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Dilemma of Derailment

The Christmas Dilemma  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:51
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Joseph. He certainly knew what it was like to have your plans ‘derailed’, didn’t he.
Have you ever experienced that in your life? I know I have.
It is a natural part of life to make plans, to plot out where you want to go, what you want to do, how you want things to be. Then, we work toward those goals. We begin evisioning in our minds what it will be like. We fantasize about how wonderful life will be when our plans come to fruition.
And then, out of the blue, something happens and all of our well laid plans, all of our dreams come crashing down in a moment.
Have you experienced that? Do you know what I mean?
How do we handle this change? How do we handle when all of our plans and dreams are derailed? How do we go on from the train-wreck of our life?
It was interesting for me to consider Joseph in this way. I believe Joseph would have been just like us, in making plans and having dreams. Joseph knew what he was doing, and where he was going.

Background: Married to Mary

When reading the account of the angel appearing to Mary last week, we learned that she was betrothed to Joseph. This was more than an engagement. It was the first part of the marriage, when the families got together, determined the bride price to be paid, made the exchange, and agreed that the man and woman would be husband and wife. Then, the man would go to build a home for them before she could go to live with him as his wife.
When the angel appeared to Mary, that first part of the marriage was already completed. Joseph had returned to his home to make a place for him to live with Mary. Once that was done, which usually took about a year, he would come to take Mary to the home to consumate the marriage.
After the angel appeared to Mary and told her she would have a child, Mary left to be with the only person who would likely believe what God was doing with her… her cousin Elizabeth who with her husband Zechariah was also miraculously pregnant.
Where was Joseph? He was still building the home, looking forward to the day he would bring his wife to live with him.

Joseph the planner

Joseph was a carpenter by trade. He knew how to plan. He probably drew up the house plans. He carefully planned and prepared the site. He got the materials together.
Now a carpenter in those days did not just work with wood. A lot of the work was with stones. Not little ones. Big ones. And there was no machinery to help with the lifting and placing of the stones. So, Joseph would have also come up with the plans to build whatever he needed to get those stone walls built. I imagine Joseph was a very detailed, and careful planner just because of his trade.
He would have been a visionary, knowing in his head what it was going to be like. How the rooms would be laid out. Where things would be placed, how the structue would be built to help to keep cool in the heat of the day, and warm in the cool of the night.
I am sure he had plans on how the progress would continue until that day when he go to get Mary to bring her to their newly completed home! What a procession it would be! Their friends and family acccompanying them, singing and dancing all the way from her home to this home he was building.
There would be the wedding feast! A week long celebration of their marriage being completed. Of course, that party would also require a lot of planning. He would have to be sure to set aside plenty of food and wine so that the full celebration each day would be supplied.
Yes, I believe Joseph was like you and me. He was a man with a plan! He was a man on mission. He knew what he wanted. He prepared. He worked hard. He was building the life he wanted. His dreams were all coming true. Things were going so well...
But then, things changed… His plans were derailed. Mary returned from her cousin, and she was visibly pregnant.

The Derailment

What had she done!?! How could she do this to him!?! What of their plans, their dreams, the home he was building for them? What about the life, the family, the hopes and dreams they had shared?
What was he going to do? How would he deal with this change of events? How would he move on? How would he react to this new set of circumstances, and the new path of life he was on, which was not of his choosing?
Let’s read the account of Joseph which is recorded for us in Matthew 1.
Matthew 1:18–25 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. 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. 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.” 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”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Let’s pray and ask the Lord to speak to us this morning about handling the Dilemma of Derailment. Let’s ask the Lord to teach us how to handle when our plans, our dreams, come crashing down, like what happened to Joseph.

What did Joseph do?

What I want to do is consider how Joseph handled himself in this time when all of his life seemed like this huge train wreck. How did he handle himself? What did he do? Why did he do it that way? How did he get through it?
So what did he do?
He planned again. He started to formulate a new plan.
What was his new plan?
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.
He had in mind… that means, he devised a new plan. That is what planners do, isn’t it? He was doing to divorce Mary, but he was going to do it quietly.
Why was this the plan? What made Joseph go this route when everything fell apart?
I believe the Holy Spirit shows us, in how He had Matthew record it in this verse.
Joseph’s plan followed from Joseph’s character. The way Joseph dealt with the dilemma of the derailment followed his character.

Joseph the righteous

That expression, “was faithful to the law,” is literally the word normally translated ‘righteous’.
Joseph’s character was such that he wanted to do the right thing.
If her married her, he would be essentially saying he was guilty of not waiting to consumate the marriage once the home was finished. His character would be mailgned. No one would think of him as righteous anymore.
The law stated that he could divorce her. Now, there was a portion of the law that in the case of adultery called for stoning. However, another portion in Numbers 5:11-31 allowed for the man to let the Lord deal with the woman.
At this point in history, while the Jews were under Roman law, not many were stoned.
But, Joseph knew he was not guilty, and as a follower of the law, could divorce her.
When he divorced her, she would have to carry the shame of her actions, and would likely not be able to find a man to marry her. She would be reliant upon her parents, and/or brothers to provide for her. Life was going to be very hard for her, harder than it already was since everyone knew, and her ‘adultery’ was like a scarlet letter.
But Joseph wasn’t just righteous. Joseph was also merciful.

Joseph the merciful

Because Joseph was merciful, he did not want Mary to have to suffer any more than she already was. So, he opted to divorce her quietly. He was not coing to make a big show of this to make it clear to everyone that he was still righteous.
In other words, he didn’t just think about himself through this.
When his world came crashing down, all of his plans derailed, Joseph responded out of the character he had already developed.
He was righteous, and merciful. He thought of what would be right to do, and he thought about how to help and protect Mary instead of just thinking of himself. And keep in mind. From his perspective, Mary was the one to derailed the train. She didn’t deserve anything by malice by the world’s standards.
Joseph was righteous and merciful. Good traits to have when our plans derail.
But the story continues...
Matthew 1:20 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.
God sent an angel to let Joseph know that Mary did not derail the train. This wa something that God was doing.
Matthew 1:21 NIV
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.”
God had the angel give Joseph a plan. Not Joseph’s plan, but God’s plan. Take Mary as your wife. She will have a son who will save people from their sins!
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”).
The Holy Spirit recorded this explanation through Matthew so we would know that God had this planned for quite some time. God planned it. God announced his plans. And now, God was carrying out his plans through Joseph and Mary.
This was the reason Joseph was in the Dilemma of Derailment. While Joseph had been working so hard on his own plans, God was working out his own plan—one that had to happen through the right descendents of David. God was working out his plan through Joseph and Mary.
What seemed like an utter train wreck, was God’s glorious plan and work to bring salvation to the world!
So, what was Joseph going to do? What did Joseph do in his dilemma of derailment?
Matthew 1:24 NIV
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Joseph decided to follow God’s plan. He took God’s plan as his own, and took Mary as his wife. Turns out, this worked out better than Joseph’s plan ever would have! God was doing more than Joseph could have thought or imagined!

What about me?

How do you and I handle the Dilemma of Derailment?
Even at Christmas, we often have plans that are derailed. Things do not go as planned. Our hopes and dreams of a pleasant family gathering at the holidays can often end in a train wreck. How do we handle it?
Joseph learned the secret of handling the Dilemmas of Derailment.

Handling Derailments: Seek God’s righteousness, God’s mercy and God’s plans.

First, he learned to develop his character, so that when the train wrecks came, he was still pursuing righteousness. He was still showing mercy to others. He did not just focus on his hurts or disappointments. He did not try to make other people suffer for what they had done. He continued to pursue righteousness and mercy.
Second, he learned that though he makes his plans, God determines his steps. He learned to listen for God’s direction changes when the derailments came. He learned to trust that God had a better plan. Not always an easy plan for us to live through in the moment, but a plan that is so much bigger and better than we ever dreamed.
Let’s seek to learn to handle the Derailments of life the way Joseph did:
Homework:
Read Matthew 1:18-25. Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. Think through what his plans must have been before Mary was pregnant. How did Joseph react to Mary? Why was he able to react that way? How might you have reacted? I imagine I would have been hurt and angry. I would not have wanted anything to do with her. Might we have been a little vengeful? Might we have gone the route of public humiliation for Mary? Why would you react that way? How might God want to use Joseph’s example to show us more about his character, and what he desires to see in us? Consider Matthew 9:13.
Read Proverbs 16:1, 9; 19:21. If possible, read them in four different translations. Where do our plans come from? More often than not, they come from our own hearts and minds. Our plans are the results of the things we seek after and desire. Ultimately, who is in charge? Does He have anything to say about our plans? Think of verses where God tells us how we should plan, list them out, and read them. If you cannot find any, consider Matthew 5:19-33. What do these verses have to say about our plans? Our plans usually stem from our hearts, the things we want and seek after. How would seeking first His kingdom and righteousness effect our plans? Another set of verses you could refer to is James 4:13-17.
Read the account of Joseph in Genesis 37. How old was Joseph? Joseph certainly had dreams. Do you have dreams about what you want your life to be like? Things you want to do? Where you want to be? Most times, our dreams and plans come from where? Remember Proverbs 16:1, 9? From where did Joseph’s dreams come? Since they came directly from the Lord, why was he a sold as a slave instead of ruling? Were his plans derailed? How do you think he responded? How did he handle it?
Read more of the account of Joseph in Genesis 39. Joseph’s God-given plans were in shambles. He had been betrayed by his own brothers and sold as a common slave. He was marched in bonds to Egypt where he was sold again as a slave to an Egyptian. How did he handle this? How did he act? We are not told specifically about his attitude, but what do you think his attitude was like? Since his master was pleased with him, do you think his attitude was bad? Do you think he did only what he was told, or did he go the extra mile? We do have a clue from verse 9 why Joseph acted the way he did. Why did he do so well? How was he rewarded for his great attitude and behavior? All was going well, but then comes the derailment again. Lied against. Imprisoned. What do you think prison life was like? Do you think Joseph would have been frustrated and angry with God? What about the plans, the dreams to be a ruler? “Why would you give me those dreams, God?” How did Joseph handle himself in prison? Did the derailment change the way Joseph conducted himself? Did the derailment stop Joseph from seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness? How is that an example for you and me?
Read Genesis 40. Joseph had been in slavery and prison for about 15 years. Even in prison, Joseph is seeking God’s plans by being righteous and rolling with the punches. Now, he has the opportunity to get out of jail! He asks the cupbearer to bring his plight to Pharoah for a pardon. What happened? Can you imagine how Joseph’s hopes must have been raised? What do you think it would have been like for the days and weeks after the cupbearer was restored? Joseph must have planned and dreamed about his freedom. How do you think he handled it when the freedom did not come? What from his past gives us a clue of how he handled it? What was his character? How important is character in handling the derailments of life? Both Josephs we looked at this week had character. Both had one particular character quality in common. What was it? (Hint: It starts with an ‘r’ and ends in ‘ness’. The middle rhymes with ‘plight’.) How did this character quality help them in their plights, with the plans were derailed? Isn’t it interested that this is the thing Jesus tells us to plan and dream for in Matthew 6:33? Write a prayer asking God to change your heart and character to seek this over all other goals and plans.
Read Genesis 41. How old was Joseph when the God-given dreams were partially fulfilled? (Partially because his family did not yet bow down to him.) See Genesis 41:46. That means for 13 years, Joseph was a slave and prisoner. He did not have a pleasant life as he likely expected when God gave him the dreams. Have you ever had to wait for a long time to see things finally work together? Or, are you maybe like the prophet Jeremiah where things just seem to go from bad to worse? God is patiently working out his plans. If you read the rest of the account of Joseph, you find out it was 9 mores years until his whole family came to bow down before him as his dreams foretold. So, Joseph waited 22 years—no, he endured 22 years seeking God’s righteousness, while God worked out the plans to prosper him. That is a long time. Let’s ask God to give us patience and endurance to wait upon Him, the one who determines our steps, and ask Him to give us more of a heart for His righteousness, than a heart for our own prosperity as we dream it should be.
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