Easter - 2018

Monday, December 6, 2010

Joseph - the Measure of a Man!

"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." - Matthew 1:19
A Study of Matthew 1:19 From The Berean Advocate Blog....
The focus now shifts from the pregnancy of Mary, to the reaction of Joseph. It was during the anticipation of marriage that Joseph learned the fact that Mary was with child. It is clear that at this point, “Mary had absolutely no means of proving her spotlessness to Joseph or to any other person in Nazareth,” stresses Lenski (Acts, 41-42). Upon hearing the news, it must have been a shock and great disappointment to Joseph. When he learns of Mary’s condition, he knew nothing of how this conception transpired. There is no indication that Mary told of the announcement of the angel. The passive “was found” (heurethe) in verse 18 has the sense of “proved to be,” indicating Joseph became aware of the condition of Mary when it became evident. At this point, his thinking would have been naturally the same as you or I would think—she had been unfaithful. We can only imagine what went through his mind: His intense hurt, sorrow, and anger.

In verse 19, we see a state of his ambivalence. Ambivalence is “the co-existence of opposite and conflicting feelings.” (American College Dictionary, 40). This is reflected in our text and brought out in two phrases, which reflect a tension between the two feelings.

First, “being a just man.” The word just is the Greek word dikaios meaning one obedient to the commands of God; an upright and law abiding man; a man of character and integrity. It refers to the inward condition of the heart, as well as, his outward conduct. Marriage had now become unthinkable to his mind. He was unable in good conscience go ahead with the marriage. The relationship had to be terminated. Jewish law required a man to divorce an adulterous wife (Deut. 24:1), in which he would have been expected to make a public example of her. This would have made Mary an object of public humiliation. Under the Old Testament Law, the penalty was stoning (Deut.13-21), but the Romans did away which such a penalty, so that divorce was the normal response.

Second, Joseph was a man of discretion. Not wanting to make her a public example, he was minded to put her away secretly. Being made a public example meant putting her to public shame, and thus a disgrace. Joseph was unwilling to put her to public shame (same word as Colossians 2:15: “make a public spectacle”). By putting her away secretly reveals his compassion, love, and concern for Mary. He wrestled with the conflict between his sense of justice and love. He tempered his sense of justice with mercy. While wanting to be obedient to the Law, he wanted to do it with compassion. Joseph had a choice as to how he was going to do it. He could have done it in a public forum, and asked for a trial to see if the unfaithfulness was by force or consent. That was his right. This meant public exposure of Mary as being unfaithful. He acted not on the side of his rights, but compassion. He was “minded” not to put her to open shame by trail, but divorce her secretly. This was simply done by handing her a letter of divorce privately in the presence of two witnesses (Num. 5:11-13). He was “not wanting” to do otherwise. This brings forth the emotional element that leads to his determination and action. It is vital to understand that the element of emotion did not lead to bypassing the Law (cf. Lev. 20:10), rather, it lead to carrying it out with compassion and discretion. This is a good lesson for us to learn. Turner reminds us that “Joseph becomes something of a model of one whose high standards are balanced with compassion” (Turner, BECNT: Matthew, 65). May we be such men!

I am taking this Christmas to rediscover the joy of Christmas and to work at living up Joseph's example in integrity, compassion, and love. - You know I love ya, Don

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