Almost 2,000 years ago Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem. Approximately 2,040 years before, Jacob and Rachel, another expectant couple, traveled south along the same road. Rachel gave birth to Benjamin, but died soon after delivery, and Jacob buried her near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19). Rachel's death foreshadowed the devastation that the territory of Benjamin would suffer in Jeremiah's time: "Rachel is weeping for her children . . . Because they are no more" (Jeremiah 31:15). Yet the prophecy found its final fulfillment in Jesus’s day, when Herod the Great slaughtered all baby boys in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:17-18). So, at God’s direction, Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to live until Herod’s death.
Each movement of Jesus’s family finds its cause in God’s revelation to Joseph—fleeing Bethlehem to Egypt, returning from Egypt to Israel, and avoiding Judea to settle in Galilee. God’s purposes for these moves lay first in the protection of His Son, but Matthew notes that each directive also fulfilled Scripture. I doubt anyone but God saw beforehand the murky prophecies fulfilled by these geographic moves. But in hindsight, they become clear.
Often in our lives God’s leading and timing don’t make sense at first. For years we pray for a loved one’s health, for a friend’s salvation, or for a missionary to receive funds. We plug away endlessly at a miserable job with no promotion. Yet when we look back in hindsight, we actually come to appreciate how God led us—and all the victories and failures along the way—to prepare us for something we felt ready for much earlier. While we strain to see over the next horizon, God sees the map from above—and so knows the best way to proceed.
As we anticipate next year with all its uncertainties, we can take comfort that our God sees the future as clearly as the past. He seldom gives us all we need in order to understand, but He always gives us all we need to obey. Eventually, we discover that in our simple obedience to God’s Word, He has guided us along paths far too complex for us to see at the time. Eventually, His leading and His timing become clear.
We never see Joseph questioning God’s leading, though he couldn’t have possibly understood it all. But what Joseph did understand offers us a great model. The Lord leads us with His wise—but often unusual—directives, always rooted in Scripture, for our good and for His glory.
Time and again, God’s mysterious leading proves wiser than our impatient pleas for progress. Consider, would He not receive more glory from our lives if we trusted Him along the path of the unknown than if we saw His purposes from the start?