But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding…
Joseph was a good, God-fearing, obedient man. Fie had clear intimations of the will of God concerning him and his. And yet the directions were not so explicit as to interfere with the exercise of his own judgment. He was to return, with the Child and his mother, into the "land of Israel;" but where in the land of Israel, he was not told. It might seem as if he was expected to return to Bethlehem, and this appears to have been taken into consideration. He had faith in that Divine direction he had received. He proceeded to obey. He started out on his journey. But he received news, as he approached the land of Judah, that Archelaus was Governor of Judaea in place of the dead Herod; and the character of Archelaus was well known. He would scheme to kill any one whom he heard of as claiming to be a native-born prince. So Joseph feared, and let his fears decide his faith, or rather the obedience to which his faith inspired him.
I. OUR FEARS MAY INTERFERE WITH OUR FAITH. Then we may refuse to do, or neglect to do, what we believe to be our duty, and our fears may create practical unbelief. Where a man's way is clearly and precisely defined by God for him, his fears should have no influence on him. After-considerations must never be permitted to interfere with the declaration of the Divine will. If Joseph had been precisely told to return to Bethlehem, he would just have had to go there, even though the reports about Archelaus had frightened him out of his senses. This truth is illustrated in the story of the prophet from Judah given in 1 Kings 13.
II. OUR FEARS MAY GUIDE THE OBEDIENCE OF OUR FAITH. This we have in the text. Joseph's fears about Archelaus are the things used by the Divine providence for guiding him to the particularpart of the "land of Israel" where he was to settle. So we learn the Divine control and use of all the forces and faculties, as well as of all the circumstances, of a man's life. Divine direction does not undertake for a man; it leaves him still to take counsel with his own judgment and his own fears. God's gracious working of his providences, through man's mental movements and character-movements and subjective influences, has never yet been systematically thought out. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: