Matthew 1-2, Psalm 82
The Bible is so much deeper than is seen by a casual glance or a first read. Though God is indeed the only main character of the Bible, in every section of Scripture there are featured characters. In the birth of our Messiah, this would certainly be Mary and the Messiah, Jesus Himself. But we miss so much if we ignore the minor characters. In David's life, one of my favorite minor characters, possessing some of the most beautiful qualities in Scripture was David's friend and Saul's son, Jonathon. In the Christmas story it would be a mistake to ignore or overlook the amazing character of Jesus' step-father, Joseph. Most believe that Mary was 13-15 years old at this time with Joseph being a bit older in his upper teens, between 17-19. Most now don't settle down in marriage until their late 20's to early 30's, having their children around the same time. The movie, "The Nativity" does a wonderful job of capturing the character of Joseph. This young man is engaged to this young woman, not unlike many at that time. During the betrothal period as he is preparing a place for them to live during this one year period, his fiancée decides to go to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, for months (Luke 1:39-56). Mary finally returns home and as Joseph comes out to see her, she is already showing with her pregnancy. Though we all know how this happened since we all know the story, we shouldn't minimize the shock and actual devastation this must have been for Joseph and Mary's parents. We should never let familiarity of certain portions of Scripture negate our ability or desire to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal fresh insight with fresh eyes for us.
We read of Joseph's response to Mary's pregnancy before any angelic visitation in Matthew 1:19, "Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly." Being engaged in those days carried the same weight as marriage without having sexual relations. Though the punishment for adultery was stoning (John 8:1-12), Joseph was a just man and as we read in Matthew 1:20, "he thought about these things,". As the narrative moves forward through a number of dreams and angelic visits, we see a man who acts in complete and immediate obedience to God. Consider what Joseph was being asked to do, raise the Messiah, God in the flesh, at the young age of 17-19. Joseph is only mentioned in these early chapters where he protects his wife and Son. We know he lived for awhile because later we see the names of Mary and Joseph's other children, born after Jesus in Matthew 13:55-56. We also assume that he taught Jesus the family trade as a carpenter. Beyond that, this beautiful man of God quietly enters the scene, then quietly and unassumingly fades from the picture.
Joseph should be a great example for all of us. We live in a self-centered, narcissistic generation where the only thing that really matters to most of us is what we think, how we feel, and how we will be made happy. We are not here to be served but to serve our God. True fulfillment will never be attained outside of our true purpose for existing. Jesus states this so clearly in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Though we don't know for sure since it is not spelled out in Scripture it appears that Joseph died at a young age. But longevity should be less of a desire than obedience to God and serving Him throughout our life. If we want clarity and purpose for our lives, we would do well to remember what Paul said in Philippians 3:20, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Our time on earth is transient and we are merely ambassadors for our King with our citizenship in heaven. May we use these lives we have been given like Joseph, the step-father of our Savior, to serve Him to the best of our ability and with enthusiasm each and every day that God gives us breath.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: