It seems to me that Billy Joel wrote a song with that title–“A Matter of Trust.” I also recall a song by the early Christian rocker Keith Green, something about it being “dust to dust until we learn how to trust.” Maybe I’m thinking so much about music because I’m putting together a Christmas service for Saturday night and, in addition to Communion, we will have mostly readings and carols/Christmas songs. But maybe I’m thinking about them because lately I’ve been pondering the story of Mary and Joseph.
If we look at the account of Mary’s meeting with the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:26-38, one thing should become apparent immediately. Mary believed both in God and in what the angel said to her. Her emotions and actions reflect nothing of unbelief. At first we see the normal human response on meeting an angel: Mary was afraid. Gabriel knew that and so told her there was nothing to fear. Then she was concerned about his greeting. To be praised by an angel, to be told she was highly favored, caused trouble in her mind. No doubt she wondered what was coming next. So the angel told her everything would be all right. But the rest of his message– that was the potentially troubling part.
He told her she would become pregnant and give birth to a son, who would be great and would inherit David’s throne, from which He would reign forever. At this point most of us would wonder if this was some kind of prank. Had it happened to a woman 50 years ago she might have asked, “Am I on `Candid Camera?’” But this was Gabriel talking and doubt doesn’t seem to have entered Mary’s mind. Her question is one of process, not of belief. She wants to know how she is going to get pregnant since she has never had relations with a man.
Gabriel’s answer is even more astonishing. She might have expected him to tell her that the child would be Joseph’s and would be conceived after they were married. There was Old Testament precedent for such an announcement, which involved the birth of Samson (Judges 13:1-25). But such was not the promise made by Gabriel. The baby to be born would be none other than the Son of God and God would be His only true Father.
In that culture there was no possible shame greater for a woman than to have a child out of wedlock. Pledged to be married Mary certainly was, but Joseph, Matthew tells us, was, “a righteous man,” (Matthew 1:19). That means he was concerned to keep God’s laws as best he could, and as you most certainly know, those who are themselves most committed to keeping the law are also committed to seeing that others do the same. So, though he wished to keep her free of as much public disgrace as possible, he still meant to end the engagement.
Mary knew what kind of man Joseph was. Nazareth was a village of about 300 people in which everybody knew everybody. She also knew that Joseph would not, in the end, be able to protect her from the kind of opprobrium she would face from their disapproving community. This announcement made the future very uncertain for Mary. Yet instead of protesting her answer was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said,” (Luke 1:38). And that brings us back to trust.
It has been said that there are three principle components in saving faith, belief, trust and obedience. Belief says to God, “I know You are there and I believe You redeemed me through Jesus Christ.” Trust says, “Because You love me and have saved me from sin and its consequences, I will put my hand in Yours and walk with You each and every day, following where You lead.” Obedience says, “Because of all You have done for me, I will do what You want me to do, seeking Your will and keeping Your law.”
Mary’s statement is a trust statement. She is God’s servant and she will trust God to work out all the potential difficulties that will certainly arise from the birth of her Son. I used to think that the biggest reason a lot of people went forward at evangelistic services and professed faith in Jesus Christ, then, after a period of initial excitement, drifted away was because they were never told about obedience. But now I’m not so sure. I think we haven’t done enough to teach new converts about that daily walk of trust with Jesus Christ.
Sadly, for some of us, trusting God is easier than trusting others. We have been too often hurt, let down or disappointed. Too many times even those who claim to love us most have shown us that we cannot trust them to do what they promise to do or be there when they say they will. You may, at some time, have sung the old hymn, “Trust and Obey.” Those two ideas are combined in that hymn because there is a tight link between them. This link is illustrated by the story of Mary and Joseph. Mary not only knew she could trust God to explain things to Joseph; she also knew she could trust Joseph to obey God.
As we saw, Joseph was a righteous man. He was committed to doing what God wanted him to do. When God, in a dream, made it clear that He wanted Joseph to take Mary home as his wife (Matthew 1:20, 21), that is exactly what Joseph did. Indeed he was required to obey his dreams three more times (Matthew 2:13, 19-20, 22) to save a baby not even his own. God blessed Mary and Jesus with a husband and father they could depend on because that husband and father was committed to obeying God. Moreover Joseph was not obedient to a harsh legal code but to the direct leading of God, even when he was within his rights to demand that the law, in all its vindictive majesty, be carried out.
If you are looking for a person you can trust and depend upon, look for someone who is committed to obeying God and following the Lord Jesus Christ.