The incredible interaction between Joseph and an angel of the Lord: Matthew 1:18-25
This passage provides a little insight into Joseph, Mary’s husband, the man who would raise Jesus in his home along with other children. Joseph must have been an incredibly kind person, one who watched his life take a turn which no one would have predicted, yet he managed the news with eloquence. “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” (Matthew 1:19). Though this was hundreds of years ago, people knew without a doubt what caused pregnancy, yet somehow Joseph, a faithful man, was able to accept his role in this story. I’m pretty confident I would have failed this test, I doubt I would have been so gracious or willing to listen to the rumors spread in the village.
“But after he had considered this…” (1:20 begins). The angel didn’t show up to pre-warn Joseph, he had to wrestle with this incredible problem first. That’s definitely not the way I like to operate! How many times have difficult situations presented themselves before there is any hint that God has a plan, that his hand is in the mix. “…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” (middle of 1:20)–a dream because Joseph wasn’t sleeping well, no doubt tossing and turning and trying to figure out how this amazingly sweet young betrothed bride could do such a thing and how he could somehow live his life peacefully.
The angel has these incredibly comforting words: “Joseph, son of David…” Wow! Not only is Joseph visited by an angel, but he is immediately credited with being a member of David’s family. The angel explains that Mary carries the Messiah, the one they all hoped would come, the one the read about, studied and dreamed would come one day. This is the day. It seems odd to me that those who study and preach expectation and hope would miss the very thing that they most desired. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet” (1:22), through Isaiah’s words of long ago, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The “therefore” in this case is a result Ahaz’s disobedience and ultimate inability to follow the Lord. A solemn reminder that God doesn’t need us to carry out his plan for the world, we have a choice. Joseph choose to listen.
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (Matthew 1:24). Lord, I don’t think we can fully grasp the significance of these words in this day and age, but I thank you for providing this short description of a man who listened well and I pray that we, as your people, would learn from this lesson and listen to your Spirit all the time!
Joseph did not consummate the marriage with Mary, he did not have sexual relations with her before Jesus was born. In my mind, I picture a kind and gentle man, probably much older than Mary, caring for her patiently. God choose Mary for a reason and Joseph was there as well, though we know very little about his actions. As a father, I like to think he was a good and patient teacher, loving his wife and children, well respected for his kindness. This impression is only supported tangentially as we don’t have the details, but there’s no evidence that people were surprised that Jesus was wise and thoughtful when he began his ministry, no surprise when he was in the temple or spoke to people. Joseph did his job as a faithful servant in the background, something I admire and pray that I can do for whatever days I have left on earth.
Teach me, Lord, the ways of Joseph. Guide my thoughts and speak to me when I’m troubled and may my words and actions always, always give you the honor and glory you deserve.