Matthew 2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Listening to God can keep you out of a lot of trouble. There’s plenty of trouble to be had in this world, but most of us get into more of it than necessary, and indeed invite it all too frequently. God sometimes plans training exercises for us, but He never plans trouble for trouble’s sake. Many years ago I wrote a note beside Psalm 91:9-10. That reads, “If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the Lord, who is my refuge— then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.” What I wrote is, “Whatever happens, it isn’t a disaster.” If we are genuinely abiding in Christ, then the devil can’t touch us, regardless, because he has no right to do so. However, when we decline to listen to what God is saying to us, then we walk directly into the devil’s traps. The magi had made their journey to Bethlehem because of hearing what God was saying, through natural phenomena, things they read, and probably dreams and visions as well. It was therefore natural for them to pay attention when one or more of them had a dream about not going back to Herod. It took some courage to be obedient to that, because rulers in those days had absolute authority, and all too often exercised it capriciously. Herod already had quite a “rap sheet” by this time, even before he ordered the slaughter of the little boys of Bethlehem. However, the magi realized that the risks involved in not obeying God were, and are, far more serious than any risks we might imagine in not obeying Him.
I’m reminded of various people throughout Christian history, from Paul on down through Nate Saint and others who are alive today. In many cases they had clear warning of physical danger, but they were more concerned with the spiritual danger of disobedience, so they were faithful. I often remember Nate Saint’s incisive statement when he was warned of the dangers of trying to evangelize primitive tribes in South America: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” He indeed gave his life, not many years later, but the spiritual fruit of that sacrifice has been immense, including in his own son. At the same time I am all too aware of some people who have seemed like spiritual giants, until they failed to listen to what God was telling them and walked right into the devil’s traps of greed, immorality, and the like. Those stories are far more tragic than Paul’s or Nate Saint’s. I’ve got to be fully focused on my Lord in humble obedience so that I won’t miss any of the directions He gives me. I’ve heard Him enough that I generally recognize when He’s speaking to me, though not always. As a pastor, I desire to train the believers to do likewise, so that together we may be fully obedient and responsive to God as His servants, His children, for His glory.
Father, once again You’ve given me words to express what You desire of me, and I know I can’t do it on my own. I ask You to do it through me, and I thank You for the many assurances in Your Word that You will do just that. I ask for Your message for Sunday and for wisdom and guidance for each other thing You have me to do, so that Your will may be done in and through me on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!