Not a whole lot is said about Joseph in the Christmas Story. But we can learn a whole lot from this man. The Joseph Principle will change your life. Is it God’s Will? Today I want to talk about Joseph and the fact that he was preparing his life for a future that was not what God had in mind for him. We are all like that, more often than not.
When we first hear of Joseph in chapter 1 of Matthew, he is, indeed, preparing. He is preparing to bring Mary home as his wife. He and Mary are engaged. This was a more serious thing in that time and place than it is now. They did not yet live together, but to break off the engagement now would require more than returning rings and canceling the wedding arrangements. It would require a divorce. They did not yet live together, but they were legally bound to one another.
Joseph was preparing a place for Mary to come and live as his wife. If he was an elderly widow, perhaps this entailed rearranging his existing home to accommodate her. If he was a young man, probably this entailed building an additional room onto his parents’ house or perhaps building a new house.
Joseph was preparing for a future of settling down with Mary to raise children while continuing his carpentry trade in his hometown. He expected his leisure time to be rearranged and he expected his social calendar to be different. Joseph expected to worry a little more when business was slow. He expected to know new joys when his sons someday read Torah before the congregation and his daughters someday gave him grandchildren.
Joseph did not expect to be having dreams full of messages from God Almighty. He did not expect to raise a boy that he did not father. He did not expect to be traipsing around the countryside on the run from Herod’s soldiers.
Joseph did not expect to be responsible for the religious training and upbringing of the Son of God and Redeemer of creation.
Sometimes the future you think you are preparing for is not what the Lord has in mind for you and sometimes it turns out that you are better prepared for what the Lord has in mind for you than you thought you were, and it’s only in obedience that you find out.
Before Mary turned up pregnant, Joseph had every reason to be confident about his anticipated future. He was a skilled craftsman, known in his community for his righteousness, which certainly included honesty and respectability. He knew the responsibilities ahead of him. They might not always be easy, but they were well-defined, and the community was structured to support him as he carried out his duties as husband and father.
I’m pretty sure that Joseph’s self-confidence was considerably more shaky when he found out that his responsibilities would be a little more complicated. I mean, what does a carpenter know about traveling to foreign lands? What does a small-town craftsman know about outwitting the armies of the king and protecting the most precious baby ever born? What does an ordinary Joe know about raising the Messiah?
The first command Joseph received in his dreams was to go ahead and take Mary as his wife. Did he have the personal resources to live down the public disgrace, the shame of his peers, the rebuke of his family? Apparently, he did. But he only found that out after he obeyed the command.
The second command Joseph received in his dreams was to flee to Egypt with Mary and the child. Did he have what it would take to travel such a long journey with a new mother and an infant? Would he be able to provide for them in a foreign land? Apparently, he did and he would. But he only found that out after he obeyed.
The third command Joseph received in his dreams was to return to Israel. He ended up settling in Galilee to avoid the attentions of Herod’s son and it turned out to be a good thing—something that fulfilled prophecy. But he only found that out after he obeyed.
What are You Waiting for?
Sometimes it turns out that you are better prepared for what the Lord has in mind for you than you thought you were, and it’s only in obedience that you that find out.
Next I want to talk about Obeying God by repenting of your sins. Sometimes you must repent and it isn’t only the obvious sins of lying, cheating, and stealing that you need to repent of. Sometimes you need to repent of more subtle sins—things that aren’t obviously bad, things that sometimes seem to be good. Until ten, Be a Man!
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