Beautiful Obedience

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Matthew 1:24

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That’s the kind of mail I get these days. And I’m horrible at staying on top of those imperatives. I know they’re for my good, but I still shuffle them to the bottom of my to-do stack.

How about my obedience to God’s requirements? The “best” that God wants from my service at church gets procrastinated until it is just “good enough.” The forgiveness God wants me to offer to my family members gets put on hold. God’s command to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” gets postponed as the shelves fill up with Christmas must-haves.

Obedience is hard. Prompt, unquestioning obedience is even harder.

That’s what makes Joseph all the more remarkable.

Mary had just returned from a three-month visit with her cousin, Elizabeth. Inside her womb, the Son of God was patiently, miraculously, following a fetal timeline—our domino-sized Savior was swimming inside her, perfect down to his fingernails. Imagine Mary’s wonder. Imagine Joseph’s dismay. As a man obedient to the letter of God’s law, he could only conclude she’d been unfaithful. And, as a man who was also obedient to the spirit of God’s law, he decided to divorce her quietly, to spare her at least that public scandal.

But God intervened with an angel and a dream. And what a message the angel delivered! First, the baby growing in Mary’s womb had been planted there by God’s faithfulness, not by human unfaithfulness. Second, Joseph would enter parenthood by adopting none other than the promised Messiah. “Joseph,” the angel urged, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.”

What proof did Joseph have of Mary’s virginity? None but God’s word. What assurance did he have that his reputation and livelihood would survive the barbs of small-town talk? None but the angel’s “Don’t be afraid.”

But look! Joseph wasted no time. He didn’t negotiate for an easier path. He didn’t even ask for more time to consider. He woke from his dream and hurried to Mary. He took her home that very day as his cherished bride.

Joseph’s obedience is mind-boggling… and beautiful. He cared more about what God said than about what people would say. And God’s assurance, “Don’t be afraid” freed him to obey in love—for Mary, for God, for the future Savior of the world.

Beautiful obedience. God works that in you and me, too. He lays tasks at our feet—to serve and love and encourage and guide. Sometimes we flourish at those tasks. Often we fumble them. But God pulls us to our feet and says: “Don’t be afraid. My Son was perfectly and completely obedient in your place.” And so we are freed to follow God’s will with joy at the high privilege of serving the King of kings. His gentle assurance adjusts our attitudes so that we can jump into each day—not feet first, but faith first.


Lord, help me reflect your love by diligently doing what you say. Amen.

Written by Sarah Habben
Provided by WELS Women’s Ministry

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