Today, I read a devotional I'd written in January 2020. Looking back at 2019. Wondering what 2020 would bring. What stood out to me were God's promises from His Word. 2020 arrived and time kept it ticking along. And humanity had to adjust. BUT GOD and His promises NEVER failed. I'm re-posting last year's words here:
Flight into Egypt. Peter Paul Rubens, 1614
"The Lord watches over those who obey Him, those who trust in His constant love." --Psalm 33:18 (Good News Translation)
A few weeks ago, the pastor of our expat church here in Chiang Mai started a new sermon series on the book of Matthew--appropriate way to start the Christmas season. What I hadn't realized at the time was Matthew's focus on Joseph and his story in relation to Jesus' birth and early life.
Joseph. Most of what we know about him is found in Matt. 1,2 and Luke 1-3. As I read Matt. 1 & 2, I saw how fitting this passage is for us as we move into a new decade--how Joseph's responses to struggle, difficult circumstances, and highly unusual requests should be our perspective as we begin this new decade.
We don't need to know a lot about Joseph to learn two not just life lessons but also commands given to us by God: Trust and Obey.
Firstly, let's review what God asked Joseph to do through an angel and dreams:
1. Take Mary to be your wife, which was considered unnatural, uncultural, and even unlawful (1:19).
2. Name the child Jesus and become His guardian and protector (Note that in chp. 2, the reference is always made to "the child and His mother" and not to "your child and His mother").
3. Flee to Egypt, of all places, until Herod dies.
4. Don't return to Bethlehem because there is still danger. They settle in Nazareth.
In ALL these things, Joseph trusted and obeyed. No questions asked!
I sometimes think that Joseph should've been included in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, along with Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and Samson. Even these men of faith questioned God at times. But Joseph did not. Matt. 2:14, 15a says, "So he got up. took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod." Joseph simply did what the angel told him to do, believing that God knew what He was doing. Again and again.
2019 is over. I know that for some of you, it's been a year full of pain and heartache. With the start of a new year comes the hope that 2020 will be better. Believe me, I want that too.
But that's not Joseph's story, which means, it may not be our story. After Jesus' birth and a year of heartache and struggle, don't you think Joseph was hoping that now they'd get some normalcy as a young married couple with a baby?
But no! The "new" year only brings a new command: Flee!!! I think at this point I'd be questioning why Yahweh God couldn't just have Herod killed somehow and prevent the need to escape. I mean, He is Almighty, right? And Jesus is His child, isn't He?
BUT GOD and His ways are not our ways!
Joseph doesn't question. He trusts and obeys!
And God gets the glory--in HIS time, not Joseph's.
Perhaps God has given you a Bible verse or new word or phrase for the coming year. Take it. Swallow it. Digest it. TRUST and OBEY what God has given you.
I'm sure Joseph hadn't planned on moving to and settling in Egypt as he began his new life with Mary and baby Jesus. So too, 2020 may not go as you think it will. God doesn't promise that the future will be problem-free. But be encouraged! God DOES promise that when we trust Him and obey Him with whatever comes our way, He is going before, making a way for us, promising to be with us in and through it all with future hope! For His glory!
"The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps." Prov. 16:9
"As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him." Ps. 18:30
My prayer for us all this year is that we will learn more and more what it means to trust and obey; and that our faith "might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Cor. 2:5) And may we always be ready and willing to give God the glory, whether in spoken word or written word.