Over the next several days leading up to Christmas, I’d like to play a sort of highlight reel for the different characters that make up the Christmas story.
Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father, is the first character mentioned in Matthew 1:16, so we’ll start with him. It may seem that he plays a minor role in this story, but if we take a deeper look, we see that his part is actually quite crucial. Joseph portrays what it looks like to trust and obey God, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.
Trust And Obedience Go Hand-In-Hand
Trust and Obey are both action words, things that we choose to do, but the question is, can they operate independent of each other? Does one action come before the other, or do they sort of coexist?
Afterall, can you trust God and then not follow through with obedience? Likewise, if you choose to obey God, that must mean that you trust Him. I personally think they go together and you can’t really have one without the other.
I’m reminded of the verse, James 4:17:
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
The right thing to do is to obey God’s commands. As we talked about in yesterday’s post, when God tells you to do something, you don’t question it, you just do it. This is what it means to trust and obey. When you choose to seek God first in your life, you are choosing to trust and obey God in all things.
Joseph, a perfectly normal human, found himself in a predicament, where he had to decide if he was going to follow tradition and conform to his culture, or go against the grain and obey God.
Sometimes, God tells us to do something opposite to what our culture or society views as acceptable. But Romans 12:2 says:
“Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Some other examples of people who went against the grain of society, and broke out of the mold of what the people around them were doing, instead choosing to obey God were Noah, Moses, Rahab, Daniel, Paul, and so many more. Had these people not obeyed God, this world would be a different place. Don’t get me wrong, God’s plans can not be thwarted. God would’ve found a different way and used different people to carry out His plans. Our Bible stories and heroes of the faith would be different.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.
When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25
As I read the story of Joseph, I try to put myself in his shoes. Here’s this young man, in love with a girl named Mary, and they’re ready to start their life together. Then one day, Mary tells him that she’s pregnant.
I can only imagine how the conversation may have gone. Wait, Joseph! Hear me out! I promise, I haven’t been with another man. As she tells him how an angel came to her and told her she’s going to have a son that will one day save the world, he can’t help but be skeptical. He so wants to believe her, but he just doesn’t feel right about it. He tries to remember what he’s heard about this so-called Messiah that the world is waiting on… but no, it can’t be, that’s ridiculous… no, it’s crazy…
His head is spinning, so he told Mary he needed some space and time to sort things out and figure out what to do. He pleads with her, Mary, please don’t tell anyone just yet.
Choosing to Obey God Can Be Tough
Joseph had a decision to make, and honestly, he’d rather not choose either option. He just wanted things to go back to how they were.
Have you ever felt like this?
Sometimes our life takes a different path than the one we had originally planned. When we hit a fork in the road, we have to decide which path we will take. Turning around is not an option. Unfortunately, there are times that neither choice is the one we really want to make, but when faced with a decision, it’s best to seek God and determine which road he wants you to take.
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way.” Psalm 37:23
Often, the road that God points us to is the one marked with potholes, ditches, thorns, and is narrow with cliffs on both sides.
“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:14
It’s in these times, that we must fully trust him in order to obey him. It seems like it would be so much easier to take the other road, the one that is smooth with grass and flowery fields on both sides.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12
For Joseph, his choices were to stay with Mary and raise a child that was not his, or part ways with her and eventually find someone else to marry. So, in his mind, he made plans to quietly end their relationship, hoping to save them both from embarrassment. He chose the path that many of us would prefer to take. However, the easy path is usually not the rewarding one.
Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. (Theodore Roosevelt)
The thing we need to realize is that if we make the wrong choice, God will nudge us back in the right direction. And that’s what happened to Joseph.
Later, an angel appeared to him in a dream, and told him that everything would be okay, and that there was nothing to be afraid of. The angel confirmed what Mary had said was true, that the baby she carried was the Son of God.
Upon waking, Joseph decided that he would trust what the angel said and he would obey God. He would stay with Mary, and he would raise Jesus as his own son.
Things didn’t get easier just because Joseph decided to obey God, but he knew that by choosing to trust and obey God, and to follow God’s plan, it would yield the best results.
God Leads The Way
Over the next several months, there would be a lot to do. Joseph and Mary would get married and plan for the birth of their first child. For most couples, that alone is enough stress, but right as they were feeling good about their future together, Joseph’s plans were, yet again, rerouted… quite literally.
The Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, put out an order that everyone needed to be counted. A census would take place and each family had to return to the place of their family’s lineage. For Joseph, this meant he had to return to Bethlehem, a 90 mile trek over hills and valleys, and rocky terrain. With a very pregnant Mary, this would be no easy task, but again, Joseph had to embrace the task at hand and trust that God would take care of them.
Once in Bethlehem, they couldn’t find a place to stay. Every hotel was booked, and, inconveniently, Mary was ready to give birth. The only place they could find was a manger, meant for animals to bed down, to bring Jesus, the greatly anticipated Savior, into the world.
Shortly after Jesus was born, they had to flee to Egypt because King Herod wanted to kill Jesus. From there, they moved on to Israel, and finally settled in Nazareth, where they would raise Jesus and the rest of their family.
Over and over again, we see that Joseph is pushed further than he had intended to go, and time and time again we see that he chose to trust and obey God. Because of his obedience, he and his family were kept safe, and because of his obedience, God’s plan to give the world a hope and a future, through Jesus Christ, prevailed.
“You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.” Deuteronomy 5:33
The right path isn’t always the clear path, and it’s definitely not the easy one. But if you stay the course, the rewards will be worth it.
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” Hebrews 10:36
Perhaps you feel like you are at an impasse in your life; that there’s no obvious directions. I’m here to tell you that there is a way, but it’s not necessarily the easy way. You look down that path, and all you see is hardship and trials, but what you can’t see is the other end, the promised land.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
If you will just trust me and take that first step down the path that seems difficult, I promise that God will see you through to the other side. All you must do is trust and obey, and God will lead the way.
To follow the whole series of Journey to Christmas, click here: https://jenniferjabbour.com/the-journey-to-christmas-advent-series/