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.”
As we look at the various pieces of the Advent puzzle, I continue to see applications that I did not really notice before … though I have read the stories many times. Our Verse of the Day is one of them that impressed me with a thought I would like to share, but I will broaden the passage a little more:
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, 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”). (Cf. Isaiah 7:14) 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.
The Apostle Matthew gives us a glimpse into the human dynamics of what was taking place as God prepared to send His Son into the world … to be the Savior of the world. We can only imagine what was going through Joseph’s mind when Mary broke the news to him about the supernatural visit from the angel, Gabriel, and his explanation of what was taking place and why. It seems too improbable; yes, unbelievable; and in the moment, I would assume heartbreaking for Joseph. Still, there is something about the character and innocence of Mary that raised questions. Joseph knew her heart and the strength of her faith in God. Was Mary telling the truth? Had she indeed found favor with God? But … this is not the way things were supposed to be….
As Joseph ponders … as he prays and seeks God for answers … as his tears and heartache overwhelm his soul, Joseph determines that he must separate from Mary and divorce her. Yet, because he loves her so deeply, he feels compelled to do so in a private manner. He does not want to ridicule her or expose her to public stoning for the offense of adultery. Joseph asks again, “Why has this happened?” This is not the way things were supposed to be…. But after he had considered this decision, Joseph is encountered by the Lord as well. In dream, he received the revelation needed to resolve the conflict within. At the right time … God’s time … through prayer and patience, Joseph was given insight and knowledge that would lead to a better course of action. He DID what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
What I see as an application here is the need to be prayerful and patient when we are confronted with life-changing decisions to make. Whether it is a decision concerning a relationship, a vocation, a location, or an inner temptation; we are advised to seek the face and the heart of God the Father AND to not be impulsive in our reactions to what has given rise to the need for major decision-making in our lives. Too often we can let our emotions in those circumstances “incite” us to make impulsive decisions that could ultimately lead us in a direction away from God’s will. Think about the choice Joseph considered. What if he, in a rage of jealousy, had marched Mary up to the public square and told the townspeople that she had committed adultery and cast the first stone is accordance with the Law? How would history have been impacted by that decision? Go back even further. What if Eve had not opened the door of the knowledge of good and evil? What if Adam had exercised obedience and prevented Eve from doing so? Indeed, decisions have consequences! So, it is imperative that we spend time in fasting and prayer; that we stay spiritually prepared; that we patiently access the necessary information to formulate a response, BEFORE we make decisions that could have unanticipated long-term consequences….
So, I pray that we would heed the Word of God, its instruction and the examples it affords us to make wiser decisions for our lives. Let us remember that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Cf. Proverbs 9:10) And Lord, if we lack wisdom, give us courage to ask you. For your Word says that if any of us lacks wisdom, we should ask You because you will give it generously to all without finding fault. (Cf. James 1:5) I pray, even as Paul prayed, asking that You, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, our glorious Father, would give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better. (Cf. Ephesians 1:17) Yes, I continually ask God to fill each of us with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) May we ever be prayerful and patient as we seek your face and embrace your heart to do your will through every choice and decision that we make in our lives. Indeed, I pray that we will be as Mary and Joseph … wholly surrendered to Your plans and promises for our lives. In Jesus’ Name … the Name the angel told Mary and Joseph to give our Lord and Savior … I pray. Amen.