One of my responsibilities as I manage the center here is that I am the “boss” to 15 PNGian employees. One not so pleasant parts of this job is, as the boss, I have to enforce the rules, or the expectations of the job. I am a pretty laid back “boss.” Or at least I think so. But, one thing that I am pretty strict about is when they don’t show up to work without letting me know. In the PNG context, there are all kinds of reasons why they don’t come to work. I am pretty lenient with most “excuses.” But, I am not lenient when they don’t show up without letting me know, or sending word ahead with a coworker.
A month or so ago, my carpenter failed to show up. He doesn’t have a cell phone, and he doesn’t live near any of the other employees, so I have no way of knowing why he didn’t show up. It actually happened 2 or 3 days in a row. By the 3rd day I had my warning notice all ready, and had formulated how I was going to tell him how not cool it was for him to just not show up to work without letting me know. I would let him know just how much work I had for him to do, and how I could fire him over this if I wanted to.
He finally showed up for work on the 3rd day. And, before I handed down my verdict, God gave me the wisdom to stop and ask for an explanation first. His excuse was that a bunch of drunks had broken into his house and his mothers house. They stole some things, and broke all their dishes (which is a big deal in this context here).
As a result, my employee had spent the last 2 days at the police station trying to work with the police to apprehend the ones responsible (he knew who they were) and get those responsible to compensate for the damage they did. Once I heard what had happened, my perspective and attitude changed toward my employee. And instead of laying down the law, I had compassion on him and asked him how we could help, and whether he needs more time to remedy the situation.
It’s amazing how having the right information can change our perspective. It doesn’t change the circumstances, but it can change how we view the circumstance.
The Passage: Matt 1:18-25
It’s been some time since their engagement was final, and they had entered into the espousal period. Mary has been away at her relatives in Judea. Joseph has been busy preparing a place for his bride. He wants to do everything right for her. Joseph is devout, he is holy, he is righteous. He has been doing his best to follow the laws and the customs of his Jewish faith.
After 3 months or so, Mary returns from Judea. Whether Joseph found out because he saw her and could tell she was “with child,”, or because he learned about it because Mary tried to tell him, either way, Joseph’s first reaction was to assume she had been unfaithful, and to privately get a divorce, “Since Joseph was a righteous man, it was inconceivable to him that he would marry one who was carrying what he would presume to be another man’s child. The only explanation that came to his mind was that his betrothed had been unfaithful to him during her visit to her relatives and demonstrated that she was an immoral woman.” (Pentecost)
Joseph knew the consequence. If he were to accuse her of immorality publically, they could stone her in the street. So, Joseph was thinking about Mary and the consequence, and decided to “divorce” her privately, instead of accusing her and sending her to her death.
But, Joseph was also thinking about himself, and what he wanted. Joseph could have very easily chose to live for what he wanted, and in fact he had begun thinking tht way before the angel spoke to him. What did Joseph want at that moment?
While Joseph was thinking about her consequence, he was also looking out for himself in not wanting to go through with the wedding
(Matt 1:20-25) Upon hearing the angel’s message, Joseph chose to follow God. What changed his mind? The circumstances didn’t change. Mary was still pregnant (not by Joseph). They were still engaged and it would still appear she broke her commitment, and her shame would become his shame. He would no longer be seen or looked upon as righteous, nor as a good Jew. So, what changed?
I really like how Pentecost described what God had just done.
“Jesus Christ, the eternal One, reached out through His birth and took to Himself a true and complete humanity. He united true humanity and true deity in one person forever. Such was the revelation given to Joseph. Joseph’s response was one of implicit faith and obedience. He did not ask for confirmation. He did not ask for explanation. He accepted the fact that Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the virgin birth was the true explanation of Mary’s pregnancy, and he obeyed the command of the angel and “took Mary home as his wife” (Matt. I :24).
What was God doing? Why is this written?
I started this study with the purpose of, as I behold Christ, as I spend time with Him in witnessing His life, then I will be changed (2 Cor 3:18) As I think about these opening chapters, I don’t think I have ever noticed the evidence of faith in their lives and seen how many of them had to rely on the Holy Spirit, without knowing how things will turn out.
This is what God desires to work in all our lives. It’s not “blind faith,” it’s faith in the person of God. It is faith in God, remembering His faithfulness, believing His promises, and resting in the triad of his character (Omniscience, knowing what is best; Omnipotence, having the power to do what’s best; Steadfast love, compelled to do the very best for those he loves)!
God orchestrates some events, allows some events, but everything is for this purpose. That we will experience His love, see His power, and trust in His omniscience and sovereignty.
Just like Joseph in this passage, what will change our focus off our circumstances, off our desires, and onto God? It truly is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. For Joseph, it took an angel declaring truth of God’s promise. For us, it’s going to take speaking the truth and focusing on the promises of God. But, we need to be willing to listen, accept, then act upon what the Spirit is showing us. Then, like Mary, we need to step out in faith and let God plan our future.
What can we learn from this? What is God saying to me and my life from this passage?
In my story at the beginning I said, “having the right information can change our perspective. It doesn’t change the circumstances, but it can change how we view the circumstance.” This week, what truth do you need to speak to yourself? What promise has God given you that will enable you to see your circumstance from God’s perspective? Then how is the Spirit directing you to trust God’s omniscience, omnipotence and love?
The Power; Declarations of Truth:
- When the things of God are in focus (His knowledge, power and love), my personal circumstances don’t really matter.
- Psalm 25:10 All of your paths are steadfast love and faithfulness
- Ps 36:5-7 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
- Jeremiah 31:3 You have loved me with an everlasting love; that is why you have continued your faithfulness to me.