Odds Against You? Lessons from Joseph and Herod

If anyone had an advantage 2000 years ago, it was Herod.

And it started from birth. He was born into nobility, and from that time forward, his military training gave him the reputation for being the best leader in the empire. Humanly speaking, he was in view for all to see. Herod’s ongoing projects during the Roman empire’s bustling days of glory gave him the reputation as the greatest builder in the kingdom. The Roman Senate gave him the title of “King of the Jews” at the age of 33. He was ruthless.

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

If anyone had a disadvantage 2000 years ago, it was Joseph.

And it started from birth. He was born into the lineage of Abraham but, now, 26 generations later, the lineage had fallen on hard times. His father, Jacob, was training him to be a leader in his community. Humanly speaking, he grew up in obscurity. Joseph’s years of growth into adulthood in quiet little Nazareth gave him a humble reputation as a hard working carpenter in his community. He was a man of character and integrity. He was righteous.

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

Let’s set the scene. Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph. The betrothal period was ordinary for this couple only until he found out that Mary was “found to be with child” (Matthew 1:18). He had had time to think, but he was deeply troubled. Withstanding a physical relationship, he thought he knew
her.

Joseph was human. Here are some potential emotions and troubling thoughts he may have wrestled with:

“I thought I knew her better than that…”

“I’m a man of integrity…”

“What do I do?…”

“I love her…”

“How do I protect her from this fallout?…Or do I even try to protect her from this fallout?”…

“Is this relationship a farce?…”

“I’m so afraid…”

He knew the culture of the day could mandate stoning. The odds were that he had had numerous nights of restless sleep. And, I’m willing to bet, God showed up during the time that Joseph wrestled with the most – the dark of the night. And on one of the nights when he most likely fell asleep to physical and emotional exhaustion, God’s angel steps in to Joseph’s darkest hour, literally and figuratively.

“Joseph…do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” (Matthew 1:20).

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

As if the odds weren’t already stacked against Joseph and Mary from the beginning, Herod’s soldiers were known to hurl baby boys off of cliffs, strangle them, or crush their skulls with stones lest they be killed for insubordination. Herod would have no one threaten his rule.

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

Joseph and Mary transported baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to be dedicated eight days after his birth (circumcision) and then again on the fortieth day (presented to God), only six hundred yards away from Herod’s throne room. Joseph and his family traveled unnoticed in anonymity avoiding anything that would draw attention to them.

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

Herod kept notice of comings and goings destroying anything that would draw attention away from himself.

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

Herod found out about this baby when the Magi from Persia stopped at the palace en route to pay homage to Jesus. This didn’t set well with Herod. So he plots. He sends the Magi away only to give them a decree to locate the infant and then return to Jerusalem and tell him the location so he can go worship this new king personally.

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

The Magi don’t fall for Herod’s schemes and do not return to Jerusalem.

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

After the Magi find Jesus and present their gifts, an angel appears to Joseph in yet another dream.

“Get up (and) 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” (Matthew 2:13). And so, in the dark of the night, Joseph and his family escape.

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

Joseph and his family would flee to Egypt where they stayed until Herod’s death. And then another angelic appearance in a third dream.

“Get up, take the child and his other and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2:20).

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do.

Do you feel like the odds are stacked against you? Are you struggling in the role God has ordained for you in this season? Do you wrestle in your restlessness? Do you need periodic appearances from God as momentary motivation just to walk through the next step of your journey that you never thought would be your lot? Chances are, yes, you do. Joseph did too. God will show up in your darkness as He did multiple times for Joseph. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep walking.

Whatever it takes, do whatcha gotta do. See what God does with the odds.

[Historical content taken from Killing Jesus, Bill O’Reilly; Who Is This Man?, John Ortberg; Scripture]

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