A lot of times I write about women in the Bible and how we can learn from or be inspired by them. But today I want to talk about Joseph. Not the Joseph of the Old Testament, though he’s a great guy. No, I mean the Joseph of the New Testament. The one who served as an earthly father to Jesus.
As I read about him in Matthew chapters 1 and 2, I find that his life is marked by one word. It’s not flashy or spectacular or radical. It’s a very simple word.
Four times God came to Joseph in a dream. He is given four different, direct commands. And Joseph has the same response every time.
Let’s look quickly at these four passages.
“Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost…Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:” ~Matthew 1:19-20, 24
Joseph is already classified as a “just man.” Yet surely this command from God was unexpected. I feel like I’d have wanted something more than just one dream to confirm that I needed to make such a life-changing decision. Remember Gideon and the fleece?? Maybe something like that. But Joesph woke up from his dream and did exactly – and, as far as we can tell, without question – what God told him to do.
Here’s the second dream.
“And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:” ~Matthew 2:13-14
The wise men have just left Bethlehem. Joseph has a dream and is told to take Mary and Jesus out of the country. Not just to another village, but to a totally unfamiliar place. And traveling then wasn’t like it is today, with GPS and car rental and hotel reservations along the way. I don’t know if Joseph had planner tendencies like I do, but it probably would have been nice to have a little more notice before taking off on this big trip.
How did Joseph respond? When he got up out of bed, he took Jesus and Mary at night and left for Egypt.
And here’s the third dream.
“But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.” ~Matthew 2:19-21
Another dream, another trip. We don’t know exactly how long the little family had been in Egypt. But now God tells Joseph it’s time to return to Israel. Perhaps this was a welcome command. Certainly, there must have been relief in knowing that those who’d wanted to kill the young Jesus were dead. Once again, Joseph does what he’s done before.
And finally, just a short time later, we find the last recorded dream of Joseph.
“But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” ~Matthew 2:22-23
And here’s the fourth dream, the fourth time God tells Joseph what he should do. This time, God’s direction leads Joseph to Nazareth, the town that Jesus would be associated with when He grew to be a man. [Matthew 21:11; Mark 1:24] Joseph responds to this directive just as he has all the times before.
We may not speak or sing on a stage or be recognized for our large charitable contributions. We may not feel like we have any great talent that God can use. But you and I, we can be like Joseph.
We can obey.
We can look to God’s Word for instruction and follow it. When the Holy Spirit impresses a particular action on our heart, we can follow through. We can pray for discernment to know God’s will and do it to the best of our ability.
I believe that whether it was here or in heaven or both, God honored Joseph for his obedience. And I believe that’s why he was chosen to have such a close, earthly relationship with God’s Son. May we, like Joseph, be obedient to what we know God would have us to do today.