“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.”
“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Joseph. A man resolved to follow the Lord. A man who was just and honorable. A man who did not want to shame Mary, even when he assumed her to be unfaithful. A man who listened to the angel’s instruction and immediately obeyed. A man who was willing to be the earthly father of the Son of God. A man who was willing to endure judgment from friends and family for marrying a pregnant woman. A man who was willing to set aside the plans he had for his own future to pursue God’s high calling. A man whose obedience fulfilled prophecies. A man whose obedience physically kept Jesus from harm.
Joseph’s life is such a testimony to us for a myriad of reasons. As I read the verses that explain Joseph’s role in the life of Christ, the importance of his obedience keeps standing out. Let’s take a closer look at why his obedience was so important.
- His obedience was immediate. The angel spoke in a dream. As soon as Joseph woke up, he obeyed. This happened several times. Joseph did not delay in obedience. When the angel instructed Joseph to proceed in his marriage to Mary, he didn’t wake up and think on it for a few days. The Scriptures record his immediate action, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” When the angel warned Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt, Matthew writes that he woke up and left for Egpyt without delay!
- His obedience was without question. Joseph’s obedience wasn’t preluded by questions and doubts. He heard the angel’s words, and followed them exactly. He took Mary as his wife, but not physically until Christ was born. He gave Him the name Jesus. When Jesus’ life was in danger, Joseph immediately moved his family to Egypt. He didn’t follow the Lord’s guidance half-heartedly. He followed ALL of the Lord’s instructions immediately.
- Through his obedience, prophecies were fulfilled. After the command to Joseph was stated in Matthew 1, the author then records a specific prophecy that was fulfilled because of Joseph’s obedience. Joseph was faithful to name the child Jesus – Immanuel – God with us. Joseph was faithful to travel to Bethlehem for the census, which fulfilled a prophecy about Jesus’ birthplace. Joseph was faithful to take his new family to Egypt, which fulfilled the prophecy, “Out of Egypt, I called my Son.” Through his obedience, Joseph was able to be a part in the fulfillment of the prophecies about the Messiah!
- Through his obedience, the Christ child was kept from harm. Because of Joseph’s immediate and complete obedience, Jesus was kept safe from King Herod. The angel warned Joseph in a dream to escape to Egypt. So, what did Joseph do? He woke up and carried his family to safety.
What’s encouraging to me about Joseph’s part in the story is that he is just a man. He is just a man who had the resolve to follow the Lord’s calling upon his life, no matter where that led him. He wasn’t superhuman. He wasn’t supernatural. He was just a man. Just like Joseph, we can be faithful with immediate and complete obedience to whatever God calls us to do. We can walk so closely with Him that we can hear His voice so clearly without a shadow of a doubt. We can impact the lives of others with our obedience. God can use us just as he used Joseph, a willing vessel.
This Christmas season, I am thankful for the humility, obedience, and servant hearts of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph – four unlikely vessels (too old, too young, too poor, etc.) that the Lord chose to use because they were willing and humble. They didn’t choose to be in the spotlight. Before their individual callings, they were just living humble, obedient lives, seeking the Lord. And the Lord saw them and chose them to be a part of His miraculous redemption plan! How amazing! I pray that we can learn from their humlity, faith, trust, and obedience.