Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 1:20a (Holman) But after he had considered these things, an angel of
the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream,. . .”
Mary was pregnant. Joseph, wanting to solve the dilemma in the kindest way possible, had decided to divorce her privately, but felt a check in his spirit.
Tortured with doubt, Joseph couldn’t pull the trigger. Inside him law versus love was raging. He had opted to mix the two, but was he nagged by a desire to show one or the other? He was brooding, mulling it over, pondering at night.
Fortunately, he had not acted from impulse. He took time to seek the Lord. We often decide too quickly. Always take time to pray. Even if we have only seconds, fire a prayer Heavenward. Hearts that wait on Jesus receive guidance.
When Joseph reached the end of himself, God stepped in. God often waits till we have exhausted every idea we can muster. This way He receives the glory.
Since this communication was of huge importance, allowing no margin for error, God delivered it in an extraordinary and rare way, in a dream. God wanted Joseph to be listening only, not trying to think what he would say in response.
In the New Testament, at the birth of Jesus, God used dreams to tell Joseph to wed Mary, to warn the magi not to go back to Herod (MT 2:12), to tell Joseph to take the baby Jesus to Egypt for safety (MT 2:13), and to inform Joseph it was safe to return to Israel after Herod’s death (MT 2:19). Dreams did not become a normative experience for Christ-followers, but remained rare and extraordinary.
God can speak to us any way He chooses, but be cautious about dreams. They usually merely express what we have been thinking about subconsciously.
Before following any directives received in a dream, seek other signs of verification. Joseph had other confirming evidence in addition to the dream.
Matthew 1:20b . . . saying, “Joseph, Son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.”
By calling Joseph a descendant of David, the angel connected Jesus’ birth to the preceding genealogy, and alerted Joseph to the vital role he would play. He was a legal heir of David. Joseph would, by adoption, convey this honor to Jesus.
God blessed adoption. In God’s eyes, Joseph would have all the rights and privileges of a birth-dad. Our Savior found love in the arms of an adoptive father.
Joseph by trade was a lowly carpenter, but being called “Son of David” reminded him he was a man of remarkable possibilities. Joseph needed to value his potential for God. He was an ordinary guy, but had a divine call to importance.
Many people never find their call in life because they are overwhelmed by a sense of the ordinary. We too often think, “I know God calls others, but not me. Who am I? I’m a nobody. I could never give huge sums of money to God’s cause, never be a pastor, missionary, writer, or artist who could impact many for Jesus.”
Negative self-deprecating talk is a slam against God, a way of saying the Universe’s Sovereign, Omnipotent God can’t muster enough strength to work through ordinary people. It implies God can’t supply the anointing necessary to get His work done; He is so weak that He has to enlist superstars to do His work.
This personalized negativity is a major reason one of our stated goals at Second is to raise up a generation of missionaries. We want children and teens to grow up thinking wholehearted, full-time service to God is normal, not abnormal.
Matt. 1:21a “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus,”
Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. Two Old Testament Joshuas well foreshadowed the New Testament Joshua, Jesus. Joshua, successor to Moses, led his people to victory in Canaan. Similarly, Jesus leads us to victory as the captain of our salvation (HB 2:10). Another Joshua was the High Priest who blessed refugees returning from the Exile. Jesus our High Priest blesses us.
Joshua and Jesus are contractions of the name Jehoshuah, a compound of two words: salvation and YHWH. Messiah’s name conveyed the whole meaning and purpose of His incarnation. YHWH saves. And from what does He save us?
Matt. 1:21b “. . . because He will save His people from their sins.”
Jesus did not come, as most assumed He would, to end the reign of Rome. He came to deal with something deeper and more serious, to deliver us from sin.
This is the first mention of sin in the New Testament. Matthew introduced it as negative, but not hopeless; it is a problem fixable. Jesus can save us from sin.
Salvation from sin is everyone’s essential need. People think they chiefly need saving from misery, sadness, poverty, etc., but at the deepest level our real need is deliverance from sin. It is the culprit, the basic cause of all calamities, our ultimate foe, which piece by piece destroys our ability to relate to God rightly.
Sadly, sin is usually the hardest thing to convince people to want to be saved from. Most want to be saved in their sin, not from it, but to try this would be like saving a drowning man by keeping him under the water that is killing him.
Sin is no minor problem. It caused the Father to release His Son, caused the Son to vacate Heaven to die on a cross, caused the Holy Spirit to enter our world to convince us we sin, and to point us to the Son as our only hope for deliverance.
Sin is the world-wide blot on humanity. Every heart feels remorse and guilt, battles selfishness and bitterness. Relief cannot be won by knowledge, works, or wealth. Fixing this universal problem required a cure supra-human, above us.
Jesus undertook the impossible task, and accomplished it. Only He can save from sin. In our strength, sin is a dead weight. We groan under it, “What can be done to lift this huge ugly thing?” Brace yourself for the answer–it’s why we celebrate Christmas–God came among us to deal with the blight plaguing our life.
On the cross Jesus shed His blood as a substitutionary sacrifice in our place, on our behalf. His death saved us from sin’s price; we could not pay our own debt. He saved us from sin’s punishment; all who know Him are spared from Hell.
He saved us from sin’s pollution; in Him guilt is lifted, conscience is freed. He saves from sin’s power; it no longer mesmerizes us; obsession with it is gone.
He saves us from sin’s practice; His Holy Spirit indwells us, enabling us to live holier lives. He will save us from sin’s presence; someday we’ll go to Heaven, where we’ll never again be bothered by sin, and never again hurt Jesus.
Shout it loud and clear, without apology or hesitation. Jesus saves us from sin. He saves us in every way we need to be saved. Merry Christmas.