There was a lot going on in Sunday’s sermon passage. And so we only briefly touched on the way that Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt helps us understand the way that God involves His people in His divine plans.
Here’s what I mean by this: God had firm plans for His son Jesus. The angel had told Joseph, “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Not might save, not could save, but will save. Centuries of prophecy had pointed to this one child.
And yet the the angel comes and says, “Herod wants to kill him, so you need to run.”
At this point, Joseph could have said, “Look, you said that this child would save His people from their sins. Mary was told that this child would reign on David’s throne forever. So there’s no way that God is going to let Herod kill him. There’s no way that Herod can interfere with God’s plans. This child is safe as safe can be. I don’t need to run anywhere. I’m going back to sleep.”
But Joseph didn’t say this. Joseph just obeyed. And here lies the big lesson for us: yes, God had made promises about this child, and no, Herod could not stop God’s plans. But the way that God kept His promises—the way that God Jesus safe from Herod—was to have Joseph bring Jesus to Egypt.
In other words, God used Joseph as a part of His plan. Joseph’s obedience was one of the ways that God kept His promises.
God could have kept Jesus safe in other ways. He could have had Herod die of a heart attack. He could have confused the soldiers so they didn’t find the house where Jesus was staying. He could have used many different means. But He chose to warn Joseph in a dream, and have Joseph heed the warning and bring Jesus to Egypt.
Seen from this angle, the story of the flight to Egypt is a really helpful illustration for some other teachings in the Bible, especially the issue of eternal security.
Many Christians wrestle with the question, “Am I safe for eternity?” On the one hand, it seems to be a simple question. Many times God’s word promises us that when Jesus saves us, we cannot become un-saved, but instead are safe and secure in Jesus for all eternity.
Just think about Jesus’ promise in John 10:28 concerning His people: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Or Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Those are just two of many promises (John 6:39-40, Romans 8:29-30, 35-39, etc.) which tell us that if we’ve been saved by Jesus, we’re safe forever.
And yet, on the other hand, we also hear warnings like this: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). Or Hebrews 3:14: “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” We can remember the warnings in 1 Timothy against making shipwreck of our faith and wandering away from the faith. And then there are the chilling warnings against falling away found in Hebrews 6:1-12 and 10:26-31. (See also Romans 11:21-21 & Colossians 1:22-23.)
So which is it? Are we safe and secure in Jesus, or do we need to heed the warnings against falling away?
I would suggest this question is almost the same as asking, “Was baby Jesus going to grow up and be our promised saviour, or did Joesph need to heed the warning and flee to Egypt?”
The answer to both questions, as we’ve seen, is yes. God kept His promise of making Jesus the saviour by warning Joseph to get up and flee. Joseph’s obedient actions were a part of God’s plan to keep Jesus safe from Herod. The warning to flee to Egypt was the way that God preserved Jesus so that He would grow up and save us from our sins.
And so it is with our salvation. Is our eternal salvation secure in Jesus? Most certainly. And some of the ways that Jesus keeps us secure include warning us not to wander, telling us to endure and persevere, and helping us heed these warnings by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:12-14). Just like Joseph fleeing to Egypt, our Spirit-empowered perseverance is a part of God’s work and plan: His chosen means to His chosen ends.
So when we read passages in Scripture which warn us against wandering away from our salvation, let’s be like Joseph, who heeded and obeyed the angel’s warning. As we do that, let’s look to God for the strength to persevere. And when we arrive safely in God’s presence, we’ll give Him all of the glory for rescuing us from every evil deed and bringing us safely into his heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).