God seldom gives us all we need to understand, but He always gives us what we need in order to obey. The story of Jesus in Egypt as a boy offers a great example of how to take comfort when the future seems unclear.
God warned Joseph in a dream, and he took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to live until Herod’s death. Scripture never tells us where the holy family lived while in Egypt. But there’s a cluster of churches in Cairo that honors a tradition that they journeyed here.
The Lord’s unusual leading of Jesus’ family offers insight into how God leads in our lives.
The Hanging Church in Cairo
Cairo is the capital of Egypt, with a population of about 9.5 million people. Cairo rests astride the Nile River and is famous for its nearby, massive pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx.
Old Cairo has several churches and even a synagogue that used to be a church. One church is called the Suspended Church, or Hanging Church, because it was built over the gate of a Roman Fortress.
The hanging church has been recently restored and beautifully decorated. The leaders of the Coptic Christians in Egypt, the Coptic Patriarchs, lived here from the 7th to the 13th century. The Coptic language is basically ancient Egyptian phonetics written down in the Greek alphabet.
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The Abu Sarga “Cavern” Church
The Abu Sarga Church is the oldest church in Egypt, dating to the 4th century — only 300 years after Jesus’ journey to Egypt. The church was restored in the 11th and 17th centuries as well as in the year 2000.
The Abu Sarga Church honors two saints, Sergius and Bacchus, who refused to worship Roman gods and were martyred at the end of the third century because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
The most significant aspect of the beautiful church is the tradition that the holy family stayed in the cave beneath the church for several weeks during their Egyptian sojourn. For this reason Abu Sarga is also called the “Cavern Church.”
Stairs lead down to the ancient cave, which is ornately decorated. There’s even a well there with a tradition that the holy family drank from it.
Jesus’ Flight to Egypt
Many maps scattered throughout the churches depict the traditional route Joseph, Mary, and Jesus took from Israel to Egypt and the route they took when they returned.
When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. (Hosea 11:1)
The Gospel of Matthew relates the Prophet Hosea’s words to prophecy fulfilled regarding Jesus’ return from Egypt to Israel (Matt. 2:15).
Each movement of Jesus’ family came as a result of God’s revelation to Joseph:
- Fleeing Bethlehem to Egypt
- Returning from Egypt to Israel
- Avoiding Judea in order to settle in Galilee
God’s purposes for these moves were about protecting Jesus and His family, no doubt. But Matthew notes that each directive also fulfilled Scripture.
Our Own Journey with God
As we anticipate our future with all its uncertainties, we can take comfort that our God sees the future as clearly as the past. We will discover that, like Joseph, in our simple obedience to God’s Word, the Lord has guided us along paths far too complex for us to see at the time.
God seldom gives us all we need to understand, but He always gives us what we need in order to obey.
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