True Kind of Obedience

True Kind of Obedience

(Reflection from Matthew 1:18-25)

true obedience to God
"Image by James Chan from Pixabay"

“Bible reflection on Obedience”  


Many people think that they have become God's children who really obey God.  But is it true that we really obey God?


Just like the story in Matthew 19: 16-22, about a rich young man who came to Jesus and asked "What good works should I do to get eternal life?".


Jesus answered this young man, obey all the commandments of God.


This young man again asked, "which commandment?".


Then the Lord Jesus answered again: "Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself"


This young man answered lightly, "oh, I've been doing all that since I was young".


Jesus again answered the rich young man, "Still something is missing."


The young man replied, "Really? What else? "


Jesus replied: "Go, sell everything you have, and give it to the poor."


The young man replied, "Oops .. if that ... I need to be in somewhere else"


This rich young man thought he had been a child of God who was already quite obedient to God. 

We might think so too.


Hey, I go to church every week. I also read the Bible every day. I even read spiritual books. I also pray every day: before eating and before going to bed. I was obedient enough.


Is it true that our obedience is really had enough?



There are at least three levels of obedience:

(1) Obey God as long as I can,

(2) Obey God as long as I am not losing anything,

(3) Obey God by sacrificing.


And Joseph gave us the example that true obedience is sacrificial obedience.




The rich young man had obeyed God as long as he could.  Maybe he  really never killed, never committed adultery, never stole, never lied, and so on.


The rich young man had also obeyed God as long as he didn't lose anything he has. Oh, as long as I don't lose anything, it's okay to obey God. But if I have to lose something, just a moment.  


But the rich young man clearly didn't want to obey God when he had to make sacrifices. He refused.


If our obedience to God has not come to sacrifice, then we are actually not obedient to God at all. That is Joseph's example for all of us.


As Joseph, he gave an example that obeying is not just words, not just singing worship song with tears; but true obedience is sacrificial obedience. 


Then, what is meant by sacrificial obedience?




# 1 Obey Despite Fear


In God's words that we read earlier, it is clear that Joseph was afraid. What was Joseph afraid of?


Joseph at least feared that "no one would believe".



The explanation that we did not sin! We don't sleep together before we get married! She got pregnant because of the Holy Spirit! Who will believe that?


Even Joseph didn't believe it at first.



By the time Joseph was told by Mary that she was pregnant, I was sure Mary had made it clear that it was from the Holy Spirit! I don't commit adultery!


But from this verse it can be guessed that Joseph loved Mary. He has a heart for Mary, even though this verse also shows Joseph's disappointment (* as he intends to divorce her).


He clearly did not believe Mary's explanation that he was met by an angel and was told that this was a womb by the Holy Spirit. Joseph must have suspected that Mary was cheating on him.



But Joseph is that he does not appear to be an emotional person, for he is not directly emotionally divorcing Mary, but rather takes time to consider it.


What was in Joseph's feelings at that time was clearly disappointed + (but) affection + then afraid.



Why was Joseph afraid? Because he can make only two choices:


(1) tell everyone that Mary is pregnant and it is not by his doing. This is Mary who has committed adultery with someone

= then Mary will be stoned to death.


(2) telling everyone that Mary is pregnant and this is because of his doing (because who would believe if she says from the Holy Spirit)

 = then (* according to Deuteronomy 22) Joseph and Mary would both be stoned to death.


Apart from being afraid because Mary's life was being threatened, it could be that his life was being threatened, maybe Joseph was also afraid because it would embarrass his family.


And while Joseph is looking for another options, other than these two options. Then he slept.



And watch this carefully!


Even after Joseph had a dream and was told by the angel that Do Not Be Afraid! The angels did not provide a solution so that Joseph would not have to be afraid.


The angel only confirmed that Mary was not lying. The angel only gave orders to Joseph to marry Mary and named the child Jesus later.


How about the solution to the problem earlier? The one whose life was in danger? There is STILL no solution! Right?


Only the story is confirmed, that this Joseph was God's plan, according to prophecy, and Mary did not lie.   And a commandment from God to marry Mary and name the child Jesus later!


However, because this was an order, Joseph carried out the order even though his fear did not go away. Joseph just believed that okay, God will definitely help! How? Do not know! But because this is an order, I will obey. Even though I have to be prepared to make sacrifices, even if I have to die!


How about us? Can we obey in the same way? Even if you have to sacrifice? Even if you still have to be afraid?


Lord, I want to obey God's commands, but I feel afraid! Afraid of being shunned by friends! Fear of being punished by others for telling the truth! Afraid your life will be more difficult!


Many of us feel afraid, and then we will pray God to get rid of this fear first! Give me a solution first, then I will no longer be afraid and will obey God. Just give guarantees not to feel afraid.


What if God doesn't give guarantees, doesn't give solutions, and just keeps saying obey, even though you have to make sacrifices?


Can we believe that our part is obeying, God's part is helping?





# 2 Obey Even When You Feel The Pain Of Losing


As adult humans, we begin to understand that it is not just physical pain that we should avoid.


When we are young or immature, we learn the dangers of being physically sick. That falling is painful - don't fall, fire is hot - don't play with fire, and so on.


But as we grow mature we learn that there are other sicknesses, apart from physical pain, that we also need to avoid.



Emotional pain can feel more choking than physical pain.


  • It hurts when we miss a very good opportunity, a golden opportunity.
  • It hurts when we feel that people are wasting the trust we have put in.
  • It hurts when we feel our dreams are gone or have to be changed for some reason.
  • It hurts when we are slandered, and people don't want to listen to our explanations.


It hurts when we lose something that is very precious to us. It could be things, dreams for the future, and so on.



In the case of Joseph, on the first day since he decided to obey God to immediately marry Mary, Joseph realized: there were many things he would lose from that day on.


Joseph must have had plans that he had worked out himself since he became engaged to Mary.


Maybe a plan about:

  • where will they live,
  • what they will do in the early days of their marriage,
  • plan the names of the children they will have,
  • how he will boast the child to many people, among the family
  • prepared to be the successor of the family business, and so on.


And it all fell apart. Gone without a trace.



Joseph even humbly knew that  because His son was Jesus, who was actually the son of God, he had to get away from the main screen.


People don't need to know about who is Joseph, the father of Jesus.  The one who should be glorified is Jesus.


The plan that must work is the plan of Jesus. The most important thing is Jesus.


And I suspect that is the reason why the subject of Joseph is so rarely told in detail in the Bible. Because Joseph decided the same thing as John the Baptist, "He must increase, and I must decrease" (John 3:30).



The Bible only tells of Joseph meeting an angel, Joseph married Mary, Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and the baby Jesus, Joseph took Mary and Jesus back to Nazareth after Herod died, and then nothing else.


Until the age of 12, Jesus was brought to the Temple, where the name Joseph was mentioned again. After Jesus grew up and began teaching, his father was noted only as a carpenter.


Could it be that Joseph became a great man, who was respected by many people?


Some suspect that Joseph was already dead when Jesus began His ministry at the age of 30. Can be. But before that, did Joseph not have a chance to make himself a big man?  


What we can be sure of is that in God's words that we read earlier, Joseph is called "a sincere person", or in the original language it means, "a person who is righteous, just, sincere, obedient to religious laws". Joseph was a man of faith in his Lord.


And since he obeyed God's commandment that he married Mary and named the baby Jesus, he already knew that from that day on, Jesus is the first, Jesus' plan was the main, Jesus had to get bigger, and he had to get smaller and smaller.



How about us?  Are we obedient to God, even though we have to sacrifice something to lose?


  • Even though we have to step back from a friendship we know God doesn't approve of?
  • Even though we have to miss a huge opportunity, because God doesn't like how to get it?
  • Even though we have lost many friends because we choose to obey God?
  • Even though we have to lose our own dreams, because God has plans for us that are so different?


Are we still obedient to God?




# 3 Be Obedient Until Giving Your All


Since the first day Joseph took Mary as his wife, life's journey did not get better or more peaceful.


Due to state regulations, they had to leave the city of Nazareth, where they lived, to the city of Bethlehem.


It turns out that according to experts the distance between the city of Nasareth (where Joseph and Mary lived) and the city of Bethlehem (the place where the census was at the same time the birth of Jesus) is about 150-170 km.


Far? Relatively close by car or plane.


But imagine at that time, Joseph with Mary for the census of the population by traveling that long distance on foot or on a donkey! Under the circumstances Mary was pregnant.


After Jesus was born, did they relax? No, have to flee to Egypt. And not long after, back to the land of Israel after Herod died.


What price or expense did Joseph have to pay for all of this? Lots!



Praise the Lord, some wise men gave them offerings. Is that enough? It can't be enough!


Then, does Joseph keep nagging as long as he has to work to pay for all this? It is never recorded that Joseph complained! Or does he want to be sorry?


Joseph knew that obedience to God is being willing to sacrifice, being willing to want to give everything it takes to do that obedience.


When we say we obey God, are we willing to say sincerely "I will give everything"? Why do I want to give everything = because I want to obey God.


Obedience to God can never become a reality, if we are not willing to do this word of God:



Romans 12: 1

Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That's the most sensible way to serve God.



Obedience is an offering. And the offering is not only in the form of money, material only, but our life. Our whole life.


Whatever I do in my life: with these eyes, with these hands, with these feet, I will do everything in obedience to God for the offering of life to him.


I want to give everything. I want to make sacrifices. This life is for the glory of God.




Joseph is the father of Jesus. Joseph has set an example for us to understand that obedience to God is sacrificial obedience.


If we don't have to make sacrifices, then we haven't obeyed God.



And Jesus, the son of Joseph, set the same example.


Philipians 2:8

Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross.



Jesus' obedience to His Father in Heaven became the exact example that his adoptive father on earth, Joseph.


Joseph wasn't just obedient, as long as I could. As long as I am not harmed. But Joseph was so obedient that he even wanted to make sacrifices.


Likewise the example of Jesus, who obey God until He has to sacrificed.



Because true obedience is sacrificial obedience. If our obedience to God has not come to sacrifice, then we are actually not obedient to God at all.


That is the example of Joseph and Jesus for us to follow.

Read also: Christmas is a story about fulfilling promise.

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