Sunday, October 22, 2023

Down Into Egypt

It's interesting how Jesus' parents went into Egypt to escape the mad machinations of King Herod.  He was a man totally of this world: no Kingdom values here, to be sure.  Herod thought he'd outsmarted the kings from the East:  

Gentlemen! Welcome to Palestine, and to the City of David.  I heard of your arrival and I am honored to meet with you.  The streets of this city are ablaze with talk of your arrival and your inquiries as to where the King of the Jews is to be found.  A star guided you here?  Yes, one would expect that of a royal birth. The only august presence I know of in our city is my own, of course!  I have called you here--forgive the secrecy, I just don't want my streets filling up with excitable sorts--because my chief priests and teachers of the law tell me that the Messiah, this king you must be referring to, is to be born in Bethlehem.  The prophets of old foretold this.  I must make only one request of you.  When you find him, once you arrive in Bethlehem,  please notify me of his location.  I, too, wish to pay him homage.  No, it is not very far; only about five miles.  I am honored you are in my kingdom and I look forward to your return. We will celebrate this new king together.

The world 's values are on full display here: Lying, manipulation, murderous intent hidden under a guise of humility and honor, fear, loathing and someone appointed to a position who exploits it to gain a personal advantage. Herod is the poster child for how the world thinks, acts and speaks.  He is in sharp contrast to the Magi, who are not fooled about Herod's "sincerity" and who genuinely want to meet and worship this new king.  A king, by the way, who is not a Gentile, as they are.  They are willing to make an arduous journey to worship this king, for they sense his cosmic importance, or the sky would not be hosting a star of such astonishing brightness. 

So, they represent, unknowingly, a Kingdom value:  If you search, with all of your heart, this King who you do not know or comprehend, but make the journey anyway, following His guidance, you will find Him. He is there.  

Let's follow these men to the house (sorry, not the manger; look at Matt. 2:11) and what do they do?  They worship Him!  He's a baby...but that matters not one whit.  They see with the eyes of their hearts that this is not ordinary king. 

That's a Kingdom value:  You see with your heart as it is being gently led by thew Holy Spirit--that's the key.  We can be deceived by our hearts, but with the Holy Spirit showing us the way, we can go, knowing He will take us step by step to the destination. 

Jesus warns us of a heart led by the flesh: "For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander." (Matt, 5:19).

King David knew that once the heart heads down a road of alienation from God, confession is the way back: 

"Create in me a clean heart, O God. 
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me."  (Ps. 51:10-11)

Sadly, Herod, once he realizes the Magi are not going to bring him the whereabouts of the Baby, he orders the murder of all the baby boys around and in Bethlehem. That's how the world works: refused entitlement leads to hatred and hatred leads to murder. 

That is why Jesus had no tolerance for any kind of anger: "But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell." (Matt. 5:22)

Ultimately, the Kingdom of God is built on love for God and for one another: "Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

That is the Kingdom of God in its fullest expression, its most glorious bloom.  Hatred, vainglorious desires and condemning one another draws utter disapproval from Jesus and a call to return to Him for restoration.

Final thought:  Egypt was once the land of slavery for the Jewish people. Yes, it was a safe hiding place for Jesus' family, away from Herod, but it was more than that.  Herod was a kind of Pharoah, with his desire to control people, even to the point of death if he saw the "need" (i.e., the baby boys).  

Jesus and His family sojourned there, just as the children of Israel had done.  

But He returned to the land of His birth, to be the new Moses, to lead God's people to freedom, and to establish the Kingdom of God.  Slavery to sin was never God's intent; freedom and restoration is. 

He is always ready to lead us out of slavery into His Kingdom, where love is the rule of law. His love  for us will never cease.  


Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem. 

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