I am amazed and humbled again at the obedience of Joseph. Now it’s true that Joseph was especially privileged to have heard angels speak to him in dreams, upon several occasions. Yet he still had to obey. And if it’s true that Mary was perpetually virgin, which has implications for Joseph’s sex life, then Joseph is nothing short of heroic!
Joseph, not yet understanding that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, wanted to do the right thing and privately put away his pregnant betrothed wife. When told by an angel that he should still marry Mary because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit, Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.”
The angel comes again to Joseph and tells him to take the child and mother and flee to Egypt for Herod was seeking his son’s life. And when Joseph arose, he did just as the angel had commanded. When Herod was dead, the angel came and told Joseph to go back to Israel because the one seeking the child was dead. But Joseph also hears that Archelaus, Herod’s son, is ruling in his place, and he is afraid. But the angel warns him to go to Galilee, and so he goes to dwell in Nazareth.
If I were Joseph, I know I certainly would feel like I was being jerked around. All I did was betroth myself to a young woman I loved. And then she gets pregnant without me. And then I’m told to marry her anyway because somehow this is from God. And then, just as I’m getting used to the idea that my son is special, what with the angels and shepherds, and magi and so on, I’m told to flee with my wife and child to Egypt. Egypt of all places! Couldn’t it be Samaria or Syria or someplace like that? And just as I’m settling down there, I’m told again to move, right into the heart of the enemy who wants to destroy my son and probably me and my entire family. I’m told again that I should go to Galilee, Nazareth. Finally, back home!
What a lesson for me! If only I would listen to God, He would safely lead me home, back to hick Galilee. There will be dangers on the way, but God will lead me safely through them. But these dangers will be proportional to the greatness of the ministry God has given me. Joseph was given the ministry of raising and protecting God’s own Son, and life suddenly became wonderful and difficult. And, yet, Joseph got jerked around, from a human point of view.
But from the divine point of view, God was blessing him immeasurably. Even though he may even have been frustrated sexually for a time, God blessed Joseph immeasurably – because of the greatness of the ministry and because of Joseph’s faithfulness.
To what ministry is God calling me? What dangers and obstacles will I face? But what blessing does He have in store for me, if only I would learn not to fear those who can kill the body but to fear the one who has power over both my body and my eternal soul?
Lord, give me ears to hear!
So what is it that I hear God saying to me? I hear several things distinctly. I am so glad I taught my kids the other night to begin listening to God and knowing that He speaks to them throughout the day, especially through their consciences. Here is a short list of things that I already hear God calling me to do. And yes, they will probably involve Him “jerking me around”!
- I must give over every labor of work, home, family, and self as a way of knowing and seeking God – and not something distinct from my life with Him.
- I must renew my labors on the most important things God is calling me to, in spite of the persistent obstacles He’s allowed in my life.
- I must continue writing Give Us This Day no matter how tired I am or how difficult it is at times, for it is bearing fruit in my life and the lives of others, and I believe it will lead me to more.
- I must remain open to the thrilling and dangerous and exhilarating call God has upon my life – no matter where it leads.
- I must speak passionately and fearlessly about Jesus Christ to anyone who is willing to listen to me.
Observing Joseph, the father of my Lord, closely, he’s taught me. I, too, want to listen intently to the Lord, no matter how He speaks. I, too, want to follow wherever He leads me. I used to think that maybe God was eventually calling me to Africa, to Kigali or Nairobi or Nigeria. Maybe He was calling me to be daring in encountering another form of Anglicanism. And so He led me to wild Good Shepherd Reformed Episcopal Church in exotic Tyler, Texas!
The point is, I vow to keep listening and obeying, as Joseph did.
What if . . . ? What if all of us vowed to be like Joseph, to seek the Lord, to listen for Him, and to do whatever He told us to do – even if He sent us a virgin birth or to Egypt or to a place where we might be killed?
I think maybe we’d turn the world upside down all over again!
Prayer: Lord, I ask that You would reveal Yourself to me today. Although You may not come to me through angels or dreams but through the small still voice, I ask that You would increase my spiritual ears and my ability to hear You when You speak. Strengthen my spiritual muscles so that when I hear You I will have the strength to obey, in the Name of Your Son and through the power of Your Spirit. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- What has the Lord been telling you recently? If you don’t know, then spend some time today becoming very quiet and still and listen for what He is saying.
- What distracts you from listening better to the Lord? How can you overcome this?
Resolution: I resolve to listen for the Lord today until I hear Him speak.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson