But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
(Matthew 2:19-21 ESV)
In today’s passage we read that an angel of the Lord appeared again to Joseph in a dream to let him know it was safe to leave Egypt and return to the land of Israel. Joseph had fled to Egypt because Herod sought to kill the baby Jesus. So we can conclude that Herod was dead at this point.
But notice the angel stated that those who sought the child’s life are dead. Evidentially it was not only Herod who wanted to kill Jesus. We don’t know who these other people were or when they died. History tells us that Herod died in approximately 4 BC so these events happened no earlier than that time.
Joseph, as was his character, complied with the angel’s direction and rose and took the child and His mother and went to the land of Israel. Joseph was an obedient man. He obeyed the angel when told to go to Egypt. He then obeyed when told to go back to Israel. In the meantime he waited for further instructions, which he had been told would be forthcoming [Matthew 2:13]. However, Joseph had no idea when those instructions would come.
None of us like to wait. We want what we want and we want it now. That is why we run up credit card debt and take out loans to buy things we can’t afford. That is why we carry smartphones. In a world where food is microwavable and information is available at the speed of electricity, we have no capacity to wait for anything.
But when we are dealing with God, the willingness and ability to wait is a must. In fact, patience is one of the virtues God wants to develop in us [1 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 5:22]. I’m sure it was not easy for Joseph and Mary to remain in a foreign country for an unknown amount of time. Their families were back in Israel and they had a newborn to take care of.
Similarly, we often find ourselves in situations that we want to change. Maybe its our job. Or our economic situation. We want God to change things for us immediately and if He doesn’t we take matters into our own hands. But that is the worst thing we could do.
When we attempt to control our situation without waiting on God we tend to make a mess of things. God wants us to be patient because patience is a sign of trust. Trust leads to obedience. And even though the time of waiting may be uncomfortable, we know God has something better planned for us than we could create through our own efforts [Psalm 37:3; Isaiah 40:31].
As we learn from Joseph, it’s better to be obedient than to be in control.
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