It’s always a lovely surprise when you hear about people with unexpected gifts. Friends you thought you knew suddenly appear in a different light, as they manifest some striking creative ability, or describe an unusual hobby. People never fail to surprise you!
I often feel the same way about Joseph, as he is described in the nativity story. In many respects Joseph comes across as a conventional character – honest, hardworking, keen to observe the law. A pillar of the community, you might say.
And yet, below the surface beats an equally remarkable heart as that of his more celebrated bride. It was no small thing to choose to live with the ongoing scent of scandal, the whispers in an insular village of being a cuckold – to stick by Mary, come what may, and fashion a stable family home.
And Joseph also had a hidden gift – he was unusually sensitive to the Holy Spirit. No less than four times he receives divine instruction through a dream – only his Old Testament namesake with the multi-coloured dreamcoat receives significant dreams as often as this Joseph (1:20, 2:13, 2:19, 2:22).
These dreams dramatically affect the course of his life, and those around him – he marries Mary, flees to Egypt with his young family, returns to Israel a few years later and then settles in Galilee. But what is often overlooked is the very simple observation that Joseph acted upon these revelations. He believed that God had spoken, and he obeyed. Each time he does exactly what has been revealed to him in the dream.
We may not receive such striking revelations – although I’m frequently surprised by how many ‘ordinary’ people tell me about significant dreams they have received at some point in their lives. But, whether we do or not, there is a simple two-fold lesson in the story of Joseph: to trust in what God speaks, and to obey. As the old children’s bible song has it: ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way….’
Life is complicated, but in many ways faith is simple: trust God, and try to do what he wants you to do. As Joseph knew all too well, such childlike trust led him in very unexpected ways. The life of simple trust is never dull! But it is the path to intimacy with God. The more we trust, the more God speaks. The more God speaks, the more we trust.
Keep saying yes to God. And our loving God will keep drawing ever closer to you.