THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT
“Who, rising up, took the Child and His Mother by night, and retired into Egypt, and he was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt have I called My Son.”
1. The reflections on, and the lessons to be drawn from, the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt are obvious and trite, and have been repeated generation after generation. The story is always told to us as illustrating the perfect obedience of the three; of the Child to its early guardians, though Itself so very far above them; of Mary to Joseph, for the time being her superior; of Joseph himself to the obvious will of God, though worldly prudence, justice, wisdom, every thing seemed to proclaim against it. And indeed it is a model which has stirred many a follower of Christ to its emulation; when an order has been sudden, when it has been seemingly needless, when it has been subversive of all that has gone before, and yet it has clearly been the place of duty to obey, how often has the example of Joseph and his two dependents enabled and ennobled the soul even of a saint to do its part!
2. This alone might suffice for us here; for there are few thoughts which need to be more pondered by us all. Still it is also well to watch the wonderful hand of God, here as elsewhere, as it were, drawing together the threads of the world’s history, fulfilling type and prophecy by the hands of those who would gladly have frustrated both, sending His Son into exile in Egypt, because Israel had dwelt there before Him, and because the prophet Hosea had said, and had been interpreted to mean, that so it would be done. When the history of mankind is seen in its completeness, how strangely and beautifully will it be found to be linked up in repetitions like this, pattern repeating pattern on the floor of this world, with ever increasing detail, with ever greater glory given to God. The hand of God is never lifted from the guiding rein. Man thinks he does his own will, and in his own limited sphere he is right; but there is a sphere greater than his own, and a will that is also done, with which the will of man cannot compare.
3. And next there is the fact that God’s ways are so different from ours. He might have struck down Herod then as He did later; but He did not. He might have given the Holy Family a longer warning than that of a few minutes; but He did not. He might have hidden them in some more convenient place than Egypt–perhaps even Nazareth would have sufficed–but He did not. He might have relieved their anxiety, consulted their condition, helped their necessity in a thousand ways; but He did not. Even in the first instance He might have so arranged that Herod should have known nothing, or that the Magi should have found our Lord in some safer place; but He did not. He has preferred that His own should not be the most comfortable, the most prosperous, the most considered people in this world; to these He has said, and is for ever saying: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is exceeding great in heaven.”
Summary Meditation Points:
- The model of obedience in this story is easily understood.
- The story also shows us the perfect control of the hand of God.
- Yet that hand directs the world in ways very different from the ways of men.