place them back in the land.
Every devout Jew prayed the following prayer daily, “Proclaim by thy loud trumpet our deliverance, and raise up a banner to gather our dispersed, and gather us together from the four corners of the earth.”
Jewish writings in that day contained sentences like, “heaven and earth might be destroyed, but not Israel.” They all shared the hope that soon God would gather the dispersed Jews throughout the world and return them to the land.
But that was not the end of the dream. Once back in the land the golden age of Israel would begin. The holy Israelites of the past like Abraham and Isaac would rise and take possession of the land with the present Israelites. Israel would never again be run by Gentiles. As a matter of fact, Gentiles would not even be in the land at all, for God would purge the land of all strangers. This was the common hope of all the Jews.
But what about all the prophecies of Israel’s judgment? Why did Israel believe they would be so blessed, when the Old Testament was clear that God had become angry with Israel? Had not God punished them by making them serve foreigners?
Well, the Jews did not ignore the prophets. They were fully aware that God had been angry with Israel, and that they were under his judgment. But they believed God’s curse would only be temporary. They believed Israel’s suffering under foreign rule would satisfy God’s wrath and turn away his anger.
Many have asked me how Jews can miss seeing Christ in Isaiah 53, since Isa. 53 clearly speaks of a man’s suffering and dying for our transgressions. Well, most Jewish commentaries take that man in Isa. 53 collectively; that is, that suffering servant is the nation Israel. Israel would suffer for her own sins, and after a time of suffering they would be forgiven and God would bless Israel forever.
And so the hope of the first century Jews revolved around the belief that they had now paid for their sin, and that God would soon come down and lead them through a second exodus; one more glorious than the first.
The prophets do speak of a coming exodus for Israel greater than the first. God would come down in the messiah and rescue his son Israel from the Gentile nations and bring them all into the land. Then Israel will enter a never-ending golden age.
Now do you see what Matthew is doing in v. 15? Yes, there is a second exodus coming, but who is the Son of God who experiences this exodus? The nation of Israel? No, the Son who experiences the exodus is Jesus! Israel as a son only pictured Christ the true Son. This is what Matthew wants you to see.
Matthew realizes this would offend the Jews around the world, but the hope of the Jew must be transferred from a nation to a person, from Israel to Jesus. For the one who wants God’s blessing, God’s promises, God’s forgiveness, God’s presence, God’s grace, God’s exodus, the picture has disappeared; the reality has arrived.
The only way to God’s eternal blessing is through His beloved Son, the true and everlasting Israel, Jesus Christ. He has become our exodus! He is the Son who receives all of God’s blessings. We can only be blessed in Him.
Now most of you realize that many Christians today, especially in America, don’t get this. They still place many of their hopes in the nation Israel. They even suggest that your relationship with God depends upon your relationship with the modern state of Israel.
But Matthew will not allow this. The exodus is fulfilled when God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is called out of Egypt. He is the Son Israel pictured in the first exodus. Your only hope for going from slavery to freedom is in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament Israel. Each gospel writer brings this truth home in a different way. John records our Lord affirming that he was the true temple that will be resurrected. The Old Testament promised the resurrection of the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus says I am the true temple that will be resurrected.
Matthew has his own ways of showing Jesus as the true Israel. Throughout Matthew’s gospel he stops the action and adds the phrase, “this was done that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.”
But Matthew will bring this truth home another glorious way. The first seven chapters of Matthew have Jesus reliving Israel’s history. Jesus relives Israel’s history, so we can see that Jesus is the true Israel who receives all the promises.
We saw the obvious comparison between Pharaoh and Herod. Both sought to destroy the covenant mediator by slaughtering male babies. As Moses escaped Pharaoh, Jesus escapes Herod. As Israel went into Egypt and is then called out of Egypt, Jesus enters Egypt and is then called out of Egypt.
What happened to Israel after they escaped Egypt? According to the Apostle Paul, they were baptized into the Red Sea. What happens to Jesus in Matthew 3 after he returns from Egypt? Jesus is baptized in the Jordan. Do you see the pattern?
After Israel passed through the sea they were led by a cloud into the wilderness to be tested. The cloud was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. What happens to Jesus in Matthew 4? Jesus is lead by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested. Do you see it? Jesus is reliving Israel’s history.
What does Jesus do in Matthew 5-7? Well, Jesus ascends a mountain and gives his people his law. Sound familiar? Matthew does not want you to miss this! Jesus relives the whole history of Israel. This one; Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fulfills all the promises throughout the Old Testament given to Israel. He is the true Son, the true Israel, and all those in Him will receive the promises of God.
As glorious as this is, I hope you are still left with a question or two. Yes, we see now that Israel as a nation finds its fulfillment in Christ, but what about v. 15? How does the baby Jesus going into Egypt fulfill the Hosea quote? How does Jesus going into Egypt bring about the second exodus promised throughout the Old Testament?
And why does Matthew place his comment in v. 15 before Jesus goes into Egypt? Why not place it after v. 21? Then it would naturally read, “and he rose and took the Child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, `out of Egypt I called my Son.’ Doesn’t that make more sense?
Matthew places the Hosea quote of the Son coming out of Egypt before Jesus even goes into Egypt. Matthew expects you to seek the answer by remembering the context of the quote from Hosea.
In Hosea 11 Hosea is explaining why God will soon punish Israel. God will punish Israel because even though God called Israel his son and brought him out of Egypt, Israel still rebelled against God.
This punishment on Israel is a fulfillment of the covenant between God and Israel. We read back in Deut 28 that if Israel did not obey the Mosaic Law, God would exile them out of the land and return them to slavery. Deut 28:68 actually used the language of a return back to Egypt. Egypt represented slavery under foreign rule. Egypt represented the place of God’s curse and judgment.
And so Hosea prophecies that Duet 28 is about to come true for the rebellious nation. Israel would be exiled out of the land and become slaves again to a foreign power. They will be under God’s curse. Out of Egypt and back into Egypt. Because of their disobedience they were sent back into captivity where they came from.
When Jesus was born, Israel was still in captivity. Most of the Jews were scattered throughout the Gentile world, and Israel herself was under Roman rule. Israel realized they were still under God’s punishment. Yet they were all eagerly waiting the second exodus back into Israel.
But how could they be saved from God’s curse if they are receiving what they deserve? The unbelieving Jew assumed he could pay for his own sin through his own suffering. But Matthew provides the answer by placing his comment after v. 15, before Jesus enters Egypt.
Do you see it? Jesus goes into Egypt and Matthew says, this fulfills the statement, “out of Egypt I called my son.” This statement from Hosea 11:1 was a prophecy because the first exodus was a picture of a greater exodus to come. There will come another time when God will call his son out of Egypt. The second exodus is now here because Jesus goes into Egypt.
It is exactly because Jesus goes into the land of slavery that we can be free from God’s wrath and curse; that we can be in led to freedom. That is why Matthew places v. 14 before Jesus goes into Egypt. The only way we can have an exodus from curse to blessing, from slavery to freedom, is if one bears our curse for us; if one goes into captivity and bears our punishment.
It is by Jesus going into Egypt that we can be brought out of Egypt. Matthew is declaring to you that Jesus is the one who goes into captivity for his people’s sake, that they may be truly free. Jesus is our exodus! Jesus is going into Egypt for us!
Now Jesus doesn’t fulfill the exodus by going into Egypt as a child. Matthew wants you to see the deeper significance of Jesus going into Egypt. Jesus fulfills the exodus for you by entering into the place of covenant breakers and experiencing the curse for his people. The journey to Egypt as a baby foreshadowed our Lord’s journey to the cross as an adult.
And this exodus is much greater than the first. That first exodus was only temporary and concerned the things of the body. In Christ we are freed from eternal condemnation, we are freed from God’s wrath and final judgment. We are brought into an eternal Promised Land, heaven itself. We have forgiveness of sins and the love of God forever. In Christ we are now adopted sons of God.
Do you understand the difference between the first exodus and the second? Israel could only maintain her status as a blessed people if she obeyed the Law. If she did not obey the Law she would lose her status as God’s son and be sent back into slavery. Do any of you want to be under that arrangement?
The second exodus is better than the first; it is based upon better promises. Matthew wants to assure you that Jesus going into the place of captivity and judgment accomplishes your complete exodus, your full redemption.
Do you ever fear that God will give up on you? He cast out Israel, why not you? How can you be assured that God won’t give up on you?
Matthew provides the answer. If you trust in Christ for your salvation, your redemption is eternally accomplished. Jesus already went into Egypt for you. Jesus was already cast into slavery; he purchased your freedom eternally and completely, no matter how difficult your struggle with sin is.
Beloved, walk as free people. Christ has taken away your fear of condemnation. Serve the Lord faithfully because he has freed you. In Christ you have already entered a land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord has already been cast out in your place, that you may enter the Promised Land. You who are in Christ are God’s true Israel with an everlasting redemption. Amen