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February 24, 2016
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Joseph had a dream. His dreamed of a life with Mary in Nazareth with several children, making a good living as a carpenter, and living happily ever after in the small town of Nazareth. Joseph’s dream came to a screeching halt the moment he learned that his supposedly virgin wife was somehow mysteriously pregnant. If that weren’t enough, she was sticking with the story that the Holy Spirit was the Father. And mind you, this is pre-Pentecost. When Joseph’s dream evaporated like mist before his very eyes, he had to let go of the dream and make a plan.
Joseph had a plan. It was thoughtful, well reasoned, merciful and decisive. He would quietly close out this betrothal so everyone could get past this unforeseen false start and get on with life. There were more “fish in the sea,” right? As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average,” o.k., “try, try again.” Or in the immortal words of Smokey Robinson, “My mama told me, you better shop around.”
Joseph’s dream was interrupted which resulted in Joseph’s plan which then became preempted by another dream. This time, it was God’s dream for Joseph. Sometimes our dream has to die and our plans preempted in order to finally be in a place to dream the dream of God. Joseph experienced an angelic visitation in a dream. This speaks volumes about Joseph doesn’t it. The divorce papers were probably already drawn up. He’s probably already moving on in his mind when he has this vision of an Angel in his dream.
I don’t know about you, but that would have probably been pretty easy to ignore. It’s one thing to be visited by an angelic being, like Mary was. It’s another thing to be visited by an angel in the midst of a dream. The former, while implausible, is undeniable while the latter could have been the result of something you had for dinner. I don’t want to read too much into it, but I do want to point out a couple of things.
First, this tells me that Joseph was attuned to the presence and possibilities of God. He lived in a world where people don’t get pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but he believed in a God for whom all things were possible. Second, we learn that Joseph was open to the possibility that God could speak to him through an angelic visitation in a dream. If a person is not open to this possibility they are not apt to give it any credence if it actually happens. The mysterious and deep things of God tend to happen to people who are attentive and open to the mysterious and deep things of God. They don’t tend to happen to people who are not attentive and open to them and if they do happen they are not recognized and heeded.
Finally, this tells me Joseph’s heart and mind had been trained to obey God. Obedience to God doesn’t usually get its start in a person through angelic commandments in dreams. Obedience starts with the small stuff. In fact, obedience in the small stuff over the long haul is what builds the capacity for the kind of faith it takes to obey God in the big and often hard stuff.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
And to close out today, we need to remember that Matthew wrote his Gospel from the vantage point of the end. He not only had the benefit of hindsight, his hindsight was divinely inspired. Joseph didn’t have the luxury of the kind of confirmation Isaiah 7:14 could have provided him. He was going in blind. Not blind faith, which is the ultimate misnomer. Of course faith is blind. We walk by faith which necessarily means we do not walk by “eye-sight.” Faith means seeing through the perceptivity of obedience which becomes the evidence of the unseen. All that to say, we so often wait for confirmation on top of confirmation before we move out in faith. All the while, God is waiting on our obedience. In the Bible, more confirmation most often comes in response to obedience, not preceding it. Joseph simply obeyed. Look at the endless confirmation that has come since.
1. Do you believe God still speaks to people in dreams and even the possibility of angelic visitations in dreams? Why or why not?
2. Are you open to the possibility of God speaking to and guiding you through a dream or in any other way God might choose?
3. Do you find yourself in a place where you are needing more confirmation before you can obey God in some particular way? What if you simply obeyed God now? What would that look like?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.