"But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 'Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead.' So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets; He shall be called a Nazarene." Matthew 2:19-23
"When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth." Luke 2:39
Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaped safely to Egypt, and successfully avoided the wrath of Herod the Great. After Herod died, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and gave him marching orders to return home. Apparently, Joseph started on the trip, but as he got closer to home, he balked. Joseph became filled with fear. When he found out that the son of the man who had tried to murder Jesus was now on the throne, Joseph pulled off the road. He fell asleep in a Rest Area, and put the will of God on hold for a night.
It is interesting that in spite of all Joseph had seen God do in his life, and the life of his family, he froze like a deer in the head lights, and did not take the next step of faith. The prospect of facing the son of Herod, became a roadblock to his return home. His fear of man overwhelmed his fear of God. The dark fear of what Archelaus might do to him overshadowed all the light God had brought into his life.
"Then, after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee." This passage indicates that God never intends for fear of man to be an obstacle to His plan of redemption. This time, God came to Joseph, and warned him personally. The results were immediate. This fresh encounter with God turned around the life of Joseph, and put him back on course. The intimidation of a possible encounter with a counterfeit king evaporated in light of the inspiration he received, from a night time vision from the real King of Kings.
- Gary Busey, Hollywood's theologian in rehab, once said, "Fear is spelled F.E.A.R. and can be described as False Expectations Appearing Real." Not bad Mr. Busey.
- Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the World Champion Green Bay Packers, believed, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all."
These two quotes from the world of entertainment and the sports arena should remind us that the celebrities are not immune from self-doubt and the weariness of the battle. They have found the lime-light of fame and fortune only exposes their weaknesses and magnifies their fears.
Have you ever noticed that the Word of God is filled with warnings to "Fear not!" From Genesis to Revelation, the people of faith have always had to overcome their fear in order to move forward in the journey God has for them. The plan of redemption will always be opposed by the enemy. Satan knows that fear is a very effective weapon. The darkness always makes things seem bigger in the night than they really are in the light of day.
When Pharaoh tried to kill the male babies of his Hebrew captives, courageous women refused to obey his command at the risk of their own lives. "The midwives feared God." Exodus 1:21
David was the ancestor of Joseph, and the shepherd boy from Bethlehem who became king. When faced with an intimidating, shadow of death experience, he turned from his fear and to His God. He said, "I will fear no evil." Psalms 23:4
Solomon, son of David, King of Israel, and a man of wisdom and wealth, taught his princes, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Proverbs 1:7
Proverbs warns of the inevitability of conflict with evil, and the availability of the Presence of God. "Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence (at your side). " Proverbs 3:25-26
When the first century church was dealing with circumstances beyond their control, God inspired the writer of Hebrews to remind His people, " 'I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,' so that we confidently say, 'THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?' Hebrews 13:5 (Joshua 1:5, Psalms 118:6)
It is comforting to know that the first words Jesus said to those who would become Christ followers were, "Follow me." (Matthew 4:19) It was his invitation to a great adventure. His way was not to be a walk in the park, or a day at the beach. His command was a call to, "Come here by My side. I will show the way and you can come after Me." In other words, Jesus was saying, "Follow after Me. Accompany Me. Join me. Walk with me." He did not say, "CHARGE!" He said,"Follow!" Christ followers are invited to consistent companionship with the One who is The Source of confidence.
Thank God, Joseph didn't roll over in bed and ignore the second warning he received from God. His misguided zeal to protect his family, and to avoid the conflict ahead was a danger to the culmination of the plan of God. Egypt had been a safe harbor that protected his family from the storms of life, for a time. Harbors are only temporary points of pause along the rigorous route of the redemption story. They are meant to give God's people time to refit, regroup, rest, and reawaken to the His call on their lives to carry the message of His Son around the world. Not all who hear will believe what they hear, but the call of God is to tell them the story of Jesus anyway.
The sea will always be rough for any Christ follower. Those who desire to awaken from their slumber, and take a fresh step of obedience will be opposed. There will always be an element of fear, and a ready opposition to any venture of faith. The world today is in need of an awakening that only God can provide. A world-changing movement of God begins with a life-changing confidence in Him to face our fears, and sail into the wind with the promise of His Presence.