Wednesday, September 30, 2009

9/30- Matthew 2:13,14 Help in exile

(1310 Giotto)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Matthew 2:13,14 13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,

Calvin abridged: We don’t know how long it was between the departure of the Magi and when Joseph was ordered to Egypt, but it is not really important. We do know that the Lord spared Mary so that she was recovered from child birth before she had to make the journey. It was an unusual but wonderful purpose of God that he chose to preserve his Son by flight. Joseph’s mind had to be harassed by temptations until he saw that there was no way out except fleeing: for in flight there was no appearance of divine protection. It is hard to reconcile that the one who was to be the Savior of all, had to be preserved by the exertion of a mortal man. Yet God reserved the right to show his providential preserving (the event was hidden from others) through such weak means because the time of Christ’s glorification and full manifestation of his power had not yet come. This was part of the incarnation, in which Christ subjected himself to the pains of human sin. So God has more than one way of preserving his people- sometimes it is by astonishing displays of power, but other times he employs hiding in shadows. Let us permit God to advance our salvation by a diversity of methods, and let us not refuse to be humbled so that he eventually, and more abundantly preserves his glory. We should never avoid the cross, for which the Son of God was trained since his earliest infancy. 14- Joseph immediately got up and complied with the injunction of the angel. Such prompt obedience shows that he was certain of the dream and had no doubt that God was the one enjoining him to flee to Egypt. The flight by night was not just of fear, but a combination of awareness of human danger and God’s humble means of providing safety. Our fear ought to always be regulated by God’s Word. If the two agree, there is no opposition of faith. “Stay there until I have told you”- By these words the angel declares that God will continue to care for the child Jesus. Joseph needed this assurance of continued protection after they arrived in the foreign land. Doubtless Joseph would have numerous problems with being in Egypt as he was excluded not only from the inheritance promised by God, but also from the temple, from sacrifices, from public professions of God, and was living in a superstitious and enemy environment where it was not as easy to be a believer. Yet, Joseph carried with him, in the person of the child, all the blessings and promises of the ancient fathers and the Lord.

Thoughts: Many think that God only helps us in magnificent ways, and they leave no way for God to help us by humility. Yet it was by humility- coming down to earth, and dying on a cross that we are truly helped and forgiven. Calvin and many of his friends found much comfort in this part of the gospel story, as Calvin himself had been in exile from his home country of France. He had fled for his life in November 1533. He escaped from the police by climbing down out of a second floor window by tying together clothes and climbing down. He changed his clothes, and travelled around France for a year dodging the police. But others were hunting him to hear his teaching and sermons. A year later the persecution heated up in France and Calvin was forced out of the country. As he was fleeing for his life, a servant stole his money pouch leaving him penniless. When Calvin was in Geneva, he always welcomed the exiles- those who had to flee England, the Holy Roman (German) empire, France, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and other places. Some in Geneva called him a friend of immigrants and detested so many exiles. But Calvin made provision for them with housing, food, and teaching them industry or providing work for them. The Bible many times exhorts us to be kind to the alien/immigrant/exiled person because the people of God were in exile in Egypt. There are many today who are not only unkind toward those who have moved to our state or country, but they are purposefully mean. Christians need to be different from the world by reaching out with God’s love and witness to those who have moved to our area- loving our neighbor. Doubtless this passage in Matthew infers this kindness again. It would have been terrible to be in Egypt and be mean or inhospitable to Joseph or Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, give me eyes to see those who are in exile today. Give me a chance to help someone in your name this week. Help me to also see your deliverance is not always with power, but sometimes with our own humility.

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