To many, Joseph is a mere footnote in biblical history. But we can be sure that God was as concerned with who would be the earthly “father” of His Son as He was of who would be His mother.
I looked in my Bible for a quote from Joseph, and to my surprise I couldn’t find one. I never thought about this before, but Joseph doesn’t say a single word in the Gospels. We might assume his words are recorded, because we can imagine the conversations he had with Mary, and the Angel Gabriel. We can “hear” him talking to the innkeeper. We can visualize him teaching Jesus about carpentry…but then he fades from the scene. It is widely thought that Joseph was much older than Mary, and when Jesus began His ministry, Mary appears alone, and although the Bible doesn’t say she’s a widow, we can figure that Joseph has since died.
Here are a couple of things we know about Joseph.
JOSEPH WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. (Matthew 1:19)
“Righteous” or “just” means “acting or being in conformity with divine or moral law”. The strength of what we believe is measured by how much we are willing to suffer for those beliefs. Joseph as a man with strong beliefs. He was prepared to do what was right despite the pain he knew it would cause.
We are introduced to Joseph in the middle of a personal crisis. Having become engaged to a beautiful young girl, he has worked hard to establish an income to support his new bride and begin a family. He is in love. He is committed to Mary. He believed she loved him, until the news that his precious bride is pregnant.
Heart-broken and betrayed, how should he respond? Should he publicly shame her? Should he turn her over to the authorities to be stoned? Her explanation of the pregnancy was unbelievable, even blasphemous.
If Mary would not have been stoned on the charge of adultery, she could have been stoned on the charge of serious blasphemy. However, Joseph chooses the path of mercy. He was “a righteous man and unwilling to put her to shame,” so he “resolved to divorce her quietly.” Before any divine explanation, Joseph chooses mercy. No malice. No explosion. Certainly he could have asked a lot of questions here: “How could you do this to me? Who’s the father?” But, no words are recorded, only tenderness. He might be the talk of Nazareth. Friends might make snide comments. But he would not hurt Mary, no matter what he thought she had done to him. When he could have demanded a bitter sentence, he chose a righteous mercy. He not only tried to do what was right, he tried to do it in the right way.
How much do we need to temper our righteousness with mercy? It is so easy to belittle people and criticize when we are right. But just because you are right doesn’t mean you have to be angry about it. May we never give in to the temptation to choose wrong over right. Let us always do right. But may we never be ‘so’ right, that we do not show compassion and forgiveness to those in the wrong. We may one day need that same attitude shown to us.
JOSEPH WAS A MAN OF GREAT FAITH
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost… And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins… Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife” (Matthew 1:20-21, 24)
It is significant to note that the angel Gabriel personally appeared to Mary to inform her that she would be the mother of the promised Messiah; but “an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream” telling Joseph not to fear taking Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20). It was also in a dream that an angel instructed Joseph to “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” (Luke 2:13). In both instances, Joseph did not doubt, question or ponder even though it was in dreams that he saw and heard the angels’ admonitions. Joseph, nonetheless, was obedient.
May we, like Joseph, trust Jesus. Especially when it is difficult, we need to trust Him. Though the path is dark and we do not know how God is going to work it all out, we need to obediently trust Him. No matter how much we think it’s going to cost us – trust Him.
Here’s a story that may help you understand our need to trust God.
One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I’ll catch you.” But the boy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you!” The father replied, “But I can see you and that’s all that matters.”