December 23 I Wednesday
“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…’” —Matthew 1:20
What would you do if you discovered the person who is pledged to marry you is pregnant...and you are not the baby’s father? We may wonder how the conversation went when Joseph found Mary was with child. Legally, at the time of Joseph’s discovery, they were already married, because during the culture of that time, one was legally married when a pledge was made and those vows likely took place publicly in the town.
Joseph probably saw Mary and imagined the life they would have had together in the house he was building, looking forward to the day of celebrating their marriage. But because of Mary’s disgrace, it would no longer happen. Matthew 1:19 gives us a glimpse into Joseph’s response, “Because Joseph...was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
Joseph decided to divorce Mary in a manner that showed grace and unmerited favour. According to Old Testament law in Deuteronomy 22:23-24, “If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death...” Joseph was a man faithful to the law; he had every right to stone Mary to death because she was with child, where the assumption is that another man was involved. But Joseph had compassion upon her and decided not to disgrace her any further and settle the divorce quietly.
The story, however, took a turn when an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream 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. 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” (Matthew 1:20-21). Joseph was being called by God to allow his reputation to be tainted alongside Mary’s. This scandal probably hung over them their whole married lives, but Joseph and Mary were completely obedient to God’s plan that would benefit the rest of humanity.
What was it that enabled Joseph and Mary to face the dilemma caused by their obedience? The thing that may have kept them pressing on was the knowledge that God has come to save His people and they were given a unique role and function within God’s plan. God’s unmerited favour and grace towards them gave them the strength to walk in obedience.
Prayer: Dear Most High God, what a reminder that my life is not my own. Help me to live in submission and obedience to Your good and perfect will. Amen!