Matthew 1:20-21 NIV
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
This passage caught my attention because of the implications associated with Joseph’s obedience to a Spirit-filled dream. We often talk about the humble obedience of Mary when she responded to the Angel Gabriel as recorded in Luke 1:38,“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” And, for sure, she is a role model for us. But sometimes we overlook how Joseph responded an “angel of the Lord” in a dream. Let’s look at this passage in context:
Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet, did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, (Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua (Yehoshua in Hebrew – sometimes shortened to Yeshua) , which means the Lord saves) because He will save His people from their sins.” 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.
What if Joseph had not been obedient to the angelic vision or dream? What if he proceeded to divorce Mary? What if she had been stoned for her supposed “adultery” as required by the Law? If Joseph had not protected Mary and “covered” her … if Joseph had not been obedient to the commandment he received in the dream … the outcome of a different decision would have changed history. The couple would not have traveled to Bethlehem together for the census … and the prophecy of the Messiah being born there would not have been fulfilled. The ripple effect of unfulfilled prophecy from that point forward would have been insurmountable. Joseph could not have predicted the impact of his decision on generations to come any more than Adam and Eve could have predicted or understood the impact of their disobedience and transgression upon all mankind. It is a fascinating scenario to ponder….
But to me, the application here is really for us to consider our own obedience to God … His Word … His commands as these are communicated to us through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Do we heed the Word of God? Do we discern His clear direction to us? Do we hear but then respond with a disobedient heart? And when we fail to believe God has spoken to us (because I’m pretty sure every one of us has been hesitant to believe when an authentic spiritual encounter has occurred) – do we ever think about the consequences of our disobedience on future generations? It is quite sobering to see how these examples in Scripture have revealed how human obedience or disobedience changed the course of human history … and eternity as well.
Look at these additional examples of prompt obedience to the Spirit:
Matthew 4:18-22 (NIV)
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there, Jesus saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.
Acts 9:19-21 (NIV)
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?
Acts 16:9-10 (NIV)
9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Revelation 1:10-11 (NIV)
10 On the Lord’s Day I (the Apostle John) was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
What if the disciples had not followed Jesus? What if Paul disregarded his experience on the road to Damascus? What if the missionary team with Paul had not ventured into Macedonia to preach the Gospel in obedience to the vision? What if John had not written the Book of Revelation as he was commanded through the Spirit? Perhaps we should ask ourselves similar questions: What if you or I do not fulfill the commands given to us through the Spirit? What if we disregard our roles within the five-fold ministry established by Jesus Christ for His Church? (Cf. Ephesians 4:11) What would be the impact of our disobedience on others who are seeking God and led to the local church? What will be the impact on future generations if the Body of Christ does not function as it was designed and intended by the Lord Himself? Well, look at the current world culture and ask yourself that same question? Look at modern day Turkey. All the churches that we read about in the Book of Revelation do not exist there anymore. Turkey (Asia Minor) is 98% Muslim now….
Joseph reminds me why faithfulness to the Word of God is so important. Joseph reminds me why obedience to the Holy Spirit is so crucial. Joseph, like Adam and Eve, reminds me how the impact one decision can forever alter the future course of events. So I asked myself this evening, what decisions will I make when prompted by the Spirit to act or intervene with others? Will I be obedient? What consequence will there be if I am disobedient? Is disobedience worth the risk of one soul being lost because I did not respond “at once”?
I believe this is where the intersection of intimacy with Christ and responding in obedience to the Spirit find their fulfillment in the Kingdom of God. This is why I have stayed up past midnight to ask these questions … to write this commentary. I simply want to be obedient because I do not know what the eternal consequences might be if I choose to ignore the Spirit of God or be disobedient to Him. Someone needs a wake-up call on the obedience of faith … and I believe it is me! Maybe these are thoughts you have considered as well … and tonight I think we should thank God for Joseph and his inspiration to respond in obedience….