“Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife.” –Matthew 1:24
Observe the account, “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him”. He acted immediately- “without delay”. He did not wait until the next morning or at any later hour. He did what the angel of the Lord had bidden him as he arose from sleep. He never doubted that the message of the angel was indeed from God. He did not need any confirmation through miraculous signs or wonders to believe the message of God through the angel in contrast with Gideon, who upon receiving God’s message in a vision, asked for miraculous signs to confirm the message he received.
We can translate Joseph’s experience into our common experiences. Every now and then, we face situations when we need guidance from the Lord to make crucial decisions. However, how do we know that it is God’s voice? 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”.
Do you remember Samuel? When the Lord first called him, he did not know yet the Lord. He thought Eli was calling him. He heard God’s voice three times but he went to Eli instead thinking that he was the one calling him. When Eli realized that the Lord was calling Samuel, he told the boy, “If he calls you, that you shall say, speak Lord for your servant hears”.
Sometimes, we could not perceive the Lord’s voice instantly. Samuel did not know God’s voice because he did not know yet the Lord at that time. However, he listened to the direction of the prophet of God, Eli and displayed a heart ready to receive the message of the Lord. “Speak Lord, for your servant hears”.
“Joseph, son of David, fear not…”- Matthew 1:20
It seemed that Joseph was afraid. God seemed to sense fear in Joseph if we would consider the manner the angel of the Lord spoke to him. Apostle Matthew did not say as to how Joseph learned about Mary’s pregnancy. If Mary herself told, or if he heard it from Elizabeth was unclear. If Mary told him about the holy pregnancy, Joseph could have felt unworthy of such holiness, which caused a kind of fear in him or if he suspected that Mary might be seeing someone else, perhaps he was afraid of reproach or rejection. Observe, when the angel appeared to him in a dream, the angel opened the message with this statement, “Joseph son of David… fear not… to take unto you Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
“Joseph son of David… fear not…” The angel of the Lord reminded him of who he is in God’s eyes and how important his role would be in the plan of God for the salvation of the entire human race. It dispelled doubt about Mary’s faithfulness or insecurity in his part if there was any. The message of the angel of the Lord gave him first; an affirmation of his place in the eyes of God and second; a validation of Mary’s faithfulness and third, the fulfillment of the prophecy about the Messiah who would be born in his family line. It strengthened him and led him to make the right decision. Joseph found refuge in his relationship with God
“Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, decided to put her away privately.” –Matthew 1:19
When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he did not want to expose her to public disgrace so he decided to divorce her privately. Observe, Matthew described him as being “a righteous man”.
Consider the situation; Jewish custom in their day recognized a state of “betrothal” in marriage. Their betrothal vows bind them both and only a writ of divorce can set either of them free. Therefore, if a betrothed woman became pregnant, the law would condemn her as an adulterer. In Deuteronomy 22:23-24, a young woman who was a virgin and betrothed to a husband, and another man found her in the city and lied with her; they could be condemned with adultery and stoned to death as a manner of punishment. Mary and her child could die if the situation reached the people who were enforcing the laws aside from the public disgrace that she would bear if she would be condemned as an adulterer. Clearly, Joseph wanted to save her life, dignity, and purity by setting her free from her vow. In a manner of saying, he was a martyr.
Joseph must have loved Mary very much. He would rather sacrifice his own feelings than see Mary suffer. In Ephesians 5:25, we can read God’s command, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…” Clearly, Joseph has a heart after God’s heart. He is living with the righteousness of God in his heart. He has loved Mary more than he has loved himself. It is safe to say that God has chosen not only Mary to raise the Savior child, but both of them as faithful and obedient couple.
Try to imagine the situation of Joseph. He is about to marry the woman he loves then he has found out that she is pregnant and he is sure that he is not the father. If the situation leaks to other people, they would accuse Mary of committing adultery and they could stone her to death. Following the Jewish custom, their betrothal vows bind them both and only a writ of divorce can set either of them free. It could have been a very painful experience. What will he do? Perhaps, any normal man would be enraged thinking that his fiancée has been unfaithful. However, in Matthew’s account, Joseph has decided in his heart to save Mary’s honor by releasing her from her vow by secretly filing a divorce.
Suddenly, an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him that the baby Mary bears in her womb is of the Holy Spirit; that she will give birth to the long-expected Messiah. It could have been the biggest shock of his life. He, being an ordinary Jewish carpenter would have the great task of taking care of the Savior child as his foster father.
Awaking from sleep, he has shown an extra-ordinary step in faith. He has done as the angel has bid him. He has modeled the kind of obedience a true believer ought to show. He has done exactly what God has told him to do: he took Mary to be his wife.
Joseph is a model of obedience for all Christians today. It is unconditional and without any hesitation. He has not even asked any question. He has received the message from the angel of the Lord in faith and has acted bravely, fully trusting the wisdom of God’s purpose.
However, how was he able to act with such a level of selfless obedience? Where did he draw his strength to trust and obey?
Image borrowed from: iamthewordthecomforter.blogspot.com