As I read through today’s Advent reading my interest was piqued as I saw myself in a similar position as Joseph and Mary must have been in during their stay in Egypt. As they looked over their new home, they must have been wondering about how long that they would be there. And with that question leading all of their thoughts, I imagine that every plan for their present and future circumstances was filled with a tinge of confusion mixed with a bit of anxiety over the decisions they were faced with.
This week marks the seventh month that we have been in North Carolina. Now that we are fairly settled and have completed all the legal requirements of living in a new state, we have turned our attention to the potential purchase of a home. But I am finding out that this step is not as easy as I had thought it would be!
We recently received the exciting and joyful news that our youngest daughter JoAnna and her hubby are expecting their first child with a due date of early August 2015. The wonderful announcement of the upcoming expansion of the number of our grandchildren got me to thinking about the possibility of us moving even closer to them!
This potential is heightened with the understanding that our other two grandkids and their parents in California are desiring to re-locate to this side of the coast and that JoAnna and Jeremiah have mentioned that they would enjoy eventually living near them. The only snag in the plan is that North Carolina is second on their list to the Nashville, Tennessee area! So the big question arises… What do WE do?
That’s where Joseph and Mary come in! As I read the scriptures I see that they followed the Lord’s plan for their lives and not what they wanted to do! When the coast was clear and the command was given, they started back to Bethlehem only to be redirected by the Lord to go to Nazareth in the region of Galilee. That folks is called putting the directions of the Lord before your own desires! God had prophesied this plan many, many years before and by obeying His Word, Joseph, Mary and Jesus ended up in exactly the right place at the right time for their lives as well as for the future of Jesus’ ministry!
So where does that leave Piper and me? Well, our number one job is to find out and follow Papa God’s plan for our lives. And whether it is my first choice or not… We will find ourselves to be in His best place for us, in His perfect timing! Think about that from the perspective of your own life plans as you read today’s Thursday – The Third Week of Advent reading…
Thursday, the third week of Advent
Today’s Readings: Isaiah 11:1 / Matthew 2:19-23 / John 1:46 / John 7:52
In some respects it is difficult to sense what Joseph and Mary must have been feeling when they suddenly found themselves on the run and living in a foreign land. My understanding is that Egypt was a Roman province at that time and that there was a fairly large contingent of Jewish settlers living there. With that in mind, it would not have been as big a shock as if they had to cross the border and try to fit into a totally independent country, with different laws, a different culture and different traditions. It reminds me of our stay in Oklahoma a few years back when we moved there so that I could attend Bible College. It too was a temporary stay, but the main difference was that we had a specific purpose in being there with a definite beginning and ending point.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus on the other hand did not have that foundation. They just knew that they needed to go there in a hurry and then wait until the angel returned with the news that they could go home again. We took a year to plan our move, search out employment, housing and generally get everything set before the moving van arrived. We also had been there on numerous previous occasions so we already knew the lay of the land. As we mentioned yesterday, Joseph and Mary had no such luxury!
I have read of all kinds of estimates as to how long they actually sojourned in Egypt, ranging from two months to six years. Think about it for a moment. What do you do? Do you get a temp job or go through all the work of starting your business up, rent or buy a home, live off your savings, attempt to set down some roots? What a quagmire to find yourself in!
Then the day finally arrived when the angel shows up again and tells Joseph that “those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” (Mathew 2:20 NKJV) Whew! What a relief they must have experienced. But then their plans changed again. According to the scriptures, Joseph and Mary had every intention of returning to Bethlehem and raise Jesus there, but once more, God had a different idea! Being as the new leadership in Bethlehem was as bad or maybe even worse than the previous administration, the angel informed them that they needed to go back home to Nazareth in region of Galilee.
As we have witnessed throughout our story, this was done so as to fulfill the ancient prophecies. An interesting point about Galilee and Nazareth in particular, was that they were areas “whose inhabitants were objects of sovereign contempt to the Jews.” (John Darby’s Synopsis) Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says that “The family must settle in Galilee. Nazareth was a place held in bad esteem, and Christ was crucified with this accusation.” Jesus carried that “put down” or stigma with Him throughout His earthly ministry!
How many of us have “put downs” that sit on our shoulders everywhere we go? The real question is how we deal with it. It definitely didn’t stop Jesus from successfully completing the tremendously tough assignment He accepted from His father. Can you say the same thing? I think Joseph and Mary probably figured that it would have been much easier to raise God’s Son in the royal city of His earthly ancestor David within the close proximity to Jerusalem, where they assumed that Jesus would have the bulk of His adult ministry. And they were probably right.
Jesus could very well of lived a more privileged life around those who had heard and or seen the miraculous events surrounding His birth. But like we said, God had a much different plan and a deeper purpose than just Jesus’ personal well-being. A privileged life would have made Him less accessible to the common folk, and totally divorced Him from any contact with the Gentiles. Jesus began His ministry as a common man but ended up making a life-changing impact on this world that is still felt strongly today!
What a great example for us to follow in our individual lives. Each of has a unique background and a special set of gifts and talents, but share the same love of our heavenly Father. It doesn’t matter what stigmas we may carry, where we’ve been and what we have been through, He has given each of us the tools in His Word for us to successfully make our mark in this world!
Talk about a Christmas gift that you can really use! Jesus, God’s love, who came down on that first Christmas thousands of years ago, is on your side, and has your best interests in mind. If you find yourself living in a type of Egypt today, rejoice and be glad that God has your back! Don’t give in to feeling sorry for yourself either! And don’t think for a moment that you are all alone. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV) Is there someone that you can share the greatest gift with today? Take a look around you whether you are in Egypt or not, for there are others in a worst place than you! Go ahead! Be brave and make their day! Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to BLESS today?”