This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25
The Bible doesn’t have a whole lot to say about Joseph. In fact, Joseph is one of the few people mentioned in the Bible who is never quoted saying anything. He’s sort of an ancillary figure in our nativity scene. But, that’s not really true. This passage reveals two significant decisions Joseph made that led to the credibility of the Messiah.
When Joseph heard of Mary’s pregnancy, his first impulse was to divorce her. The terms of engagement then were much more stringent than today. It was more like the first year of marriage than planning a wedding. Infidelity during an engagement would have brought a great deal of dishonor to Joseph. None of us would want that. He reasoned that his only choice was to divorce Mary quietly. What else could he do? What would we do?
Can you imagine the problems that would have been caused if the parents of the Savior of the world were divorced? Even the Son of God needed an earthly mother and father to give him credibility. Illegitimacy might have voided the message Jesus came to proclaim. Who would have listened to Him? No one would have given Jesus any attention back then.
The angel appeared to Joseph and explained the situation. Divine revelation was the only way that this pregnancy could be understood or accepted. Joseph chose to man-up, take Mary as his wife, and claim Jesus as his own son.
Then Joseph made another remarkable decision. He chose to wed Mary and delay the honeymoon. “But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son” (Matthew 1:25). While every bride dreams of the wedding day, every groom dreams of the wedding night. Joseph chose to marry his pregnant fiancé, and then he chose to put off the pleasures of marriage that were rightfully his (1 Corinthians 7:4) in order to guarantee that no one could ever say that Joseph had anything to do with Jesus’ human birth. For a man that didn’t get any words in the Bible, Joseph silently obeyed.
Following God would be easier if we knew that God’s direction would always lead us down an easy path. But, when following God makes things worse rather than better, it takes more than our willfulness to obey. It requires faith.
Regardless of how Joseph felt about Mary, regardless of what Joseph knew he was entitled to, regardless of receiving a life that he had never signed up for, Joseph chose to obey God. He didn’t receive any earthly honor for his obedience. In fact, after the incident of leaving Jesus behind at the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:43), we don’t hear anything else about Joseph. How did he influence Jesus? What did he do with his life? When did he die? We don’t know.
Joseph’s reward was investing in the life of someone else. His honor came from putting his own will and feelings aside for someone greater. Like all of us, Joseph’s ultimate reward is in Heaven.
What seems impossible for you these days? Regardless of what you deserve and how you feel, how is God directing you to obey? Are you willing?
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