December 22, 2013
“…You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Long centuries of waiting and hoping could not dim the hope of devout Jews that God’s promise of a Messiah yet would come to pass. Finally came the fulfillment: The Christ was born! Matthew tells the miracle story through the eyes of Joseph as Luke later would tell it from Mary’s perspective. Let’s try to see it as Joseph saw it.
He was a righteous man, merciful to his bride.
The first thing one might notice in Matthew’s nativity story is how compassionate and sensitive Joseph was to Mary. I imagine Mary sent Joseph a note simply stating the fact of her pregnancy. He knew better than anyone that it could not be his child. He could have protected his own reputation by making an issue publicly. This might have ended in a stoning of Mary (
In New Testament times, Jewish marriages took place in three solemn stages. First was engagement. This might be made by the two sets of parents when the couple were still children. A professional matchmaker might be involved, but the boy and girl may never have even seen each other. Second, was the betrothal one year before marriage. At this stage, the girl could refuse the agreement; but once agreed, it was a binding contract terminated only by divorce. Legally, not physically, they were man and wife. It was in this second stage when Joseph encountered the angel in a dream. Third, at the end of the one-year betrothal was the wedding celebration when Joseph took Mary home as his wife.
Joseph, in this account, is a worthy model for any husband or husband-to-be. I heard a speaker some years ago say truly that when a boy tells a girl, “I love you,” he probably means, “I love me, and me wants you.”
He was a sensitive soul, yielded to the Holy Spirit.
Not only was Joseph sensitive to Mary’s plight; he was sensitive to God’s Holy Spirit. Similar to the patriarch Joseph of the Old Testament, this Joseph was a dreamer. God spoke to him through dreams.
There are five dreams of Joseph recorded by Matthew:
The angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary’s child was no less than Immanuel—the promised Messiah. He should not shun going forward with the wedding ceremony (Matt. 1:20-25). Joseph, I think, received the warning dream for the magi that caused them to avoid Herod and go home another way (
Then in another dream (
After Herod died, an angel again came to Joseph to tell him the news and send him home to Israel (
Finally, arriving in Israel, he heard that Archelaus was successor to his murderous father, Herod the Great. So “having been warned in a dream,” (
We have the Bible now and the indwelling Holy Spirit, so we do not require—or should expect—angels in dreams to give us guidance; but we should cultivate that sensitivity of soul to hear the Lord’s voice and immediately obey as did Joseph.
He was a trusting soul who could leave the details with God.
Those who know more than the rest of us about the mystery of natural birth tell us that at the moment of conception, the DNA code of that single cell spelled out letter by letter would fill 24 volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica! With so much that we do not know about natural birth, why should we stumble over the details of the supernatural birth of Christ? Let’s stand amazed in the presence of infinite mystery.
Joseph and Mary each in their own angel visitations had to take the word of the heavenly messenger. Mary questioned the angel about how such a thing could be that a virgin could be with child. Joseph did not. Why don’t we quiz God less and trust Him more?