Joseph and Mary were ecstatic; a caravan of kings from the East, from Midian, Ephah, and Sheba; those wise sages from the East had come bearing gifts for her son. Now this was extraordinary and the gifts, wow, the gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Isaiah said they would come: “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. . .They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” These three gifts were strange but somehow matched the prophecy she had heard about her son. Gold, gifts fit for a king, frankincense, an aromatic elixir used for medicinal purposes, and myrrh, the herbs used in burial preparation. By these gifts they recognized Jesus as King even while lying in a manger, hallelujah!
Mary prayed over Jesus and pondered the things the angel had told her in her heart. Each night she would meditate on what it would mean for her son to “save his people from their sins.” No doubt, she contemplated what this would involve. “Would he lead a revolt against the Roman Empire?” she questioned. “Or would he lead a spiritual rebellion and become High Priest?” she mused. As she looked into his eyes and thought of the awesome purpose for which Jesus was born, she had no idea that a few miles down the road Herod was plotting his demise.
Isn’t it amazing that when we have just been blessed and are thinking good thoughts, someone is plotting our demise. You know that there are some folk who will not let you be blessed. There are some folk who will not rejoice when you are happy. No, my brothers and sisters, some folk will try to steal, kill, and destroy everything that you cherish. And in this case, Herod who wanted to be King forever, could not stand the thought of Jesus taking his place. No, Herod who was king, wanted to be king, had sold his soul to be king, was not going to just sit by while Jesus stole the spotlight from him. And there exists in the world today, people who will plot your demise just to keep you from taking their four minutes of fame.
But Joseph and Mary were people of God. Joseph and Mary could get a word from the Lord; they would have visions and visitations from angels. But more importantly, they would follow the advice they received from God without hesitation. You ought to be a person who when God shows you something in a dream, you will respond and act upon it because you understand that God has your best interest in mind. He knows what folks are doing against you in secret places. God knows what folks are saying behind closed doors. And God will not allow you to be blinded by them if you listen to his voice. And living in exile is just one of God’s ways of taking care of his people. Living in exile has its benefits. I have discovered that living in exile prepares you for your destiny, protects you from your enemies, and keeps you looking forward to the place of your destiny. Let’s explore these benefits this morning.
First, living in exile prepares you for your destiny. Living in exile causes you to ask questions. You ask why am I here? What is my purpose in life? You say things like, I know I’m not supposed to stay here. You imagine that you came from somewhere else. Yet despite the wanderings of your mind, living in exile gives you experience you could get no where else. You don’t have to worry about fighting the enemy while you’re in exile. You can take all the time you need to grow and develop in the presence of almighty God.
The stories Jesus learned in Egypt as a child, the customs he experienced there, made him long for the one true and living God everyday. Jesus had time for Joseph to teach him the ways of God, the word of God, and the lifestyle of a believer in God. Joseph built of a love for God in the heart of Jesus that satan nor other people would ever destroy.
In exile, all you have is God. You don’t know the people around you, nor do you understand their ways. And no matter how much you try to fit in, you don’t. You don’t talk like them, walk like them, nor live like them. You’re in exile, but you’re different. God gets to deal with you personally in exile. He takes you out of your comfort zone and places you in isolation so he can commune with you. There are just some things that only God can teach and you have to be willing to be alone with God to learn them. Hallelujah!
Jesus had a rich heritage and a great destiny, but he would not have fulfilled his calling, if God had not put him in Egypt. Egypt was the place where Jesus learned about his heavenly father. Egypt prepared him for Jerusalem. How else could he have demonstrated his knowledge of the scriptures so young. Joseph ensured Jesus knew the Torah and Joseph ensured Jesus knew how to live holy before his God. Never underestimate the value of a good stepfather or a father who adopts a child. Joseph proves that you don’t have to be the biological father to help a child fulfill his or her destiny. Hallelujah! Thank God for those men who stand in the gap for those boys and girls whose natural father has abandoned them. Hallelujah!
Second, living in exile provides you a place of protection from your enemies. The angel came to Joseph and told him to take Mary and his son, Jesus, to Egypt. The angel warned Joseph that trouble was being stirred up; the angel said, “flee into Egypt; Herod wants to destroy your son.” In other words, the angel said, “Run, man and get in a hurry.” Sometimes, you got to move quick, fast, and in a hurry, because if you procrastinate trying to get confirmation or trying to get assurance from somebody else about what the Lord told you to do, the enemy will overtake you. No, my brothers and sisters, sometimes you just have to trust God for yourself. “Run,” the angel said, and Joseph got up the next day and started packing. By nightfall, he was headed out of Bethlehem on his way to Egypt.
But why, Egypt. Well, first, Egypt was close by. The cities of Alexandria and Pelusium were only about 90 miles from Jerusalem. But even more significantly, it was a place where Herod had no authority or influence. Not only that but, Herod could not bribe the officials to return Joseph to Jerusalem, because he didn’t know who he was looking for. Look at God. Egypt, which used to be a place of slavery for Joseph, was now a place of safety and hiding. God had made Egypt a place where his son could stay and live out his time in exile in peace. And God sent Jesus into Egypt to see and experience the place and the people that had put his ancestors in captivity. It was important for Jesus to understand the culture of the slave masters of his ancestors. And it was important for Egypt that Jesus come and bring light to a dark country. As a hiding place for the Savior, Egypt would receive God’s grace and mercy.
But as a beautiful as Egypt was and as comfortable as Joseph and Mary were, they longed in their hearts to be home again. They longed to live among family; they longed to observe family traditions; they longed to hear people speak in their own language and to hear the elders tell the stories of how God brought them from a mighty long way. Yeah, Egypt was alright; but there’s no place like home. Home, you see, when you’re in exile, seems more beautiful, more pleasant, more desirable, than any other place in the world. Yet, Jesus lived in Exile.
God did not kill Herod, nor did he remove Herod from office. You know He could have done it. He did not stop Herod from trying to kill Jesus; he did not stop Herod from sending his troops to kill those innocent children two years old and under. You see, God knows something about evil that we don’t know. When we see evil coming, we try to stop evil; we try to bargain with evil; we try to rationalize evil; but I stop by to tell you this morning, evil doesn’t know when to quit. Evil doesn’t know right from wrong; and if you control evil today, evil will break free tomorrow. You see, evil can not be stopped by intellectual jousting; evil can’t be stopped by mental machinations; evil can’t be overcome by brute force or weapons of mass destruction. Evil is just evil, evil is a spirit. Evil doesn’t know good; and good has no affiliation with evil.
I’m glad our President is a praying man. Because a praying man knows that the only way to overcome evil is with good. Hallelujah!
God is good; and there is no darkness in him at all. God spends his time being good; he spends no time trying to understand evil and all its wickedness. In the face of evil, God just makes sure that his light keeps on shining. God makes sure that his goodness is greater; his grace is greater, his love is greater, than any evil in this world. Because love conquers evil; goodness smoothes out the wrinkles caused by evil; and grace overcomes the destruction that evil causes in our lives. Thank God that his goodness and his mercy endures forever. Hallelujah!
So, God sent Jesus into Egypt. No, Jesus was not destined to stay in Egypt, but he had to stay there for a season. God kept Jesus in Egypt until the evil Herod planned had worked itself out and time and circumstance destroyed Herod, along with all those who plotted to kill him. I wonder this morning, “Is there anyone here living in exile?” Are you somewhere right now because God moved you out of danger? The fact is you may not want to be in exile, but exile is where you need to be right now! Hallelujah!
Well, I got to move on. There is another reason for living in exile. Not only does living in exile prepare you for your destiny, protect you from danger, but living in exile keeps you looking forward to the place of your destiny. Living in exile causes a longing in you that can not be satisfied until you reach the place God has prepared for you to be. There is a place prepared for all of God’s children to live out their calling, and you’ve to find it. That’s the joy of being a child of God. You get to go on these adventure quests knowing that God is leading you. You get to live in new places, experience new things, and see the glory of God in His world. Your soul will be restless, anxiously anticipating the place of your destiny. Your sleep will be deep, but your rest will be minimal. Your mind will soar, and your body will feel like it is exploding the closer you get to your destiny. And when you come into the place of your destiny, you will thrive. You will know that you are there. No one will have to tell you. Down in your soul you will experience peace. The longing will cease and the turmoil will end. You have arrived; now you can fully carryout the plan of God for your life. But most of all, you will fit in. You will be home!
Now we know that as a child of God our destiny is heaven; but I’m talking about your destiny here in the earth. There is a place on this planet that God has destined us to reach. Don’t stop short of it. Don’t settle for just being okay. Don’t settle for just being all right. Reach for the place that makes you exclaim, “I love it here!” Reach for the place that whatever you do prospers! Reach for the place that even your troubles bring you joy! Keep reaching forward to the place of your destiny and don’t stop until you find it. This is what living in exile is all about!
Jesus lived in exile in both Egypt and Nazareth. But when he arrived in Jerusalem, he said, “This is the place of my destiny!” He made Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee his headquarters, but he didn’t’ stay there. Many of his disciples came from Capernaum, but he didn’t stay there. He did many miracles in Capernaum but he didn’t’ stay there! It was the home of Roman soldiers and king’s kids, but he didn’t’ stay there. No, Jesus said, “I must needs go to Jerusalem, for it is not fit that a prophet should die outside Jerusalem.” He knew his destiny and no matter how good it was in Capernaum, he kept looking forward to that place of destiny God had prepared for him. You can do no less. You may be successful where you are, but is that the place of your destiny?
I pray today that you will enjoy the benefits of being in exile. One day, you will reach your destination and it will be that day when you soar like an eagle. I don’t know about you but I want to be where God wants me to be.