Hosea 11:1-11. An advent sermon that never made it onto the block last Christmas. When Herod heard the Magi were seeking the newborn Messiah, his response was to kill the infant boys in the region of Bethlehem–just as Pharaoh killed the Hebrew boys in Israel’s past. Matthew tells us Jesus survived this slaughter because Joseph took the family to Egypt–just as Moses survived the slaughter of his day when “Egypt” took him in (through Pharaoh’s daughter). As the family returned, Matthew quoted Hosea 11:1 as a fulfilled prophecy of this event–even though it wasn’t a messianic text for Hosea. Rather, Hosea sought to remind the Israelites of their past. They were the firstborn son of God that Moses led out of slavery. Hosea then points out to them that their rebellion would soon result in a return to Egypt–to captivity at the hands of the Assyrians. Yet Hosea also held out hope for the future, that the people would return to the land.
Not only did Matthew quote Hosea 11:1 about Jesus’ return from Egypt, but he also quoted Jeremiah 31:15 (Rachel weeping for her children) to describe the slaughter of the innocents. (Again, not a messianic passage.) In Matthew’s view, however, these are not mere proof-texts sought in vain from the scriptures to prove Jesus was the messiah. Rather, they are a call for us to return to those texts and see them in terms of the hope each had. Hosea hoped for the eventual restoration of (the now “lost” ten tribes of) Israel. Jeremiah believed the everlasting love of God for the Hebrews (v. 3) would discipline the unruly calf (v. 18) who was yet his dear son (v. 20). Jeremiah also hoped for a time when a new covenant would be written on the hearts of God’s people (vv. 31-34).
Jesus entered our Egypt–coming into our Egyptian slavery, our wilderness exile–to call us out of Egypt and to bring us home to our Father. This emphasis on Jesus as the New Moses (innocents slaughtered; being called out of Egypt) ties into the genealogy Matthew presents at the start of his gospel. Matthew breaks the great history into 3 units of time separated by 4 persons/events: Abraham, David, Exile (the only non-person), and Messiah. Hinting at Moses almost immediately after this genealogy is a nod that he knows he left out a key individual from his list. The Exile, however, stands in some ways as a cypher for Moses. The people had never completely left exile. They still needed a liberator to free them from bondage. Thus, in reverse order, the Messiah was the beloved Son who would liberate his people and establish a new covenant (from the Exile to the Christ–Jesus, the True Moses). The beloved Son would build the temple of God and establish an everlasting Kingdom of God (David to the Exile–Jesus, the True Solomon). And finally, the beloved Son would be the one through whom God would bless all nations (Abraham to David–Jesus, the True Isaac). So the liberation isn’t just for the Jews. It isn’t even only for the lost tribes. The hope of liberation is for men and women of every tribe and language. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1)