By Kathryn J. Hughes
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…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, 19, 20a, 24 NIV)
In my last devotional I considered what Mary knew that convinced her to agree to become the mother of Jesus. Mary had great trust in God that led her to submit to the changes of her plans and to her willingness to face the problems she would encounter giving birth to God’s only Son.
What about Joseph? What did Joseph know that caused him believe this seemly outlandish claim that his virgin promised wife carried the Son of God in her womb? Joseph knew the baby was not his. Her pregnancy gave him reason to break their betrothal contract to get married. Even though the wedding had not yet occurred, it was binding as if married, and a betrothed couple was often referred to as husband and wife.
We know from Scripture that Joseph did not believe Mary at first. Joseph was a just man, but also a compassionate one. Matthew chapter one tells us that Joseph being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. Mary could have been stoned for immorality. If Joseph wanted to maintain his own claim of moral purity, Mary’s punishment may have stopped people questioning his own actions.
Joseph received visits from the angel of the Lord. While he was thinking of breaking their betrothal, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name JESUS, for He will save his people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV)
Joseph was obedient to God. He followed the angel’s instructions to take Mary as his wife. Obedience to the Lord God was more important to Joseph than his reputation or the fact that the Child was not his own and that he would have the responsibility for raising Jesus. He exhibited patience and self-control. He did not have marital relations with Mary until after Jesus was born. He followed whatever the Lord directed him to do.
Later, when an angel warned Joseph to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt because Herod sought to destroy the young child, Joseph immediately moved his small family to that foreign culture. His other angelic dreams told him to return to Israel after Herod’s death, and then to settle in the region of Galilee. Joseph could have argued that he had his carpentry trade established in the various places they lived. Instead, Joseph was quick to act as he is directed. Joseph couldn’t know everything the future held any better than any of us. He and Mary both marveled at the things that were spoken of Jesus by Simeon. (Luke 2:25-33) He obeyed anyway.
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May we be like Joseph, righteous, just, and obedient to God. We may not have angelic instructions, but we have the Holy Spirit who guides us. What is He directing you to do? What are some steps you can follow so you will do it?
Dear Holy Spirit, Thank you that my righteousness comes from Jesus Christ because of His sacrifice for me. Please help me to hear your directions and to obey. Please help me to be just in my dealings with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.