This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietlyâ€¦
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:18-19, 24 (NIV)
Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. Most of us who are modern American Christians have probably not read the first 16 verses of Matthewâ€™s gospel very often. We skip it as something unimportant. How many of us know our own genealogy? How many of us care? I think Matthew states this history for me so that I can see that Joseph came from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and King David. He was a craftsman, a carpenter, in his village of Nazareth, not wealthy but respected in his community. He is engaged to a â€˜good girlâ€™ from a â€˜good familyâ€™. And then she comes up pregnant. Matthew says that Joseph is a righteous man. He is moral, just, and honorable. He does not want to see this girl stoned to death for her â€˜mistakeâ€™. What to do?
Joseph has a dream. An angel appears to him and tells him just how Maryâ€™s pregnancy came about. The angel says that Godâ€™s Spirit â€“ God Himself â€“ impregnated Mary! I cannot imagine what ran through Josephâ€™s mind as he awoke that morning! Did he just sit in stunned disbelief? Did he slowly get up and begin his dayâ€™s work, giving his hands something real and familiar to do while his mind, his heart, attempted to accept this phenomenal news?! Did he wake up with the conviction that â€œYes. God said this to me and so I will do this!â€ or did he struggle to obey? To obey would mean that whatever respect he had in the community was going to vanish. Matthew implies that Joseph woke up with obedience. Joseph had an obedient heart.
Matthew is the only gospel writer to mentions Joseph. In chapter 2, Joseph once again shows that obedient heart and receives Godâ€™s instructions to take his family to Egypt, protecting them from the insane behavior of King Herod. Joseph brings the family safely back to Nazareth and that is the last we read of Josephâ€™s life in the Bible.
Joseph found himself caught in the middle between what his world, his religion, and even his family and friends thought he should do and what God was telling him to do. Have you ever been in the place? Joseph chose Godâ€™s path. Joseph listened to Godâ€™s voice and responded in obedience. He was a man with a heart for God.
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth;
Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love for me;
you have delivered me from the depths of the grave. Psalm 86:11-13 (NIV)