ESV - 19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.
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Although the New Testament records angels communicating with other individuals (such as Zechariah and Mary) by appearing to them directly, all references to such communications with Joseph refer to an angel appearing to him in a dream. So this was apparently the specific method that God chose in his case. Perhaps it related to the fact that Zechariah and Mary were directly related to John the Baptist and Jesus (as John's father and Jesus' mother respectively), whereas Joseph (although also shown favor by God through the important information given to him in his dreams, as well as by being entrusted with Jesus' care and upbringing) did not have that same direct relationship with Jesus.
God created his holy angels to be his messengers. They guide and direct God’s people by delivering his messages. They protect his people from harm and danger. Angels can appear to people as human beings (3 angels appeared to Abraham as men before going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah). Angels can appear in visions (waking dreams) which happened often to Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Angels can appear in dreams like those that guided Joseph. These angelic appearances demonstrate God’s sovereignty over the affairs of people. When God decides that something is going to happen (the Messiah will come to earth as Jesus Christ), God orchestrates every detail to fulfill every prophetic word spoken about Jesus coming. When God makes a promise his holy angels are his servants to fulfill every detail of his purpose and plan. God knew that Herod was dead and no longer a threat to kill his Son Jesus, so it was time to send the angel to tell Joseph to return to Israel. There was still a threat in Judea so God warned Joseph again in a dream, so he settled in Nazareth. This fulfilled the prophecy that God had spoken that the Messiah would be called a Nazarite. Everything God prophesies is completely fulfilled at just the right time through his servants, the holy angels.
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