Matthew 1:19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Close your eyes for just one moment and imagine you’re in the sandals of Joseph the carpenter, son of Jacob—a descendent of a long line of blood royalty. No doubt throughout your youth days, the proud lineage of the noble ancestry of king David was forever reiterated upon your impressionable consciousness. Your whole life you’ve lived in a small northern Palestinian district called Galilee, specifically the town of Nazareth. Technically, your inheritance of promise lay in the southern region—Judah to be precise, not within this present northern Israeli tribe of Zebulun! But, the days of hoping for your recovered land has long since gone and passed.
From a child you’ve diligently studied your faith, believing every Law of Moses lest one of the glorious promises should fail and you fall short. Isolated from the more prestigious southern brethren of Palestine, you lead a life full of duty and order. The synagogue the center, the family functioning around that stable edifice, day-in and day-out is spent as a struggle for existence in a land full of unsympathetic foreign occupiers. You hold that one dream, a reverie every noble and faithful nationalist is entitled to—the aspiration of marrying and finding a place in society. This is the one opportunity to reinvent your own future through a godly progeny, thus leaving your mark on humankind by creating an honorable legacy.
Having seen this little picture of Joseph’s life, go ahead and open eyes. The reality is, in the middle of this anticipated bright future comes an enormous dark cloud. His sweet young virgin bride, Mary the betrothed, has confessed to being found with child (stories of angelic visitations notwithstanding). Shocked and disturbed, Joseph, naturally realizes this can only mean one thing, the inevitable truth—the woman is an unfaithful adulterer! How pretentious to believe anything else.
Our 21st century society is filled with the same realities of infidelity. Generally the great reply, after the hurt sinks in, is anger, vengeance, and retribution—immediate reactions with impulsive behaviors to a terrible scenario. Naturally, the focus is on the one who who has been wronged. For Mary “the transgressor,” according to the Law of Moses, this meant speedy termination of life, or excommunication for sure if she were more fortunate. And who would blame Joseph for such a vindictive response?
But these are not actions belonging to this future caretaker of the Lamb of God. Instead of zealous indignation we read that Joseph, unwilling to put Mary to shame, considered these things. He thought about what to do! Joseph didn’t fly off the handle in rage; instead, he mused upon the situation—and was rewarded for his righteous carefulness. In the Greek language, the idea of the word considered is “to consider deeply.” It means the subject needs to revolve around in the mind, over-and-over, until the perfect resolution is discovered. This type of decision process takes time, pressing the mind into areas not willing to be confronted—even hurtful depths. Our immediate, “I hate you forever for hurting me” generation’s reaction does not practice this type of discipline. And because Joseph was willing to consider options rather than reacting, God honored him with the custodial care of the coming Messiah. It was while he was in the middle of considerations that an angel of the Lord appeared and revealed the plan of God. How much would have been missed if Joseph had not been a just man willing to think things through, not for himself, but mostly for the betterment of the “offender,” Mary—he was unwilling to put her to shame!
So, before reacting to life’s dark clouds, for your consideration—the life of Joseph!
J. Robert Hanson