The Scriptorium

Exodus to Nazareth

Joseph and the family return from Egypt. Matthew 1.19-23

Matthew 2: A King is Born (6)

Pray Psalm 132.8-10.
Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place,
You and the ark of Your strength.
Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness,
And let Your saints shout for joy.
For Your servant David’s sake,
Do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.

Sing joyfully Psalm 132.8-10.
(Finlandia: Be Still My Soul)
Arise, O Lord, come to Your resting place;
Your holy presence meet with us in might.
Clothe us with righteousness in Jesus’ grace,
and we will shout to Your divine delight!
For David’s sake, turn not away Your face,
but look upon us in Your holy light.

Read Matthew 2.19-23.

1. Why did Joseph take his family to Nazareth?

2. How was this a fulfillment of yet another Old Testament prophecy?

The death angel signaled to Moses and the people of Israel that the time for departing Egypt had come. In Jesus’ case, “an angel of the Lord” appeared to Joseph, commanding him to leave Egypt and return to “the land of Israel.” Herod was dead, and so the fear of violence against Jesus was lessened.

Lessened, but not altogether removed. Herod’s son, Archelaus, now ruled in his father’s place. Joseph feared him, and God appeared to him in a dream, directing him to continue northward to Nazareth in Galilee.

Matthew has been careful throughout these first two chapters to show us God’s intimate leading in the events of Jesus’ birth, flight to Egypt, and return to the land of Israel. He is setting a tone here. Every aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry will be equally guided and superintended by God and His angels, although we only get occasional glimpses of this throughout the rest of the gospel (cf. Matt. 4.11). God is always present with Jesus, and Jesus promises always to be present with us (Matt. 28.20). We do not always perceive His Presence, or the work of His angels on our behalf; but He is there, and they are watching over us, just as we see in these early chapters of Matthew’s gospel. We should let Matthew’s story encourage us about the reality of the unseen realm and our place in it.

The rather cryptic reference to Jesus being a “Nazarene”, as fulfilling words “spoken by the prophets”, appears to be a double play on words. On the one hand, it may hark back to the office of a Nazirite, a man set apart and sanctified from birth for holy living, who by his example and work would “begin to deliver Israel” from his enemies (Num. 13.5). Just as plausibly – and perhaps more so, given the emphasis on Jesus’ descent from David in chapter 1 – the words “Nazareth” and “Nazarene” appear to derive from the Hebrew word, נֵ֫צְר, netser, which means a sprout or shoot. Jesus is the sprout or shoot or offspring of David, Who is celebrated in Psalm 132 and elsewhere as inheriting the eternal throne promised in God’s covenant. The “Branch” referenced in Isaiah 11.1 and 60.21 – where it is “branch” – points first to Christ, then to the people of God who “branch” from Him and have eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. The purpose of each of these “branches” is to glorify God and to be an everlasting light for Him. Jesus’ going to Nazareth as the “Branch” thus signals the inbreaking of the coming day when the “branch” of His people will live in His Light forever (cf. Matt. 4.12-16).

Matthew continues resorting to Old Testament prophecy and imagery, building up our understanding of Jesus by undergirding his account with the rich tapestry of Scriptural revelation which would have been well known by the Jews of his day.

1. What does it mean for us that Jesus is the “Branch” of David?

2. Meditate on Hebrews 11.1. Faith depends on believing in unseen things, and acting on their reality. Matthew wants to encourage us in this. How does his story thus far help us benefit from the unseen realm?

3. In each case with Joseph, God led him – whether by an angel or by Himself – by speaking a word to him. How does this counsel us in seeking to know the will of God for our lives?

But if “the Nazarene” is interpreted to mean “holy” or, according to some, as “flower,” this is the designation found in many instances. For Daniel calls him “holy” or “of the holy ones.” Likewise we find in Isaiah: “A branch from the stock of Jesse and its flower.”
Even the Lord says of himself in the Song of Songs, “I am the bloom of the plain, the lily of the valleys.” Cyril of Alexandria (375-444), Fragment 16

Jesus, You are the Vine, and I am Your branch; help me to bear fruit for You today as I…

Pray Psalm 132.11-18.
Thank God for His covenant, and for Jesus Who fulfills it for us, and rules at the Father’s right hand. Seek His Presence and His rest to go with you throughout the day ahead.

Sing Psalm 132.11-18.
Psalm 132.11-18 (Finlandia: Be Still My Soul)
Remember, Lord, the oath You swore to David;
do not turn back, do not deny Your Word:
“One of your sons, with your throne I will favor,
and He shall keep My cov’nant evermore,
and walk within My testimonies ever.
Thus He shall ever rule as Israel’s Lord.”

God dwells among us, and He will forever,
to meet our needs and clothe us with His grace.
He has to us sent Jesus Christ, our Savior,
and made us His eternal resting-place.
His foes are banished from His presence ever,
but we shall reign with Him before His face.

T. M. Moore

The Gospel of Matthew will help us grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Two companion books can supplement our study of Matthew. To Know Him examines what it means to belong to Jesus and to love and serve Him (click here), while Be Thou My Vision enables us to gain an even larger perspective on Jesus (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore