Read Matthew 2
The wise men visited Jesus after following a star. This is not a manger scene but one that takes place in a house. It could have been up to 2 years after his birth in a barn or cave or sheltered part of a livestock area.
What I ask you to think on just for the moment is that these wise men were warned to go back home a different way than they had come. At the least, they would not be stopping in to give Herod a report on this newborn king.
They were warned in a dream.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.
The wise men did return home via a different route. Herod never got his report. He did not want to worship this child whom men from afar knew as the King of the Jews. He wanted to kill him. A precise location would have made the job easy.
That didn’t happen so Herod decided to kill every male child two years old and younger. Compare this to precision bombing and carpet bombing. If you can’t target precisely, you just kill everyone in a certain area.
This wasn’t a new idea. Remember at the beginning of Exodus, the Pharaoh who did not remember Joseph ordered all male firstborn killed. Herod had different motives and increased the target area by two years, but this was simple power politics.
If your replacement is dead before he has a chance to replace you, then you might live a longer life. It’s like Niccolò Machiavelli and William Shakespeare wrote this part.
It might have been an effective strategy except that God had warned Joseph in a dream to pack up his family and leave. Once again, an angel of the Lord had spoken to Joseph in a dream and Joseph had obeyed.
The angel didn’t say go rent a U-Haul tomorrow, have a yard sale to get rid of stuff you don’t need to take, and hold one last gathering with friends. The angel said, Get em and go.
The angel also told Joseph to stay there until he gave him further instructions. He did tell Joseph the why part. Herod wanted to kill. Jesus.
Herod reigned death upon countless children but eventually he died. The angel of the Lord once again came to Joseph in a dream and told him to return to Israel. He did.
While the perceived urgency here is not evident, the instructions were to get up and go.
Can you imagine the life of young Jesus? He gets wonderful gifts then the next thing you know they are leaving town in the middle of the night for Egypt. Then then a few years later, they get up in the middle of the night and head back to the Promised Land.
When I was stationed in Orlando, Florida there was a drought one year and the housing area that we lived in was evacuated because of wildfires. It was a get up and go situation in the late afternoon, but the back of my truck was full of photo albums and other things that were considered too valuable to leave behind.
Joseph picked up his family and surely few possessions and just did what he was told. Get up and go.
When Joseph returned to his home country, he discovered that Herod’s son was on the throne. Again, an angel of the Lord warned Joseph and told him to go to Galilee instead of Bethlehem or Judea.
Much of this was to fulfill scripture but Joseph had to obey the angel of the Lord that came in a dream. Unlike Luke’s gospel where angels physically appeared, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream again and again.
In a dream!
Occasionally, I have awakened in the middle of the night because of a dream. All I remember of the dreams now is that they were the best ideas and plot construction and plot twists for the greatest novels the world has ever known.
So, I wrote it all down and went back to bed. Some of you know that I have perfect penmanship when I am awake. It’s so perfect that I am nearly illiterate without a keyboard.
You should have seen me trying to decipher my notes from my dream. Those great American novels will remain unwritten.
But even if your dream remains crystal clear to you, how do you know that your mind is not playing tricks on you? It’s a serious question. How do you know?
That brings us to John’s gospel, specifically, chapter 10. Jesus used the example of shepherd and sheep. The sheep know the voice of the shepherd. In fact, they will run away from a stranger’s voice.
This is an example of using things known to the people. The sheep know the voice of the shepherd. There is an existing and trusted relationship.
While Joseph probably never had an angel visit him in a dream before Mary became pregnant; he had an existing relationship with God. He trusted God. He trusted God over his own understanding.
Joseph was predisposed to receive a message from God because he trusted God over his own understanding. This is where I want to leave the story and venture into our time.
Do we know the voice of our Shepherd?
Do we know what to believe in this age of deception?
Will we stick to the truth when the propaganda of the world sounds enticing?
Will we trust God or our own emotional longings?
The level of deception in this world is at an all-time high. It is ridiculous what people in this country claim to believe. It’s not just the Antifa-types that are easy to spot. It’s the Christians being deceived, leaving the truth for some emotional fix.
It’s those of us who seek the specks in each other’s eyes and ignore the lumberyard in our own so as not to feel the need to love one another or fulfill our commissions. We put others down so our obligations are fulfilled.
That’s not how it works. We were warned against this.
I’m going to label Joseph with an attribute not mentioned—courage. He did what the angel of the Lord told him to do each and every time.
The first time surely cost him some friends or acquaintances.
The next few times surely cost him a few looks from his wife.
We don’t know much about Joseph after Jesus turned 12 but what we do know is that he was strong and courageous much like God had called Joshua to be.
Joseph did what God required of him without doing a cost-benefit analysis.
Joseph did what God required of him without delay.
Joseph did what God required of him without regret. Hold on. It doesn’t say that.
It does. You just have to look for it. Time and again, Joseph obeyed the angel of the Lord. You don’t do that if you regretted a previous decision to follow God’s instructions.
Regret leads you back to your own understanding.
Back to us. Will we do what God calls us to do without estimating what it costs us?
Will we do what God calls us to do without delay?
Will we do what God calls us to do without regret?
Will we know it’s God who is calling? Will we know his voice in whatever form he chooses to speak to us?
You will have trouble in the world. Will we take courage in knowing that our Lord has overcome the world?
Joseph doesn’t get much coverage in the Bible, but what he does get is powerful. It is a powerful example to us to trust in the Lord and not our own understanding.
When we know the message that we have received is of the Lord, we obey. We obey courageously without considering the personal cost to us.
Are you ready to be more like Joseph? Are you ready?