The Journey Continues

Matthew 2:19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 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.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

In thinking about life, there's a question that I have often pondered and that I have been asked by many people. The question is, when will life settle down? Life often seems complex, fast moving, and unpredictable. We make plans, daily plans and longer term plans, only to find a small percentage of what we planned come to pass.

Are you today where you thought you would be a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago? Are you living where you thought you would live? Do you have the money you thought you would have? Is your health where you thought it would be? Are your relationships where you hoped they would be? Can any of us say, "Yep, I predicted all of this, this is just what I thought my life would be like just a few years ago"?

If you are not exactly where you thought or hoped you would be, then why aren’t you? Some of us may say, "Well, I am not exactly where I hoped to be, but I’m not complaining, things are okay." While others might say, "This is not at all what I wanted, in fact, I am really disappointed with my life and my current circumstances."

If you are not where you hoped you would be and if you are disappointed with that fact, then you may ask, "Why? How did I get here? What have I done wrong?" Asking the question "what have I done wrong" is okay to ask, whether we are where we want to be or if we are not where we want to be. We can always look at our lives, look at the Scriptures, and honestly, with a prayerful spirit, consider needed change. But in our lives, in our circumstances we must always, as Christians, consider God’s work and involvement in and around us.

We can be consumed with ourselves asking, "Where did I go wrong, where did I mess up, how did I get myself here?" We can look at our lives and think it is all about us and our doings, that we are somehow in total control, and if we had controlled it better we would have a different outcome. It can all be about me or all be about you, and we can fail to consider God’s hand at work.

In our men’s study on Wednesday nights we are going through a book called "Awe" by Paul Tripp. In our lesson last week we read through Isaiah 40. Isaiah 40 is one of those chapters that tells of God’s activity in our world and in our lives. We see there that God is never absent, that God is always at work, and that He cares for His people. If we take passages like Isaiah 40 out of the Bible then we are left on our own, we are hopeless and we should live in fear and despair. But if we read and believe passages like Isaiah 40 then as Christians we should find comfort, great hope, and live in peace and in joy.

I want to read some of it for you, let this soak in way down to your soul.

Isaiah 40:10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

We are His sheep. He will gather us up in His loving arms, gently leading us along. A shepherd cares for his sheep, and God cares for you. But is He really able to do this? Is God powerful enough to do this?

Isaiah 40:12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

But does He know me? I’m different. Is He able to understand where I am, my problems?

Isaiah 40:13 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? 14 Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

But what about all the forces around me, what about all those who seem to be against me?

Isaiah 40:15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. 16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

God knows, He rules, and He cares! Do you know that? Or a better question is, do you believe that? Do you believe it right now? Do you believe that when you are away from church and facing your troubles head on? Do you practically, in everyday life, in your trials, do you believe and live as if these things about God are true? We forget, that is the problem. In the heat of the moment in troubles we forget.

In Isaiah 40:21 there are a series of questions that seem like good questions to ask when we face confusion. These are good questions to ask when we are losing our way, trying to fix things on our own. These are questions that lead us to refocus our minds, to get us back on a good path of understanding and belief.

Isaiah 40:21 Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; 23 who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

And so we can say and be assured that God has got this. He is strong, wise, knows us, and He cares, cares like a shepherd gently holding His sheep.

The chapter ends with great encouragement.

Isaiah 40:27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

To wait on the Lord is not just a passive statement. To wait here means to look for and to hope and trust in. It is actively looking to God and trusting in Him as we move through life. If we are trusting in and hoping in God, our strength will be renewed. It makes great sense. If we are assured of who God really is and what He is really up to with all His power and might and wisdom and care, then we are strengthened to live the next moment even while facing trials. Why? Because we are not on our own and everything does not depend on us figuring it out or making life work.

Now, you may think, "I thought we were going to talk about Jesus from Matthew 2." Well we are, and this long introduction is relevant to our passage this morning. Here is how.

Jesus had been born, and His birth and next few months were not normal, or easy, or predictable. He was born in Bethlehem, a strange place for Mary and Joseph, uncomfortable I am sure. They left there abruptly, to travel probably 200 miles with a young baby because an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream saying they and the baby were in danger. They left because of great pending danger to Jesus. Traveling with a baby for days in our luxury transportation today with plenty of planning would be tough, we would say that would be hard – much more so Mary and Joseph with their baby on foot or sitting on a donkey.

They get to Egypt, to safety, and now another dream where Joseph is told to go again, back to Israel, for King Herod was dead. So Joseph had to once again tell Mary of his dream, of the word he got from the Lord through an angel that it is once again time to go. The logistics of all of this would have been very challenging, the uncertainty of a stable home would have been challenging, and at this point they may have wondered, "Will we ever settle down? What is going on here?" It might have seemed crazy. Their lives were full of uncertainty at this point.

God’s hand was on them though. He was caring for them, directing them, planning their path. He was near to them. What might have looked like chaos was not chaos at all, it was the plan.

Matthew 2:19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 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.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Herod had died. The one who had been named and considered himself to be king of the Jews, the great king who declared himself to be the sovereign, the one of pride and arrogance, who killed his own children, his wife, and tried to kill Jesus to preserve his kingdom, his legacy, his life, was now dead. He was a mere man, he was unable to save himself, no matter how hard he tried. His days were limited by God.

He apparently, according to the historian Josephus, died a terribly painful and humiliating death, his pain was so great that he could not be comforted – it was like his insides just rotted away. He also apparently never repented from his evil ways. Just five days prior to his death he had another of his sons executed. Why? He was still consumed with the idea that someone would rule in his place. To the very end he did all he could to retain what he loved: his kingdom. But God took care of that.

With Herod gone, an angel appeared to Joseph, as he said he would, and told him he could now move back.

Matthew 2:19b an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 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 so what did Joseph do? He obeyed. Once again, he simply obeyed. Obedience may not have been the most comfortable thing to do or the easiest, it would have been, once again, hard to make another move so quickly, but it was in Joseph’s heart to obey the Lord.

Matthew 2:21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

No sooner had they begun this trip than another challenge hit them. Sound like your life?

Matthew 2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.

Archelaus reflected the brutality of his father Herod. At one time he had 3,000 Jews executed. This was really a time of great brutality in the world and in Israel. There was such unrest and political strife. Murder, imprisonment, torture were all prominent in the land. Obviously we see this later on as Jesus was so cruelly beaten and crucified on a cross. Dangerous times, and Joseph knew it, and God steers him away from some of that by directing his path to Galilee. But even then, it was not like they would live in some peaceful suburb absent of evil. Where did they end up?

Matthew 2:23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Nazareth was north of Jerusalem in the region of Galilee. It was a small city but it had a reputation of being populated by crude and violent people. The term Nazarene was used of people in a negative way to describe a person who was rough, violent, and crude. That was the reputation of the town where Jesus would be raised.

We see an example of this in John 1:45-46. This is an exchange between Philip and Nathanael.

John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

This was God’s chosen place for Jesus and Mary and Joseph to live. Jesus would live in a lowly and despised town, the King of kings would be from Nazareth.

This was God’s plan. We read of it and say, "Yes, okay, God was in control, His ways are good and wise and right, this is good." But we say that from quite a distance of separation, from a looking back view and seeing it all work out well perspective.

What about, though, where we are today? Can we say the same for where we are today? Is God good, is He right, is He wise, and does He care for you today?

Will we believe God, trust Him, wait upon Him with hope and live accordingly? Will we trust the Lord as Joseph did, obeying Him even if it doesn’t look best from our viewpoint?

Our God is a great God, He is near and He cares! He cares like an engaged, gentle, loving Shepherd.

Isaiah 40:21 Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; 23 who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Those words are as true today as they were when Isaiah penned them. They were true for Joseph and Mary in their days of struggle and confusion, and they're true for us today as the Lord watches over us, cares for us, and leads us in the way He wants us to go.