This article is part of Brother Jerry’s series on events in the life of Jesus Christ.
You have to feel for Joseph. Here’s a man who’s all excited about his upcoming wedding to Mary. Then, everything appears to collapse after Mary goes to visit her cousin Elisabeth for three months. When she returns, it’s clear that this woman who was supposedly saving herself for him is now expecting a baby!
Knowing that it’s not his baby, Joseph is torn as to what to do. Under the Law of Moses, he can have Mary stoned to death for adultery. But no, he loves her — he can’t bring himself to have her killed and “make her a public example.” Instead, he’s thinking he will “put her away privily,” quietly end their engagement without calling her out as an adulteress (Matthew 1:19).
“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
After hearing this, Joseph is all in! He is able to believe that Mary is still a virgin. He takes her as his wife. He will name the baby Jesus and accept Him as his own son. It’s a great ending to this little story — God steps in just when He’s needed to set everything straight.
If we consider our own lives today, do our own personal stories end the same way, with God always stepping in to set everything straight?
If we’re being honest, then we have to admit that it usually doesn’t work quite that way. If we’re about to make a wrong choice in life, we don’t typically have an angel appear to us in a dream to straighten us out. Most illnesses don’t result in miraculous healings. Many excellent job opportunities wind up being given to someone else.
Being human, we may be tempted to focus on what God is not doing. Instead, let’s look at what He is doing through what He has already put in place.
God has created a system of life for us and given us certain tools to help us along the way.
For example, God has given us the Holy Ghost to help with decision-making, human bodies with some level of built-in healing capabilities, and gifts and talents that help us to accomplish things in life. Although we obviously don’t get everything we want via this system, it does serve us well on a day-to-day basis.
Then we bring our special requests to God — requests for miraculous healings, special insight into a challenging situation, arranging factors to bring about a favorable outcome for us, etc. God welcomes such requests — encourages them, even — but it’s good for us to understand that when we do this, we are in essence asking God to take special action, over and above what His normal system will handle.
Sometimes, God does take special action to intervene on our behalf but, most often, He lets His existing system take care of things.
The most obvious example is when we get sick. We typically pray for each other at such times, asking God to remove the illness. More times than not, the bodies that God created wind up healing themselves, perhaps with the assistance of doctors or medicine (also provided by God). We still wind up healed — praise God — but if there’s no particular reason for God to perform a miracle, why would He?
So, perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of asking “Why not?” it might make more sense to look at an answered prayer or miracle and ask, “Why?”
Why would God override the system and take special action? He must have some reason for doing so — we just need to figure out what it is.
It could be as simple as we’re being given a special testimony that we’ll be expected to share with others. Or perhaps there will be some special calling or assignment from God that we will be expected to fulfil. Whatever the reason, we need to be ready to follow through on whatever God has planned for us to do.
Which brings us back to Joseph in the story above.
Why did God take the special action of having an angel speak to Joseph in a dream? God may have had multiple reasons for why He wanted Joseph to follow through and be Mary’s husband, but there was one overriding reason that uniquely qualified Joseph for this role:
It was foretold in Micah 5:2 that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. But since Mary lived in Nazareth, how could this occur? Well, it so happened that Joseph, her husband-to-be, was a native of Bethlehem, which meant that he and his wife would have to travel there for the census that would be called for shortly before Mary would be giving birth (Luke 2:1-6), resulting in Jesus being born in Bethlehem.
If Joseph had backed out of the marriage, Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem and the prophecy would not have been fulfilled. But God gave Joseph this special message which enabled Joseph to follow through and be used in a very special way.
So, when God takes special action in our lives, get ready for what comes next! We may not be called upon to be a father to the Son of God, but we will surely be given the opportunity to do something special to further the cause of Christ.
Has God Taken Special Action for You?
Does today’s article remind you of a time in your life when God answered your special request? A request that went over-and-above the norm? Do you (now) know why God answered that prayer in a supernatural way? We’d love to hear about it and share it here on the blog!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.