Friday, April 27, 2007

Matthew 1:18-20 "Joseph-A example of godliness"

In verses 18 through 25 of this chapter, Matthew records the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. He does so to provide important points in regards to prophecy that Jesus Christ was the long awaited Messiah of the Hebrew people. While doing so, we also observe Joseph's role in the birth narrative that, although passive, provides us insight into the character of the man who would fill the earthly role of father to Jesus. We can be encouraged by his example and his faithfulness.

Matthew records in verse 18 that Mary and Joseph were betrothed, or as we would say, they were engaged to be married. An engagement in Jewish culture was practically as binding as a marriage. As Albert Barnes notes in his commentary, the property of the woman was considered to be now the property of her soon-to-be husband unless he renounced it. For all intents, they were husband and wife. However, they did not live together and did not consummate the marriage until after the actual wedding ceremony. To become intimately involved during the engagement would be looked on as fornication. Therefore, when Matthew states the Mary was found to be with child…before they came together, we find that Joseph and Mary were in a very real crisis. Matthew removes all doubt of any sin by the two of them by noting that the pregnancy was discovered before they had consummated the marriage. He further adds that the Child she was carrying was of the Holy Ghost. The supernatural circumstances of the conception did not mean, however, that they were not still in a crisis. People would assume one of two things. Either Mary had committed adultery or she and Joseph had committed fornication. The death penalty would have applied to both situations. It would be unlikely that anyone would believe the truth. In short, the young couple faced a real life or death personal crisis.

It is in this crisis that we see the man of God that Joseph is. First of all, Matthew records that Joseph is a just man. That phrase is a Jewish expression for someone who is a true follower of God and who observes the law. In other words, Joseph was neither a godless man who rejected the Lord nor was he a self-righteous legalist like the Pharisees Of course, we should remember what Isaiah the prophet wrote in Isaiah 64:6 that "…all our righteousness is as filthy rags." Joseph was as in need of a savior as you or I, but he did earnestly seek after God. We also notice him to be compassionate and merciful. Matthew records that he was not willing to make her a public example but was minded to put her away quietly. Scripture does not record the conversation between Joseph and Mary or how the pregnancy was discovered exactly. Speculation about such things is fruitless for Bible students since God, in His providence, chose not to inspire the authors to write about it. However, Joseph contemplated a divorce as the solution to this crisis. He could have had her killed. Stoning was the penalty for adultery and that would have been what this appeared to be in the eyes of most people. Certainly Joseph could have thought that because he knew the Child was not his. He chose mercy over the law. The Greek word thelo¯ is translated not willing. This word, according to Vines Expository Dictionary, carries with it the idea of authority to make a decision. The word boulomai is translated was minded. This word has the sense of a preference. In other words, Joseph chose not to do as he had a legal right to but instead preferred to quietly divorce her. He chose not to assert his authority in the matter but instead to suffer loss himself and be merciful. In a sense, our Lord did that when He sent Jesus to be our sacrifice. Because of our sin, God had a legal claim on us. He is just and holy and our sin offended Him. By His righteousness He could have condemned everyone to eternal punishment in Hell. Instead, because He loved us, He chose to be merciful. In Colossians 2:13 &14, Paul writes that God "Has made you alive together with Him [Christ], having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Joseph chose a godly response and instead of demanding justice, decided to extend mercy. Finally, Matthew records that Joseph thought about these things. He did not immediately take action. He preferred to meditate and, in all likelihood, pray about the decision. Sometimes in churches, people want to see God move in a spontaneous way and assume that is the only way in which God moves. However, as we see with Joseph and other men and women in the Bible, there is something to be said for taking time to pause, reflect, and listen for the voice of God. While certainly God does not speak in an audible voice as He once did, He still speaks through His Word, the Holy Spirit, circumstances, and His church. Let us pray for the wisdom to wait to hear from the Lord as Joseph did. Let us pray for the grace that Joseph had to extend mercy rather than demand justice. Let us finally pray to be true seekers of God's righteousness so we can be declared " just" in the same manner as Joseph.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an interesting depiction of Joseph's actions. Never really considered anything beyond him just not wanting her to be a public example Thanks for the insight