So he got up, took the child and His mother, and entered the land of Israel.
—Matthew 2:21 (HCSB)
Being assigned to right field was actually a relief. I’d agreed to join the coed team to hang out with my friends, not due to any expertise or interest in softball. From right field, I could watch the game, but even better, I could watch people.
Both sets of bleachers and everything going on behind the backstop were in plain view. The coaches and players in the dugouts alternately caught my eye, as well as the kids playing in the dirt next to their parents.
As a rare hit into right field bounced past me, I understood with sudden clarity the importance of paying attention, of being ready in case the ball came my way. My focus suddenly razor sharp again, I knew the other team was scoring runs as I chased down the ball I’d not seen coming.
Joseph and Mary were settled in Egypt, safe from Herod’s murderous threat. Several years had passed since their hasty flight into Egypt. The young couple developed a daily routine and settled into their new surroundings.
Assisted by the rich gifts of the magi, Joseph was able to provide for his wife and Son. As the child Jesus grew and discovered the world around him, Judea must have seemed far away. God had placed them out of Herod’s reach and safety brought a sense of security.
Joseph and Mary could have seen Egypt as a permanent solution. Thankfully, these two young parents knew God could and would move any time He decided to. Joseph remained attentive to God in spite of the absence of immediate threats—and in spite of the fact they’d likely made a life in Egypt.
Joseph stayed true to his pattern—responsive and obedient to God without hesitation. He and Mary watched for God’s leading consistently and persistently as they had from the moment each received the promise of Messiah by way of personal angelic proclamation years before.
When the game is on the line, it’s easy to pay attention. If the action is captivating and we have an important role to play, our attention is all on what’s about to happen next. But being watchful, when it doesn’t look like there’s anything to watch, is difficult. Following God’s unfolding plan involves a lot of waiting.
The kind of waiting Joseph and Mary practiced was anything but idle. They prayed. They recited and discussed Scripture together, learning to recognize God’s ways. They reminded each other of all the times God had demonstrated faithfulness and love throughout generations, and more recently in their own lives. They taught Jesus passages of Scripture as he toddled around and later helped Joseph in his workshop.
They determined that obeying God was more important than needing to know the whole plan. How do we know this about them? Their immediate obedience was clear evidence—they knew God’s voice when they heard it, and they knew Him well enough to trust Him completely.
In Matthew 2:23, the mention of Jesus as a Nazarene connected Him with the prophecies designating Him the Branch—the Spirit filled descendant of David who would be Israel’s hope of salvation. Jesus’ identification to the people of Israel as the Promised One was clear because of the fulfillment of many prophecies like this one. Therefore the details were important.
Mary and Joseph needed to do exactly what God said—not just some variation that sounded acceptable to them.
God is sovereign, moving at will according to His plan and timing. We must be ready and prepare the next generations to be ready for God to move whether we have to wait moments or decades—or even lifetimes. There’s a bigger game going on here. God’s drawing mankind throughout the world to Himself.
Joseph and Mary’s complete obedience to God’s prompting is an integral part of the incarnation of Jesus. May God give us awareness of His activity, and may we, along with our physical and spiritual descendants, be watchful and prepared to affect His plan in the world through complete obedience to Him.
- What practical role do you think Scripture played in Joseph and Mary’s decision-making?
- Apparently, Joseph and Mary were in agreement about following God. How could you help bring deeper agreement into your family to follow God together?
- What strategies could you use to discipline your focus on God and His ways?
- What can you put into your schedule today to make yourself more attentive to God?