If we were to “soap” only one of these verses it most likely would be verse 16, where we read of Herod’s anger at being duped by the wise men. If we were to ‘soap’ the passage – we most likely would list the subsequent murder of all the little boys and note how the angel’s message and Joseph’s obedience were used to spare the life of Jesus. We might even note the similarities of this passage to that of a similar edict in Exodus from which Moses was spared, Exodus 1:15-22.
However, as I read through this passage what caught my attention this time were several sets of repeated phrases; so I went back to highlight the unfolding story of these early days/years following Jesus’ birth. Notice with me there are two times where we read that “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream”, and once where he was “warned in a dream”, (13, 19, and 22). It is apparent in each instance that the angel brought instructions/warnings in order to protect but also to position them where God wanted them to be. This was another of the highlighted similarities. In verses 14 and 23 we read how the angel’s appearance and Joseph’s obedience fulfilled the prophecies that had been spoken. These same verses, 14 and 23, reveal Joseph’s obedient response to the angel’s instructions – which is the third set of highlighted similarities.
I believe we can learn much from these observations. We may not have an angel of the Lord appear to us in a dream but we do know that God has placed His Spirit in us to teach us and to remind us of all that He has said. We would be wise to be alert to His teaching and reminders as well as to live yielded and obedient as Joseph did. Another application comes in the form of comfort and peace knowing that God makes a habit of protecting and positioning His children according to His perfect plan – knowledge that leads us to a deeper trust.