“Her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…” (Matthew 1:19-20, ESV)
We dream a lot of strange things. I have not been a formal student since 1985, but I still sometimes dream I’m back on the campus and I’ve signed up for a class that I slough off and don’t attend until – you guessed it! – the day of the final exam. Then I sit in my desk with sweaty palms until, mercifully, I wake up. That dream surely reflects standard life anxiety. But once in a while a dream captures us and hits home in a powerful way. God still speaks in dreams that can get our attention more completely than any rational waking thought. Perhaps that’s why God chose to speak to Joseph in a dream.
There’s no doubt Joseph went to sleep that night with a great burden of anxiety on his mind. It was consuming his every waking thought. He was betrothed to a woman who was now pregnant without his involvement. We can imagine that Mary must have told Joseph the whole story of how an angel came to her to say she would bear a son, and she was to name him Jesus. When she asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin,” the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35). But what man awake to the facts of life could believe such a story?
Then God waited for Joseph to go to sleep. There is no more helpless and vulnerable state for a human being. “Do I have your attention, Joseph? This child is mine, and I need you to care for him, and for Mary. You will name him Jesus.” When we’re in our most rational mode, we often tune out God’s voice. But He has a way of getting our attention. Are you so much in control of your life that God’s voice can’t be heard? Let go. Switch off your skepticism. Drop your guard. Be helpless. God will speak to you in his Word.
Come, Lord Jesus! Prepare my spirit to hear your Word, give me grace to let go my anxious defenses. Show me how you are at work in the world around me so that I may serve you better. Reveal yourself to me in your written Word. Amen.