Bible Studies for Life

with Laura Leathers

Sunday,  December 9

Joseph’s Obedience

Matthew 1:18-25

The prophecies regarding the Messiah had been given down through the generations; then came silence for almost 400 years. It was the apostle Matthew who bridged the gap between the centuries; writing a detailed account identifying Jesus Christ as the One who fulfilled all of the prophecies (Matt. 1:1). The first 17 verses of Matthew 1 focus on the genealogy of Jesus through the lineage of Joseph, the Davidic line. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way” (vs. 18a, ESV). This opens the focal passage for today’s lesson. In eight simple verses, we hone in on the miraculous mystery of this event learning about a man who played a masterful role without saying a word.

Unlike engagements and weddings of today, the engagement/betrothal for a Jewish boy and girl took place around the ages of 12 to 15. When the couple was betrothed, it was considered a legally binding agreement, but the couple did not live together. Usually, the betrothal lasted a year. A dowry was paid by the prospective groom’s family, gifts were given, and he would return to his home spending his time preparing a home for his bride, usually attached to his father’s house. The bride-to-be prepared herself by faithfully waiting and staying pure. Then at the appropriate time, the prospective groom would go and bring his bride-to-be to their new home where a wedding feast was held for seven days; then the marriage was consummated. Death or divorce was the only way out of the contract. During the year Joseph was planning and preparing for the day he would take Mary as his wife. That is until God disrupted his plan!  “. . . before they came together she was found with child from the Holy Spirit.”

Therefore, Joseph being a “just man”, meaning upright and with integrity, “and being unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (vs. 19, see Deut. 24:1). In other words, he was strategizing, thinking about what would be the best course of action in this situation. What could and should he do as not to bring public exposure? Then, as he was deep in thought, an “angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him to take Mary as his wife and the child . . . conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” The word dream means to have a vision while you are asleep.

While he was sleeping the angel of the Lord appeared to him and gave him God’s solution to all the questions he had. First, he was not to fear to take Mary as his wife. The angel confirmed (see Luke 1:26-56) “for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Then, one additional instruction Joseph was to “call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph was about to experience the amazing and abundant plan of God. Years later Jesus stated, “. . . I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Salvation brings eternal abundant life! Then the angel of the Lord reminds Joseph of the words spoken by the prophet (Isa. 7:14) and the dream is over.

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him . . . “ The words which describe Joseph’s life are, ‘he did’. He simply obeyed. In a recently aired radio program entitled “Why Joseph”, Pastor David Jeremiah said, “The forgotten man (Joseph) was spoken to, spoken about, but in all the passages we read about Joseph he never said a word.” His actions spoke louder than any words. He did take Mary as his wife, he never knew her intimately until after the Child was born, and he named Him Jesus. Every time we read about Joseph we learn about his obedience. Joseph had three additional dreams and in each one, we see no words spoken by this man, only what ‘he did’ (Matt: 2:1-12; 16-18; 22-23). What faith! What obedience!

Pastor Jeremiah also stated, “Here was a man who was sensitive to the voice of God, strong but compassionate, and as we read about this adopted father’s role in the life of Jesus, we see a man who willing steps back while God steps forward in His Son’s life.” Joseph choose obedience over what made sense to him and it changed his life.

What is the Lord asking you to change in your life this Christmas? 

Leathers is a member of First Church, Madison.