For the past 3-4 weeks Christians have been enjoying the annual retelling of the story of the birth of Jesus, but on this day after Christmas, many will soon pack up the decorations and put away the manger scene until next year. While our focus on this part of Christ’s life comes to a conclusion, I want to take a moment to remind you that the story didn’t end when the shepherds and the wise men left the scene. There’s something we can learn from an often overlooked passage of scripture from the book of Matthew.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” He said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”… Matt 2:13-15
Joseph and Mary were probably hoping for a good night’s sleep after the visit of yet another group of strangers to worship at the feet of their small boy. But an angelic messenger from the Father interrupted Joseph’s dreams to bring a warning of an evil plot to kill their Holy child. In the middle of the night, God said “it’s time to move.” And so, Joseph moved. He didn’t argue or contemplate what the visitation might mean. He didn’t think about where they would live in Egypt or what would happen back at their home in Nazareth. He was a carpenter, so he probably had unfinished jobs, pending contracts or people who owed him money. Mary and Joseph most certainly had family, and long standing relationships back at home who would wonder where they had gone and what had happened to them. But Joseph didn’t dwell on any of the details or ramifications that could have worried him into inaction. He just woke his family and left. By following God’s instruction quickly and precisely, enemy’s attempt to thwart the plan of God failed and scripture was fulfilled. (vs15)
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt
20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.
Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee,
23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.” – Matt 2: 19-23
After Herod was off the scene, Joseph had another dream and was this time instructed to return to Israel. (vs20) A second time, he packed his belongings and family and headed home. A subsequent dream warned him to avoid the territory of another cruel ruler and to settle in the town of Nazareth. (vs22) Joseph’s quick response to the Lord in full obedience, once again helped deflect the enemy’s attack, and paved the way for scripture to be fulfilled in process. (vs 23)
What was the pattern of Joseph’s life? He listened. He obeyed. And the Lord worked. That’s still God’s pattern today. While we don’t hear of Him speaking in dreams so much anymore, the Father has spoken clearly to us through His Word. Yet often our response to God’s instructions is to question and consider instead of obey. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us that we don’t have to wait until we grasp the intricacies of God’s plan; we just need to ‘do’ what He says. If we want to know God, and walk in His will, our grateful response to His voice should be the same Joseph’s. Listen. Obey. Watch Him work.
As we pack Christmas 2012 away in boxes, let’s take the Joseph’s attitude with us into 2013. May God reveal Himself in a fresh new way and stir in you a devotion that lasts long after the Christmas season is over.