“Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’ incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.”
This second verse of the well-known Christmas carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” encapsulates the Good News of Jesus Christ. In Luke we learn of Mary, but in Matthew, we learn about Joseph. Why was Joseph the man for the job? What kind of person was he to be the earthly father of the “th’ incarnate Deity”? Dr. Tim Dresselhaus established Joseph’s character and his ability to listen and obey.
Joseph’s character was evident in Matthew 1:19 “because Joseph her husband was a righteous man….” Synonyms from www.merriam-webster.com include decent, ethical, honest, honorable, just and moral. To have a Bible verse describe a person as righteous is astounding because we are “all sinners saved by grace.” Romans 3:9 However, that is the adjective Matthew chose to describe Joseph.
In addition to being righteous, Joseph is merciful. His mercy is evident in that he could have demanded that his pregnant fiancé be stoned like the Pharisees who tried to trap Jesus when they brought the adulterous woman to Him. They even picked up stones to kill her. But Joseph “did not want to expose her to public disgrace” much less death. Since Joseph did not want to get revenge, he offered grace. He wanted to “divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:19b (NIV) Though he had apparently been wronged and was definitely hurt, Joseph loved Mary and did not want her to be publicly disgraced or killed. By the manner in which Joseph treated Mary, Joseph exhibited his character of justice, kindness, mercy, and humility. According to Dr. Tim, “character is a prerequisite to service to the LORD” as evidenced by the LORD using Moses, David, and Joseph.
Even further is Joseph’s sensitivity to the LORD as LORD’s messenger spoke. In a dream, an angel appeared to Joseph 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.” Matthew 1:20b (NIV) Interestingly, the angel addressed Joseph’s fear first and then gave him a task to accept her as his wife.
In addition to Joseph’s character is his ability to listen. He had a pattern of listening to the LORD, so he could hear what the LORD was saying. Listening is a discipline. Sometimes it means turning off the television, getting off social media, resisting shopping either in person or online, or letting go of a hobby. None of these activities is inherently bad, but if that one is your first thought in the morning and your last idea before you nod off, you might need to re-evaluate what your priorities are to see if that has become your idol. When I was taking a seminar, I learned “Where the attention goes, the energy flows.” In other words, your interest dictates your attention and energy. Joseph was attuned to the LORD, and his priority was to be a man of God-just, merciful, and full of integrity. The LORD was where he focused his energy. From him we learn that “God speaks to people who are listening.”
Finally, in Matthew 1:24 Matthew wrote “Joseph did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (NIV) In other words, Joseph obeyed God’s messenger. Obedience for Joseph was costly-to take Mary as his wife and her yet-to-be-child, Jesus as his son. He took on her secret and the shame of her pregnancy. His duty was to protect Mary and Jesus. Joseph did so as they traveled to Bethlehem to pay their taxes when Mary was ready to give birth. Also, Joseph had to deliver Mary’s baby. As Dr. Tim described, newborn babies “wiggle and are slippery.” I wonder if Joseph repeated to himself, "Do not drop the baby!”? Can you imagine “catching” the Son of God, Yahweh’s Son, Immanuel? Joseph was the first to look in Jesus’ eyes, the first to count His fingers and toes, the first to wrap Him up in whatever cloth they had. In addition, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to protect Jesus from being killed because of Herod’s edict to kill all Hebrew boys under two. From Joseph we learn the lesson that obedient actions show love for God, for “faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:26B (NIV) From His Word we learn how to see the world, how to live in the world, and how to act in the world.
Dr. Tim said, "God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. May God use each of us in greater ways” each day. May we choose to surrender to the LORD our God and Savior so that we can be salt and light.
Written by Larry and Annette Linthicum