Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Joseph's Dilemma: When Divorcing Mary is Right (Or, Is There Any Better Plan?)

Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21, NLT).

Before the angel explained this to Joseph, it must have been intensely personal and painful for him. Imagine: Mary’s unplanned pregnancy was a shock! Joseph must felt betrayed. We don’t know how he really reacted, but we are told how he planned to respond: “[Joseph] was a good man and did not want to disgrace [Mary] publicly so he decided to break the engagement quietly” (Matthew 1:19). Hurt and disappointed as he must have been, he still refused to take things out on Mary. A gentleman indeed. Mary might die stoned by the people if Joseph had gone public with Mary’s pregnancy and disavowed his own involvement. But the Scriptures tells us that Joseph could not set aside his personal character as a “good” (or righteous) man. But he did have to set aside pride and disappointment in order to practise compassion toward Mary.

By the way, Joseph’s intention were correct according to the law, but God intervened with a better plan: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” If Joseph was not persuaded by Mary’s explanation, then God provided the second witness that confirmed the story. Until Joseph faced the angel, the only possible explanations had been negatively human. Suddenly, with God in the picture, the shattering changes become filled with hope and promise.

Like Joseph, once we discover God’s direction, our actions ought to be determined and immediate. Joseph married Mary and honoured her special role by not physically consummating the marriage until after Jesus was born. “When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus” (Matthew 1:24-25). Soon or later, like Joseph, paying attention to God will lead us to take actions no one else seems to be taking. Following God’s guidance may involve not following what others are doing or what others think should be done.

Think about this: Waiting on God doesn’t necessary mean doing nothing. We want him to direct our lives and that may well mean taking the steps we know we can take. There are always obedient actions we can undertake while we are waiting for direction in some area. Like Joseph, move forward, trusting God’s guidance. Believe in Him.

God helps me to follow You, even when Your will leads me far from what others are doing
or what others think should be done.
I ask You to help me obey immediately, with determination, like Joseph. Amen.

Life Application Study Bible Devotional: Daily Wisdom from the Life of Jesus (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011)

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