But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
(Matthew 1:20 ESV)
Joseph had a hard time accepting the fact that Mary, his wife, was pregnant before they got married. He was considering divorcing her. While he considered all that had happened but before he made a final decision, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
This is very interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the only way Matthew could know this would be to have gotten this information from Joseph himself or perhaps Mary. Since Joseph is not mentioned in the Bible after Jesus’ birth many speculate that he died while Jesus was young. While this may be true, there is no absolute proof of this. It is possible that he and/or Mary were still alive when Matthew wrote and published his gospel.
This gives the Bible the credibility that critics claim it lacks. Other writings such as the Koran or the Book of Mormon were written in isolation by Muhammad and Joseph Smith, respectively. The events they recite happened long before; there were no contemporaries to vouch for them.
But the Bible is different. Reading it, especially much of the Old Testament and the four gospels in the New Testament, is like reading a newspaper. The writings refer to people, places, and events that happened just a few years prior. Therefore the information in them could easily have been corroborated by eye-witnesses. If these events had not happened as reported those who were alive would have repudiated them and the Bible would not have survived for thousands of years (and counting).
A second reason why today’s passage is interesting is that we see God working through dreams. This is not unusual. There are numerous examples of God speaking to people through dreams in the Old Testament [Genesis 20:3, 37:5-11; 1 Kings 3:5 et. al].
While the Bible is our main source of information from God today, He does still use dreams to speak to people, notably in countries where the Bible is banned. I’ve met several former Muslims who are now Christians whose testimony includes coming to faith in Christ through a dream. In fact, the number of “Isa dreams” reported by Muslims has “grown tremendously” in the past decade according to Manifold Hope Ministries (Isa is the name Muslims use for Jesus).
God can, and will, use any means necessary to get us the information we need. But it is important that one keeps an open mind. Notice that Joseph had not yet decided to divorce Mary. He was still considering his options.
Anyone who has shut the door to the possibility that the Bible is true is probably a lost cause. Truth can only be obtained by being open to the possibility that one is wrong [Proverbs 11:2].
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