AM122318 "What Christmas Says about Obedience" Whiteville Bapt.
Matthew 1:18-25; 2:13-15, 19-21
The Christmas stories as reported in both Matthew and Luke, included some extraordinary spiritual adventures. God revealed Himself in deeply personal ways but also in some really challenging ways.
Routine was disrupted, and faith was tested to the limit. But to those who obeyed, He gave moment-by-moment guidance that led to glory and praise!
This morning Zechariah taught us what Christmas says about preparation. This evening, Joseph will teach us what Christmas says about obedience.
Three times an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in dreams, giving him instructions he had to trust and obey to make it.
As we look at the three passages, the first truth we see is that
Our obedience may require risking ridicule Mt. 1.18-21
While Mary was "pledged" (betrothed) to Joseph, the angel told Joseph that Mary was with child.
Even though Joseph could have been heartless at what appeared to be infidelity on Mary's part, he was a righteous man and thought he would be doing the God-honoring thing to divorce Mary "quietly."
"Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,
because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."
Joseph was to take the risk of appearing to sacrifice his intellect by believing the impossible. He was to risk losing his reputation.
At Christmas, we have to decide if we're going to stand with Joseph. If we believe God is able to - and did - create a child through a virgin birth, we must be ready to appear to a nonbelieving world that we have "checked our minds in at the door." (The same is true at Easter in terms of the Jesus' resurrection from the dead.)
Not only did obeying God, for Joseph, mean likely appearing foolish to the cynical, it also included a second area of sacrifice
Sacrificing comfort and security
Look at Matthew 2.
The first 12 verses tell the story of the Magi
- coming from the east to Jerusalem
- encountering King Herod - dangerous jealousy and paranoia
- their ongoing journey to Bethlehem, where they find baby Jesus and give him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Now, notice in v.13 that after the Magi left the holy family,
"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.'"
"Run, Joseph, run!! Be a fugitive from your homeland for an indefinite period of time." Go to Egypt? Where in Egypt? How would he make it? What about his carpentry business in Nazareth?
It's easy for us to say, "Yes, Joseph, go on down to Egypt." But what about when God directs us to take a step into the unknown - when we don't know what the results will be?
Well, even though Joseph probably didn't want to go to Egypt, he obeyed and went. And with the passing of time, it may be that he kinda settled in there ... resumed his trade; made some friends
(The text doesn't say this, but for the sake of my point, let's just suppose.)
Because, in v.19, after Herod dies, the angel once again comes to him and says in v.20
"Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel."
Now that you've grown comfortable with the uncomfortable, time to be uncomfortable again. Obedience to the Lord may involve sacrifice and risk.
But Joseph also teaches us that Our obedience isn't negotiable.
In each case, Joseph did exactly what the angel of the Lord said.
After his first visitation by the angel, when the angel told him to take Mary home as his wife, it says in Matthew 1.24
"He did what the angel of the Lord had commanded...."
After his second visitation by the angel, when the angel told Joseph to immediately escape to Egypt, it says in Matthew 2.14
"He got up, took the child and his mother...and left for Egypt"
And after the angel came to Joseph in Egypt telling him to return to Israel, it simply says in Matthew 2.21
"He got up, took the child and his mother and went...to Israel"
When God tells us to sacrifice and risk, sometimes we're tempted to try to negotiate or bargain with God. Maybe we can offer God a special present to make up for what we didn't sacrifice.
Remember the story in 1 Samuel 15 where Saul refused to completely destroy the Amalekites as God had directed, and to try to appease God he kept alive the best of the sheep and cattle to be used as sacrifices to God? When he told this to Samuel, Samuel told Saul "To obey is better than sacrifice...." Obedience isn't negotiable.
Just think of the consequences if Joseph had faltered in obedience.
... which leads to a 3rd sobering thought from Joseph's obedience:
Our obedience makes a difference in holy history
What we do, or fail to do, affects history!
Matthew, more than the other gospel writers, points out when someone's act of obedience fulfilled what was predicted by Old Testament prophets.
For instance, in Matthew 1.22-23 Matthew says
"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet [Isaiah 7.14]: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means, God with us."
If Joseph had not taken Mary as his wife, the child would have had a disreputable beginning.
Then look at Matthew 2.14-15
"So he [Joseph] 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 [Hosea 11.1]: 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'"
If Joseph had not taken Mary and Jesus to Egypt, Jesus would have been killed along with all the other baby boys ordered killed by Herod in the region surrounding Jerusalem.
Could something God wants to do depend on our obedience to Him?
After our professions of faith, baptisms, moments of great worship, and years of service to the Lord,
when God comes to call us to do that which may bring uncertainty - call us out onto the "thin