Sunday, December 2, 2018

Trust and Precedent

Trust and Precedent
December 3, 2018
Matthew 1:20 ". . . the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. . . "

Joseph, the man who married the mother of Jesus, was a righteous man. For the Bible to consider him a righteous man, he likely would have spent a good deal of time in Scripture, reading and praying, understanding the Lord's Word.  He practiced what he learned about in the Scriptures, living out his life as recommended by the Lord. You could certainly say Joseph worked hard at his relationship with the Lord. While Mary was the chosen mother of Jesus, it probably was no chance relationship between Mary and Joseph. Joseph was an important part of the equation, and a man with integrity, at that. When Joseph learned the woman he was to marry was with child, he decided to do the right thing and simply divorce her quietly, to end the marriage contract before the wedding ceremony could finalize the deal. But the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Stop right there. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to marry the woman anyway. How many times is it recorded in the Bible that an angel of the Lord appears to anyone?  The number is limited to just a handful of people. 

Review for a moment the difference of an angel appearing in person like when they appeared to the shepherds in the field after Jesus was born, to several of them in public. But this appearance by the angel to Joseph was private, and in a dream. Dreams can be confusing, sometimes. Did Joseph make it up? Did he eat spicy Italian food from the Romans? Could he be certain the appearance was real and legitimate? Nonetheless, the angel in the dream told him it was OK to marry the woman, and to raise the child, the Christ child. Yeah, that's right, the angel told him the child was going to be the savior of the world. Now the dream is getting weird. An angel appeared to him in a dream, telling him this fiance was with child even though never having been with a man, and now the child inside her was going to be the savior of the world. Can you imagine if Joseph had woken the next morning and taking that dream to his pastor? It is hard to believe, impossible almost. It was the most outlandish dream in the whole of the Bible, when you consider the precedent. The two things in the dream defied gravity, having never been done before. A woman, with child, though not by a man, AND the child would be the savior of the world. This dream was rather outlandish. But Joseph did not wake up and discredit it. He did not belittle the ideas in the dream as preposterous or impossible or even improbable. Despite the lack of precedent regarding the message, Joseph trust the validity of it. 

It was preposterous, but Joseph not only trusted in it, he lived it out. Joseph put feet to the message and walked out his life in faith, that which the angel told him was true. The resolve and confidence Joseph must have had was amazing, to trust that this child was the Christ child, that marry was pregnant without the assistance of a man. It must have been a pretty impressive dream, to endure the other church members likely judging Joseph behind his back. No one else was given the dream. Imagine the conversations behind his back, in front of his face even. Did Joseph defend his actions, his decisions to marry the woman anyway? Could he have told anyone; would they believe him? Regardless, Joseph believed the Word of the Lord and he walked it out in confidence.

You and I aren't quite that impressive, walking in the resolve of Joseph on an apparent dream. For Joseph to have trusted that dream with his life, he must have had an amazing relationship with the Lord, conviction in hearing His voice. Joseph maybe had his questions leading up to the birth of Jesus, certainly the looks from others, and maybe even a doubt or two. Regardless, Joseph trusted in the word of the Lord, the gravity-defying word of the Lord where there was no precedent. You and I want the writing on the wall before we are willing to walk in trust, for those things the Lord has ask of us. We want a sign painted in the sky, an angel to appear on our door step, and a letter in the mailbox before we are sure we've heard from the Lord. Joseph didn't require all that, though, just a gentle dream to boost his resolve. What does it take for you to step out in faith, to trust the Lord down a path that has never before been traveled? We look at Scripture and look for the precedent; has someone else been down this path before? But what if the Lord is asking you to do something that has never been done before?  Will you still move forward? What if the going gets tough, will you stick it out?  What if there is no precedent; can you still trust the Lord through it?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 1:18-24, Matt 12:39, Matt 16:4

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