“‘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 conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’–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 did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” – Matthew 1:21-25
Most of us have heard this passage of Scripture before; it is commonly read and proclaimed this time of the year, and usually our attention is drawn to Mary and Jesus, as it should be. However, this time something really different stood out to me, which was the amazing example of godly character that Joseph demonstrated here.
In Joseph and Mary’s day, Hebrew marriage customs dictated that after the negotiations of the arranged marriage, the bride and groom would live separately for one year, each in their own parents’ homes. This was done to verify the purity of the bride. If she was found to be pregnant during that year, she was obviously considered not pure. The marriage could then be annulled, and the woman could also face the penalty of being stoned to death. On the other hand, if she were found pure after the year, her groom would go get her and, in a large processional, bring her back to his home; the two would consummate their marriage and begin to live together as husband and wife.
In the passage of Scripture above, Mary and Joseph were in that one-year waiting period. So, one could imagine the disappointment and heartache Joseph must have felt when he received the news that Mary was pregnant. Thus, it’s Joseph’s response to this situation that I most admire.
Backing up two verses to Matthew 1:19, before the angel even came to speak to Joseph, he had already decided to divorce her quietly, which meant he had no intention of dragging her to the city gate judges, which would have resulted in public humiliation and quite possibly her death. To me this demonstrates Joseph’s godly character. He most certainly was hurt and disappointed, but he had no intention of seeking revenge or bringing any kind of public disgrace on her.
Just for a moment bring this story into our modern day world, and put yourself in Joseph’s shoes: Imagine you are engaged. You’re planning your wedding day; the venue, the food, the cake, the flowers, and every other little detail has been thought out and prepared. You’re anticipating and dreaming about being married. And then your bride-to-be tells you that she’s pregnant, and you know you’re definitely not the father!
How would you react?
While we might not face this exact circumstance, we all will experience situations where someone will disappoint or hurt us. Unfortunately, many of us might possibly respond in a way that’s anything but “quiet.” However, we see a different reaction in Joseph’s response, and we too should desire to respond to these kinds of circumstances in the same manner—with godly character.
So how do we do that?
I often have conversations with people about the importance of reading God’s Word daily, because I know when I’m continuously absorbing Scripture and meditating on God’s Word, it begins to transform my heart and mind, so like Joseph, I too can respond to the unpleasant circumstances in my life in a manner that brings glory to God.
(Published on the ROCKHARBOR Blog 12/02/13)