I was surprised by what I read today in Matthew’s Gospel. It was it near the end of chapter 2. The five versus basically go like this, Herod, who wanted to kill Jesus for fear that Jesus would replace him as king, died. Joseph, who took the family to Egypt, is told the good news of Herod’s death and told to go back to Israel. He was headed back to Judah, heard Archelaus was reigning there, and ended up in going to Nazareth where he was supposed to end up all along.
Why was he told to return to Israel instead Nazareth where Jesus was prophesied to grow up? I can only guess at the answer since I don’t see even a hint at what could be in this part of the story.
Maybe Joseph wanted to take King Jesus to Judah, to Jerusalem, and find a way to make a rebellion in order to place Jesus on the throne. During Jesus’s later ministry his disciples and most of the crowds along with the Jewish leadership either feared this or longed for it. So I think it’s pretty reasonable to say that Joseph thought this as well. From all his dreams, he knew Jesus would be the Savior but, like the others, most likely thought of a political deliverer who would reestablish Israel’s spiritual and political vitality. And like everyone else Joseph would’ve had it wrong.
So why not tell Joseph to go directly to Nazareth? Probably because he would not have understood. Better to tell him to come back and let his own fears prepare him for the next dream telling him to go to Galilee and Nazareth.
So, he got general instructions to go to a country and then, when he was ready, more specific instruction. This shows God working together with Joseph.
I was surprised when it dawned on me that the Nativity story was teaching me about how to follow God. It was teaching me about how to listen to God and how God leads. In the end I pray this prayer:
Father, as you direct me from one ministry to another I commit to paying close attention to where you are specifically leading. I recognize that I may be going to a place of service for one reason, for something that I really do not understand, so that you can place me where I can be most useful for you. That place may not be what I thought or why I thought I should be there but it will be but was planned by you..