Matthew 1:18-25 | Joseph – A Faithful Man
Matthew 1:18-25 18This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yetdid not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20But 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, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
There is not a lot about Joseph contained in scripture. Most of what is found in the Bible is right here in Matthew 1:18-25. But what we discover here is that Joseph was a man whom you & I would do well to imitate in many ways. And that just makes sense.
The man whom God would choose as Jesus’ adopted father, who would teach Jesus in his formative years, would be vital to His plan. Joseph serves as a great example to us in several areas:
Matthew gives some titles for Joseph: Descendant of Abraham. Son of David.
Joseph was engaged to Mary.
Matthew 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
Betrothal or engagement often lasted about 1 year. Engagement was as legally binding as marriage. During the betrothal period a young man and women would not be together except for a chaperone/supervisor in Galilee (supervisor, someone who would accompany them). The engagement can only be dissolved only either by divorce or death. Intimacy before marriage was forbidden. Bride’s adultery makes divorce mandatory. Death penalty rarely enforced for this offence in this period. But the girl would have to undergo shame and character assassination.
Now remember, Joseph and Mary had been planning a wedding. If they were living in the present day, they would be calling every day and planning their wedding. They would talk about the decorations, dress, camera and so on. All of a sudden God told them to prepare a nursery.
Joseph comes to know through the angel that Mary is pregnant and see his response here: Matthew 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
1. Joseph Is An Example Of Righteousness.
Joseph was a righteous man. Matthew says Joseph was faithful to the law.
To be “righteous” means to be in “right” standing; to do the right things towards both God and other people.
Joseph was a “righteous” man — that is, he wanted to do the right thing. In this case, that meant that his fiancé, Mary, was found to be with child — He didn’t know at the time that this was by the Holy Spirit. There was only one explanation for this: that she had been unfaithful to him while she was engaged to him.
In Jewish culture, when you were “betrothed” to someone, it was a strong bond; you basically had to be “divorced” from it.
Matthew writes about this in Matthew 5: Matthew 5:31-32 31“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
This is what Joseph was going to do.
Matthew 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
So Joseph Was Going To Do The Right Thing.
This is what the Jewish customs required. Joseph thought Mary was found to be immoral, and so he was going to do the right thing and sever that relationship. He was a righteous man, who had godly, righteous standards.
Application: We must uphold godly standards. God’s word must not be compromised. Our standards of leadership, our church membership; our adherence to Bible doctrines, must not be compromised no matter who the person is — or we will soon find ourselves to be no church at all, with the Bible tossed out the window!
Are you able to stand up for the truth like Joseph? Maybe your friends are doing wrong, others are doing things the worldly way but we have a standard based on God’s word and we need to stand for the truth of God’s word.
Joseph is an example of righteousness and we need to be examples of righteousness in this world.
2. Joseph Is An Example Of Love And Sensitivity.
But Joseph was not only an example of a man of righteousness and holiness, he was also an example of sensitivity and love. Joseph was a man who loved Mary and was sensitive to her feelings.
When Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy he had a few options to consider:
Joseph could have had her publicly stoned according to Deuteronomy 22:23.
Then, he could have divorced her in a public manner with a full and open trial.
Also, he could have divorced her quietly and privately before only two witnesses according to Numbers 5:11-30.
In v. 19 we read Joseph’s decision. Matthew 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Because he was just man (a “righteous” man who observed God’s laws), not divorcing was not an option. But because of his compassion, he would not put Mary through the scandal of a public trial. He decided then to divorce her secretly (before only two witnesses).
He didn’t drag her out into the streets, like John 8 tells us that the scribes and the Pharisees did with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. There was going to be nothing like that from him. He didn’t want to “disgrace” her. He “planned to divorce her secretly.”
This says a lot about Joseph. He was indeed a righteous man. He did want to do the right thing, and uphold a holy, righteous standard for his family. But he also cared about Mary, and he was not going to just throw her out on the streets to be a public spectacle. He had a balance of both holiness, and of love; of godly standards, and yet sensitivity and concern for people.
Example for husbands.
This is a great example for husbands to love their wives and be sensitive to their feelings. Joseph was sensitive even though he did not marry Mary. How much more a married husband must be loving and caring for his wife?
Example for keeping godly standards and being sensitive about people. Joseph is a great example for us in keeping the balance: to both do the right thing and yet at the same time, to still be sensitive and care about people.
It is far easier — and far more common — to either uphold your standards and not care about people; or to just go the other way and care about people, but let your standards slip to do it.
I think one of the hardest things in the world is to keep a balance of both of these things: to hold to the righteous standards that God has given us in His word, and yet not to hold them coldly, but to genuinely love and care about the people who are involved
We must adhere to the standards of holiness that God has given us in His word.
2 Timothy 1:13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
If we ignore the standards that God has given us in His word, then we cease to be a genuine church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our society is constantly try to drag the church down to its level morally. There is so much pressure today for churches to compromise with the times.
But here is the thing. We must seek to always hold to the clear teaching of the word of God, but at the same time, we must do it with sensitivity and love. Christians who adhere to the clear teaching of the word of God on homosexuality or adultery are regularly accused of “hate” towards those who practice it. We need to make sure that we do NOT hate them; but seek to genuinely love them and want God’s best for them.
We need to learn to follow the example of Joseph and try to do everything that we do, with sensitivity and love. No “holier than thou” attitudes that we are too often found guilty of. How often is there an article in the news about something that someone did, and then all over Facebook people start posting things like:
When we hear about other people’s mistakes we often ask: “I know I wasn’t brought up that way” or “How could they do that?” Folks, we need to be careful about that. What do you mean “How could they do that?” Have you never been tempted to do evil? Have you never fallen short in your own life?
Listen, if you are a Christian, that means that you have already admitted that you have sinned against God, and that you are saved only by God’s grace through Jesus’ death on the cross, and not your own righteousness. There’s no room for a Christian to look down on any else’s sin, as if we could not have sinned. We know we already have! Now that doesn’t mean that their sin’s not wrong; it is. But we should also have a sensitivity and a sympathy towards them because we know that we are sinners too!
We need to pray that God would give us this balance of holiness and love that Joseph exemplifies here in Matthew 1. He was going to do what he thought needed to be done, but he wasn’t going to do it in a mean way. Also, he didn’t want to disgrace her. He would send her away secretly.
A lot of us have much to learn from Joseph’s example here:
We need to learn to uphold godly standards, but to do it with a broken heart, instead of with a self-righteous attitude.
Otherwise we become a 20th-century group of Pharisees that God despises because we don’t really love people like He does.
Each one of us has our own leanings; our own temptations in this area.
We need to recognize what they are.
Do you lean more towards godly standards? Then watch out for the temptation to criticism of others, self-righteousness, and cold-hearted action.
Do you lean more towards caring for people? Then watch out, lest you take your love for people so far that it compromises your love for God which He said is evidenced by obedience to His word, which must never be compromised.
Keeping love and truth in balance is one of the most difficult tasks of the individual Christian life, and of the Christian church. We need to pray fervently that God would help us to do that; and we can learn better how to keep that balance from following the example of Joseph here in Matthew 1.
3. Joseph Is An Example Of Obedience.
Matthew 1:24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Joseph demonstrated his obedience to God in a number of ways:
- He determined that he was going to obey the Law by sending Mary away.
- He did as the angel of God commanded him. When the angel told him to take Mary as his wife, despite every objection any natural person might have had, v24 says he awoke “and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.”
- Joseph called His name Jesus just as he was told. Matthew 1:25
- Joseph left for Egypt as per the angel’s command. In Matthew chapter 2, you see that Joseph is still obeying God. After the visit of the magi in 2:13, an angel told him to get up and take Jesus and Mary to Egypt, because King Herod was going to attempt to kill the child — and:14 says that “Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.”
We can find the obedience of Joseph even after Herod died, Joseph was told by God to take Jesus back to Israel.
Matthew 2:19-23 19After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
With this, Joseph passes entirely from the scene in Matthew. We never hear from him again. We read something about him at the end of Luke 2, where it says that Jesus was 12, and his family had gone to Jerusalem to the Passover, and it tells us that “His parents” were traveling with Him, and at the end it says “He continued in subjection to them” — so evidently Joseph lived for some amount of time after that, that it could say that Jesus continued in subjection to him.
Basically we hear nothing substantial about Joseph after Matthew chapter 2. But what we find of him here give us a great example of obedience:
Joseph Obeyed God’s Word.
He obeyed the revelation God gave him through the angel and in the dreams Obey God’s word. Just like Joseph obeyed the revelation God gave him in the angel and the dreams; so we need to learn to obey the revelation that God has given to us, in His word. We need to make sure that we don’t just come to church to LISTEN to God’s word, but that we come prepared to OBEY it!
Joseph Obeyed When It Was Difficult.
Or maybe even humanly impossible to understand. Obey God when it is difficult. Just like Joseph, we need to obey even when it is difficult for us; when we don’t understand why. Joseph didn’t understand everything about the virgin birth — but he accepted it and obeyed. In the same way, there are going to be things we do not understand God’s word today. But our commitment needs to be like his: If God’s word says it, then we will do it
Joseph Obeyed God Instantly.
Joseph obeyed when it was very important to do so. Delayed obedience could have cost the life of his family. We need to learn to obey immediately. Had Joseph delayed in obeying God by going that night to Egypt, it might have cost the lives of Mary & Jesus. How many times do we pay the price, for not obeying God immediately? When God shows us something in His Word, we should obey it immediately, not later.
Every instance we read of him here is of obedience to God. We need to learn to obey like he did.
Someone said, “Faithfulness Tomorrow Is to Fail Today” — the point of which was that obeying God is not just a matter of thinking you are going to obey Him tomorrow; you need to be faithful and obey Him TODAY!
“Delayed obedience is disobedience.”
Like Joseph, do it now!
Joseph is a young mand and had all of his life ahead of him. Mary had all of her life ahead of her. But they obeyed the dream that God gave.
Obedience is one of the most important signs that you really are a Christian, and that you love the Lord.
John 14:15 If you love Me, keep My commands.
Luke 6:46 Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?
No, you aren’t saved by your obedience. But if you are really saved, you are going to obey. And if you consistently disobey God, it is one of the surest signs that you have never really come to know Him at all.
4. Joseph Is An Example Of Self-Control.
Matthew 1:25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
They abstained from intimacy until the child was born. After marriage Joseph had all right to consummate their marriage, but Joseph and Mary exercised self-control.
Young married couples were usually poor, hence they have been living in one single room if he had not finished constructing his house. Joseph and Mary if Joseph has not finished building his house yet, Joseph and Mary may have been staying in a makeshift room in Joseph’s parent’s home.
They were married but they chose to exercise self-control. They lived together but stayed away. But Joseph and Mary show us that we can control ourselves. It is a shame to the culture today who say we cannot control ourselves.
They chose to abstain, so it would be not just a virgin conception, but a virgin birth.
Some of us need to learn that we must uphold godly standards. God’s word must not be compromised. Our standards of leadership, our church membership; our adherence to Bible doctrines, must not be compromised no matter who the person is — or we will soon find ourselves to be no church at all, with the Bible tossed out the window!
But others of us need to learn to uphold godly standards, but to do it with a broken heart, instead of with a self-righteous attitude, lest we become a 20th-century group of Pharisees that God despises because we don’t really love people like He does.
Each one of us has our own leanings; our own temptations in this area. We need to recognize what they are: Do you lean more towards godly standards? Then watch out for the temptation to criticism of others, self-righteousness, and cold-hearted action. Do you lean more towards caring for people?
Then watch out, lest you take your love for people so far that it compromises your love for God which He said is evidenced by obedience to His word, which must never be compromised.
So Joseph is a great example to us, of how to live a life of holiness and obedience towards God, and love towards other people. As I talk about the exemplary lie of Joseph, remember he too is a human. If we knew more about him, we’d know all about his failures too. Joseph wasn’t perfect. There were times when he didn’t love, and didn’t obey. Just like us. Joseph needed a Savior. Just like us. And he had every reason to celebrate just like us, that God was sending us this Child named Jesus “who will save His people from their sins.”