Forgive me for painting with a broad brush, but I just have to say it, Joseph is a typical man. I don’t mean that as a put-down. Indeed I think of him as an honorable and noble individual. When faced with a disgraceful situation, he was focused on:
- a plan for modestly protecting an innocent woman
- remaining righteous in behavior toward her
- being obedient to his God
He could have behaved in many other “justifiable” ways, but he took the hard path, the difficult journey.
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A few days ago we began our Inductive Study of the Story of the Birth of Jesus. And instead of starting with Jesus (or Creation), we started with the first character mentioned in Luke’s gospel – Zacharias. Then we learned about Elizabeth and Mary. Today, we will meet Joseph, who has a particular problem.
He was a young man with his whole life crumbling in front of him, just as he was beginning.
Let’s dig in!
Joseph – the Betrothed of Mary
Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary when he had a dreamy visit from an angel. Read Matthew 1:18-19 and record what you learn about Joseph.
- betrothed to Mary (18)
- not yet married (18)
- Mary is found to be with child (18)
- her husband (19)
- a righteous man (19)
- not wanting to disgrace her (19)
- wanted to “put her away secretly” (19)
Do you remember yesterday when Gabriel told Mary she had found favor with God? Do you remember the Greek word charis means grace that brings joy, pleasure, and gratitude?
A Problem or a Blessing?
Unmarried women didn’t get pregnant in Bible times – not without creating a big scandal. Mary’s pregnancy, itself, wasn’t unprecedented; but it would bring shame to both her and Joseph.
How do you think Joseph reacted to the news that Mary was pregnant? Do you think he agreed with Gabriel and called this news charis? Or does it look more like a problem?
Righteous Joseph had a plan to deal with the problem he had – “put her away secretly.” This seemed like the best solution to him and he was considering it.
But God had another plan. He had devised this plan before the foundations of the world. He revealed part of that plan to Joseph in a dream.
An Angelic Visit
Let’s continue reading about Joseph in Matthew 1. Read verses 20-25 and record what you learn about Joseph.
- considered putting her away (20)
- angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream (20)
- called “son of David” (20)
- “shall call His name Jesus” (21)
- arose from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him
- took her as his wife (24)
- kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son (25)
- called His name Jesus (25)
This dream completely changed Joseph’s plans, didn’t it?
More Promises for Joseph
We have been noticing the promises of God throughout this week – promises made to Zacharias and promises made to Mary. Do you remember some of those promises? Do you remember the “promise words we are looking for? (will/shall)
Let’s look at the promises the angel made to Joseph and make a list:
- she will bear a Son (21)
- you shall call His name Jesus (21)
- it is He who will save His people from their sins (21)
Are any of the promises given to Zacharias and Mary repeated in Joseph’s dream? (yes, she will bear a Son, you shall call His name Jesus) Is there a new promise about Jesus? (He will save His people from their sins – verse 21)
Fulfillment of Promises
There is another important thing in these verses. It is called “fulfillment.” Fulfillment is the delivery of a promise. The Bible is dotted with a LOT of promises. But the fulfillment of those promises is one of the qualities which make the Bible a special, unique book.
Remember a few days ago when we talked about the Person who knows the future? Who is the only person who knows the past, the present, AND the future? (God!)
So, in the Bible when God makes a promise it is sometimes called prophecy. Prophecy is telling the future. Anyone can make guesses about what will happen in the future. And some of those guesses can actually come true. But only God knows the future.
God’s unique knowledge of past, present, and future events is called omniscience – all knowledge. Some people think God can’t possibly know all there is to know. But God proves Himself to His people in a number of ways throughout the Bible. One of the biggest ways he proves Himself is by telling the future.
Do you think God’s promises about the future are guesses? (NO!) That’s right, they are not guesses – they are accurate. And God proves it over and over. Here in Matthew 1, we find the first “fulfillment” – delivery of a promise – of over a dozen fulfillments brought forward in Matthew’s gospel.
An Object Lesson
God’s fulfillment of promises has a real-world, everyday example.
When we order things online, the order goes to a person who fulfills the order. That means the person goes into the warehouse where the goods are stored and gets all the things on the order. He then puts all those things into the box and puts a slip of paper in there called a receipt. On the receipt are all the items in the box. The order is then sealed up and sent to our house. Once the package is on our doorstep, it has been delivered and the order has been fulfilled.
God’s promises are similar to this.
God, many years before Jesus was born, made very specific promises through His prophets. He said He would send a Savior. He said He would come to conquer and also that He would come to die for our sins. And He said some very specific things about His birth – where He would be born, who His parents would be, where they would live, etc. – so many specific things about Jesus.
It is like He created an order with all these specific details and went into the warehouse to gather together all these specific things. Then He put it all into a box and delivered it right on time. But the thing that is different here – He put in the order for these things hundreds of years before Jesus was delivered!
These prophecies God promised and told through His prophets were studied by His people for years. They would look and look for the delivery – the fulfillment – of those promises. They couldn’t wait for their promised deliverer to come!
And then one day, an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph and said,
Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.Matthew 1:20-21
Then Matthew, so we didn’t miss the importance of the delivery – the fulfillment – said:
Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means “GOD WITH US.”Matthew 1: 22-23
Matthew reminded us that God had made this promise so many years before through the prophet Isaiah. He tells us that this child, the one in Mary’s tummy, is the delivery – the fulfillment – of Isaiah’s prophecy.
What do you think Joseph thought about this news? Was he excited? Shocked? Scared? Incredulous?
A Command for Joseph
Well, here we have some things besides promises and fulfillment of promises. Do you notice the angel tells Joseph to do something? This is a command – directives from God, which must be obeyed. What did the angel tell Joseph to do? (do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife – verse 20)
What does verse 24 say Joseph did when he arose from his sleep? (he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife) How would you describe Joseph’s obedience to the command to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife? Is he unwilling or willing? Is he still afraid? Does he do it? When does he do it?
Can we learn any lessons about obedience from Joseph?
Tomorrow we will talk about this newly married couple, Mary and Joseph.