by Alan Carr
Scripture: St. Matthew 1: 18-25
When God moved in time to send His Son Jesus into the world, God chose the perfect vessel when He chose the virgin named Mary. Of course, since the birth of Jesus was to be a virgin birth, there would be no need for a human male to father the child. However, because Jesus was coming into this world as a helpless infant, and since God was sending His Son into this world to live in poverty and not splendor, there would be a great need for someone to provide for the needs of this child. Therefore, God chose the man Joseph to be the earthly caretaker of His heavenly Son.
It would appear that Joseph was no ordinary man. From our text, it is easy to see that Joseph was a man of compassion, integrity, decency and love. He was a man who honored God's will in his life, and was totally committed to doing God's will. Joseph was a humble man who was more concerned about what God wanted out of his life than about what he himself wanted. He was a humble man chosen for a heavenly mission.
As I read this passage, I can see a man who possesses certain characteristics that mark him as a special man. Joseph was the kind of man we should all strive to be. I am almost sure that the Lord will not call you and me to go through what Joseph went through. However, I am also sure that God wants to use your life and mine for His glory, just as He used Joseph.
I would like for us to take a little time this evening to look into this passage. I want to point out some details of Joseph's life mark him as a man God could use. I want to preach today on this thought: Joseph, A Humble Man For A Heavenly Mission.
I. v. 18-19 THE TRAGEDY THAT MARRED HIS LIFE
(Illustration. Joseph was a man hand-picked and personally prepared by God for a special mission, his life was not without its trials and tragedies. In fact, Joseph faced, weathered and overcame trials that would have derailed many other people. A quick look at what Joseph faced and how he reacted can help us as we seek to become all the Lord would have us to be.)
A. v. 18 The Tragedy Of Shocking Discoveries – As you know, this man Joseph is betrothed to a young woman named Mary. The betrothal period was, for all intents and purposes, just like a marriage, except for the fact that the couple did not live together and did not engage in physical relations. Both parties were expected to keep themselves pure for the day they physically came together as husband and wife. It was common for the betrothal period to last several months or longer.
It was during this period of time that Joseph discovers the Mary is pregnant. No doubt, she shared with him her side of the story as the phrase "she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." But, who had ever heard of such a thing? Joseph knows where babies come from and to him, this is a shocking discovery!
B. v. 18-19 The Tragedy Of Shattered Dreams – No doubt like most men, Joseph was looking forward to the day when he and Mary came together to share their lives. He was probably preparing the home where they would live. He was busy putting together all the things they would need as husband and wife. I am sure his days were filled with work and his nights with dreams about all the future held for Mary, for himself and for the children they would someday have together.
Then, like a cruel slap in the face, came the news that shattered all his hopes and his dreams. Mary is pregnant and Joseph is not the father. For a time, it must have felt like his heart had been ripped from his chest. It must have hurt as every dream he had came crashing down around him. All of his plans, his hopes and his dreams fell from his grasp as though they were grains of sand. It was a time of shattered dreams.
C. v. 19 The Tragedy Of Sorrowful Decisions – Now, Joseph is faced with a dilemma. The Bible says that he was a "just" man. This means that he was "righteous and one who kept the divine laws." He knows what the Law says. It is quite clear! When a woman is found guilty of adultery, she is to be stoned to death, Deut. 22:20-22! But, there is another option. Deut. 24:1 says that he can just give her a bill of divorcement and send her away. As he meditates, Joseph determines that he does not want to embarrass Mary publicly; he does not want to see her stoned to death either. So, to his mind, the best course of action is to deal with the matter privately, and just divorce her quietly. No doubt the things Joseph pondered broke his heart. It was a time for sorrowful decisions!
(Note: What a true portrait of the harsh reality of life! We do our best to make our plans and get things all lined up like they thing they ought to be, then something happens and we see our hopes, our plans and our dreams come crashing down! When these things happen, it breaks our hearts because it isn't what we wanted or what we expected and it looks to us as though it could be the worst thing possible. But, like Joseph, we are blind to the fact that God is working behind the scenes. In fact, it was God Who shattered our dreams! The things that take place in life are not accidents, but are carefully planned and arranged events designed to help us grow in the Lord. That is hard for us to understand, but it is still the truth.
You see, our God works out His will in our lives in ways that we cannot even begin to comprehend, Isa. 55:8-9. His plans for us are not what we would have chosen for ourselves, Job 1-2. But, His plans are always the best, even when they hurt us deeply, Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:15-17. We may not like it when the Lord shatters our dreams, but when everything has been said and done, we will see that His plan was, and is, the best plan of all!
Illustration. Joseph - His path lead him from the place of prominence in his father's house, through a pit, into Potipher's house and though a prison. In the end, he would sit in the place of power on the throne of Egypt. It would never have happened had God not first shattered his dreams and broken his heart, Gen. 50:20!
We might as well face it this evening. If we are going to be used greatly of the Lord, there will some trials along the way. Elijah had to hide himself by Cherith before he could stand in power on Carmel. David had to deal with lions and bears in private before he was ready to face Goliath in public. It is hard for us to understand, but those God would use greatly, He often hurts deeply.)
II. v. 20-23 THE TASK THAT MARKED HIS LIFE
(Illustration. In the middle of this great tragedy in the life of Joseph, God placed a call upon him. God assigned Joseph a task that many would have balked at; but it was a task that Joseph embraced and completed by faith. A great tragedy may have marred his life, but this task marked his life.)
A. v. 20 The Task Involved Divine Revelations – Joseph is told that the child Mary carries is no ordinary baby. He finds out that Mary's child is the Son of God.
B. v. 20-21 The Task Involved Definite Requirements – Joseph is instructed that he is not to divorce Mary and he is not to have her stoned; but he is to take to himself as his wife, and he is to embrace her child as if He was his own Son. Joseph is told to name the Child, thus he is given the responsibility of caring for and of providing for the Baby Jesus. This man is handed a difficult task.
C. v. 21-23 The Task Involved Delightful Realizations – After hearing what is required in his task, Joseph learns the amazing truth. The baby Mary carries is to be fulfillment of the greatest promise God ever gave to man, Gen. 3:15. For thousands of years, the faithful have been looking down the corridors of time, waiting for the moment when God would send His Redeemer, His Messiah into the world. Throughout the Old Testament years, every lamb that was slain pointed ahead to the coming of this One Who was being formed in the womb of Mary. All the prophets looked ahead to this glorious moment in time, Isa. 7:14; Isa. 9:6. All of creation groaned for the day when this child would come and deliver this world from the bondage and blight of sin.
Then, Joseph hears the angel tell him that this child is to be named "Jesus." Why? Because He will be the One Who will save His people from their sins. His name will define His mission, "Jehovah is Salvation."
I am sure Joseph does not understand everything that is happening. I am certain that he does not grasp all the importance of the moment. But, if he did, then he would have understood that God was entering this world through the womb of a virgin. He would have understood that God, Who is Spirit and fills all things, was coming into this world in the person of a helpless infant. He would have known that Jehovah was coming to live in his house, learn his trade, sit on his knee and grow up to die for the sins of God's elect. No, Joseph probably did not understand it all, but I believe he got enough to know that God had just transformed what he thought was his worst nightmare into what would become his greatest blessing. He understood enough so that he could put his shoulder to the load God had called him to bear with joy.
(Note: Often the way we look at life is like watching a parade go by while standing between two tall buildings. All you are able to see of the parade is that portion that is passing directly in front of you at any given moment. You have a memory of what has already passed, but you have no idea about what is yet to come. You have to wait until it gets to you. But, if you were to climb on top of one of those tall buildings, you would be able to see the parade in its entirety. You could see the beginning, the middle and the end all at the same time. There would be no surprises!
That's the way we see life, isn't it? All we can really see is the part that happens to be passing before our eyes at the present time. We have a blurred memory of that which has gone before, but we have no idea about what is coming our way. Our God, however, sits above it all. To Him, there are no surprises! He knows the end from the beginning, because He had planned it all the way through.
The best thing we can ever learn to do is to simply trust Him to bring the best into our lives day by day. Even when our dreams are shattered and our hopes are dashed to pieces on the jagged rocks of reality, we need to trust the truth that our Father is still in control and He will take care of His children! Despite what you and I may think at times, God does know what is best for us!
May we never forget that it is from the wreckage of our greatest hurts that God often builds for us the greatest of blessings! Just because the way is dark, don't stop holding to His powerful hand. He may lead you through some dark places, but He will never forsake you in any of them, Psa. 23:4. Wherever His path leads you, you can count on His provisions to be sufficient for the need of the hour, 2 Cor. 12:9; Heb. 13:5; Phil. 4:19.
When your dreams lie broken around you; your plans have been destroyed before your eyes; and your hopes have all been dashed at your feet; remember, it may look bleak from our perspective, but God is working out His perfect will in your life and mine. So, may we walk confidently with our hand held safely in His grasp, even when we cannot see the way or understand the why. Our duty to Him is to walk with Him humbly by faith until He brings us to the place where He has already placed our provisions. You see, while we are toiling here today, He has already gone into tomorrow and arranged our path, supplied our need and lifted our burden. Therefore, just keep walking; just take one step at time. You will arrive at the place where the questions are answered and the needs are met, in His time!
You see, God has a plan for your life. The task He has for you to fulfill may not be easy. But, along the way, there will be some times when Heaven will brush up close to the earth, and God will give us a little glimpse of that which He is doing in our lives. It is those moments that make the tasks He assigns bearable.)
III. v. 24-25 THE TESTIMONY THAT MEASURED HIS LIFE
(Illustration. The real test of maturity is not what a person faces in life, nor is it revealed in what they are called on to do. The real evidence of the depth of a person's character is seen in what they do with what they are handed. It is one thing to be placed in a trial; but it is another thing altogether to respond to that trial in a proper manner. It is one thing to be called to carry out a task for the Lord; but it is another thing altogether to do it without question. We have considered the tragedy that marred this man's life. We have also looked into the task that marked his life. Let's take a moment to think about the testimony that measured his life. For, in Joseph's response to the tragedy and to the task; we are given a priceless glimpse of this man's testimony.)
A. v. 24 A Testimony Of Unconditional Compliance – Many men would have walked away from the Lord and from Mary at that moment. But, not Joseph! As soon as he awoke, he rose and carried out the command of the Lord. There is no doubt but that people talked about this young couple that had been unable and unwilling to wait until they were "properly married." At this moment in Joseph's life, he was not interested in what the community thought about him; he simply wanted to carry out the will of the Lord for his life. In spite of his question, his fears and his concerns, Joseph sets out by faith to obey the Lord. What a testimony!
B. v. 25 A Testimony Of Unwavering Commitment – Even when he took Mary into his home, he refrained himself from physical contact with her. He obeyed the Lord and preserved her virginity until after Jesus had been born. Here is a man willing to bear the shame and reproach leveled at him from the community, and he is also willing to place his own desires, needs and rights on the back burner. He wants nothing more than to do the perfect will of God. Again, I say: What a testimony!
C. v. 25 A Testimony Of Unfailing Completion – When the child was born, Joseph took the next step of faith and named the child Jesus, just as he had been commanded by the angel Gabriel. As far as we know, Joseph never faltered as he perfectly carried out the commands of God for his life. In spite of the fact that he has been called upon to believe the impossible and to do the incredible, he never wavered. He did what the Lord told him to do! What a testimony!
(Note: As we move through life, we have already discovered that the Lord has a plan to use us for His glory. We have also learned that this plan may be very difficult for us to carry out. There may be some rough places along the way. There may be some significant bumps in our paths. But, genuine faith in God never seeks the easier road. Faith is willing to go where God leads it, regardless of the cost and regardless of the consequences. Real faith says, "On the surface, this looks like the worst thing that I have ever faced. Still, I know God has gone ahead of me and that He had planned the path I will take. Therefore, I will not look to the right or to the left, but I will faithfully place my feet in the footprints He has already left in front of me. I will follow Him wherever He sends me and I will not turn back, in spite of what I may face. It may look like a nightmare at this moment; but I know that His plan is the best plan and that He will take this tragedy and turn it into a triumph. Therefore, I say, 'Here am I send me, Oh Lord!'") What will you do when your dreams become nightmares?
Did you know that God used Joseph in the life of Jesus in a powerful fashion? No doubt Joseph was very involved in the life and training of Jesus as a young man. God took a poor, humble carpenter and used him to carry out an important heavenly mission.
Did you know that he is still looking for special people He can use to carry out His will in the world today? I am certain that He will never ask you to do what He asked Mary and Joseph to do. But, I am certain that He has plenty of difficult assignments that need to be fulfilled. He is looking for people who will follow him in spite of the tragedies life. He is looking for people who will take of the tasks He assigns them and go for God. He is looking for people who possess the right kind of testimony, who will go with Him until their assignment is completed.
Are you that kind of person? If so, why not get before Him and say, "Here am I, send me!" Or, maybe you are one of those people who has watched as your dreams have become nightmares; you feel overwhelmed by the task you have been assigned. Why don't you get before Him and lean on Him for the grace you need to complete your mission. I don't know your heart or your need, but I know the God Who will help you with both.
Copyright 2003 by Alan Carr. Used with permission
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