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God's Plan Revealed to Joseph

Christmas 2022  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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This morning we are going to continue looking at God’s plan to save the world. There is no question that it was a strange plan by human standards, but it was and is God’s Plan.
Two weeks ago we saw that God’s plan to send the Messiah into the world was not an afterthought or a plan “B,” but rather it was God’s plan all along.
Last week we looked how God revealed His plan to Mary—the young girl that would give birth to God’s Messiah. We looked at the emotion that Mary must have struggled with. How would she tell Joseph.
Honestly, I really wish that God had chosen to record in His Word a number of the conversations that Mary must have had. For example, can you imagine the conversation between Mary and her mother? What about the one she must have had with her Father? Yet the one that I really wish God had recorded for us is the conversation between Mary and Joseph.
While we do not have a record of that conversation, we know that Joseph struggled with deciding what he should do. It is this story that we want to look at this morning. So, if you have your Bibles, and I hope that you do, I want to encourage you to turn with me to Matthew chapter 1, and we’ll begin reading with verse 18.
Matthew 1:18 NIV
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

Joseph Is Told

When we come to Matthew 1:18, we are dropped into the story, that is already in progress.
Matthew begins by telling us several things.
Mary and Joseph were “pledged” to be married. They were in the betrothal period. In that day they were legally married, but the wedding celebration had not yet take place, and the two of them were still living apart from one another. In fact, any time the two of them were together there had to be a chaperone.
Before they had any kind of sexual relations, they discovered that Mary was pregnant.
Now we are told that Mary was pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Thank about that statement—it is not difficult to believe Joseph might have struggled with Mary’s story. Certainly nothing like this had happened before—surely Mary was lying.

Joseph’s Dilemma

Can you see why I would like to have the conversation recorded for us? It must have been very hard for Mary to have this conversation with Joseph, and it must have been very hard for Joseph to hear the news.
None of it made sense. As Joseph wrestles with what he is going to do he’s in agony. Look at verse 19.
Matthew 1:19 NIV
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Joseph was faithful to the Law—this is the Law of Moses. So if Mary had committed adultery, then by the Law she was to be taken outside the city and stoned.
By Law, if Joseph continued with the marriage everyone would assume that he was as guilty as she was—and that would impugn his righteousness and dignity.
This verse reveals that Joseph really did love Mary—he did not want to expose her to public disgrace . . . No doubt he felt betrayed, but still he did not want anything bad to happen to Mary. I think it was because he really cared for her!
So he came up with a plan—he would divorce her quietly. This meant he would be legally free from her. But it also meant that Mary would forever be damaged goods and probably never marry again.

Change of Plans

When we come to verse 20—Joseph is challenged to change his thinking.
Matthew 1:20–21 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. 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.”
Look at the first phrase—But after he had considered this . . . After Joseph wrestle with the decision, after Joseph finally made a decision and decided on his plan of action, after the decision was made and Joseph was finally able to go to sleep—after all of that he sees the angel!
Do you ever wonder why Joseph had to wrestle with the decision. Why didn’t God send the angel to him before he made his choice? Why did God allow (or perhaps cause) Joseph to struggle with his decision? I think I have an answer—God often allows us to go through the wrestling process, and come to our “logical” conclusion before He reveals what he really wants us to do! You see, it is only after Joseph struggled through the decision making process that he was ready to hear from God. And often we are the same way!
So when Joseph is finally ready to listen, an angel appears to him in a dream (which by the way suggests that he finally fell asleep).
The angel’s message confirms Mary’s story!
The angel’s message readjusts Joseph’s plan.
The angel’s message calms Joseph’s fears.
The angel’s message gives Joseph more information and instructions:
—You are to give this baby boy the name Jesus.
—You are going to do this because He will save His people from their sins!

Fulfillment of Scripture

Matthew 1:22–23 NIV
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Now we—the readers—are told that all of this took place to fulfill what the prophets said.
Verse 23 quoting from Isaiah 7:14.
Isaiah 7:14 NIV
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
The virgin birth was part of God’s sign that the child to be born was indeed the Messiah.
And this Messiah would be called Immanuel—which means “God with us.” This is not necessarily the child’s name, but rather what people will say about him .

Joseph’s Response to the Angel

Matthew 1:24 NIV84
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Joseph responds obediently to the angel’s instructions.
He went and found Mary, and took her to his home—the betrothal period was over!
When we come to verse 25, we jump 9 month (give or take a little bit).
Matthew 1:25 NIV84
But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
First we are told that Joseph lived with Mary without having any sexual relations with her until after the baby was born.
The second thing we are told is that Mary gave birth to a son.
And Joseph named the baby “Jesus,” just like the angel had instructed.
Once again, I wish God had chosen to include more conversations. For example:
—What conversations did Joseph have with his family and friends?
—What was the conversation like with Mary after he had his dream?
—What was the conversations like between Joseph and Mary’s family?
Yet, neither Matthew nor Luke give us insight into any of these discussions. In fact, Matthew doesn’t tell us much about the birth of Jesus—just simply that it happened. And when you come to chapter 2, you end up fast forwarding about 2 years to when the wise men or Magi come to visit.

So What?

What do we learn from this story? I think we learn a lot.
We learn that we too are part of God’s story.
That means that He has a plan for us and for our lives.
As always, we face the same dilemma that Joseph faced. Will we trust God and follow His plan, or will we make our own decisions and live out our own plan?
Like Joseph, God has told us what we are to do! At the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus gave His disciples their finally marching orders. Honestly those orders have not changed over the past 2000 plus years. Jesus’ orders are found in Matthew 28:19-20.
Matthew 28:19–20 NIV84
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The question each of us must answer is this: Are we willing to go and tell people about Jesus—make disciples. Are we willing to help the people who come to Christ take their first major step in obedience—baptizing them. And are we willing to help people grow in their new found faith—teaching them to obey.
There is truly no better time of the year to carry out the Great Commission of Jesus than at Christmas! Will you obey the command?
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