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Matthew 1:18-25

When the Way Is Unclear

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • February 25, 2018

In Matthew 1, we read the story of Joseph and Mary's betrothal. As Joseph and Mary find themselves stuck in a situation, we see ourselves. With no other situation quite like his in human history, Joseph began to move forward and plan what he thought was best, but the Lord had other plans. The plan of action would require Joseph to look beyond what he thought was right, and deeper into what was best. Oftentimes it seems so easy to plan our own route to getting where we believe we should end up. But if the way is unclear, prior to moving forward, consider the route the Lord would have you take.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

When the Way is Unclear

Matthew 1:18-25 

Intro: Stuck on a turnpike.

In the first chapter of Matthew, we are introduced to a man named Joseph. Joseph had been betrothed to Mary. Mary was a teenage girl who was chosen by the Lord to be the mother of Jesus. In Luke chapter 1 we see the angel Gabriel visit Mary and inform her of God’s will for her life, that she would bear and birth Jesus. Mary accepted the will of the Lord and his word over her life, however, her earthly priorities would be at risk.

One priority at risk, was her impending marriage to Joseph, who himself would have a major decision to make prior to moving forward. He too was being called to carry the burden of this child, but in a completely different and powerful way. This opportunity, put Joseph in a place where he was not certain as to which way he should go and what exactly he should do.

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph, engaged to a pregnant Mary, had many things to consider. I imagine he has more questions than answers: why me? What on earth is going on? How could this be?

In addition to the questions of confusion, questions as to what exactly he should do. How would he move forward when the way is unclear?

While not to this degree, or this magnitude, we too can find ourselves stuck in situations beyond our capability. With no other situation quite like his in human history, Joseph began to move forward and plan what he thought was best, but the Lord had other plans. The plan of action would require Joseph to look beyond what he thought was right, and deeper into what was best.

So easy it is to turn on our personal “GPS” and begin making the turns to get as quickly as possible to place we feel we need to be. But if the way is unclear, prior to moving forward, consider the route the Lord would have you take.

I. Leave Room for the Holy Spirit

  • Joseph and Mary had been betrothed to one another, which was a binding engagement.
  • In Bible times, Jewish marriage customs regarding a couple’s engagement were much different than we know today.
  • Marriages were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom, often even without consulting the couple.
  • The betrothal (engagement) would be negotiated, which included a bride price, paid by the groom’s parents. An announcement would be made and couple would then be “pledged.”
  • The betrothal was a legally binding agreement, even though the actual consummation of marriage would not occur for up to a year afterwards.
  • The only way to get out of marrying the person you were betrothed to, was to divorce them. If a man passed away during the betrothal period, the woman would actually be considered a widow.
  • It was during this betrothal period that Joseph finds out Mary is with child.
  • Vs. 19, Joseph was a righteous man. Despite the betrayal he may have felt at hearing this news, his heart was not to disgrace Mary, however, it seems that it was clearly not a situation he wanted to remain in. 
  • While engagements are societally different today, the thoughts and personal implications are quite similar. 
  • Joseph being a righteous man, means that he didn’t want to go against God’s laws. To marry Mary would have been an admission of guilt, when he was not guilty.
  • What Joseph was planning to do, was divorce her secretly. A public divorce would disgrace her and he did not want to humiliate her. 
  • While Joseph seems to have a plan in place, he would need to leave room for the Holy Spirit, as an unlikely call was coming. His course was going to change. 

Illus. Don’t get your heart set on an arrangement.

  • The plan you have in place, may not be the Lord’s plan. Leave room for the Holy Spirit to direct your decisions, to plot your course.

A. Search out God’s will

  • Joseph had a good and fair plan in mind, he could keep his reputation and show compassion toward Mary. 
  • It was the most logical, and under normal circumstances might even be the “right thing.” But these were no normal circumstances. 
  • You might ask yourself this question, “How will I know if my situation falls under the category of “normal circumstances?”” If you are in Christ, your life doesn’t fit that category. Your opportunity is to decipher the will of God.  

Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.

  • The word transformed is the word for “metamorphosis.” It is only used two other times in the New Testament: 

1. To describe what happened to Jesus on the mount of transfiguration when He began to shine (Matt. 17:2). 

2. To describe what will happen to us when we see the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18). 

  • This means that we are transformed when we look at Jesus, when we spend time with Him, study His word, when we worship Him. 
  • We are changed more and more as we look beyond the pattern of the world, and to our Lord.
  • When we look to Him, transformed, with renewed mind and we are able to understand what the will of God is, and the way he would have us go. 

Illus. The Web MD symptom checker.

  • The Lord will have a specific solution to your specific situation, search out His will. Seek Him and you will find Him.

Jeremiah 29:13, You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Illus. Searching to Page 19 of the online forum.

App. In Luke 5, we see some men carrying on a bed, a man who was paralyzed. They were trying to bring the man in front of Jesus and they were not able to because of the crowd. As they attempted this, there was no way to get through the crowd, so they went up on the roof and lowered him through the tiles.

  • Don’t stop when you feel like you can’t get to Jesus because of the crowd of advice and opinions prior to getting before the Lord. Find the way to get in front of Him.
  • The Pharisees crowding around Jesus didn’t like His response of healing the paralytic. “Who is this fellow to speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” That’s exactly the point when we search Him out. 

Proverbs 14:12, There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

B. The world will not understand

  • Verse 20, Joseph had a plan, but was in the midst of considering it… NKJV reads, “while he was thinking about these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him…” In “considering, or thinking about these things,” it seems he was not comfortable with his decision.
  • If he was to marry Mary, all would have assumed him to either have cohabitated with her, or, that he would have wed an adulterer – both of which would cause him to lose the community’s respect.
  • God interrupted by sending an angel of the Lord in a dream to inform him that he: 

1. Should marry Mary (verse 20);

2. Should name the baby Jesus, and;

3. He will be raising the One, God’s Son, who would save His people from their sins.

  • Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded. This would put a burden on him that he likely never thought he would bear.

Illus. Stretching.

  • God was making Joseph’s life inconvenient, but extraordinarily significant. Joseph chose to follow God’s lead.
  • The word “imitate” in the Greek is “mimic.” 

II. Follow His Lead

  • When you bear the call of Christ on your life, and in your world; others may not understand.

1 Corinthians 2:14, But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

  • Joseph, you’re going to do what?
  • He was willing to accept his assignment and follow the Lord forward.

A. Do not be afraid

  • As Joseph is thinking about all of this, the angel of the Lord appears in his dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived is of the Holy Spirit.” (vs. 20)
  • Calling Joseph son of David would point Joseph towards his legal lineage, a lineage of power and strength, his legal lineage to the throne of David.
  • The angel reminds Joseph of who he is, he is a Son of David, the great king.
  • Those in Christ also have a lineage, a family line, of power and strength, filled with a destiny and a calling.
  • We are children of the greater than David, we are children of God. 

Romans 8:15-17, For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

  • What was he heading into? Gossip, questions of character, judgement, the fear of man’s opinions.

Psalm 118:6, The Lord is for me, I will not fear; what can man do to me?

  • Joseph was reminded of who he was and then given instruction regarding what to do.
  • When you consider your options or your next move, when it is apparent which way the Lord would have you go, don’t fear the response of man, walk in the way God would have you go. 

B. Avoid looking back

  • Joseph chose to marry Mary, and to move forward. 
  • We don’t hear of or see in scripture Joseph reminding Mary of how blessed she was to have him. Or how his character took a hit in marrying her. 
  • We don’t see Joseph making Jesus pay because he wasn’t his natural son. 
  • Rather, Joseph understood what the will of the Lord was for his life, for his family, for Mary, for Jesus. He understood what was right, and after deciding his way, he went forward without looking back.  

Illus. Moving forward.

  • If you know that the Lord has told you to move forward in a decision, in forgiveness and towards His will, you can do so today. 
  • Joseph proceeded forward, and Mary, bore a Son, Immanuel, “God with Us.” He will save His people from their sins the angel says. 
  • Matthew helps us see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. He is the messiah, Immanuel, God with us.
  • If the way is unclear today, I want to encourage you as Joseph did, to look to the Lord, search out His will, and go that way.

Most likely, just as the Lord did with Mary and Joseph, His direction in your life, will be an opportunity for you to carry Jesus; in your life, and into your world. Sometimes inconvenient, at ALL times significant.

Matthew 1:18-25   NASB

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 "behold, the virgin shall be withchild and shall bear ason, and they shall call his name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us." 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.


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