Originally written for Manna Magazine in 2010.
It is Christmastime and Christians all over the world are beginning to reflect on the scriptures that tell us of God’s wonderful incarnation. I love the story as it relates the mysterious plan of God. It is the unprecedented and never duplicated miracle of miracles. The vast depth to this mystery will always leave me pondering. In the fall of 2009 I began to search out the scriptures concerning what we refer to as the “Christmas Story.” Upon close examination of these texts I found myself asking many new questions. There was one character in particular that I was asking new questions about. One who is seemingly replaceable. His name is Joseph. I began to wonder why Joseph was chosen by God. How was it possible for God to know that Joseph would be a good father? How was God able to know that Joseph was a man that could be trusted? The easy answer is that God knows everything. God does know everything. But if we were to investigate the matter, would we be able to find traits that would have made him a suitable choice for the task?
The choosing of Joseph, to me had always seemed a mute point. I tended rather to look at the choosing of Mary. As Gabriel said, “thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women” Luke 1:28. Mary had been shown favor. She was plucked out of a sea of women. But now I have begun to think that Mary may have been chosen because Joseph was. Was it not equally important for God to have a father? Figuratively speaking that is. And what would God look for when selecting such a man? Travel with me in your imagination to rural Galilee to home of a bachelor carpenter and see what God saw in the man called Joseph. Beginning with his genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17, we find that God was moving purposefully in choosing Joseph. Some may say his genealogy was inconsequential, seeing as the Son was not from his bloodline. Yet, it was consequential to God, who does everything in order. God brought forth His Son into the House of David through both Joseph and Mary. Mary’s genealogy is documented in Luke 3:23-38. Joseph was chosen partially because he was a son of David. Matthew 1:20 records the words spoken to Joseph by the Angel of the Lord, pronouncing him as the son of David. Joseph was also selected because of his status as a virgin, betrothed to a virgin. This was the right scenario for God to come into the family. The serious indications of this truth are felt immediately after Joseph was told the news of Mary’s pregnancy. Joseph’s initial response was to divorce Mary privately. This brings us to the next characteristic that God was looking for when he selected Joseph. Right away we see an opportunity for Joseph’s character to be manifested. His decision, based on no word from the Lord, no encounter thus far with an angel, this would be the moment that his true nature would be revealed. What did he choose? I believe that he chose to act in a way that was consistent with his nature. That was with humility, compassion and righteousness.
Why humility? His response to Mary was humble because he sought to have a divorce from her in private. This proved that he did not need to be publicly vindicated. If he would have been a man led by pride he would have sought her condemnation. Therefore he would have been released from their betrothal. He would have been pitied while she would have been cast out. Rather he did not seek to have her cast out, which brings us to his attribute of compassion. Why compassion? Because he did not seek to have the full punishment of the law called upon her head. I have no doubt that Joseph loved Mary. Because of that love, his disappointment in her circumstance could have led him to anger. But it rather led him to compassion. Why Righteousness? Matthew 1:19 gives insight into Joseph’s decision making, “Then Joseph her husband being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.” He, being just, could have had her put away, divorced publicly. Joseph who was first and foremost a servant of God, wanted to be obedient to God and to His commands. By his decision to divorce Mary, he portrays to us his stand for righteousness. However, in Matthew 1:24 we read that Joseph was visited by an angel and told of God’s plan for The Savior, “Then Joseph being raised from his sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him and took unto him his wife.”
And so it was Joseph who was chosen to be the father of Jesus from before time began. Joseph and Mary set out on an unprecedented journey of faith. The Bible bears record of many hardships in the beginning years of Jesus’ life. Starting with their unconventional betrothal in Nazareth to the birthing of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, they were accompanied by hosts of angels with the Light of the World showing them the way. God was speaking specific directions to Joseph in his dreams. These midnight encounters paved the way of safety for Jesus and Mary. Leaving Bethlehem for Jerusalem they presented their son in the temple, on the eighth day to fulfill all laws and customs. They were to give him the name that God had named him. The name that now stands in eternity as the Name above all Names. It was Joseph who first spoke that name over his son, JESUS. And even though they had to present the offering of the poor, which was two turtle doves, there was no measure of the wealth that they carried with them in Jesus.
Their journey directed by the Lord brought them safely down into Egypt, far away from Herod, where they lived for several years. In the perfect time the Lord once again in a dream directed them home. The final time was Nazareth to stay. Throughout these years of hardships and trials Joseph was never afraid to dream. That is because in his dreams God spoke peace and purpose to him. His dreams beckoned him to faith. His faith motivated him to into action. Some have said that actions speak louder than words. In the story of Joseph this is proved true. Joseph is silent in the scriptures. There are no words by Joseph documented for us to read or study. What is written of his actions and decisions, speak for him. They tell his story, possibly better than he could tell himself. His obedience is inspiring to me. He led his family through difficulties that we cannot begin to understand. He was a faithful man as seen in his determination through trials. He was a talented man, who was skilled in the craftsman trade. He was an obedient man, who risked his life at the call of the Lord. He was a reverent man, as he worshiped God according to the traditions of Israel. Joseph protected God’s son Jesus and his wife Mary physically, socially, and financially. I propose that Joseph was the most influential and most respected person in Jesus’ life. Yet in scripture we see no glory given to Joseph. No position or title. Truly Joseph was an honorable man, who sought no honor.
Come with me now back into our modern world. Has God been speaking to you? Have you heard His voice in your dreams? It is easy to say that we will obey God. It is much harder to actually obey Him when we hear His voice. The Lord God of Heaven has a task for each of us to do. Will we be obedient like Joseph? Like Mary? If you have heard the voice of the Lord asking you to move, or asking for an offering, then I challenge you to follow Joseph’s example. Has the Lord spoken to you about protecting your children from the schemes of Satan? Then I challenge you to protect them. We do not have a modern day Herod hunting our children down, but there is a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour. His name is Satan and our prayers are the instruments of Spiritual war that bring his plans down. May God help us, just as He helped Joseph, to see the enemy and to protect our homes. Furthermore, may God give us clear spiritual vision, and may we view our circumstances correctly. Our spiritual realities are truer than our physical realities. When Joseph presented the offering of the poor in the temple, or when Mary laid our Lord Jesus in the manger, these were physical realities that were in direct contrast to their spiritual realities. For in their presence was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, creator of the universe and the Almighty God. Their worth and wealth was immeasurable as they were surrounded by the hosts of Heaven. I pray that we may have clear vision of spiritual realities in our lives as heirs of the Most High God. Heirs who are filled with His Spirit, who are the salt of this earth, may we never fear our state of poverty. But rather rejoice in the richness of His presence. When we learn the lessons of Joseph and choose to live with; humility, compassion, and righteousness, we can bring the Kingdom of God to earth.