WEEK 2: JOSEPH – HOW THOSE ENCOUNTERS COME
At this time of year we remember the most incredible, awesome, life-changing, encounter that the world has ever had with God – the incarnation of Jesus Christ, celebrated by us at Christmas time:
A 33 year face-to-face encounter when God Himself walked with mankind, talked with mankind, lived and died with mankind, making Himself a little lower than the angels and taking on flesh so that He could be like us and relate to us intimately.
And when He returned to Heaven He left us the gift of His Holy Spirit so that we might know Him and have His presence and power with us for always.
Yet, we still need to have those very real, very personal, very intimate encounters with God Himself – times when Heaven touches earth and we touch Heaven.
Today we are going to see how varied these encounters can be as we take a look at our next major character in the Christmas story – Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Mary’s encounter with God was through the visitation of the Angel Gabriel. Joseph’s encounter with God was very, very different…
So, join with me as we learn lessons from the life of Joseph…
INTRODUCTION: A MAN FOR HIS TIME
We know very little about Joseph. He was not a King or a politician. He was not a world leader or even a church leader. He was not an intellectual or a philosopher. He was neither a revolutionary nor a reactionary. He was a dad, and a carpenter. Yet, he was worthy of honour and mention in the Bible because he was the earthly father of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
He was the right man, in the right place, at the right time. And the lesson for us is: so too are we!
- Just as God had a plan for Joseph to serve His purposes in his generation, so God has a plan for us to serve His purposes in our generation. Do you believe this? It is true!
- What might that “plan” be? Think about your job, your family, your friends, your neighbours, and your church
What we must learn from Joseph here is that Joseph was obedient to God’s calling on his life and trusted God completely even though what he was being asked to do was constantly beyond belief. Marry a girl who was pregnant – and not by him! Flee at a moment’s notice to another country! Return to your own land when told too – even though an enemy remains on the throne!
- When we have our encounter with God, are we willing to trust in Him and obey Him completely – no matter how ridiculous His call seems to be?
- What kind of things might hold us back from really trusting Him and obeying Him?
So, who was Joseph?
He was a DAD to Jesus
He was DEVOTED wholeheartedly to God
He had DREAMS that were God’s way of encountering him
- JOSEPH WAS A DAD
What do we actually know about the man, Joseph?
- We know that he was descended in a direct line from King David (Matthew 1: 1-16 and Luke 3: 23-38). So, he was of royal lineage – a significant fact when viewed in light of Old Testament prophecy concerning Jesus such as Isaiah 11.
- However, there is no evidence that Joseph had any political influence and was certainly not rich. His offering when Jesus was presented at the Temple as a baby was ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons’ (Luke 2: 24) – that given by the poor.
- He is called a “carpenter” – so we know his profession…or do we? The Greek word used is “Tecnon” – from which we get the word “technology” and could very well mean that he was a stonemason. Some commentators will go further and say that he was likely to have been a stonemason on the building of the Temple of Herod. Their reasoning for this is that he was alive at the right time and that Jesus’ comment when found in the Temple at the age of 12 that ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (Luke 2: 49) alluded to the fact that the Temple was His Father in Heaven’s house but also the “house” that had been built by his earthly father, Joseph.
- But, most importantly, his role was to be the protector and provider of the infant Jesus – and our assumption is that he did that job very well.
- And the lesson for us? We might not be great or rich or famous or clever but we all have our role to play – and the role that we play is always for Jesus. So, let us do our job well. Let us follow the example of Joseph – let it be all about what we can do for Jesus rather than what He can do for us.
- Have a real good look at your own life. Do you think it really is one that is lived for Jesus or is it one that is lived for yourself?
- How does the life of Joseph help you know how to live your life in the best possible way?
- JOSEPH WAS DEVOTED WHOLEHEARTEDLY TO GOD
Matthew 1: 18-19 tells us this about Joseph:
18 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. 19 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.
The phrase “faithful to the Law” is a very significant one. It is also translated that he was “righteous” or “just” and tells us that he was considered by others as a “good” man where it came to following the Law of the Lord. He was a religious man – he knew the Scriptures and sought to live by the Scriptures. But, he was not a legalistic man – if he were then he would have sought to have had Mary stoned for adultery – but his following of God was seasoned with the mercy and love of God.
We should not be surprised that Joseph was the one chosen by God to be the earthly father of Jesus: he was not only descended from the royal line but he was also a deeply spiritual man.
The lesson for us? To be called “just” was an appellation of honour. Let it be so now! Let us strive to know God well (the Law) and to follow God well (love and mercy). Let us follow the example of Joseph. Let it be about what we can do for Jesus rather than what He can do for us.
- Would you like to be known as “xxxx the Just”? Why?
- Can you honestly say that you know what it means to be “faithful to the Law” – and does it really matter to you? And is it all different now that we have the Holy Spirit in us?
- What do you have to do to be “Just” in the way that Joseph was “Just”?
- HE HAD GOD-GIVEN DREAMS
Four times, at four key points in the young life of Jesus, Joseph had an encounter with God. Each encounter was life-changing for Him; and each encounter was life-changing for others. Let’s look at them:
- Dream No. 1: came after he found out that Mary was pregnant and he was minded to end the marriage arrangements quietly:
20 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. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.’
22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’[g](which means ‘God with us’).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1: 20-25)
- Dream No.2: came when Herod decided to kill all the children living in the region of Bethlehem in an attempt to snuff out the young life of the new King of Israel:
13 When they [THE WISE MEN] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’ (Matthew 2: 13-15)
- Dream No. 3: when Herod had died and it was time to return to the land of Israel:
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’ (Matthew 2: 19-20)
- Dream No. 4: hot on the heels of this last dream – warning Joseph not to return to Judea:
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2: 21-23)
How awesome is this! God chose to have these 4 encounters with Joseph and each one had a profound effect on the history of the world!
- These encounters were part of a spiritual battle: Satan wanted to destroy the life and work of Jesus before it even started. God chose to co-labour with man to defeat the attacks of the evil one
- The encounters that God had with Joseph changed his life forever, blessed Mary and the child Jesus, and had an eternal benefit for the whole of mankind. That’s the kind of encounter that I want to have!
- The encounters that God had with Joseph were a blessing to him but were part of his service to God. Why do you want to have an encounter with God this Christmas? Is it for your benefit or do you long to be a benefit for God? Let us follow the example of Joseph. Let it be about what we can do for Jesus rather than what He can do for us.
- Think, or talk, about a time when you have had a dream or a vision that you know was from God. Who benefited from it? Why do you think you had this dramatic encounter with God? How long ago was it? Do you believe you can have an encounter with God today?
CONCLUSION: FROM WHENCE COME THESE ENCOUNTERS?
Let us learn the lesson from Joseph.
God wants to have an encounter with us – as part of our relationship with Him, life with Him, service for Him. With Mary this was an angelic encounter. For others it will be a Word encounter (as Scripture burns into our hearts). For yet others it will be a Holy Spirit encounter.
But, I just love the encounter that Joseph had. The prophet Joel predicted this about people in the “End Times”:
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions. (Joel 2: 28)
I want dreams!
But I want “God dreams”!
And I want the Spiritual wisdom and insight to be able to recognise them as such.
And then I want to be like Joseph: I want to have the courage to obey them like he did and the trust in God to know that all will work out OK.
What about you???