March 4 “Egypt”


The Jesus Story contains one of the strangest and most unlikely of prophecies: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Naming the tiny town of Bethlehem as the birthplace of Messiah was odd enough, but to name Egypt as a source for Messiah is odd beyond belief and yet it happened. This story is laden with these amazing incidences of fulfilled prophecy. One of Matthew’s purposes in writing his version of the life of Christ is to point these things out to his Jewish readers. Jesus was a Jew and He was the Jewish Messiah as well as the Savior of the World. Matthew’s account springs from a deep love for God’s Chosen People.

Not the First Time
This was not the first call “out of Egypt” in the plan of God to save the world. Before there could be a Jewish Messiah to save the world, there had to be a Jewish nation. God called Abraham out of his homeland to find a new one and found the Hebrew nation. Generations later, famine drove the children of Israel (Jacob, Abraham’s heir) into Egypt for survival. Safety became slavery when Egyptian leaders came to power who did not know Joseph. Through the stammering lips of Moses, God called His Chosen People out of Egypt. With a mighty hand deliverance was won. It took a generation of faithless wandering in the wilderness for the nation to finally return to the Promised Land. In that wilderness the people learned how to worship God. They learned the laws of the Covenant which would guide them in their re-won homeland. Though they found the land full of enemies, when their worship was right, God’s hand, the same mighty hand that called them out of Egypt, was with them to subdue the land promised to them.

The Lessons of Egypt
Former Egyptian slaves became landowners and craftsmen, people of creativity and commerce. Realize this, the Hebrews went into Egypt a nation of herdsmen. They were called out of Egypt as a nation of craftsman. Craftsmanship has been a mark of God’s people ever since. Work is holy and is another form of worship honoring God. The wonderful Tabernacle they built in the wilderness was manufactured with this formula:

  1. The plans of God from Mt. Sinai,
  2. The materials of Egypt given to the Israelites as they were set free, and
  3. The skills the people had learned in Egypt.

This is still the formula for Christian living today:

  1. The Word of God as our Guide,
  2. The redeemed systems of the fallen world (education, true science, technology, etc,) and
  3. The skills of our own hands (craftsmanship, creativity, hard work, and diligent study.)

With this three-fold blessing, we are called out of the world to minister to the world.

The Holy Family in Egypt
Matthew gives us no details of how long Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stayed in Egypt or what they did while there. No purpose is served if we speculate on these things. The immediate cause was the hostility of King Herod. It was imperative to remove Jesus from the reach of the wicked king. Upon news of his death, they returned to Israel. How ironic that God would use a heathen nation to protect His Son from the King of Israel. Once again, “Out of Egypt…”

Matthew 2:13-15
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Hosea 11:1
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.”

Lord Jesus, You came so far to find us and redeem us. And when You came to this earth, You were in immediate danger. King Herod was the first but he was not the last to seek Your life. Through it all, You were protected, even by a journey to Egypt, the very symbol of sin. You were, indeed, as the Scripture predicted called out of Egypt. In the end, no one was able to take Your life; You gave it willingly for our sake, for my sake. Then, You were called out of the tomb. Next, You were called out of this world to regain the throne of Heaven. Soon, You will call us out of this world, this Egypt, to be with You forever. Amen and Amen!

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
Words: E. S. Elliot; Music: Timothy R. Matthews

1. Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

2. Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

3. The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

4. Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

5. When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

March 3 “Stars”


To the ancient mind, stars had to be more than twinkling lights in the night sky. They had to mean something.
They had no idea that stars were really suns and the distances involved were well beyond their understanding. Night after night wise men studied the stars, noting what seemed to be their movements across the sky. With imaginations more highly developed than their science, they created meanings and gave them significance in their own lives.

Wise Men from the East
Matthew tells us of a group of these men of intelligence and careful observation. They saw a new star and determined that it was there to lead them to Messiah. Like the ancient astronomers who filled in the details with their imaginations, Christian tradition has filled in missing details about the Wise Men.

  • Because three gifts are mentioned, there were three Wise Men.
  • They were Kings.
  • Their names were Caspar and Balthazar and their leader, Melchior.
  • In addition to the stars, it is possible they had copies of the writings of the Hebrew prophets left over from the Babylonian Captivity.
  • They arrived the night Jesus was born and joined the shepherds at the manger. The account of Matthew hints that perhaps they came later but the image of kings and shepherds kneeling together at the manger is irresistible and speaks to the meaning of Christmas.

When writing about the Wise Men, these inventions come in handy. In this telling we will hold to the details given by our reporter, Matthew.

Kings and More Kings
If the Wise Men were indeed kings, it makes sense that they consulted with King Herod.

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

If these men had any sense of discernment at all, they sensed that Herod was not a friend of the Child they were seeking. Troubled by their inquiry, Herod assembled his advisors to learn what they knew about where Messiah was to be born. Bethlehem was the place foretold by prophecy. Herod met again with the Wise Men to find out when the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem with a false promise to join them in worship of the child.

Following the Star
Uneasy from their interview with Herod, they followed the star to Bethlehem where it stopped over the house where they found the Christ-child. Forgetting Herod for a moment they rejoiced with great joy. Entering the house they were overcome by the holiness of the presence of Jesus and they fell to the floor in worship. They recovered enough to present their valuable gifts, each one significant in its own way:

  • Gold, a precious metal and provision for the family,
  • Frankincense, a precious resin used in the sacrifices of worship in the Temple, and
  • Myrrh, a holy ingredient in the anointing oil used to indicate God’s choice of an individual.

Being warned in a dream of Herod’s treachery, their scene in the Jesus Story completed, the Wise Men returned to their homes. It is certain they would never be the same. The presence of Jesus does that to people.

Matthew 2:1-12
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'” Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
Micah 5:2
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Lord Jesus, You are the Morning Star! My guide through this life! I will follow You wherever You lead. Like the Wise Men, I will seek Your face and fall prostrate before You in deepest worship. I will offer to You the best gifts of my life. May Your Spirit give me discernment to see the hearts of those who hate You and avoid their schemes. As I behold Your glory in worship, change me, O Lord, from glory to glory until Your likeness can be seen in me. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

In Your Presence
Words and Music by J.D. and Stephen Phifer

1. When the chill of life’s cold wind blows ‘round me,
I can call on Your name in my grief.
And You are there every time when I need You.
Wrapping me in a blanket of Peace.

In Your presence, In Your presence, there is joy.
In Your presence, In Your presence, there is peace.
Let me linger, let me stay in Your presence, I pray,
Till Your likeness can be seen in me.

2. O how sweet just to wait in Your presence,
Just to know in my soul You are near.
I’m restored by the touch of Your hand, Lord;
Lifted up when it’s Your voice I hear.


3. How we need to spend time in Your presence,
To draw away from this world’s frantic pace.
Let us dwell in the glow of Your nearness,
Hold us close in Your healing embrace.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at