Out of Egypt I called My Son.
Why Egypt? Why does God call His sons out of Egypt? What does Egypt represent in biblical theology?
Lets first get out the data.
Egypt’s first appearance in Scripture is when Abraham went down there with Sarah (then Sarai) due to a famine in Canaan. Sound familiar? In Egypt, Abraham told Sarah to act as his sister, lest Pharaoh see her beauty and kill Abraham on account of her. Sarah gave herself over to Pharaoh, possibly sexually, so that Abraham would remain alive. Good move, Abraham – that’s sarcasm. God “plagued” Pharaoh on account of Sarah, until Pharaoh called out Abraham for his deceit and returned Sarah to Abraham.
Interesting story. And when else was a “bride” taken by Egypt after a famine, and this caused Egypt to be plagued? Like I say, something’s going on with Egypt. It’s almost as if Abraham’s story with Sarah is a typological preview of what would happen when Israel, God’s bride, went down to Egypt, also on account of a famine, and the Lord plagued Egypt on account of Egypt “taking” His bride.
What else is going on with Egypt?
God calls His Son from Egypt. This goes back to this verse from Exodus, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.’ ”
Israel is God’s son, His firstborn. The prophet Hosea later works with this passage when he proclaims the verse that makes its way into our Gospel for this week. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.”
Couple this with some other imagery. Moses was “drawn” from the waters of the Nile – He name means “drawn from.” Israel was drawn from the Red Sea, so to speak, an image St. Paul uses as well when he writes, “all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
Moses himself becomes a typology of the believer’s life. Kind David drew from the typology in Psalm 18, a famous and powerful Psalm about how he was saved from Saul (Sheol): “I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. …He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. …He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. …He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.”
He “moses’ed” me.
He moseses all of us! Drawing from water is what the Lord does, since the beginning. “[D]arkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” And then the Lord began separating out of the waters and darkness life, for He is the Lord and giver of life.
From the darkness and waters He draws out life; from there He draws out His Son. Like a birth. Is Egypt the womb from which the Lord draws His children? Perhaps Egypt is the judgment side of baptism, insofar as in baptism we are buried with Christ in His death. It’s the death of our old Self. It’s boot camp for the Lord’s children, where the ways of the natural self are put to death as the sainted self emerges, purified and purged by the Lord.
The glory of Scripture is how deep and far we can stretch its many images, without doing injustice to the Word at all. And no single image exhausts and monopolizes a theme. Babylon, for instance, has a similar typological function that Egypt has, but only at certain points. Egypt is the boot camp from which the Lord draws His children; Babylon is the “time out” the Lord sends His children to when needed.
In both the stories of Israel and Jesus, there is great hardship and tragedy at work. Infants are murdered. Political actors abuse God’s people. God’s people are running away through deserts. There’s a period of waiting. And yet, it is out of this the Lord calls His Son.
What is your Egypt? We all have an Egypt. It’s part of the baptismal life. It’s part of the process of being drawn from the waters, for with the waters is also the darkness of Sheol, as Psalm 18 shows.
Political actors…Herod, Pharaoh, Saul.
Darkness…the darkness in the shadow of the pyramids, the darkness of David’s brooding, the darkness surrounding the Epiphany star (For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.)
Bondage…the slavery in Egypt, David, Mary, and Joseph’s flight from Saul and Herod.
That’s Egypt. Egypt is the fallen world order from which our Lord redeems His children. Political actors, darkness, bondage/flight. It’s all part of the watery chaos from which our Lord creates a people. We shouldn’t for a moment suspect we will be given anything less, or that we should be spared that glorious calling.
For, what begins with “out of Egypt” ends with “my Son.” We can’t get to the end of that sentence without going through the beginning of it.
As the Epistle from St. Peter this week says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.”