7587 - Instructions for Joseph

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Today, let’s look at Joseph, the man who had the difficult task of playing the role of Jesus’ earthly father.

In recent programs we have looked at the details preceding the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke. We have studied the visit the angel Gabriel made to virgin Mary , and not let’s look at Joseph, the man whom Mary was pledged to be married.

Today let’s turn over to Matthew 1, verses 18-25 and read of the struggle which took place in his life.

I’ll read those verses and then we can talk more:
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 quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel" --which means, "God with us."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

The Jewish society had definite rituals regarding marriage, which were different from today. First, the two families involved would work out an agreement to the union, which included any price for the bride which would be paid by the groom to the bride’s father. After a public announcement of the proposed union the couple were considered “pledged.” This was more binding than today’s engagements. Their relationship could now be broken only through death or divorce. Then came a waiting period of up to a year, during which the couple lived apart and were chaste. This period tested the bride’s purity. If impurity surfaced then annulment was necessary to break the union. After the waiting period the husband would go to the house of the bride’s parents and with friends the couple would have a processional back to his home. Then they would live together and consummate their marriage.

It was during the waiting period when Mary began to bear Jesus in her womb. Keep in mind that Mary had been faithful to Joseph. She had never had intercourse. Whether she told Joseph of her condition is not revealed, but he did know she was pregnant.

We can visualize the agony through which Joseph was passing. On one hand he loved Mary dearly, but on the other hand she appeared to have been unfaithful. What was he to do? He purposed he would not publicly disgrace her with a challenge, which could lead to public stoning. “Perhaps” ,he thought, “I should just quietly divorce her.”

But this passage explains that before Joseph took action God intervened by sending an angel to explain and instruct Joseph in what to do.

He was told there should be no fear over Mary’s condition, because what she carried was from the Holy Spirit. The angel also told Joseph that a son would be born, and he was to be called Jesus.

It is a transliteration of the Hebrew name meaning “the Lord is salvation.” Joseph was told plainly that Jesus would save his people from their sins.” Furthermore, this child would be called Emmanuel, which has the meaning “God with us.”

Since both Joseph and Mary were from the Davidic line they had some understanding of what the angels had said to each of them. However, in the Gospels we do not see any occasion when they openly acknowledged Jesus as their Messiah.

Joseph joined Mary’s journey of faith by instant obedience to the Lord’s instructions, and when he awoke he took Mary into their home as his wife, but never had union with her until after the birth of Jesus.