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Matthew 1:18-25

When the Way Is Unclear

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • December 20, 2020

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

When the Way is Unclear

Matthew 1:18-25

Illus. Directions. 

This morning we are going to open up to Matthew chapter 1, which is where we are introduced to a man named Joseph. Joseph had been betrothed to Mary. Mary was a teenage girl who was chosen by the Lord to be the mother of Jesus. In Luke chapter 1 we see the angel Gabriel visit Mary and inform her of God’s will for her life, that she would bear and birth Jesus. Mary accepted the will of the Lord, but after Joseph hears the news, He too would need to decide what he was going to do. 

The reality is. he too was being called to carry the burden of this coming child, but in a completely different and powerful way. This opportunity put Joseph in a place where he was not certain as to which way he should go, where to turn or what he should do.

Illus. What about Joseph?

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

In Luke chapter 1, we are given the specifics associated with exactly how Mary learned the will and word of the Lord for her life. She is given the opportunity to ask questions of the angel, get some of the details and the reassurance she needs regarding the word and will of the Lord. We then see her beautiful and humble response to as she says to the angel, “may it be done to me according to your word.”

Regarding Joseph, we are not given the specifics associated with how he learned of that Mary had the Son of God living inside her. We do not know the specifics of the conversation, rather, we, in Matthew chapter 1 invited to view His consternation after having received the information that Mary was with child. This would put great pause in the dreams and plans Joseph had put in place. 

Without clear direction, Joseph pursued the plan he thought would be best which was to divorce Mary quietly, but clearly, he was in a situation where instructions from the Lord were required, and it was instruction God would give to Joseph, when the way was unclear. 

I.   Surrender Your Plans into God’s Hands

  • To surrender, is to yield something to the possession or powers of another. 
  • When a person surrenders their plans into God’s hands, they are surrendering their thoughts associated with the way in which they think it all ought to go, letting go, and letting God direct their every step forward. 
  • It is important to catch the reality that Joseph had his own set of plans and dreams. He was engaged, getting ready to be married and in the process of preparing the place where he and Mary would eventually live together. 
  • But His plans and dreams were dismantled when the woman he was engaged to turns up pregnant. Everything changes in two verses:

Matthew 1:18-19

  • Joseph and Mary had been betrothed to one another, which in that day was a binding engagement.
  • In Bible times, Jewish marriage customs regarding a couple’s engagement were much different than we know today. Marriages were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom, often even without consulting the couple. 
  • The betrothal (engagement) would be negotiated, which included a bride price, paid by the groom’s parents.  An announcement would be made, and the couple would then be “pledged.”  
  • The betrothal was a legally binding agreement, even though the actual consummation of marriage would not typically occur until a year afterwards.
  • The only way to get out of marrying the person you were betrothed to, was to divorce them. If a man passed away during the betrothal period, the woman would actually be considered a widow. 
  • The other reality to the betrothal period is that there was no physical contact during the year of betrothal. They would be busy working and preparing for the wedding and marriage. 
  • It was during this betrothal period that Joseph finds out Mary is with child. Vs. 19, Joseph was a righteous man. Despite the betrayal he may have felt at hearing this news, his heart was not to disgrace Mary, however, it seems that it was clearly not a situation he wanted to remain in. 
  • While engagements are societally different today, the thoughts and personal implications are quite similar. 
  • Joseph being a righteous man, means that he didn’t want to go against God’s laws. To marry Mary would have been an admission of guilt, that he had been intimate with Mary, when he had not done so.
  • It was at that time, upon hearing the news that Joseph had three options:
  1. He could have exposed her publicly, and in the Old Testament that would have meant public shaming and public stoning. (John 8:5)
  2. He could have sought a private divorce. This is the direction he was headed in. This is where a person would bring two witnesses, a certificate ending the relationship.
  3. The third option he had was to proceed and marry Mary.  
  • A public divorce would disgrace her, and it is evident that he did not want to humiliate her. 
  • Joseph had a good and fair plan in mind, he could keep his reputation and show compassion toward Mary.  
  • It was the most logical, and under normal circumstances might even be the “right thing.” But these were no normal circumstances. 
  • Though Joseph had made certain plans, the Lord had a purpose that was bigger. Joseph was being primed for God’s purpose!

Proverbs 19:21, Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Illus. Look to Luke 1!!

Jeremiah 33:3, Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

  • Joseph had planned it out. Perhaps putting those plans together, trying to figure out who would be the two witnesses. And it seems he was proceeding according to that plan. The Lord was going to show him the way, His will would be revealed. 
  • This is important for you to see because perhaps there is a decision before you currently, you are wondering what you will do, how you will get through, and I want to encourage you to look to the Lord and surrender your plans into His hands. 

James 4:13-15, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

  • James is pointing us toward the importance of placing our plans in God’s hands. We all have plans we would like to put in place, but life is but a vapor, it is God’s purpose that will prevail. 
  • And for Joseph, though He was being asked to surrender His dreams and plans, He would see God’s prevailing purpose and this child that could and would only be delivered by His hand. 
  1. Consider what He Desires to Deliver

Matthew 1:20-21

  • The word in verse 20 for “considered” means to revolve in one’s mind, deliberate, or ponder. 
  • Joseph had put his plans in place, but it seems that his proposed solution was not settled. It was revolving in his mind. 
  • There was something that the Lord wants Joseph to recall, there is something that the Lord wants to revolve in Joseph’s mind, and it isn’t the plans Joseph was planning, but a reminder of how God’s desire to deliver the Messiah would come about.
  • As Joseph lays down to get some much-needed sleep, the Lord sends an angel in his dream so that Joseph would consider what God alone desired to deliver. 
  • The angel of the Lord reminds Joseph of his lineage by calling Joseph “son of David.” This would point Joseph towards his legal lineage, a lineage of power and strength, his legal lineage to the throne of David.
  • Joseph son of David do not be afraid….
  • The way it is written in the Greek language, it means to stop and action that is already going on, it is as it is saying, “don’t give thought to your fears,” one commentator wrote it is as if the angel is saying “stop being afraid!”
  • Joseph was reminded of who he was, “Son of David” and is then given instruction regarding what to do.
  • Those in Christ also have a lineage, a family line, of power and strength, filled with a destiny and a calling. 
  • Because we are a part of God’s family, we too can cling to some important truths!

1 Timothy 1:7, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

  • We are children of the “Greater than David,” we are children of God.

John 1:11-12, He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Romans 8:15-17, For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

  • We have been adopted in as sons and daughters. Since we have been adopted, we have to make sure we live our lives at those who are adapted to live as God’s children. 

Illus. Not sure what it looks like. 

  • When we are God’s children we must live as His children, not in fear, but according to His will determined in our lives to pursue His plans and what He desires to deliver. 
  • Surely, the Lord still desires to deliver Jesus into our world currently, and He uses you and He uses me. May we be remined of who we belong to and consider continually what the Lord wants to deliver into the lives of those in our world presently. 

Psalm 118:6, The Lord is for me, I will not fear; what can man do to me?

  • When you consider your options or your next move, when it is apparent which way the Lord would have you go, do not fear the response of man, walk in the way God would have you go. 
  • What Joseph was considering, what was revolving around in His mind, what a pursuit that was not in line with the life God was going to define for Him. God desired to deliver the Messiah, and the Messiah would come through David’s line, which Joseph was in. 

1 Chronicles 17:1-12, When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, then I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be from your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever.

  • As Joseph’s legal son, Jesus was in the legal line of David. This was necessary. 
  • It was also necessary that Isaiah 7:14 be fulfilled:

Isaiah 7:14, Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel.

  • Joseph was told not to be afraid, that he should marry Mary, name the baby Jesus, and he would be raising God’s Son, the One who would save His people from their sins. 

Matthew 1:22-23, Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 

  • It was all happening that way to fulfill God’s will. This was the prophesied Messiah who was to come. 
  • His being delivered would make Joseph’s situation inconvenient, but extraordinarily significant. 
  • Each step of the way, Joseph and Mary would need to take God at His Word, that is another way of saying they would need to walk by faith.
  • The way forward was unclear, by God was near and His word and direction was clear. Joseph would need to proceed by faith. 
  1. Walk by Faith Not by Sight

Matthew 1:24-25, And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

  • And it seems in the story, that the hard part was ahead. He had been given his directives in a dream, but now the dream was over. 

Illus. A picture of the path forward. 

  • Things got difficult after the dream, but Joseph was committed to fulfilling God’s will. He was willing to walk by faith, not by sight. 
  • Though the Bible recorded no words of Joseph, His actions speak to us loudly. Joseph was willing to endure difficulty to fulfill the will of the Lord. 
  • By choosing Jesus and revolving his life around Him, Joseph fulfilled the will of the Lord. 
  • And for you today, if you are unsure of your next steps, if the way is unclear, would you choose Jesus, and revolve your life around Him?

2 Corinthians 5:7, For we walk by faith, not by sight. 

Hebrews 11:6, Without faith it is impossible to please Him.

Hebrews 11:8, 10, By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going…For he was looking for the city with has foundations, whose architect builder is God. 

Illus. As soon as I see.

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.


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