How God used Joseph to Redefine the Future of Christianity
(Birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25) firstname.lastname@example.org
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, 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. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.
And he called His name Jesus.
There are so many rich expressions of Christian understanding within this text. Truthfully, I could teach or preach on these eight verses for several weeks. However, for this devotional offering I am led to share with the reader a couple of points of prayerful consideration.
First, within these verses the building block of the story is founded upon the declaration of how “just” Joseph was. (v.18-19)
“18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.”
A “just” man, as Joseph was specifically referred to as being, was used with great intention by the writer. Being called “just” wasn’t simply synonymous with being thought of by others as some “nice guy” who had demonstrated good “moral clarity.” From a biblical perspective being “just” was far more in depth. First and foremost being “just” was a cultural, spiritual and intentional term that designated a person whom God had placed within the life of the Israelites. This person was a foundational PILLAR OF RIGHTEOUSNESS who by their wisdom, stature and presentation was a mature and firm representation of the best of what God calls the obediently faithful to be. The “Just Man” that Joseph was representing was understood as the embodiment of “godliness.”
To be “just”, to be “righteous” was, in effect, to be a “saint” before God and a personal testimony to the entire world around them.
Over the centuries a myth of sorts began to grow within the Jewish community that God supplied a mere 36 “just men” or “saintly Angels” for each generation. It was an accepted cultural understanding that this gift of “being just” was from God. God’s gift was to constantly supply “pillars” to hold up “the faithful” by always standing ready to demonstrate what God wants from us and calls us as an obedient community to share with the world.
It is no small thing that Matthew’s birth sequence starts by not only calling Joseph JUST but then proceeding to redefine and expand what “being just” is to mean. These eight verses dramatically clarify and clearly illuminate a new foundational component of what we as Christians are called to be and become.
Let me show you what I mean.
In verse 20 it says,
“20 But while he thought about these things, behold, 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.”
Joseph, being a just man, was not willing to disgrace both Mary and her family. He had every right to be angry and frustrated by the circumstance Mary had presented to him. Mary, and in no small way, her family as well, were under a cultural contract of sorts. She had broken the terms of her engagement. She was soon to be exposed as a cultural leper. Yet, he couldn’t see the intrinsic value in causing more damage than what was already in process of occurring.
But what was he suppose to do?
This leads me to point out what is incredibly essential when trying to understand why these eight verses mean so much. God was not only opening the eyes and heart of Joseph, The Creator of all that was known and unknown was giving all believers in Christ from that moment forward a new and great broadening of the application of God’s immeasurable grace.
Look again at the second half of verse 20 and continuing into the 21st verse. The Divine message clearly and boldly sent a different message. It said,
“….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. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
The scriptures clearly testify that Mary had been intentionally touched by The Divine. God is dramatically declaring that anyone or anything that The Divine touches in anyway becomes not only blessed but a profound blessing to others…..regardless of what current culture may demand or argue.
No longer would being “just” be limited to the easy or a safe course of action. Joseph was called to not only bring her completely into his life, he was to openly celebrate that life….even if that life does not fit neatly into the accepted norms of current culture.
Notice that the writer, who has been inspired by God Almighty, wants the reader to remember;
• Just like Joseph, we are to recognize the value of all life no matter how inconvenient they may seem to be.
• Just like Joseph, we are called to receive to ourselves the uncomfortable or seemingly unclean so that they may experience through us the practical display of God’s love and subsequent empowerment.
• Just like Joseph, we are called to move beyond what we already know to fully experience what God has in store.
• Just like Joseph, we need to emotionally and spiritually grasp by limiting our walk with God to people who are already known to us practically eliminates a life devoted to pleasing God through a continual transformation of experiencing “the new”… “the transformed” … “the reanimated” expression of The Gospel.
These same foundational principles of our CHRISTIAN FAITH concerning immeasurable grace beyond current cultural limitations can find their origins in the Old Testament as well. Here are just a few examples:
• The Bible depicts God’s foundational message to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was that each of their descendants’ “godly purpose” was to be an overt blessing to all the nations/families of the earth. (Genesis 12:3; 26:2–4; 28:10–14). They were called to be a continual measuring stick of how good and powerful and graciously protective the God of the Jews actually was.
• In Obadiah, verse 2, it testifies that the Edomites, those descendants of Esau, will be greatly hated for all the things they done. Yet, in Dt. 23:8, it says “Do not abhor the Edomite” even though they represent (and rightfully so) terrible treachery and horrible behavior, God says DO NOT HATE.
• Even though Israel’s history is filled with examples of pushing people away or being suspicious of NON-Israelites, the Bible tells us in Leviticus 19:33-34;
“You shall not persecute him. The alien who resides with you shall be to you like a citizen of yours, and you shall love him as yourself, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
Now, lets return to Joseph and Mary….and I want to earnestly pray about this last section.
BEFORE JESUS WAS BORN…God determined the need to redefine what it meant to be “just” or “righteous” or a “saint.” Why? Because after his birth there would be a paradigm shift in how believers were to interact with each other and the world around them.
BECAUSE OF JESUS’ BIRTH…he is God’s perfect example and primary representation that even though most of the world around him would have given up, turned away or hated his demonstration and understanding of life, God touched and blessed every part of Jesus’ life in spite of what others may have thought or reacted to.
BECAUSE WHO MARY WAS AND WHAT JOSEPH CAME TO UNDERSTAND… Every Christian, is called to not only reach out to those who are “different” but to embrace, uplift, encourage and most importantly bring them intimately close so that both they and the believer may grow and prosper in the abundant life we have been promised.
Only then do we begin to fulfill the life and mission of our Savior, Jesus. Peace.
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