The Obedience of Joseph

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 (ESV)

Obedience is hard. The very nature of compliance causes one to have to listen and humbly respond to the leadership and direction of another. As humans, we tend to want to solve our problems on our own, often without admitting that we need help or guidance. Yet, God calls us, as believers, to follow his plan for our lives. 

In the passage above, Joseph found himself in a unique situation. Like many of us, he initially tried to discern the right response to the news that his fiancé conceived a child that was not his own. His decision to grant Mary a quiet divorce that would shield her from public judgement displayed a tremendous amount of grace and compassion. In many ways, it seems his choice was the right one for both of them. But then, something miraculous happened. Through a messenger, God showed Joseph the bigger picture of how He was at work. The long-awaited Messiah was about to step into our world and change it for all eternity.  

Imagine the magnitude of being told your wife was carrying the Son of God. In an instant, Joseph’s life was steered in a new direction, and the path ahead of him was filled with uncertainty. Inside that uncertainty, there probably existed a good deal of fear and anxiety. But the angel of the Lord told Joseph to trust in Him. That’s the thing about obedience – it isn’t always asked of us when things are easy. The Lord often asks for our obedience in times of ambiguity or difficulty. We have to trust that the Lord will equip us, empower us, and encourage us in the same way He did Joseph when he made the decision to follow the Lord’s calling on his life.

May we be like Joseph when unexpected situations arise in our lives. For when we humbly obey the Father, He can do incredible things in and through us.

“That’s the thing about obedience — it isn’t always asked of us when things are easy.”

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