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Wednesday Devotional: Manger of Obedience

Matthew 1: 18-25, 2: 13-15, 2: 19-23

There was a time in my life when I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to do something right now. Usually, when I have felt the nudge of the Spirit, He is requesting a longer term action. But on this occasion, His voice was speaking urgently. I obeyed, doing what I was instructed, and felt like this tremendous power had just passed through me.

I wonder if this is how Joseph felt as he responded obediently to four dreams that are huge, but sometimes overlooked, parts of the Christmas narrative. Joseph offers his obedience to the manger scene as I continue this Advent series on manger characters (using mangers from my "manger tower" I photographed last week).

In the first dream (Matthew 1: 18-25), Joseph is asked to fulfill his marriage intentions with Mary, who surprisingly turned up pregnant. A righteous man, Joseph had determined he would quietly divorce his fiancée, to prevent her from being publicly disgraced or even stoned. But after an angelic dream that assured Joseph that the baby was of the Holy Spirit, Joseph took Mary home as his wife. He also obeyed the angel's instructions by naming the child Jesus, meaning "He saves."

In the second dream (Matthew 2: 13-15), Joseph is told in a dream to get up and escape to Egypt, avoiding King Herod's paranoid wrath. Joseph not only obeys, but obeys instantly. In the middle of the night, the Holy Family steals away into Egypt. I wonder if Joseph felt the power of the Spirit flowing through him, giving him the energy to whisk away his sleepy wife and baby. (And I wonder what Mary thought; I imagine that she believed Joseph's dream and readily obeyed as well).

According to the tradition of the Coptic Church in Egypt, Joseph took his family through ten different cities, staying in caves, occasionally fleeing persecution, never staying in one place more than six months. If you ever visit Egypt, you can actually follow the alleged trail of the Holy Family.

A few years later, a pair of dreams (Matthew 2: 19-23) instruct Joseph not only to return from Egypt, but to settle in the backwater town of Nazareth, avoiding Herod's son now on the throne and fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would come from Nazareth.

Such consistent, repeated obedience is noteworthy. Joseph illustrates God's calculus that the weak will be strong. This righteous carpenter became weak in order to permit God's strength to take over. Surely Joseph had his own ideas of how to operate his life and his family, but because he was obedient, God's will could shine through and perform the necessary to place Jesus where He needed to be.

As we bow at the manger ourselves, let us resolve to obey God in all things. Our will is often different than God's. But in listening to the Holy Spirit speak in a myriad of simple and dramatic ways, and then following the Spirit's guidance, we will allow God to work His perfect will in us and through us, glorifying the name of Jesus!

My second book, Live Like You're Loved, is in final review and is expected to be widely available within weeks. In the book and accompanying video series (now available on my web site), I describe how your life can be transformed when you deeply believe in God's love, forgiveness, sending purpose and eternal plans for you. To pre-order the book or to purchase the video series, please visit For more information on Live Like You're Loved, please visit

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