Out of Egypt I have called my son

There is a very perplexing verse in Matthew’s gospel:

13 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.
  14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
  15 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. (Matt. 2:13-15)

In verse 15, Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that this event in the life of the child Jesus fulfilled a prophecy. He quotes that prophecy as “Out of Egypt, have I called my son.”

One of the best things that you could do when reading the scriptures is look up the passages that the New Testament apostles quote. It is quite enlightening to see how they interpreted the scripture. They didn’t do the modern “proof-texting” – where you take a verse out of context and twist it to apply to some point you want to make.

So here is the interesting bit. Matthew is quoting Hosea 11:1. It is the only passage he COULD be quoting. In Hosea’s context, God is rebuking Israel for rejecting the great privilege that he had given them. He loved them, and redeemed them from Egypt. But even more than that, he gave them the great honor of being called the son of God. Here is how the  passage reads:

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
  2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
  3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. (Hos. 11:1-3).

This is quite perplexing until you understand how the apostles viewed the sacred scriptures. What does this passage have to do with the child Jesus fleeing to Egypt from the wrath of Herod? Does Matthew know how to interpret scripture? Could the original readers of Hosea have known that this was a prophecy about the Christ?

Is Matthew’s hermeneutic (the science of the interpretation of scripture) wrong?

This passage always puzzled me. I knew that Matthew was not a modern preacher just picking a verse that reminded him of what he wanted to say. He was a far better expositor than that. More than that, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, inerrant and infallible. We can trust his words.

So here is the question – in what sense did the historical event of Jesus returning from Egypt as a child fulfill Hosea 11:1.

The heart of the gospel is this: God is seeking a people for his name, a people who worship him in spirit and in truth. Adam was created in God’s image, and was called the son of God (Luke 3:38). But Adam failed.

Israel, the descendants of Abraham, were delivered from Egypt to be the peculiar people of God, His own special treasure (see Exodus 19). They also were called the sons of God. But they failed spectacularly, which is what the book of Hosea is about.

Will God’s bride be forever lost? This is the tension in Hosea. How can God be just and loving at the same time? How can God love Israel, when the very nature of Israel is an abomination to the Lord. They are idolaters, oppressors and thieves. They are a nation of adulterers. God cannot abide sin. He cannot pretend to be pleased with their human sacrifices to demons, their calf worship, their adultery and murder. And yet, he loved them.

Since God cannot abide sin, but is angry with the wicked every day; since we are all sinners and come short of the glory of God; since we are all covenant breakers like our father Adam, and like the nation of Israel; how will God fulfill his desire to redeem a people for his name. God desires a nation to call his own special people. My son.

The answer is found in the book of Galatians, primarily in the 3rd and 4th chapters:

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
  5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
  6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
  7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal. 4:4-7).

Jesus was the son promised to Abraham. Jesus was the seed. Jesus is the Israel of God. He is the one who succeeded where Israel failed.

So it was necessary that he be tempted in all points, like as we were, that we might be saved IN HIM. This included being “redeemed out of Egypt”. He is the reality, and the nation of Israel was the shadow. The whole miraculous event of the Exodus was given to us for one purpose – so that when the Christ came out of Egypt, we would know for certain that “Out of Egypt have I called my Son.”

The exodus was about Christ. Not about the twelve tribes. It was about the people of God.

Jesus is the Israel of God. For this reason, immediately after his baptism, Jesus is taken to the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He is there 40 days, re-living the 40 years that Israel spent being tested in the wilderness.

The temptations were the same. God is not good. Put him to the test. Force him into your box. And if you just bow to the calves and worship me, I will give you your heart’s desire. Israel fell to each one of these temptations.

Moses rebukes them in Deuteronomy chapters 6-8 and calls them to repentance. They should have remembered who God was, Moses said. They should have known.

Jesus resists each temptation by quoting this exact passage 3 times. He remembered his God. He obeyed perfectly. He was the true and faithful son of God.

We know also from scripture that Jesus is the eternal, natural son of God which we can never share. He is truly divine, of the same essence as the Father, and we will always be human. But that is another post.

Matthew is reminding us that Jesus is the son of God in another sense. He is the one who obeyed and loved perfectly, who was faithful even until death. He was the well-beloved son, succeeded where Israel and Adam and each one of us continually failed.

And the whole point is this – if we believe the words of the apostles, by faith we are also sons of God, and heirs according to the promise. It is Christ who is the Israel of God. And when we believe in him, we are also children of the same promises. Whether we are Jew of Gentile, male or female, bond or free, in Christ we are also “delivered from Egypt”, “obedient in all things” and the “well-beloved sons of God.”

That is the gospel. It is why the book is called the “Good news according to Matthew”.

The nation of Israel is not the true Israel. The Gentiles are not the true Israel. Only Christ is the true Israel. And all who are ingrafted into that tree by faith are also the true Israel of God, and heirs according to the promise. The promise that “all Israel will be saved” is a promise that God will also call Israel to himself by faith in Christ and not forget any one of his elect. He has not cast off the physical Israel, but he will call them also in Christ, when the fulness of the Gentiles are brought in.

And if you believe on the Lord Jesus, you also are children of Abraham, just as scripture says, because He was a child of Abraham. This promise is yours in Christ, the true seed of Abraham. This is why the New Testament begins with a genealogy – Jesus is the true seed of Abraham, the true seed of David. He became flesh for us, that we might become the sons of God – each one of us.

And thus was fulfilled what John the Baptizer said, “He is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

There is a lot here. Think on these things….


Filed under Christology, Gospel, Union with Christ

8 responses to “Out of Egypt I have called my son

  1. Scripturally, where does God say I, as a redeemed child of His and a disciple of Christ, indwellt by the Holy Spirit, am a “sinner”? I may still sin, but as part of the Body of Christ, I am no longer a “sinner.”

    • I understand what you are saying, but outside of Christ, I am indeed a sinner and under the wrath of God. We are all sinners outside of Christ is taught clearly in Psalm 14, Romans 3, and many other passages.
      The point of the post is the impossibility of being the people of God at all apart from the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the doctrine of union with Christ.
      Apart from Christ, there is no “people of God”
      IN Christ, of course, we are redeemed, sanctified, called holy, loved, and “my people” as 1 Peter 2 tells us, but that is another post.

  2. Phil

    One of my favorite truths of Scripture. I remember you bringing this point in class. Thanks Pastor Powell

  3. Z

    It might sound like a stupid question, but can you expound a bit on what it means to “believe on Christ”?
    I’ve heard SO many different explanations. From “saying the Sinner’s Prayer is enough” to “obedience to God’s Word requires” (not “works” but obedience and repentance for the sins we WILL commit). Then there’s “Once saved always saved”. But the Bible calls people “reprobates”, “given over to satan in their depravity”…And tells us how to deal with those who profess to be brothers and sisters in Christ (who believe on Christ but are unrepentant ,intentionally sinning “wolves in sheep’s clothing”.
    Sometimes if I think about it I get confused as to how far the Righteousness of Christ imputes to a “believer” who simply believes Jesus is the Son of God and Savior. It that all that’s needed to be called “Righteous in Christ” and receive eternal life with Him?

    • It isn’t at all a stupid question. On the contrary, it is the most important question anyone can ask. The answer is the difference between eternal life and eternal damnation, which is probably why the devil sows so much confusion on it.
      It most certainly is not a work that we do. The language used in scripture is faith, which is not work at all (Ephesians 2). Faith is sure knowledge, it is knowing who Jesus is, what he has promised, what he has done. And it is even more than that – it is trust from the heart. That not only to others, but also to ME forgiveness of sins, righteousness and eternal life is freely given by God, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.
      The best way that I can explain it is this, from the Heidelberg Catechism –
      60. How art thou righteous before God?
      “Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.”

      I can never add anything to the perfect work of Christ, without denying him. So a life of obedience cannot be a part of my righteousness before God. This means that when I sin, and I WILL sin, it does not change how God views me, since God views me only in Christ.
      But here is the catch – in order for a person to truly believe on Christ, he must hate his sin. If a man wants to continue in sin and pretend like everything is OK, because he “accepted Jesus” it shows that he never believed on Christ at all. It was only pretense.
      It is impossible for those who truly believe on Jesus Christ to desire to live in murder and adultery and hatred and drunkenness, because Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who ask him, and the Holy Spirit changes our affections. Not instantly, but throughout our lifetime.
      This is a huge subject. I would recommend listening to my series through the book of Galatians on Sermon Audio:

  4. Praise God, as I opened up my Bible this morning for my morning devotion, I prayed,asking for Bread convenient for the growth, strength, and for the thirst of my New Man. Praise God, He knows what we have need of .God bless you,dear Sir, and fellow Child of God. I can say,my New Man rejoices over a well-laid table!

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