So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.” Matthew 1:18-24
We Never Really Consider the Man God Chose to Raise His Son
I love the honest, heart-revealing picture God gives of Joseph beginning in Matthew 1:19, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” I wonder what any other man would have done had he found himself wearing Joseph’s sandals.
Matthew 1:18 tells us Joseph had already begun the process of building a life with Mary—a young, godly woman of Nazareth. He had entered into a betrothal contract with her which involved publicly declaring his desire for marriage, signing a legal and binding document that could only be dissolved by death or a decree of divorce. Betrothal was a time of legal, but not physical, connection. Mary and Joseph were in the preparation phase of their life together. It was a time of hope, anticipation, and joy...until the day Joseph found out Mary was with child.
Within the first words introducing us to Joseph is the word just, meaning innocent, or holy. The very character of Joseph opened the floodgate to a wave of thoughts and emotions within his heart. He was innocent. He had done nothing to place Mary in the situation she was in; yet he was holy, so he could not marry her if she had been unfaithful to him. The consequences of her presumed actions were devastating. The Law dictated a decree of divorce or a death sentence by stoning. The struggle in Joseph’s mind shouts from the page as we’re told he didn’t want to make a public show of her for all to see. It seemed his only option of grace was to let her go quietly, sign for the divorce and send her away, maybe to her cousin Elizabeth.
Of course, sending Mary away would leave Joseph behind to bear the brunt of the gossip, ridicule, and judgment of his people. He was willing because of one other description in Matthew 1:19 that stands out. Joseph was a just man. I love that because in learning about Joseph, we discover what it means to stand up and be a man in the deepest sense of the word. By allowing us to see Joseph’s heart struggle, the Father reveals how a man of God trusts Him, waits on Him, and follows His voice, even when life doesn’t make sense and judgment seems justified.
Matthew 1:20 is a Comforting Verse to An Over-Thinker
If we stopped at verse 19, we’d be left believing Joseph was done with Mary. And then, one word changed everything. Verse 20 begins with but, a word of interruption, indicating that Joseph’s thoughts of dismissal were stayed by divine intervention. I can only imagine the fitful, restless sleep Joseph fell into that night as he drifted off with Mary on his mind. At some point, his body let go and he moved into a deep sleep, his mind released to dream. It was then that God sent His messenger to share a life-changing message.
A Reminder a Command and a Direction
Even in his sleep, I’m sure Joseph was amazed. Until this night, Joseph never dreamed he would be called to raise the Son who would one day be raised up for the sins of the world. God spoke, His messenger came, and His servant believed. Oh! It’s the same for us. God has spoken, His message has come, and His servants believe. And He works miracles far beyond our wildest dreams! We, like Joseph, are called to trust and obey as God calls and leads us to follow Him.
This Christmas season, as we consider Mary who carried Jesus in her womb, let’s also remember Joseph, who made a place for Jesus in his heart. Merry Christmas!
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