by David Wise
The stories of Israel’s past glory days made the present reality of Roman rule even more difficult to bear. Joseph and Mary were very aware of their nation’s ancient golden age and were yearning for the fulfillment of those prophecies that spoke of an even greater glory. Yet, all around them, they saw very few signs of hope.
The Romans had “ruled the roost” for several generations and there was no end in sight to their powerful grip on Palestine. But if the Jews could be free from the shackles of Rome, there was no guarantee that a new power would not rise up and devour the sons of Jacob. Since the days of Solomon, the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans had been their masters with very short intervals of freedom.
What made this political bondage even worse was the fact that four hundred years of silence from their God had made many wonder if they had been truly forgotten and forsaken. They were a defeated people whose God had seemingly moved on without them. Many had lost hope and merely existed. Others continued to go through the motions of religious activity but their hearts were not “in it”. Still worse, others “played the game”, made a fine living out of it, and gloried in their self-righteous lifestyles. If the political landscape was not depressing enough, surely the “form of godliness without power” would be enough to drive anyone to the point of despair. Yet, in this young couple from Nazareth, Jehovah found a pair who would not bow the knee to the dreadful god Hopelessness.
In this young couple from Nazareth, Jehovah found a pair who would not bow the knee to the dreadful god Hopelessness.
Though we have no written records of it, Joseph and Mary had most certainly been united in their commitment to “serve the Lord” in the period of time before Gabriel appeared to Mary. This is what made the surprise pregnancy so hard on Joseph. He thought he knew this girl. She seemed so real and genuine in her love for the God of their fathers. How could she do this! Yet, as the noble man he was, he decided to “put her away privately” and move on with his life. His soul mate had betrayed him, but he would carry no bitterness and he would serve the Lord regardless of the pain.
The message that came to him in the dream about Mary’s innocence restored his confidence in Mary but also in the power of his Lord to make a way in the darkest of times. Yes, people would talk and there is no way they could explain the truth, but he and his life partner were one in spirit and in purpose. Their God might let them go through the fire, but He would make a way in even the most ferocious of fiery trials.
They were poor. They were persecuted. They were misunderstood. There was no room in the Inn. But in the darkest of times, with very little hope, this young Jewish maiden gave birth to the Hope of this dark world. Most did not have the spiritual discernment to understand what was going on. There were a few that came along to bring comfort and encouragement and they were a blessing to the young couple. From Elizabeth, to the shepherds, to the Wise Men, to Simeon and Anna, the Lord had his remnant who had their spiritual eyes anointed with divine eye salve to see as they should. Their radiant faces and godly counsel provided assurance in the times of doubt.
God had not forgotten them! They were not crazy, but in the middle of the will of God! Yet despite these “mountaintop experiences," life continued to be brutal. They had to flee to Egypt to escape infanticide. Madmen continued to dominate the political landscape even when things calmed down. They were still poor, oppressed and misunderstood. And then, death broke into the family circle.
In the darkest of times, with very little hope, this young Jewish maiden gave birth to the Hope of this dark world.
There is no mention of Joseph being alive during the days of Jesus’ ministry. Mary’s pain must have been great. Her defender was gone. But the worst was yet to come; she had to watch her Son die on the cross. The sword would pierce her heart to its very core.
Life has always been tough, but in this day we are constantly bombarded with the message of hopelessness. Everywhere one turns, there are messages and messengers of despair. Our national sins have brought us low. The Evangelical church has been asleep while the enemy was hard at work. We are in a mess. Yet it is for this reason the message of Christmas is truly precious at this time.
God has not forgotten and He has not forsaken. He will walk with us in the fire. Whatever the future holds, He holds the future. He proved it by allowing His Son to be born at the time He was, in the culture He was, and in the manner He was. There may not have been room at the inn, but our Lord is not intimidated by intimidating circumstances. Christmas 2017 stands for hope in times like these. The Babe in the manger is now the King on the throne.
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