(August 8, 2021) Geri B brings an insightful challenge…
… a faithful man who can find?’ asks the wise Solomon in Proverbs 20:6.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘faithful’ as ‘steadfast in affection or allegiance, firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty, full of faith.’
In James’ epistle faith is intrinsically linked to deeds… ‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds’ (James 2:14, 17-18).
Hebrews 11 mentions those who lived their lives in faith by their deeds and we are exhorted to live in the same manner – whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in and the outcome.
However there is someone not mentioned in that chapter who also epitomises a life of faith… but he is often overlooked because of the woman he married. However I would like to briefly examine his life to gain a little insight into what it can mean to live a faithful, full-of-faith life. The ‘faith-ful’ life he lived was one of having the fear of God, being obedient and evidencing humility.
I speak of Joseph, a godly and righteous man, a descendant of King David, introduced in the book of Matthew as the fiancé of Mary, the mother of Jesus. He was also a kind and gracious man who did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace by breaking their engagement due to her pregnancy, even though by the law he had every right to do so.
The angel of the Lord appeared to him in the first of four dreams to reassure him that his wife-to-be was a godly woman and to take her home as his wife. ‘When Joseph awoke, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife’ (Matthew 1:24).
Joseph was told that the child who was to be born would be called Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins. He was being told a secret, given a sacred commission, and would be tested in the years to come in his desire to obey and do all that the Lord would require of him.
What a choice by God! He had not only chosen the right woman to be the mother of Jesus, but also chose the right stepfather! Joseph, a man who feared God, would obey his commands without question and do so with such humility that the focus would forever be on Jesus.
The second dream that Joseph had is recounted in Matthew 2:13-14 after the visit of the Magi who had come bearing gifts for the king of the Jews. ‘When they had gone, 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.’
And it was good that Joseph did obey, as there were many at that time who claimed to have unfailing love but were prepared to murder innocent children to retain control over the nation of Israel, in direct disobedience to the word of the Lord.
How’s that? Joseph had such an awe of God and a desire to obey him, that he did not even wait until morning. He immediately got up in the middle of the night, packed up his wife and child, and headed for Egypt. We don’t know if he even packed the household goods, but it would seem such a sudden departure that we can speculate that he did not. No letting relatives know, calling friends for a farewell party, or selling the business – just got up and went – obeying the Lord!
Faith is demonstrated through obedience, no matter what the command of the Lord, we obey. You cannot have faith without obedience. Joseph will continue to demonstrate this… No time frame is given, but Herod dies and an angel of the Lord appears to this special stepfather, still in Egypt, in a third dream saying, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel’ (Matthew 2:20-21).
Time has passed, but whatever the hardships of Egypt, the isolation from extended family, the different culture and possibly even persecution as a Jew, Joseph had remained obedient. He had stayed in Egypt until he heard further instructions from the Lord. Now, he immediately gets up and travels back to Egypt. No questioning, only obedience.
He arrives in Israel, but Joseph’s desire to guard that which God had entrusted to his care, made him afraid to return to Judea. So in the fourth dream, the angel of the Lord confirmed his concern and warned him, so that he withdrew to the district of Galilee to live in Nazareth.
Did Joseph realise that through his obedience to the directions of the Lord that he was used to fulfil Old Testament scripture? Perhaps, but he did not do it deliberately and with foreknowledge. He simply obeyed the Lord.
In Matthew 13:55-56 Joseph is only mentioned by his occupation, in reference to the people of Jesus’ home town becoming offended at him. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?’
It is interesting that Joseph, together with Mary, had not declared publicly what the angels had told them prior to the birth of Jesus… or afterwards. They had not sought to ‘cash-in’ on their knowledge or the privilege they had been given. They were such humble, God-fearing people that they were in awe of the fact that the Living God would choose to use them in any way, especially in such a world-changing, historical event!
They did not claim unfailing love, they demonstrated it by their faithfulness.
Examples in history
- Corrie Ten Boom is an example in recent history who also exhibited such obedience, humility and child-like fear of the Lord.
This precious woman believed the Lord would have her family shelter Jews in Holland during WW2, and even though the consequences of being caught were life-threatening, her faith and fear of the Lord would hold her obedient to that call. Many in the church at that time were afraid to stand up to the Nazi regime and the occupiers of their land and remained silent or co-operative. They claimed to have unfailing love, but fear of man and desire to keep their lives stopped them from being faithful.
Corrie’s obedience tore her from her home, placed her in a concentration camp that gave her nothing but persecution, deprivation and despair. Facing death all day, every day, she was stripped of everything but her faith in a loving and compassionate God. Her testimony became one of child-like faith and of walking closely with a miracle-working Saviour. Delivered from this hell, Corrie spent her remaining years serving as a ‘Tramp for the Lord’, faithful to the end (Tramp for the Lord co-authored by Jamie Buckingham is recommended reading).
- Marziyeh Amirizadeh and Maryam Rostampour, two Iranian Christians were arrested in 2009, in Tehran and imprisoned in the notorious Evin Prison for sharing their faith. You can read their testimony in the book, Captive in Iran.
Their obedience to the word of the Lord brought many in Iran to faith in Christ, and persecution and prison for their faithful actions. After many trials they were finally released and escaped to America where they continue to serve the Lord by testifying and seeking assistance for the persecuted believers still resident in Iran.
Many times throughout history we have seen the world go through troubling times and once again it seems that we are facing circumstances across the globe that is causing hearts to fear… we have a virus that will not go away; violence erupting in many nations through riots, protests and lawlessness; natural disasters increasing and quite frankly things do not appear as if they will ever return to ‘normal.’
In both World Wars so-called ‘prophets’ prophesied the wars would end after one year and then by Christmas of each succeeding year. Today we hear similar – prophets declaring the virus will be gone, God will bring everything back into peace… and so on.
Perhaps, or perhaps not… there is actually a book called Revelation that genuinely tells us what the destiny of the world will be and where/who our faith and trust should be placed in. Today the Lord is wanting to see faithfulness and faith with deeds come forth in our lives, irrespective of the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Joseph responded to God with faithfulness. Remember… you cannot have faithfulness without obedience. Abraham demonstrated unquestioned faithfulness when he was told to sacrifice Isaac, his only son… and the outcome was amazing (Genesis 22).
We may claim to have unfailing love, but are we being faithful… ‘faith-ful’? If things don’t go back to normal, will we be faithful in all our calling and walk with the Lord?
If things get even harder, and persecution comes because of what we believe, will we remain ‘faith-ful’? Will we be willing to have deeds that match our faith? Because that will be required of us… without a doubt!
Geri B is a faithful, insightful intercessor and encourager. Links: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com / Abiding in the Vine