Joseph – The Dilemma of Doubt – 181216

Proverbs 19:21 & Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph was a carpenter – a blue collar worker who resided in Nazareth. Think about how a carpenter approaches a piece of wood – how he or she selects, examines, plans, measures (twice) and cuts (only once),

Perhaps many men are like this – planners, problem solvers and doers – what you might call the ‘Ready, Aim and Fire’ approach.

It has often been a useful methodology for me in navigating life. But sometimes Thea doesn’t want me to problem solve or come up with a strategy. Sometimes she simply wants me to listen to the story.

Joseph was probably a ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’ kind of man.

It’s not that he was inflexible, it’s that he had plans in his mind that made sense for himself and his future with Mary.

But in Proverbs 19:21, we read,

‘Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.’

I’ve heard it rendered in different words in more recent times. ‘I’ll tell you how to make God laugh – tell him you’ve got rock solid plans’.

Our plans and God’s purpose are often two different things. Before we understand the big purpose of God for our lives, it is not uncommon for doubt to creep into your mind and cast a shadow that creates a dilemma.

Joseph faced a Christmas Dilemma of Doubt when the plans in his mind were shaded with the shattering news that his betrothed wife, Mary, was pregnant and the unborn child was somebody else’s child.

This is not how the plans in his mind were supposed to look.

While the scriptures from Matthew’s gospel does not specifically state how Joseph felt about this news, it is not difficult to put ourselves in his sandals and try to imagine his feelings.

Feelings may have been hurt, betrayal, anger, sadness, embarrassment, confusion, frustration, defeat and – of course – self-doubt.

All of these emotions are quite legitimate when our plans get blown apart in a single second. ‘Ready, Aim and Fire’ suddenly becomes – Unready, Fire and Re-aim’.

All the waiting, all the ceremony preparations and planning to start a new marriage and – in time – a family with this woman, Mary.

Now all of that was gone when he found out she was carrying a baby in her womb.

According to Jewish law, Joseph had rights to not only dissolve the marriage, but he could have Mary persecuted and even put to death for what he perceived she had done.

However, Joseph, the planner, the good and compassionate  man he was,

decided to save her, as we read in Matthew 1:19: ‘and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.’

But he went to sleep on it before acting on it (verse 20).

In a dream, God showed the purpose of Mary’s pregnancy and how Joseph would fit into the plan – to nurture, raise and love the baby Saviour.

Joseph’s dilemma of doubt would only be resolved if he followed God’s grand plan and purpose, and we thank Joseph that he did.

He listened and submitted to God’s plan even to the point of allowing God to name the child – Jesus – which means ‘The Lord saves.

When Joseph woke from sleep, he got ready for a new plan, he took a new aim and fired a new shot.

God’s plan and purpose was there all along for Joseph as it was for Mary. Never doubt it. But what he did, and what we have to do first, is listen for it and see the signs of it.

The days leading up to Christmas are often full of planning, making ready and doing – whether it be for travelling, welcoming visitors, cooking, shopping, sending out cards and decorating trees and houses, making charitable donations, bringing the neighbours in for drinks, hosting parties and meals.

Sometimes, however, we need to stop in order to listen to God.

Take some rest, take time to allow the dreams and visions to creep back in. Then and only then, may we wake up from sleep to make God’s dream come true.

That’s precisely what Joseph did.

His Christmas dilemma of doubt was swallowed up in the dream from God.

What about you?

What is God dreaming for you?

What does God want you to re-aim for and then fire away?

Don’t be afraid to get ‘Ready, Aim and Fire’ when God shows you his dreams for your life.




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