SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
God Kept His Promise – Jesus is God with Us – Believe it!
Key Verse: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. – Matthew 1:23
Many years ago, upon hearing for the first time what is now an oft-told story about trusting God, I began using it frequently in preaching. Though it has several versions, I like this one best.
One dark night a man fell off a high cliff. As he was falling, he grabbed a limb and held on for dear life. Then he began yelling for help.
To his surprise, from above him he heard a strange voice saying, “I can help you if you will do what I say do.”
“Who are you?” the man asked.
“I am God,” came the answer.
“Thank goodness,” he said, “What do you want me to do?”
“Let go of that limb,” God replied.
After a long pause, the man yelled out again, “Is there anybody else up there?”
Unwilling to trust God, he looked for another source of help. However, when daylight came, he discovered that he had been hanging all night barely two feet from the ground. Sheepishly he realized that he should have trusted God.
Does not this story describe each one of us at some point in our life journey? Facing insurmountable difficulty, we listen to what God says with an incredulous spirit.
Stubbornly we insist that God offer us a plausible explanation of his plan if he expects us to obey him. Before we can trust him, his proposal must make sense to us.
Our need is nothing less than this: to swallow our pride and admit that God does not owe us an explanation of his plans or his decisions. He is God, the Creator of every living thing. Each one of us is a person whom God has created. The creature is in no position ever to instruct the Creator, or to question his wisdom. Our best response is obedience, always.
Eventually, if we are to serve God, we must learn to take him at his word, trust him in every detail, and believe his promises with our whole hearts. To do anything less is to assume that we are smarter than God is!
What if Joseph had responded to the message God gave him in a dream by saying, “Are you kidding? Do you expect me to believe my beloved Mary, a virgin, is going to bear a son without our sleeping together? Even more, you want me to believe this baby will be the long awaited Messiah? My friends would think me a fool to believe such a preposterous story!”
What if Mary had said belligerently to the angel Gabriel, “Look, big fellow, you scared me so I am still shaking; I have never talked to an angel before. Now, let’s get something straight; there is no way I will agree to have a child out of wedlock. The embarrassment and shame would be more than I could handle. You will have to look for some other volunteer for this plan. Thanks for the honor, but no thanks!”
The good news is that Joseph and Mary responded to the angel with unquestioning faith in God, despite the fear and trembling that gripped them. They surely had heard of God’s promise that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. What is more important now is that they believed God’s promise.
Upon receiving their instructions, Joseph and Mary act swiftly to do God’s bidding. Joseph takes Mary home as his wife, more concerned to obey God than worried about the social ostracism of fellow villagers. Mary embraced quickly the idea that she was the virgin whom the prophet Isaiah promised would bring forth a son whose name would be Immanuel, which means God with us (7:14).
What great faith it must have taken for Mary to think, “From my own womb will come the Savior, and my husband Joseph will name him Jesus, for he will save our people from our sins. What an honor for a young girl like me!” Though she must have wondered how she could explain to her friends that her conception was the work of the Holy Spirit, nonetheless she obeyed God, confident that his plan for her life was best.
What then is the great lesson here for us? The example of Joseph and Mary teaches us that even when we cannot see what lies ahead, we are wise to trust God and follow the plan he has given us. We are always wise to believe that God keeps his promises.
What does that mean? Take, for example, God’s promise in Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
My “own understanding” has sometimes led me into paths of disobedience. However, when I have trusted God with all my heart, and obeyed him even when I could not see what was ahead, he has honored me with his presence and given me the blessed assurance that I was living within his will.
There is great joy in knowing that we are doing, as best we can, what God wants us to do. Even though we may want to ask God “why” many times, we have peace in knowing that there will be time in heaven for all our questions to be answered.
Mary and Joseph had this joy. We can also, if we will trust God to guide us in every difficult challenge. He sees the big picture while our vision is limited. At last it all comes down to our believing that Father knows best, always. + + + + (Walter may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)