Our family relationships were on a different level, and in some circumstances even a bit strained. The church which we had helped to start and had been an integral part of its life and growth had a new pastor and was headed in a new direction. We moved into a neighborhood on the other side of town from where we had spent the majority of our married years together, our kids were married and/or living in other states, and we were facing the greatest battle of our lives with the attack upon my wife’s health.
To say that the following six years were a bit difficult, confusing and frustrating would be a great understatement, but through it all, I had an underlying sense that it was a temporary condition. I would imagine that Joseph and Mary had a similar sense on the inside of them as they suddenly found themselves on the move to a foreign country.
What do you do when you find yourself in this situation? Well, we just kept plugging along holding fast to the words that the Lord had given us before the move back home. Now about six years later we have a clearer picture of what His plan has been for us with our new country home in North Carolina! In 2009 I would NEVER have envisioned us living on the East Coast. When we moved back home I swore that we’d never leave California again… But God had a different plan… and I am SO glad that we stayed sensitive to His continual leadings and directions through all the turmoil, contrary advice that people gave us, and the continual attacks of frustration, confusion and a tinge of anger that I had to deal with along the way… most likely just like Joseph and Mary also had to face while in Egypt.
Have you ever found yourself living in a temporary Egypt in your lives? If so, keep a special attention as you meditate on today’s Thursday, the third week of Advent reading!
Thursday, the third week of Advent
Today’s Readings: Isaiah 11:1 / Matthew 2:19-23 / John 1:46 / John 7:52
In some respects it is difficult to sense what Joseph and Mary must have been feeling when they suddenly found themselves on the run and living in a foreign land. My understanding is that Egypt was a Roman province at that time and that there was a fairly large contingent of Jewish settlers living there. With that in mind, it would not have been as big a shock as if they had to cross the border and try to fit into a totally independent country, with different laws, a different culture and different traditions. It reminds me of our stay in Oklahoma a few years back when we moved there so that I could attend Bible College. It too was a temporary stay, but the main difference was that we had a specific purpose in being there with a definite beginning and ending point.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus on the other hand did not have that foundation. They just knew that they needed to go there in a hurry and then wait until the angel returned with the news that they could go home again. We took a year to plan our move, search out employment, housing and generally get everything set before the moving van arrived. We also had been there on numerous previous occasions so we already knew the lay of the land. As we mentioned yesterday, Joseph and Mary had no such luxury!
I have read of all kinds of estimates as to how long they actually sojourned in Egypt, ranging from two months to six years. Think about it for a moment. What do you do? Do you get a temp job or go through all the work of starting your business up, rent or buy a home, live off your savings, attempt to set down some roots? What a quagmire to find yourself in!
Then the day finally arrived when the angel shows up again and tells Joseph that “those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” (Mathew 2:20 NKJV) Whew! What a relief they must have experienced. But then their plans changed again. According to the scriptures, Joseph and Mary had every intention of returning to Bethlehem and raise Jesus there, but once more, God had a different idea! Being as the new leadership in Bethlehem was as bad or maybe even worse than the previous administration, the angel informed them that they needed to go back home to Nazareth in the region of Galilee.
As we have witnessed throughout our story, this was done so as to fulfill the ancient prophecies. An interesting point about Galilee and Nazareth in particular, was that they were areas “whose inhabitants were objects of sovereign contempt to the Jews.” (John Darby’s Synopsis) Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says that “The family must settle in Galilee. Nazareth was a place held in bad esteem, and Christ was crucified with this accusation.” Jesus carried that “put down” or stigma with Him throughout His earthly ministry!
How many of us have “put downs” that sit on our shoulders everywhere we go? The real question is how we deal with it. It definitely didn’t stop Jesus from successfully completing the tremendously tough assignment He accepted from His father. Can you say the same thing? I think Joseph and Mary probably figured that it would have been much easier to raise God’s Son in the royal city of His earthly ancestor David within the close proximity to Jerusalem, where they assumed that Jesus would have the bulk of His adult ministry. And they were probably right.
Jesus could very well of lived a more privileged life around those who had heard and or seen the miraculous events surrounding His birth. But like we said, God had a much different plan and a deeper purpose than just Jesus’ personal well-being. A privileged life would have made Him less accessible to the common folk, and totally divorced Him from any contact with the Gentiles. Jesus began His ministry as a common man but ended up making a life-changing impact on this world that is still felt strongly today!
What a great example for us to follow in our individual lives. Each of has a unique background and a special set of gifts and talents, but share the same love of our heavenly Father. It doesn’t matter what stigmas we may carry, where we’ve been and what we have been through, He has given each of us the tools in His Word for us to successfully make our mark in this world!
Talk about a Christmas gift that you can really use! Jesus, God’s love, who came down on that first Christmas thousands of years ago, is on your side, and has your best interests in mind. If you find yourself living in a type of Egypt today, rejoice and be glad that God has your back! Don’t give in to feeling sorry for yourself either! And don’t think for a moment that you are all alone. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV) Is there someone that you can share the greatest gift with today? Take a look around you whether you are in Egypt or not, for there are others in a worst place than you! Go ahead! Be brave and make their day! Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to BLESS today?”