Joseph’s character, faith, and God’s choice of him to be the husband of Mary and a father to His Son, Jesus captivates me. Meditating on the few verses in the Bible about Joseph, I have grown to deeply appreciate his story. Joseph was a man of honor. Matthew’s gospel describes him as a “righteous man.” There’s a freight car of information in that two word description. Righteous describes his attitude toward God and people.
Joseph was a man of honor. He wanted to honor God with his whole heart. He wanted to honor people. Righteousness is an understanding that we are all created in the image of God. How we treat one another is what we think of God. It’s how we would treat Christ.
There have been many hours thinking about that first painful conversation that Joseph and Mary had when it became apparent she was pregnant. He loved her. The Bible doesn’t give us the details of their conversation, but it shattered him. He must have wanted to believe her but how could he? I mean seriously, how could he believe her story. What kind of thoughts ran through his mind? His imagination must have played havoc with his mind. I’ve heard the stories from betrayed husbands and wives, and fiancés. Even though you tell them there is no value in those imaginations, they can’t help themselves. The anger and betrayal, the pain and humiliation they feel is so real, that you hurt with them.
He has been faithful to God and to God’s law. He had chosen her to be his wife, he would have been building a home and business to care for her. Hurt, anger, tears, and feelings of I’ll never let this happen to me again emerge. “Why would God allow this to happen to me? I’ve tried to be a man of honor.”
He wouldn’t however, dismiss the law of God, try to find a loop hole, or make an excuse like so many do when obeying God’s Word is painful or inconvenient. Instead righteousness led him to obey God’s Word but with mercy and grace. He would “break the engagement quietly,” that is tantamount to a civil and polite divorce in our day. He wouldn’t expose her to shame, try to humiliate her, or seek revenge. Mary and her parents would have understood Joseph and would have also been grateful. Again, the Bible is silent on that part of the conversation. Yet, her life, her family’s membership in the life of the congregation and community would have been in jeopardy.
You have no idea how many times, I have witnessed people try to destroy someone’s reputation because of hurt, disappointment, or even a serious mistake. Righteousness will not allow you to do that. Righteousness seeks to protect even while making the painfully honorable choice. Joseph’s righteousness was something he lived out.
You see why I admire Joseph so much! It has taken much experience as a pastor to truly come to appreciate the greatness of this man. He wasn’t sinless, just as we are not. However, he had a genuine experience with God. Now he would become the man God trusted to raise His only begotten Son.
Of course, God knew all of this about Joseph! Oh, how I long to be that righteous man. One who seeks to honor God in all that I do. One who seeks to honor the image of God in all people and treat them with mercy and grace. There’s that phrase again. Mercy and grace.
Righteousness manifests in mercy. Our righteous God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He doesn’t give us what we deserve. When we lose sight of the righteousness of God we all think we deserve all the blessings, comforts, gifts, and promise of heaven. However, when we become aware of our sins, we fall on our faces in despair until we know the truths of the Gospel.
When we understand the Gospel, the story of Christmas, we discover grace! God gives me what I don’t deserve. A new life, a fresh start, all the blessings, comforts, gifts, hope, power, purpose, and promise of heaven! The joy is pouring out of my finger tips as I type these words tonight! Hallelujah!
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:14–16, NLT)
“Father, make me a righteous man, like Joseph. Full of compassion, yet faithful to your Word and will. Amen.”
Tomorrow, how God intercepted and changed Joseph’s mind and future.