Obey God is not the “easy life”
Preached in Quabbin Valley on 10/5/08
Text: Matthew 1
Here we have an example of a man who found himself in a difficult situation. The woman he is engaged to marry, the woman he has entered into a binding contract has been found to be pregnant and it’s not his child. We need to keep in mind that in Jewish society at this time there were three stages to marriage 1) first was the parental arrangement where they made sure the two were compatible and whatever other arrangements needed to be considered, 2) then there was the betrothal period which lasted 1 year. This was not an engagement like we think of it this was a binding contract of marriage. Basically they were married and to break this marriage off needed a certificate of divorce. This 1 year period of time the woman stayed with her parents and then 3) the third phase was when the marriage was consummated by the wife coming to live with her husband.
Joseph finds himself in this difficult situation with, for all purposes is his wife. The scriptures describe him as a just man. A man of morals and with a sense of doing what was right. Under the Mosaic law if a woman who was betrothed was found to be pregnant she would be or could be brought up on charges of adultery.
Deuteronomy 22:22-24 22 ¶ "If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. 23 ¶ "If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
It may very well be that if Joseph had brought this out in the public she might have been stoned or at least labeled and adulteress.
But the text tells us that Joseph was not only a just man but he was companionate because he wanted to divorce her but to do is quietly, privately and the text tells us he didn’t want to put her to shame.
But as he considers these things he is visited by an angel in a dream who tells him that the child in her womb is of the Holy Spirit and that he should not be afraid to take her as his wife. He is also told to name the child Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.
1) Joseph finds his betrothed wife to be pregnant and it’s not his child.
2) God says to Joseph this child is holy and of the Holy Spirit
3) He is told to take Mary as his wife, to name and raise this child as his own.
Think for a moment about this man Joseph. Here we have a man who:
1. Listens to God
2. Obeys God
Joseph hears the word of God by the angel but he doesn’t just listen and hear he obeys and acts upon the word of God.
Have you ever found yourself in a tough situation? Have you ever found yourself with a choice to make? God says this… but I could do this… and whatever this is would be easier.
Could Joseph have chosen not to obey God? He could have, Joseph had free will. Joseph could have chosen to divorce Mary and not have anything to do with Jesus after all he could have rationalized the dream away. Oh this wasn’t really God speaking to me. This is something we ourselves can do, rationalize away our bad choices or our disobedience. But Joseph didn’t do any of that he chose to obey God. Do you think this was easy for Joseph to accept and chose to take Mary and raise Jesus? I don’t know how Joseph felt but I know it would be hard for me.
Let me say this, following and obeying God is not the easy way, it’s the hard way. If you ever hear some religious person tell you that God wants you to be happy and prosperous and never to have hard times or difficulties you know they are liars or they don’t know God. God has never promised us easy, happy, fun filled, no pain lives. In fact he has promised the opposite, take up you cross and follow me, Jesus said.
Think about the apostle Paul. Here is a man who after his conversion to Christ is willing to obey God and look what happy, easy, no pain type of life he had.
2 Corinthians 11:24-28 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
Here is a man who lived his life for Christ, lived in obedience to God and his life was not a life of health, wealth, and prosperity, a life of happy days and living in a world without pain or trials, living in a world without hard choices.
Think for a moment about the first few centuries of Christian history. Christians were despised, hated and hunted down. Christians worshiped God in tombs with dead bodies all around in very small groups.
We are here this morning in a building not our own, we rent space on Sunday mornings so we can worship. There are a handful of people here. We have had a few visitors but none have come back. Some of you might be thinking why are we here? Why don’t we go back to Southbridge after all they are small but at least they have around 20 – 30 people meeting there. Or maybe your thinking why don’t we up and join a different church that has hundreds of people after all 14 people renting space at a senior center isn’t that wonderful it doesn’t look very powerful, aren’t we silly. Obedience to God doesn’t always look like power or victory and it is never easy.
Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife and he does and you might think ok things were a little rocky for Joseph at first with this surprised pregnancy and this revelation from God but things will be all better now they will live a peaceful easy life. Nope, wrong, they are visited by Magi, wise men which was nice. Have some nobles bring gifts and have a little party but after the wise men leave they have to run for their lives. They have to leave there home land and go to a foreign country to live among strangers because there is a lunatic king who wants to kill this child. The child of the mother God told you to take as your wife. Things are not getting any easier for Joseph. This lunatic king goes and kills every male child from the age of 2 and under hoping to kill Jesus. Here is something to think about, do you think these soldiers would have let Joseph and Mary go free after they killed the baby? I don’t think so. These people are fugitives running from a lunatic king for their lives because they were obedient to God.
Was obey God the easy life for Joseph? It wasn’t but it was the right thing to do. The right thing to do in life is most often the hard thing to do. Telling a lie is easy and for some people its like and art they can tell lies so well but telling the truth is the hard thing to do. Staying away from sexual immorality in this world is hard, giving in to that temptation is the easy thing to do, after all, we are told everyone else is doing it.
God never called anyone to the easy life. If you want easy, go be part of the world, don’t follow God. We are called to the hard road. Jesus the very son of God, God in the flesh, didn’t have it easy. You would think God in the flesh he would have an easy life. No, he suffered and went through trials that we could never imagine. From his birth being born in a barn and having a lunatic want to kill him, to his life, Satan tempting Jesus, He was tempted in every way that we are yet without sin, all the way up to his death of a Roman cross. He had a hard life because he did the will of his Father.
Jesus tells us that there are two roads in life. The broad road and the narrow road. The easy road and the hard road. The easy road has all kinds of people on it, anyone can travel this road and you can do anything you like. This road is the road to destruction. Then there is the narrow road, the hard road. Anyone can travel this as well but not many even find this road and this is not an easy road but this road is the road leading to life.
The road to life, the Christ centered obedience to God road is the hard road. It’s hard to obey God when this world encourages us to take it easy, do what feels good and remember you are your own boss.
Husbands lead your families and love your wives as Christ loved the Christ. Is that easy? You’re crazy if you think that’s easy. Wives submit to your husband’s as to the Lord and respect them. Is that easy? No, it’s ridiculous in this world, in the eyes of this world that is foolishness. Ladies you want to be considered an outcast in this world, tell someone outside of Christ that you are striving to submit to your husband, they will laugh at you; they will call you a nut. Christian, go into this world and tell someone that you put God first in your life, above your family or friends, above your career, and above yourself and see what they say. Being obedient to God, being a Christian is never the easy thing to do but it is the road to life. We are called to live for Christ.
Galatians 2:20 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Our obedience to God doesn’t pay for our salvation, and praise God for that because I fail to be completely obedient to God all the time. But we are always to follow Christ and we are to strive to obey his commands.
ESV John 14:15 ¶ "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
ESV John 15:12 ¶ "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
You want to talk about hard. How did Christ love his disciples, his church, us? He gave his life.
You and I are here worshipping a crucified Messiah in a rented space with only a few others with us. Mocked by the world and their standards of success. The world says prosperity, large numbers of people, easy is the way. But we worship God, we follow Christ and his way. Peteer says:
1 Peter 1:3-7 3 ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Telling people about Christ -Meeting in a small group - Loving our wives -Submitting to our husbands –
Loving one another and even loving our enemies - Doing God’s will, these are the hard things.
Being selfish -Not mentioning the name of Christ - Doing whatever the world does or at least not standing in its way, these are the easy things. The Apostle John gives us a warning, he says:
1 John 2:15-17 15 ¶ Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
The question is, do you want to follow the road of Christ, the road of life, or do you want to follow the easy road, the road of destruction?
We are going to commune with our Lord and savior and reaffirm our love for him and each other, we are going to once again proclaim to this world and this community that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus died on a cross for our sins and rose on the third day, and that he is coming back.
Let me leave you with the words form a song by a group called “Acappella”.