Summary: Learn from the experience of Joseph what it means to trust God and obey Him.
There is one scene that is often seen during Christmas – the scene of the manger, with two adults standing by and a baby lying in the manger. We see that put up in many shopping malls, printed on Christmas cards.
When we look at Joseph and Mary, what do we see? We see two very obedient people. This scene was possible only because they both obeyed God and submitted to His plan. They both received very difficult messages, and were told to take on very heavy responsibilities. It wasn’t easy, but they did it.
So now when we look at this scene, we need to really appreciate them. Thank God they were obedient.
It wasn’t easy for Joseph. Mary was found to have a child before they were married. We wonder, what did Mary say to Joseph? How did she explain it? It won’t be easy for both of them. Joseph was sensitive. He planned to keep it quiet, and did not want to expose Mary to disgrace.
The Lord spoke to him through the angel in his dream. He has to learn to trust God and His message. It was a big decision. Who did he discuss this with, his family or his friends? Will they trust him? God spoke only to him. No one else would understand. Joseph has to make this decision all by himself.
Sometimes, the deepest decisions of our lives will be made just within ourselves. God has spoken, and you are to obey. It has nothing to do with others. They can’t help nor do they understand. When God speaks to you, you are given a choice - to obey or not to obey, to trust Him or not to trust Him. And the choice is yours. Only you can make it.
Do you really believe God? Do you trust His Word? No one can help you on that. Parents can encourage you but they cannot give you faith. Friends can listen but they cannot make the choice for you.
We thank God. Joseph made his choice. The Bible says, “When he woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him….” (1:24) God knew He could trust Joseph, and He gave him this enormous responsibility. The Bible describes him in v.19 as a ‘righteous’ man, a devout man, one who honours God. Paul used this word in Rom 1:17, “The righteous will live by faith.”
So Joseph married Mary. She gave birth to a son and Joseph named Him Jesus. By chapter 2 of Matthew’s gospel, the child has grown up and now close to two years old. When King Herod heard that this so-called ‘prince’ was born, he felt threatened and issued an edict that all the children under the age of two were to be slaughtered.
Again God guided Joseph. Before it happened, God gave him instruction to leave that place.
Let’s read Matt 2:13-15. Going to Egypt? Why Egypt? Joseph would have known about the history of his people and why they have left Egypt – his people suffered as slaves there for over 140 years. It was a terrifying place. But again, he trusted God’s Word and obeyed. The Bible says, “He got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.” (1:14)
Joseph not only obeyed, he obeyed right away. He got up in the middle of the night. Thomas a Kempis: “Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience.”
Joseph did not doubt what God said or question His wisdom. He acted immediately on what he was told, just as he did earlier on when he was asked to take Mary as his wife (1:24).
It looks easy, but this obedience wasn’t really simple. It takes great faith in God. Joseph’s life has been suddenly changed over the last few years. Firstly, Mary was found with child before marriage, the child was to be someone very unique, not an ordinary child, and now Herod wanted to kill his child, and he has to been on the run, to a strange land Egypt.
And as the three of them left from Bethlehem, they must have wondered about their future. The angel said, “Stay there until I tell you…” (2:13) – how long would they be in Egypt? How would they survive? Could he find work? Where would they live?
They didn’t have answers to these pressing questions and serious concerns. Nevertheless, Joseph did immediately and exactly as the Lord instructed in his dream. Imagine the faith this required. Can you trust God this way today? When God leads us, He doesn’t always tell us the whole picture. We want to know everything before we make a move. But God leads us day to day, moment by moment.