Trust and Obey?
"The essential thing in heaven and on earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction. There thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Suppose you’re a young man engaged to your high school sweetheart. The two of you wear your purity rings proudly, and have never even been tempted to become too intimate with each other. You have vowed to save yourselves until marriage. This is certainly not easy, but you both want to do the right thing. You are both Christians and highly regarded in your local church and youth group. Suddenly one day she comes to you and informs you that she is pregnant. She swears she’s not been with another man.
What do you do?
Interestingly, the Bible offers us some advice.
In Matthew 1.18-25 we read of a young man named Joseph who finds himself in just such a predicament.
So, what does he do?
Matthew tells us that he tried to divorce her quietly. Once a couple was “betrothed”, they were all but officially married. A divorce (or a “putting away”) was the only logical course of action.. Infidelity had obviously occurred, and Joseph was not only responsible, but required by Roman law to “divorce” her in the case of adultery. On the other hand, it could have been assumed that Joseph had impregnated her, implying that the couple had engaged in premarital sex, and this would have been particularly shameful. Abstinence prior to marriage was expected (some scholars believe that betrothed couples were never allowed to be alone together prior to the wedding day). Thus, Joseph faced both betrayal and shame, and would have been quite justified in divorcing her.
According to the text, though, after Joseph considered this, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. The angel goes on to explain that she has been impregnated by the Holy Spirit and that the child she is carrying is the long awaited Messiah of Israel.
That’s some dream.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never had an angel appear to me in a dream. I wish I could say that I have; but I haven’t. And based upon the lack of personal testimony, Facebook status updates, tweets and blog posts to such occurrences, I’m guessing that angels aren’t appearing to too many other folks in dreams either.
I wonder if God still speaks to people in their dreams. I don’t remember my dreams that often, but when I do, they are so weird that I can’t imagine God being involved in them at all, much less trying to speak to me through them.
In any event, this is how God spoke to Joseph according to Matthew.
Matthew takes two verses to remind us that this whole thing is a fulfillment of ancient prophecy, and then these words,
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (v. 24)
No questions asked. No wondering. No attempts to dismiss the dream like Ebenezer Scrooge by blaming it on an undigested piece of beef.
Apparently, Joseph had no doubt that the message he had received in his dream was directly from God. There does not seem to be any sense that he spent any time mulling this over, praying about it, or talking to trusted friends in an attempt to get their advice on what to do: he just did what the angel of the Lord commanded him to do.
Questions to ponder:
1. How does God speak to you when it comes to important decisions?
2. What makes you certain that what you are hearing is truly from God?
3. Are you willing to obey that voice no matter what the cost?
I’m interested to hear from you.