Matthew 1: 20 NIV
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
What Makes You Important?
Recently I came to the church office and discovered a woman sleeping on the concrete behind the sanctuary. She was wrapped in a pure white comforter and had boxes and papers and the remains of her meal scattered around her. She looked up at me as I went to unlock the kitchen in the back building and she asked me if I remembered her. It is funny as I get older how often people recognize me but I can’t recall having met them. After talking a while, I realized that it was not Alzheimer’s that led to my inability to remember her but the fact that we really had never met. She was young and beautiful, maybe late twenties, early thirties, deeply tanned with bright green eyes and an easy smile. It was not long though before I began to see what a broken soul she was. Her past clearly had traumatized her and she was bitter and angry. Gina kept talking about the demon possessed police who were following her and trying to trap her as well as evil forces that were trying to destroy her. She was clearly a meth addict, but worse, deranged and emotionally unstable. I brought her something to eat, gave her access to the bathroom and spent some time listening to her rants and then praying for her to have God’s peace. After Gina left, I wondered what God wanted to do with her. Did He have plans for her still? Was she too wrecked to be reclaimed by God? As Gina limped away, her damaged leg seemed to offer hope to me that if a doctor could fix her leg, surely God could remake her broken heart. Perhaps He has plans for her that she can still fulfill?
You too are damaged in many ways, some visible but others hidden even from you. You care about how your life is going, what it is and what will become of it despite the broken parts of you. If you didn’t, it would probably be because you are at some level feeling hopeless. Maybe it matters to you what God wants to do with you. Perhaps you have thought about His plans for you and how you fit into the bigger scheme of life. How ready are you for Christ to jump into your conscious thinking and redirect you, shift dramatically the direction you are going? Do you believe that God has plans for you and that you play a part in what He wants to do? Are you willing to go where He leads, do what He tells you to do?
Not long ago I spent some time pondering just how immense it was for Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, the mother of Jesus to agree with the Lord’s plan for him. When Joseph heard from his fiancée that she was pregnant but not with his child, he immediately assumed that she had cheated on him. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her (his fiancée, Mary) to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19 NIV) However, God intervened and sent an angel to Joseph during a dream. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20 NIV)
You have the benefit of being able to look back on all of this through history, knowing the supernatural circumstances of this pregnancy. Joseph had none of our tools to process what Mary had just told him. In addition, the vision of the angel was one embedded in a dream and we all know how convoluted and distorted dreams are. Dreams are not very trustworthy and you cannot be sure what to do with them. Some most interesting conclusions can be drawn from this short description of how God got across to Joseph His plans for him. Why don’t you consider each of these point by point?
Joseph was afraid, really afraid of the news that Mary was pregnant. His plan to divorce her quietly was born out of a desperate situation. How do you divorce someone quietly when you both are from a small village where everyone knows everyone else and weddings are community events that take in the entire town practically? He would have had to spend months and more likely years to get to the place where he could even wed Mary. He would not have on the spur of the moment proposed to her; she was his most important investment in life. It would have scared Joseph to death to contemplate tossing all of that aside and quietly walk away from this marriage without being able to explain the reason behind his decision. Worse than that however was staying with Mary and having to wait nine months for her baby to be born, knowing the child might not look like either one of them. How could he explain what had happened to her?
Second, it really was God who was speaking to Joseph in the dream, despite how hard it would have been for him to believe. The tension would have been difficult to resolve; how to know for certain He had heard from God and it was not just the wild nature of his imagination that put together his dream. Perhaps he wanted the Lord so badly to intervene and guide him that he concocted in the depths of his unconsciousness a “God moment”. Plenty of crazy people think they have heard from God…or Moses…or Adam… Joseph could have lost his mind in his grief over his fiancée’s pregnancy and the dream may just have been an emotional coping device. It was an act of great faith for Joseph to decide his dream really had come from God.
Third, it was Joseph that God wanted to act as the father of His child. No one else was selected. Joseph alone was chosen for this great task of raising and caring for Jesus. When Joseph looked at himself and pondered the immensity of what stood before him, he could not hunt about for someone to take his place. He alone had been given the charge and it was his duty to live up to the Lord’s expectations. No one could take his place.
Fourth, Joseph was a part of God’s prearranged plan. There was a history to what He was called to do. At some point, the Lord picked out Joseph and arranged circumstances so that he would be a perfect fit for what the Lord wanted him to do. After Joseph accepted his part in God’s plan, there was an entire chain of events that would follow that would be directly connected to Joseph and what he did. This was not an arbitrary determination on God’s part that Joseph might work out as Jesus’ father. He thought through it all before He contacted Joseph and was all in on being there for Joseph as he fulfilled the task given him.
Fifth, Joseph was a very ordinary human being. There are no unique qualities described in the text telling us about him. We know nothing about his intellect, his talents, his athleticism or even his age or how he looked. We could never have known it was him if Joseph walked up to us on the street because we have nothing in the Biblical record to make us recognize him. His skill set and talent base are irrelevant to the story. God picked Joseph out to raise His Son and that is all we can say about why He did so. It would be nonsensical for us to think God did not have good reasons for choosing Joseph, we just don’t know what they were and Joseph most likely did not know either.
You also fit into what God is doing and you too have been selected by Him for something…most likely an entire list of somethings. Why He has chosen you we cannot say. What your qualifications are for the challenge is irrelevant to you. This is not something God just on the spur of the moment considered but from eternity He has been thinking of you for this. No one else is fit for what He has for you or He would have called that person instead. But how can you know it is God who has given you the responsibility laid in front of you? You just must! At some point you have to resolve the tension between believing that God is directing your life and not believing it. You might be afraid of what is before you, completely befuddled by what you have to do but at some level that only you and God can access you know it is God pointing the way. No one else may see what you see or grasp what you know is true but you do know God has something for you to do and it is no one else He has to do it. What might it be? None of us here know but you will know and you must not talk yourself out of knowing you know. The Bible clearly tells us the way God has His people do things, how they are to act when faced with the challenges before them. It is not a matter of how to do what He wants you to do; it is whether you will do what He is showing you to do in the way He has said to do it.
In some way, you fit perfectly into the plan God has for this world and He is certain you can live up to the challenge. He knows your capabilities, your strengths and weaknesses and He has thought through what He can do with you and through you if you will just accept His challenge. You cannot know what value there is to what you do nor can you see all the ramifications of following Him. All you can know and this is the most certain fact you can ever come to discover. God will connect you to Himself and together you will form a union that is as binding and full of love and joy as the union the Father has with the Son. Are you willing to be united with Christ in His plan for you? Are you willing to let Him work through you that you might be joined to Him in His plan for the world? What do you say to God when He lifts your head up and points out to you the way that you are to go?