“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18)
We know about Mary. She was the one chosen out of billions of women in past, present and future history to bear the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One into this world. We recognize her purity, her simple acceptance of the precious and difficult role assigned to her. But what about this Joseph who was to become her husband? What about the man selected from all history to be Mary’s husband, to not be the father, but instead the step-father of the Baby who was the Lord Jesus Christ? What about Joseph? Who was he?
The genealogical record of our Lord in Matthew 1:1-17, includes Joseph, who was, humanly speaking, of royalty, not only descended from Abraham as Jews were and are, but also of direct descent from Kings David and Solomon. In Verse 18, we find that Joseph was engaged to Mary, with all the excitement, hope and joy implied by that relationship to her, and then he was stunned because in the same verse it is disclosed that this beautiful, chaste, worshipful young woman—was pregnant! And Joseph was not the father!
We see in Scripture that the Child within her was the Son of God, wrought by the Holy Spirit, but Joseph did not know that, and in his ignorance about something made so clear to us, we get a glimpse of the kind of man he was. Both Joseph and Mary were faithful adherents of the Jewish religion and as such, they knew that sex outside of marriage is expressly forbidden by God, a fact that has largely been forgotten in today’s world. God’s commandment to be faithful in marriage is in Exodus 20:14—“You shall not commit adultery,” and Joseph and Mary were technically married under Jewish Law. God’s view of sex outside of marriage is glimpsed in places like Hosea 4:10-14, where He relates idolatry to harlotry—sex outside of the marriage of a man and woman is like false religion.
Joseph knew the Scriptures and through faith he knew the merciful Lord, the Author of Scripture. God speaks to His faithful in Scriptures such as Hosea 6:6 and Matthew 9:13—“I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Joseph had every legal right under the Jewish system to express outrage and anger toward the obviously pregnant Mary, but instead he was a man of God’s mercy who, “being a just man and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly,” which meant he would protect her reputation from the condemnation of angry neighbors (Matthew 2:19).
What do our dreams mean? Does God communicate to us in them? Scripture strongly suggests that He does, for He certainly gave the gift of dream interpretation to another Joseph, the son of Jacob (Genesis Chapters 40-41), and dreams that can be interpreted also have meaning. Joseph the fiancé of Mary was now given a dream, one that needed no interpretation because it was not merely symbolic as dreams often are—this one was direct and clear.
Joseph must have been pondering Mary, struggling in relation to her new condition and then dozed off, still troubled by it all, because Matthew 1:20 relates, “While he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’” Faith provides a greater certainty than just relying on our senses or on mere human logic. Hebrews 11:1 reveals that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” How could Joseph KNOW that his dream was from God? The answer is that faith is like seeing—I know my computer is in front of me because I see it and I can also touch it. I know that God is the true Author of Scripture and of sermons like this one because faith reveals His touch in my heart that He is giving these words to me—for you.
Joseph KNEW that God had given the dream to him, just as surely as his eyes told him that Mary was with child. Faith tells us more than eyes can see. He could see with his humanity that she was pregnant, but now through faith, he KNEW as we should that GOD is this Child’s true Father. The angel continued speaking to Joseph in Verse 21: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The name “Jesus” in Hebrew is “Yeshua,” (English “Salvation is from Yahweh,”... "from Jehovah” in the KJV). This Child was sent to save humanity, including you and me, from the ruin of sin and death.
The text continues in Verse 23 with a quote of Isaiah 7:14, a prophetic statement from 700 years before that moment: “’Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’, which is translated, ‘God with us.’” This Child would have a human mother, making Him humanity’s Representative before God, and He is God’s Son—God the Father’s Representative sent to save us. This "Son" is the Intermediary, the Bridge from and to heaven that brings God’s grace, the Lifeline from heaven within your reach and mine—we can walk on that Bridge and rise on that Lifeline through faith in the Lord.
Joseph suddenly came wide awake as we would, stunned by this vision that he knew was more than a dream, as continued in Verses 24-25: “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her first born Son. And he called his name Jesus,” just like the angel said.
Joseph was of royal lineage, but he was not arrogant about his heritage or angry about the present lowly condition presented to him in his own birth. In Matthew 13:55, we see that he had become a tradesman, a carpenter with a clientele, in a time when his customers might well take their business elsewhere because he married a woman with a child seemingly out of wedlock. He had the courage to have faith while living in a world that prefers unbelief. He had the wisdom to change his mind and marry his fiancée, believing God about her condition rather than trusting in his own preconceived notions. This was a man of courage, of dignity, proved by his dignifying of Mary’s true status through his marriage to her. He was a man of patience who set aside his own desires in honor of her need and in respect to God’s intention to save humanity.
Was this some kind of superman? No. He was like the rest of us, for “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yet he was a changed man through faith in the Lord. It was later said about his soon to be born Step-Son who would die for our sins: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” This righteous man, Joseph, BELIEVED in God’s offer of righteousness and salvation, which is open to all who trust in the One who is called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Dear Father, thank You for teaching us about Joseph the man, selected from all history to become the husband of Mary, the human mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I want to be like Joseph and so I trust in the Lord. Please forgive my sins through Jesus and what He did for us, for me. Thank You. I am Yours. In Jesus Name. Amen.