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The Surrender of Bliss

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
December 8, 2022 12:00 am

The Surrender of Bliss

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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December 8, 2022 12:00 am

When it comes time for Christmas, we too often forget about Joseph. His choice to wed Mary despite the scandalous allegations leveled against her is one of the most defining and self-sacrificing moments in the Christmas story -- nay, history.

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We know from scripture that Joseph was given revelation from God at least four times. Three times in three years alone he would be told to relocate his family for their safety. That meant he would have to reestablish his carpentry business, reset up their home, make new friends, build new contacts, feed his family. We also know that the first 24 months of their baby's life they were virtually running for their lives.

It was a whirlwind. Joseph farewell to the bliss of a normal life. One of the easiest choices to overlook in the Christmas story is the choice made by Joseph. He chose to continue his engagement to Mary, despite the scandalous allegations leveled against her. It impacted his own reputation and his social standing forever. How do you think you would have responded if you were in Joseph's place?

The Bible doesn't give us a tremendous amount of detail regarding Joseph but there's much we can learn from what it does tell us. Here's Stephen Davey with this message that he called the surrender of bliss. Wilmer McClain who refused to participate in the Civil War, he adamantly opposed taking sides. He had friends in the north, he had friends in the south and in order to keep out of harm's way he retired from his successful grocery business, sold what he had and with his money moved to Northern Virginia where he was convinced he could escape any conflict in this approaching battle.

Wilmer bought a beautiful estate near Manassas Junction in Virginia where he enjoyed the plantation lifestyle. Trouble is that was the very first battle called Bull Run, the Battle of Bull Run. It occurred in Manassas Junction on July 21st, 1861. More than 50,000 soldiers tramped all over his plantation fighting. They were engaged in a battle that took all day. This was the famous battle where Jackson earned his nickname Stonewall for his refusal to back down.

When the battle was over, McClain's buildings were destroyed. A cannonball actually came down his chimney, destroyed his home and his beautiful stone barn was also demolished. But he still wanted nothing to do with this war and he was found in the very middle of it so rather bitterly he decided to move again to get away from it, this time to Southern Virginia where he bought another plantation in a town called Appomattox.

If you can believe it's actually true. Poor guy, it's not exactly where he could get away. In fact, the last battle fought in the Civil War was fought there. This was also the place where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant sued for peace. Problem is these two generals needed a place to meet and agree to the terms so they chose the parlor of a plantation home nearby, Wilmer McClain's home. So on April the 9th, 1865, the meeting took place in McClain's parlor. It lasted two and a half hours and when it was over, the generals had departed. Soldiers from both sides, officers and even citizens, wanted mementos of this once in a lifetime occasion.

They took pictures from his walls, his silverware, his settings, all of the furniture and even the drapes. When it was over and the people were gone, everything from Wilmer McClain's home was gone. This was the man who just wanted to steer clear of the Civil War but it seemed to hunt him down.

One author said it began in his backyard and ended in his parlor and it will cost him nearly everything. You ask the average Christian what their perspective is of the Christmas narrative as it relates to Joseph and more than likely his name will evoke similar pity. Poor guy, fell in love with the wrong girl and had no idea and just wanted to raise some kids and have a wife and expand his business and wham, out of nowhere the conflict began which turned his world upside down. Most viewed Joseph as somewhat unwittingly participating in this picture like a child who acts the part of Joseph in the school play and he's sort of dazed, caught in the spotlight. So Joseph is caught in the spotlight of human history and he has just a few lines and then he's gone.

If you've ever noticed in most Christmas plays all he does is lead the donkey around and fluff the hay in the manger and say a line or two, knock on the innkeeper's door and that's about all. The truth is he will model self-sacrifice and character. He will demonstrate as much as anybody what it means when we say I surrender all.

He will accept the shame of it all. It struck me as I studied for this message, Joseph effectively said farewell to the bliss of a quiet life, a normal life, a comfortable life. I don't want you to miss the model of humility and deference and character. It's all here for those who want to discover it and what he was really like. So would you turn for a few moments here to the gospel by Matthew chapter 1 and verse 18 and let's discover it together. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit, which at this point only she knew. In this verse, in the following verses, I want to give you at least three surrenders that Joseph will make. The first is the surrender of personal pride. In order to understand the devastating blow of what I just read to you, that Mary is announcing she's pregnant, we need to understand something about the Jewish customs of marriage. There were at least three stages to the average normal Jewish marriage. The first stage was the stage called engagement. This is where the man went out and sold all his livestock and emptied his bank account, sold everything he owned, including the shirt off his back and bought a diamond ring for his fiance.

Oh, I'm sorry, that's the American version. But it was worth it though, wasn't it guys? Amen. It was worth it though, wasn't it guys?

Amen. All right, 2,000 years ago, let's go there. And engagement was something carried out by the parents, often the couple never even met. They were young children usually when the parents arranged for the marriage. The parents normally picked out the spouses of their children.

It's a great idea. The second stage was called the Kiddushin or the betrothal period. It was a formal event.

It was considered binding by both families. During a brief ceremony, the bridegroom would pay the dowry or the mohar, it was called. This was known as the bride price. It was often paid in cattle or clothing or money, or if the bridegroom was wealthy, perhaps all three. The dowry was delivered at the betrothal ceremony and it was given to the bride's father to compensate for wedding expenses.

I really like this custom as well. It's biblical and you don't want to argue with the Bible. The Kiddushin lasted a year. During this time, the couple didn't stay together. They didn't consummate their marriage.

This period of time tested their fidelity to one another. By the way, the analogy to our Lord, our bridegroom, it's another study, but I can't resist at least to say our bridegroom certainly paid the bride price, didn't he, with his blood. Now we await the time when he'll return to take us to his father's home. We're already his. His spirit is our seal, our engagement ring. And the marriage supper of the lamb is yet to take place at will in the heavenlies. It could be any day now. You, by the way, are invited to come.

I wonder if you have RSVP'd. Now the only way out of a betrothal was divorce or death. In fact, if Joseph were to die here during the betrothal period, Mary would be called a widow. The betrothal period was a time then when the man and the woman prepared themselves for the coming wedding. The man would be preparing a dwelling place for his bride, and she would be collecting all that was necessary to be a helpmeet and homemaker for her husband and family. Finally, after about a year, the wedding ceremony, the hoopah, would take place. Several days of feasting and celebrating the goodness of God and establishing yet another household of faith among the people of God.

Now with that as a backdrop, you understand, don't you, the devastation of these words. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child. How could this be? Luke explains further, the angel visited Mary and explained to her what was going on. I've often wondered why the angel didn't come to Joseph, save him the agony or even come to the family or perhaps the entire village and vindicate her character.

Perhaps God was already preparing them for the challenges of their future. The question at this point is, what will Joseph do? Verse 19 says that Joseph, her husband, and by the way, you ought to note that it's as if the gospel account wants to remind us they are legally bound.

This is her husband. Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man that settles it. He's righteous. He's going to do the right thing.

He will bring her before the elders and accuse her then of sexual sin with another man, thus keeping himself from the obvious slander and accusation that he was the culprit, that he couldn't wait until the kid who sheen was over and the ceremony had taken place. He could get rid of the whispering that he was the child's father. He was a righteous man.

Lenski, the Greek scholar points out that this Greek word for righteous refers to the heart as well as to the conduct. He had a godly reputation that was now on the verge of being destroyed. The only way to clear his name publicly is tell the truth. He wasn't the man. He didn't believe Mary either. But there is this little insertion which lets us know there is a greater problem perhaps and that is even though he didn't believe her, he happened to love her. So the text goes on to say not wanting to disgrace her, he planned to send her away secretly. The rabbinical writings allowed a man in his position to either accuse her publicly or divorce her quietly and he could choose. All he would need was two witnesses and the kid who sheen was broken.

Mary could pay the consequences for her sin and he could try to get on with his life again. He was right. She was wrong. She just wouldn't admit it. But at this moment, he chose compassion over his emotion.

She should pay. He is the laughing stock of the village. He is the pity of Nazareth.

Poor Joseph. But even here his discretion, he chose that over revenge. Webster defines discretion as knowing when to keep silent. In spite of his emotion, in spite of the turmoil of this scene, in spite of the fact that he was right, he was going to be as honorable and as kind as he could be. What a model for us even in this. He had been wronged and he was right.

But he would remain quiet. I recorded in my journal an incident when our twin sons were around three years of age. I thought you would enjoy this. They were in their bedroom arguing about what 2 plus 2 equaled. One of them was demanding 2 plus 2 equals 5.

He was convinced of it. And his brother said, no, 2 plus 2 equals 4. No, it's 5. No, it's 4. And back and forth they went as I sat there at my desk and finally the moment I knew was coming came, daddy, what's 2 plus 2? Now the problem is if I say 4, I know that one of the boys, the one that's right is going to go aha and just pounce on his brother and send him into exile forever. And I didn't want that to happen.

If I said 5, I would arrest their intellectual development and probably ruin them for life. So I'm caught in this quandary. And so I did the best that I knew to do. I said, go ask your mother.

She's good at math. Perhaps our greatest test of character is remaining silent rather than being proven right. He intended to break off the betrothal without any public humiliation for Mary even though it would vindicate his own reputation. Ladies and gentlemen, the will of God for Joseph involved breaking his heart.

He was willing to surrender his pride and live for the time being with a broken heart. God will also ask Joseph to not only surrender his pride but secondly to surrender his privacy. Look at verse 20. But when he had considered this, that is what to do, deciding then to send her away, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, Joseph, son of David.

I like that. Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife for the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Joseph, even though you wanted to go quietly back to life as you once knew it, I want you to know that I want you to take her, as he'll explain, as your wife, a decision that will launch you into the public spotlight for the rest of your life. I want you to become the stepfather of the Messiah. I want you to raise the Savior. Talk about a glass house. Talk about saying farewell to the bliss of a quiet life.

This was the ultimate. Moments after the birth of Jesus, Joseph got a taste of how much his life would be in the public eye. Shepherds show up unannounced to worship the baby, telling them that millions of angels had already cascaded across the sky, delivering the news.

Within two years, according to the correct chronology of the gospel accounts, kingmakers from Persia will appear having traveled for some time with gifts. You can only imagine the commotion this brought to the village and the home where they were living. We know from scripture that Joseph was given revelation from God at least four times.

God always told Joseph what to do with Mary and the baby. Three times in three years alone, he would be told to relocate his family for their safety. That meant he would have to reestablish his carpentry business, reset up their home, make new friends, build new contacts, feed his family. We also know that the first 24 months of their baby's life, they were virtually running for their lives.

It was a whirlwind. Joseph, farewell to the bliss of a normal life. The will of God for you will be inconvenient, uncomfortable, surprising, dangerous, tiring, confusing, demanding, and very, very public. I wonder what God has asked you to surrender for his son. God will ask and Joseph will respond with affirmation.

He'll sacrifice his pride, his privacy, and thirdly his priorities. She will bear a son, verse 21 says, and you shall call his name Jesus. Joseph, you name him.

That's your role. And by the way, this yeses, he will save his people from their sins. He's the long awaited savior. This fulfills Isaiah's prophecy. The virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, verse 23, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which translated means God with us.

Talk about a shifting of priority and upheaval of everything. Your son is the savior of the world. Call his name Jesus. But from his perspective, I have to ask, how do you act around the savior?

What do you say to him? There isn't any doubt in my mind that Joseph would, as any parent, only with him perhaps compounded a million times over, struggle with the sense of inadequacy. Where's the parenting manual for raising a Messiah?

There isn't any in print. And this is all unrehearsed. Furthermore, here's a man with little formal education. He is now responsible to educate the greatest educator of all time. The Jewish customs related to children's education were very clear. We know that from the time a boy turned three until the age of 12, it was the father's responsibility to pass down the traditions and ordinances and laws of God.

This had to be incredibly intimidating. Now you need to understand that Jesus grew like any normal little boy grew, the spirit overshadowing his development so that he remained without sin. And that would be remarkable for those of you that have two year olds, you know how remarkable that would be to be without sin. Luke tells us he grew in wisdom. He learned.

He grew. I can imagine Joseph saying, me, you want me to teach the prophecies of scripture to the one who came to fulfill all prophecy? You want me to teach the law to the one who is the fulfillment of the law? I'm a carpenter.

I work with my hands. That's who I am. You want me to teach a system of worship and sacrifice to the one all creation worships? Why not Joseph of Arimathea? Why Joseph of Nazareth?

I wonder if the names got switched somewhere in this story. They lived at the same time. Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man. He could afford tutors for his children. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of Israel.

He knew the law like the back of his hand. The Bible tells us that Joseph of Arimathea was also a righteous man, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. He's the one?

No. Joseph of Nazareth. My friends, just as God chose who your parents would be, and if you have children, just as he chose you to be their parent and them to be your children. So he chose Joseph of Nazareth and this teenage girl named Mary to raise the Messiah. Let me quickly move on to give two closing points that apply this to our own lives today.

From the life of Joseph, I think these things are clearly seen and observed. First, being in the will of God is not so much a matter of convenience as it is sacrifice. Here, Lord, use my plantation. You can have my silverware and furniture and drapes.

Use my education for your glory. You can have my children. You can have my home. You can have access to my calendar and my schedule. You can have the right to my wallet, my portfolio, my career.

You can have my life. I surrender all. I wonder how many Christians shuttle between Northern Virginia and Southern Virginia in hopes of avoiding the conflict, the battle, the testimony, standing for Christ, engaging in his cause. I wonder how many in here would say, Lord, I surrender a lot of things, but not everything.

I wonder how many in here would say, I'll stand for some things, but there are limits. I like my privacy. I got an email this past week copying me on an article that ran in the North Carolina State University School newspaper.

Fascinating. The headline read, this Christmas card was written 500 years before Christmas and went on to give the text about 500 years before Jesus's birth. The prophet Micah wrote that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, right where Jesus was born. And do you know who knew of Micah's prophecy? All the religious leaders who advised King Herod. We're told that when Jesus was born, some wise men from the East went to King Herod in Jerusalem. They asked Herod where the Messiah was born.

Herod didn't know. So he gathered all the chief priests and scribes and asked them where the Christ was to be born. And they told him in Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet. And there are over a hundred such prophecies that describe who this Messiah would be and what he would do. Like a prophetic global positioning satellite pointing out the Messiah, the Christ. The amazing thing is that Jesus fulfilled every one of them. And before the end of the century, countless Jews and Gentiles in the Middle East put their faith in him.

Decide for yourself. A good place to start is by asking God to reveal the truth to you. He will open your Bible to the section called John and begin reading. The rest of the page is filled with names of professors. I counted about 120 professors and staff listed in just so you can find them. They listed beside each name, the department where they worked at North Carolina State University. And I recognized a couple of names. Now, if that wasn't enough said, if they already weren't quite clear, they added this just above their names in a larger font that read, this ad is sponsored by the following NC State faculty and staff who are followers of Jesus Christ. If you have any questions about what it would be like to have a personal relationship with him, feel free to drop by our offices and talk.

Isn't that great? You know, here's where you can find me. I work here in this department. Why risk the inconvenience? Why threaten your career path of being looked over? Why potentially face the accusation of your exclusivity and your intolerance? Don't you know where we live and what year it is?

Why ask for misunderstanding and even ridicule? This is the tribe of Joseph. This is the testimony of him. Following the will of God has more to do with sacrifice than convenience when you're willing to set aside your pride and your privacy and make him your priority. Secondly, surrendering your life for God to use doesn't require experience, just obedience. How many giants did David kill before he stood in front of Goliath?

None. How many messiahs did this son of David raise before kneeling over a manger in Bethlehem? God isn't looking for experience. He's looking for readiness, willingness, obedience. From Joseph's perspective and the changing of his own life forever, I think the most significant words are in verse 24, where we read, and Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife.

Simple as that. He obeyed the word of God. But make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, it will cost him nearly everything. On that morning, he got up, he dressed, stepped outside, and in effect said farewell to the bliss of a quiet life. He offered to God his pride, his plans, his priorities, his privacy, his dreams, his options, his calendar, and he, this son of David, said in effect what his adopted son will one day say, not my will, but thine be done.

I surrender all. Join us one more sermon in this series called Christmas Choices. Between now and then, it would really encourage us to hear from you. Our address is Wisdom International, P.O. Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27627. Once again, that's Wisdom International, P.O. Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27627. Join us next time for more Wisdom for the hearts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-08 00:05:41 / 2022-12-08 00:15:04 / 9

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