They embarked upon a journey that neither of them had chosen. They were compelled by the government to take a trip that would take them eighty miles from their home. Mary was not just a little pregnant, she was, according the scriptures, “great with child.” She knew her time was near and yet she had to travel a long and difficult journey that would take about a week to complete.
What did she pack to take on her trip? Only what she and Joseph could carry themselves. There were no luggage handlers to load and unload their baggage. There were not suitcases with wheels and handles. Mary and Joseph didn’t take several changes of clothes, toiletries or reading material to entertain them on their journey. They didn’t take an extra pair of shoes or dress clothes for an evening out while they were away. They likely only packed the bread they would eat on the trip and perhaps a blanket or two if they had an extra. Talk about traveling light!
But they took one other thing with them. They took a complete trust in their Heavenly Father who had told them He would care for them.
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
They knew God would care for them because He had promised to do so and they believed Him. That doesn’t mean they didn’t fight some doubt but after all, if Mary was in her final days of her pregnancy, they’d had several months to wrestle with their doubts. I would like to think that by this time they were beginning to have some assurance in their hearts that God would keep His promise to them. He’d already seen them through the long pregnancy and the ridicule that they likely experienced from their friends and family.
They knew what a shepherd’s job was. They knew that if God was their shepherd, he would lead them and feed them. He would also protect them, provide shelter and keep them safe. He would care for their every need like he’d been doing since the day the angel had told them of the coming of their son, Jesus.
They were indeed, as helpless as sheep. They were vulnerable and weak. But they knew their shepherd was able to meet their needs. They were in want of nothing.
What do you need from your shepherd? Do you believe He is able and willing to care for you? Spend a few moments this Christmas season thanking Him for all the ways He gently and lovingly cares for you. For the Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want.
If you asked most people to define the word “peculiar” you would get some variation of this: “something or someone who is odd, strange, unusual or weird.” Most people would not appreciate being called peculiar. It definitely has a negative connotation in our current culture.
But looking at the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, I find the following:
Peculiar – One’s own; belonging solely or especially to an individual; not possessed by others; of private, personal, or characteristic possession and use; particular; individual; special; appropriate.
Our modern culture has shifted this word, peculiar, to mean something to be avoided or kept at a distance. No one wants to be called peculiar. They don’t wish to appear odd or strange. Most people would rather blend in and be inconspicuous.
But in the King James version of 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This doesn’t mean strange or weird, it means they belong to God. Peculiar comes from the Latin word peculium which means “private property.”
We are a peculiar people! We belong to God. We are His and no one else’s. He claims us as His own. And maybe to the world that looks strange or weird. If belonging to God makes me seem strange to the world, so be it!
If following after Christ means you stick out and look different than the world, is that okay with you? How peculiar are you willing to be? Will you stand firmly on the fact that you have been chosen by God, no matter how that looks to the world?
Do you remember geometry class? The shortest distance between two points is…a straight line, right? In a basic sort of way, that’s the correct answer. There are situations that are the exception but they can get complicated and we could examine them for a long time.
For the sake of discussion, let’s consider the answer to be a straight line.
So let’s talk about obedience for a moment. If God speaks to you and you know that there is something you are supposed to do, or not do, what do you do? Do you respond instantly and agree to follow God’s direction and obey Him or do you stall and make excuses about why you can’t do what the Lord has asked?
I can tell you what I have found myself doing at times. If you’ve seen the movie The Wizard of Oz, you will remember the scene where Dorothy is in Munchkin Land and is beginning her walk down the yellow brick road. She starts at the center and makes a spiral round and round until she’s finally on the straight road to Oz. Consider for a moment the reverse of that walk, with the goal at the center. What I’ve found myself doing is to start from where I stand, seeing the place God has directed me at a distance in front of me and instead of making the decision to move directly toward the goal, I walk around and around it. Looking at it from all sides, I consider it and gradually move closer to the goal but in a slow spiral. I know I’ll eventually make my way to the center and obey God but I take my time getting there.
But is that obedience? Not really. Delayed obedience really isn’t obedience at all. As a parent, I expect my children to obey my directives without procrastinating. I believe it’s a sign of respect. Doesn’t God deserve that respect from us in every situation? Doesn’t He deserve immediate obedience in all things?
So back to our geometry lesson. The shortest distance between two points? The place where I am and the place God has directed me to go? A straight line.
Obedience is always a straight line.
Just as a servant knows that he must first obey his master in all things, so the surrender to an implicit and unquestionable obedience must become the essential characteristic of our lives.” ~ Andrew Murray
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15