Things were going well for Joseph. Then Mary delivered the news. He would have preferred hearing that she had died. But God intervened. Joseph had already made a good decision by choosing a pure bride. Now he would make the hardest decision of his life.
“Joseph, son of David…” The angel identified his subject: “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Mary was telling the truth. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20,21). What looked like shame just turned to honor.
We assume the job of listening rests on our ability to hear. Scripture puts the ball in God’s court. The disturbing news that just destroyed his future had not tampered with God’s. Some truths surface about hearing:
One step at a time.
Don’t expect the entire scenario. “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” He could do that. If you stand at point A, ask B questions. “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.” You need the next step. Nothing more.
God’s will is good.
The angel said, “Do not be afraid,” because Joseph was terrorized by his option: “Divorce the lady.” God’s strategy proved just the opposite: “Marry your beloved and raise the Son of God as your own.” Fitting into the purpose of God does include suffering, but the presence of the Almighty gives purpose to pain.
God speaks with clarity.
“His sheep hear his voice.” The more confident we grow in God’s ability to speak, the more we will hear. By morning, Joseph knew what to do. Those who find themselves paralyzed by indecision need to act. Quit worrying that you might miss His “perfect” will and affirm that He lets you walk in it.
God’s messages are often counter-intuitive.
They don’t spring up in our minds as if created by interior logic. They sound more like God than us. When Joseph heard from the angel, he didn’t say, “I should have known that the Holy Spirit did this.” Yet those learning to walk in the Spirit find that their intuition begins to track with God’s will.
What God says agrees with what God said.
God proves the present word with a past one. He links destiny with history, making His will verifiable. Matthew adds his commentary: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’ ” (22,23).
Hearing means heeding.
To hear and not obey is not to hear. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (24). We desperately need to hear from God—and desperate people do! Those more casual will turn guidance into a technique: “Give me three sure-proof steps,” while men like Joseph know it flows out of relationship. The story could have read, “When Joseph woke up, he divorced Mary.” And he would have missed his God-appointed destiny. He obeyed—and Jesus called him father.