I have really enjoyed the time that we have spent this year in the Old Testament. As we start out into the New Testament, you are going to hear things related to, quoted from, or incorporated into teaching, straight from the Old Testament. And you will be able to say, “Hey, I know about that. I remember reading about that” or, “This sounds so familiar.” And as wonderful and necessary as the Old Testament is, the New Testament is so much more. We need both of them. But let me tell you, as you begin reading in the New Testament, especially after having gone through the entire Old Testament, you are going to feel like you have stepped into the most lush, fertile valley you have ever known. The Old Testament set the table for us to enjoy the feast of the New Testament.
What I want to enjoy with you right now is a portion of our reading for today. Specifically I would like you to look with me today at Matthew 2:13-15
When they had gone (the wise men), an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Herod was a paranoid, wicked, evil, insecure man. What he was willing to do at the drop of a hat is unconscionable. In order to seemingly preserve his position on the throne, he was willing to slaughter a bunch of innocent babies whose only action in life was being born at the wrong time in the wrong place. God knew all about what Herod was up to and so he spoke to Joseph in a dream telling him to get up from his slumber, take his family, and leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt.
What stood out to me in this passage was Joseph’s response to God. God gave him the dream. When the dream ended God become Joseph’s alarm clock. Now that Joseph was awake, he got his wife up, they grabbed the baby Jesus and most likely very little else, and they left Bethlehem to go to a place where they had never been. He did exactly what God had told him to do.
The dream happened, God said, “Get up.” Joseph got up, took his wife and son and left Bethlehem. When I read this, I thought to myself, “How refreshing.” God said move and Joseph moved…now. Instant obedience. For all we know, Joseph and his family could have missed Herod’s troops by minutes, hours or maybe days. Whatever the time frame between the escape and the slaughter, Joseph acted with instant obedience. And it could be that even waiting until the morning so that they could have a complete night’s sleep, could have been the death of their son.
Did you know that in serving God delayed obedience is not enough? When we respond with delayed obedience it isn’t really obedience at all, it is disobedience. That’s right, delayed obedience is actually disobedience.
Fortunately, Linda and I learned that fact at a time when we had a lot of small children in our home. Early on we had experimented with counting. I think most of you know what I am talking about. We call out to the back yard to our small children, ”It’s time to come in.” The children don’t even flinch. It was as if we were moving our mouths and no words were coming out. We tried again, “Hey guys, time to come into the house.” No response. So we would resort to counting. “I’m going to count to 10 and you better get here before I reach 10.”
Now let me ask you. If the kids after hearing that, ignore what you’ve told them to do until you get to eight and then somehow magically realize that they need to obey what their parents are saying, and as you are finally saying, “Ten,” they respond and come inside, is that really obedience. Absolutely not. We realized that God doesn’t count, He wants obedience and He expects it now. Delayed obedience is simply disobedience.
It occurred to us that when we counted, we were teaching delayed obedience, which is not obedience at all, but instead is simply disobedience.
In the case of Joseph, it could have been the difference between life and death. The stakes were high. Disobedience is a high stakes game.
What can we take from today and the story we read. Delayed obedience is not obedience at all. It is disobedience. We need to obey quickly. If we are parents or grandparents we need to make sure we are not teaching our families the art of delayed obedience. Let’s leave the counting to the Census Bureau and the funny looking puppet character who always wears a black coat and cape. See you next time.