Matthew 2:13

Sermon preached on December 23, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Did you ever find yourself asking,

"Why is my life so difficult?"

Do you sometimes wish that your life was just a lot easier? Do you wish that God would just take away some of the difficult things that are happening to you? Why doesn't He make everything go well for me, at least for awhile?

You may be thinking,

"It's not like I need a wake-up call."

Sometimes bad things are a wake up call. When we're going down the wrong path God sometimes sends some bad things our way to wake us up. But bad things sometimes also come to people who don't need a wake-up call. Job is a good example of that. Bad things came to him not because he was doing bad things. He wasn't. He was the most God-fearing man on the face of the earth. He was doing good things.

It was the same with Joseph. Last week we saw that he was a 'righteous'. Yet in our text we see that Joseph's path was a difficult one. Things didn't go smoothly for him. His life was difficult. We read, (Matthew 2:13)

"When they had gone,
an angel of the Lord
appeared to Joseph in a dream.
'Get up,' he said, '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."

Joseph wasn't doing anything wrong. He was doing exactly what God wanted him to do.

The great lesson we see from our text is that

God's plans for good sometimes make things very difficult for His people.

God has plans for good. Jesus came into the world to save us.

But consider the hardship that it caused Joseph. One of the first troubles that came upon Joseph was the mental anguish after he found out that Mary was pregnant. His well laid out plans for his marriage were all destroyed. He wanted Mary to be his pure and holy bride. He was probably contemplating a quiet, peaceful life after he married Mary. But then he found out she was pregnant.

At first he thought he would divorce Mary. It wasn't until the angel appeared to him that his mind was put at ease. That whole thing was very traumatic for Joseph.

Then Joseph had to take his pregnant wife and make the journey to Bethlehem. In those days that was a very difficult journey for a pregnant woman. When they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room in the inn. Jesus was born in a stable.

Then, interestingly, the shepherds and the wise men came and worshipped Jesus. The wise men brought gifts. Joseph was probably poor and maybe he thought that these gifts would make their life easier when they got back home. But then the angel appears to him and tells him that his new son is in danger from Herod, that Herod wants to kill Him. The angel tells Joseph to go to Egypt until he tells him it is safe. Joseph has to go to a foreign country with his wife and new baby. Again, a great hardship.

It wasn't just that way for Joseph. This is often the pattern for God's people.

Consider Mary. When she brought Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord, Simeon predicted that the child would cause the falling and rising of many in Israel. He said to Mary, (Luke 2:35)

"a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Mary also appears to have lost her husband Joseph before Jesus began His public ministry. She became a widow. She also had to undergo the horror of seeing her son crucified.

It was the same for the apostle Paul. God told Ananias to go and put his hands on Paul so that his sight would be restored. God said to Ananias about Paul, (Acts 9:16)

"I will show him how much
he must suffer for my name."

It was that way with Peter. Jesus told Peter that Peter's life would end by crucifixion.

Remember when God told Abraham to leave his native land and go to a new land? Not long after Abraham got there he had to leave and go to Egypt because there was a famine in the promised land.

It was the same with Moses, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and many others. The end of Hebrews 11 describes what many of them went through. It says, (verses 35–38)

"Women received back their dead, raised to life again.
Others were tortured and refused to be released,
so that they might gain a better resurrection.
Some faced jeers and flogging,
while still others were chained and put in prison.
They were stoned; they were sawed in two;
they were put to death by the sword.
They went about in sheepskins
and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—
the world was not worthy of them.
They wandered in deserts and mountains,
and in caves and holes in the ground."

Why do bad things happen to people who are righteous, who are serious about serving God, who are devoted to Him? Our text gives us one of the reasons. It shows us that all these difficult things happened to Joseph was because

he was a active figure in a spiritual battle.

Herod wanted to kill Jesus. That's what our text tells us. Other places in Scripture put this in its wider context. For instance Revelation 12:1–5 says,

"A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven:
a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet
and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
She was pregnant and cried out
in pain as she was about to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in heaven:
an enormous red dragon with seven heads
and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.
His tail swept a third of the stars
out of the sky and flung them to the earth.
The dragon stood in front of the woman
who was about to give birth,
so that he might devour her child
the moment it was born.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.
And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne."

Herod wanting to kill Jesus was not just the case of a tyrant trying to get rid of a potential future rival. No. Whether he knew it or not he was an agent of Satan. He was a participant in a great spiritual battle. Satan was using Herod (who was a willingly participant) to try to kill Jesus.

The spiritual world is not seen by us. But it's there. There are forces against us. They want to destroy us.

You are a follower of Jesus. Satan wants to destroy you. He wants God to be disgraced. Sometimes God gives these spiritual forces of evil permission to harass us, to trouble us, to annoy and bother us. Why does He do that? God has lots of reasons that we don't know about. But one of the things we know is that in such circumstances He is giving us opportunities to shine for Him—to glorify Him.

God wants us to stand, to be faithful, so that He will be glorified.

Ephesians 6 speaks about the struggle that we have against spiritual forces of evil. It says, (verse 13)

"Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand."

We are to stand, and in standing we bring glory to God. In standing His grace we are, as Ephesians 1:6 says,

"to the praise of his glorious grace…"

We are involved in this to show forth God's glory. We are to be faithful, we are to stand, so that God would be praised. When Job passed his test Satan was proved to be wrong. I'm sure the whole heavenly host praised God for His grace and love to Job. It was a moment of triumph.

It's the same with us. In 1 Corinthians 4:9 Paul also said,

"For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display
at the end of the procession,
like men condemned to die in the arena.
We have been made a spectacle
to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men."

The whole universe watches. We live our lives in front of the heavenly host, angels and demons. We stand, we triumph, so that God will be praised.

God's glory is more important than what happens to us, whether things go good or bad for us. Jesus told Peter that he was going to die by being stretched out. John added, (John 21:19)

"Jesus said this to indicate
the kind of death by which Peter
would glorify God."

In heaven we are going to be forever to the praise of God's glory. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:7,

"in order that in the coming ages
he might show the incomparable riches
of his grace, expressed in his kindness
to us in Christ Jesus."

It's going to be to the praise of God's glorious grace.

The second reason we sometimes undergo difficult things is because in this spiritual battle, not only does God want us to stand and so glorify Him, but

through our faithfulness, others will come to find salvation in Jesus.

Joseph was faithful. He took Mary as His wife. They went to Bethlehem and there was no room in the inn, so Jesus was born in a stable. The shepherds came and worshiped Jesus. The wise men came and brought their gifts.

Joseph's hardships, Joseph's difficulties, Joseph's faithfulness, played a part in those great events. Others were coming to Christ, in part, because of Joseph's faithfulness. In 2 Corinthians 2:14–16 the apostle Paul wrote,

"But thanks be to God, who always
leads us in triumphal procession
in Christ and through us spreads
everywhere the fragrance
of the knowledge of him.
For we are to God the aroma of Christ
among those who are being saved
and those who are perishing.
To the one we are the smell of death;
to the other, the fragrance of life.

That's about our witness to the world. Through our difficulties and suffering God saves people. When Hugh Latimer and Bishop Ridley were burned at the stake in Oxford, England in 1555— Latimer said to Ridley,

"Be of good cheer, Master Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God's grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust, will never be put out."

And so it was. Their difficulties, their deaths, were instrumental for the spread of the gospel. A lamp was lit and many came to believe on Jesus in England.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, you should understand that

the path to glory comes through hardship.

In Matthew 16:25 Jesus said,

"For whoever wants
to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life
for me will find it."

In Acts 14:21–22 we read that Paul and Barnabas returned to

"Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,
strengthening the disciples and
encouraging them to remain
true to the faith.
'We must go through many hardships to
enter the kingdom of God,' they said."

In Matthew 7:13–14 Jesus said,

"Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad
is the road that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow
the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it."

Hardship is the way to victory. It was that way for our great Savior Jesus. His disciples are called to follow in His footsteps. You need Jesus. You need to follow Him. Choose Him today.