Devotional

What did Joseph Know?

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.

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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.

Devotional

Prayer: Hold On to the Lifeline

When Storm Clouds Gather series, devotional # 7

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry in distress, and He hears my voice. (Psalm 55:16, 17 NIV)

A storm can make it hard to know where we are going. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, On the Bank of Plum Creek, Laura described a blizzard so bad that Pa was lost in it for four days without knowing that he was very close to home. He couldn’t see the light in the window. During the blizzard, Ma had to hang onto the clothesline to find her way from the house to the barn to care for the animals, or she would have been lost. The clothesline acted as a lifeline.

In the storms of life, such as financial setback, ill health, or other crisis, we may not see our way to safety. The path ahead can be dark, and we may not feel God’s presence. It’s easy to lose our direction, our hope, and our peace.

Prayer is our lifeline.

Prayer is talking to God. It doesn’t need to be full of ‘spiritual’ phrases. Our Heavenly Father wants us to communicate with Him, just as we want our children to communicate with us. The Lord listens and He answers our prayers.

Jesus expects us to pray. When He taught the disciples how to pray in Matthew, chapter six, He said “When you pray”, not “If you pray.”

The Apostle Paul also told believers to pray. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

Sometimes we may not know how to pray, or what to ask of our loving Heavenly Father. Is what we are asking according to God’s will?

We have a Helper. Paul assured us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us … And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26, 27 NIV)

In 1988 I heard a Focus on the Family broadcast that ultimately changed my prayer life. Dr. James Dobson was interviewing Fern Nichols, founder of Moms in Touch International (now called Moms in Prayer International). Fern described how she and other women gathered weekly to pray for an hour for their children and for their children’s schools. I looked at my three-month-old daughter and decided that when she entered Kindergarten, I would join a Moms in Touch (MITI) group. When that day came, I was fearful. I’d known Jesus since my childhood, yet how would I pray for an hour? I certainly couldn’t imagine that I would later lead MITI groups and eventually teach Moms in Prayer (MIPI) on mission trips.

I learned how to pray using Scripture, as I’ve done using I Thessalonians 5:16-17 in the prayer below. The following prayer format used by Moms in Prayer still helps me to pray. I hope that it helps you.

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  • Praise – Praising God for who He is, His attributes, His name, or His character.
  •  Confession – Confessing your sins to the God who forgives. (In a MIPI meeting the confession is done silently.)
  • Thanksgiving – Thanking God for what He has done.
  • Intercession – Coming to God in prayer on behalf of others.

Writing and dating the prayer requests and God’s answers to prayer in a prayer journal helps us to see the way God has worked on our behalf in the past and reminds us that God will answer in the future. Let’s talk with God.

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You for being the God who listens. I confess that I grumble and I forget to seek You. Please forgive me. Thank you for loving me. Please help me to rejoice always, pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Your will for me in Christ Jesus. Amen.