God’s faithfulness towards us gives us an example to follow in our own relationships. Faithfulness is something we should strive for in marriage, friendships and in our relationship with God.
Be faithful to God’s calling, his promises and his message.
The faithfulness of those who played a part in the birth of Jesus is inspirational.
Be faithful to God’s calling
In this understated account we read how Joseph went to Bethlehem, ‘to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child’ (v.5).
It can’t have looked good. Joseph knew that Mary had not been unfaithful. However, he must have known that to everyone else around it looked as if she had. The temptation must have been to dissociate himself from her (the account found in Matthew 1:19 even says he considered divorcing her quietly until an angel of the Lord spoke to him).
However, he was utterly faithful to God’s calling and to Mary, no matter how it looked from the outside.
Be faithful to God’s promises
Mary must have been bewildered by what was going on. Yet she believed what she had been told – she was faithful to the promises she had received. She ‘treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’ (Luke 2:19).
This is a wonderful example of what to do with prophecy and other words which we sense may be from God. Sometimes, we need to keep them to ourselves. Like Mary, we need to keep our mouths closed, and at the same time keep our hearts open. We, too, can treasure up God’s promises to us and ponder them in our hearts.
Be faithful to God’s message
The shepherds’ message was very different however. It was ‘good news…for all the people’ (v.10). Once they had found the baby in the manger as the angel had described ‘they spread the word concerning what had been told them’ (v.17). We too have been entrusted with this amazing message about Jesus, and are called to faithfully ‘spread the word’.
Trust that God is faithful
Above all, this is an account of God’s faithfulness. Everything that God had promised to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, took place ‘just as they had been told’ (v.20). Yet God’s faithfulness to them was part of something even greater. We begin to see how Jesus is the fulfilment of all God’s promises in the Old Testament. He is born in ‘the town of David’ (v.11), and his earthly father is ‘of the house and line of David’ (v.4). He is the promised king to whom the whole Old Testament points, ‘he is the Messiah’ (v.11).
This is ‘good news … for all the people’ (v.10). We see here a glimpse of what that means for us. Jesus is our ‘saviour’ (v.11), through whom we can know the peace and favour of God (v.14). We no longer need to carry a burden of fear (‘Do not be afraid’, v.10a). In knowing Christ we can know God. He himself is God; he is ‘the Lord’ (v.11). God’s faithfulness and love are the bedrock on which everything else is built.
Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness to me in Christ Jesus. Thank you that you set me free from fear. Thank you that you give me hope, joy, freedom and purpose. Help me to be faithful in getting this message out to ‘all the people’ (v.10).
Be faithful in response to God’s faithfulness.
Be faithful to your marriage partner
The elaborate instructions (5:11–31) are an indication of how destructive unfaithfulness can be in a marriage. Whereas our passage in Proverbs was a warning against adultery, this passage deals with the consequences of adultery. However, the law recognised that suspicion of sexual unfaithfulness was not enough. It might have arisen simply out of jealousy. There might have been false accusations. It was particularly important to protect women from false accusations, as their position in ancient societies was more vulnerable. If the woman was innocent this test meant that she had nothing to fear. The water was not harmful in itself. The law required a demonstration of guilt rather than one of innocence. Whether the husband chose to use this test depended on the kind of person he was. Joseph did not use it (Matthew 1:19).
Be faithful to your promises
The Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:1–21) could be lifelong (for example Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist) or temporary. It was a particular expression of holiness not required of everyone. It was not a matter of extra merit. Jesus himself was not a Nazirite (although he was a Nazarene – which is slightly different!). The important point of this passage is that if we do make promises to God we should be faithful to them.
Be faithful in response to God’s faithfulness
Aaron and his sons were told by God how to pronounce God’s blessing on his people (vv.24–27). This is how God wants to bless you and me.
He wants to bless you with his presence, his face shining on you: ‘God smile on you’ (v.25, MSG). He wants to be gracious to you (v.25b). He is kind, merciful, forgiving and full of love.
He gives you his peace (v.26b) in the midst of the troubles of life and his protection (v.24). He wants to keep you from evil and falling away from him. God’s desire from first to last is to bless you (v.24,27).
As you experience God’s faithfulness to you, your response should be to be faithful to him in all of your relationships.