Friday, May 4, 2007

Matthew 1:20-21 “God’s Revelation/Joseph’s Response” Part 1

Last week we ended on almost a cliffhanger in regards to Joseph and Mary. Joseph had decided to divorce Mary due to her being found pregnant. We can only imagine the emotional turmoil the young couple must have been in due to this crisis. Mary knew she was guilty of no sin. Of course, God had chosen ahead of time to reveal to her that she would become supernaturally pregnant. God, in His providence, decided to delay this revelation to Joseph. We now see Joseph and his response to the revelation of God.

Scripture records that while Joseph was pondering these things an angel of the Lord appeared to him. God often used angels to communicate His message to man. For instance, in the book of Judges, Gideon was visited by an angel and instructed to mount an army to save Israel. The father of John the Baptist was likewise visited by an angel. Before the coming of our Lord (the Living Word) or the writing of Scripture (the written Word) God sometimes spoke in supernatural ways to communicate his message (Hebrews 1:1-2). Here, while Joseph was dreaming, he receives a personal revelation from the Lord.

We should take notice of how the angel addressed him. He calls him “Joseph, son of David.” It is an individual, specific call to Joseph. When God deals with people, He deals with us as individuals. When He calls a person to salvation, He calls them by name. Of course, He does not call them in an audible voice. The call of His Holy Spirit is just as real, however. The angel also addresses him as “son of David.” Every Jew knew that the Messiah would come from the line of David. The angel probably addressed him like this to emphasize the important role that Joseph would now play in the plan to bring the Messiah into the world.

Further, we should observe the advice he gave to Joseph. He tells him to not be afraid to take Mary for a wife. The Greek actually reads “Do not become afraid.” In other words, Joseph is called to make a choice to trust God. A person usually becomes afraid because they do not know the future. However, we know that we serve a God who “works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Even in the middle of unusual or difficult circumstances, we can trust God. However, we have to make the choice. Joseph here is admonished to not become afraid. He, of course, did not have God’s perspective. Therefore, he had to choose to believe what God told him. Basically, he had to take God at His word. Joseph was told not to become afraid to take Mary as his wife. Joseph would likely have been worried about guilt by association. If Mary was pregnant and he married her, to most people that would be an admission that they had consummated the marriage before the actual wedding. They would have, in the eyes of the community, been guilty of sin. Joseph here is told by the angel that Mary was free of any guilt because the baby she was carrying was the result of God’s supernatural power. Only the power of God could explain a virgin being pregnant. Of course, if God had sent a message that Joseph should not fear to take Mary for his bride, we must recognize that God would also be the one who protected them in this situation. In short, God wanted Joseph to know that what was happening was part of His will. Since He had brought this to pass by the power of His Holy Spirit He would see them through whatever difficulties might lie ahead. Joseph’s perspective did not permit him to see everything that would happen or how things would work out. In our lives, often times, we suffer from the same problem. We have to make the same choice Joseph did. Do we obey God and trust His word or do we rely on ourselves and our abilities. Here, Joseph receives a promise from God that he can rely on in this trying circumstance.

Finally, we notice the announcement made to Joseph. He is told the supernatural circumstances surrounding the birth. Also, he is told that Mary would bring forth a Son and that they would name him Jesus. Before the Child was even born, the man who would be His legal father knew the Child’s name. Jesus was a fairly common name but it had a special meaning. Literally, it meant “Jehovah saves.” The Jews knew God to be a saving God. Throughout the history of their nation, God had moved in supernatural ways to save them. Jesus’ name, therefore, was a reflection of the character of God. The angel further announces the kind of salvation that would come through this Messiah. He says the He will save His people from their sins. Those who would place their faith and trust in Him would find the filth of their sin completely cleansed away. Those who reject them would be held responsible for that rejection and spend eternity separated from God the Father. He did not come, therefore, to provide emancipation from Roman rule. He didn’t come to draw people to a religious system in an attempt to earn salvation. He came, as the book of Revelation records, to be the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundations of the world. Through His death, burial, and resurrection, He provided salvation from all sin for everyone who would believe in Him. As the hymn writer Phillip Bliss writes “My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole is nailed to that cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul.” We, too, should praise God for his precious gift of salvation that He revealed to Joseph in a dream that fateful night.

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

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