Life is often a journey and requires trust.

Joseph and Mary were able to trust God for their present and future because they had been taught about God’s faithfulness in the past. This incredible example of faith reminds us that God can lead us even in our confusion and questions.

Joseph Will Trust God Even When It is Hard to Understand

Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married. Technically, they were betrothed, which was a ceremony in which they pledged themselves to a future union as spouses. This was the first major step in the act of marriage.

In due course, Mary tells him that she is pregnant. He first believes she was unfaithful and decided to divorce her. Divorce in our context presumes the couple has been married, is cohabitating, and has intercourse. Betrothal is very different from our way of understanding marriage and divorce. Betrothal was the pledge of faithfulness as they await the wedding ceremony. It was a firm agreement and Joseph wants to break it because of Mary’s assumed unfaithfulness.

Life is often a journey and requires trust.

Matthew writes about this in his gospel and relays, “But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Notice the command, “you are to name him.” Naming the child was the privilege of the father. The word from the messenger is that Joseph should not divorce her but should take on the role of father of this child.

There are so many questions to be answered. How did this happen? Why a dream like this? Is there a message in the dream? How do I deal with the fact that the person I’m betrothed to is pregnant?

Yet, Matthew says, “When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no martial relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.” Read it here.

I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord,
   the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us,
   and the great favour to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
   according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

Isaiah 63:7

Joseph Has a Memory of God’s Faithfulness

As noted above, Joseph displayed enormous trust in God, even when there were plenty of unanswered questions. The amount of words given to Joseph’s part in the story is quite smaller than the words given to Mary, but there are some things we can know.

Like Mary, Joseph was devout and was connected to his faith through regular worship, prayer, and the spiritual formation he received from his parents and his religious community. Joseph is not a blank slate, but has had the deeds of God told and retold to him in festivals, worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, and hearing the Scriptures read and taught in the synagogue. This is something Mary and Joseph passed on to Jesus as we read about here. There is a string of faithfulness that runs from generation to generation.

Joseph has heard of God’s deliverance out of Egypt, the giving of the Law, the patience of God through the wilderness wanderings, the giving of the land that was promised, and the commitment of God through the ups and downs of the judges and kings. He would have been taught of the dreams of the prophets and the hope of the Messiah.

Since he had a memory of God’s faithfulness, this created space within him to trust God. He realized that history is filled with God’s wild ways.

He Puts the Needs of Mary and Jesus in Front of Himself

Upon being educated by the messenger not to divorce Mary but to be faithful to her and to raise Jesus, Joseph does so. Though he was going to divorce her quietly because he cared deeply for her, he heeded the message from the angel.

Joseph raised Jesus like he would his own biological son. He taught him the family trade. Jesus would later be referred to as “the carpenter’s son.” We read that in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55.

What Jesus needed in an earthly father, Joseph provided. Jesus had a father who put the needs of his child in front of his own. Jesus had a father who loved his mother and did what was needed. They worshipped together and traveled together and made the worship of God a priority and scheduled their life around it.

Oh, how we need God to raise up parents and spouses with the heart of Joseph.

He is Faithful to God and Yields to God’s Plan with Trust

As I wrote about here, the word I would use to describe Mary and Joseph is “surrender.” They know enough about God and God’s work of salvation and care that they see God as trustworthy.

Psalm 9:1 reads, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”

One facet of our regular worship service is the retelling of the story of God among us. When we retell the story of Exodus or the call of the prophets or the life of Christ in the gospels, we are explaining to one another that God is indeed trustworthy. It is impossible to trust someone you know nothing about, thus it is necessary to recount the wonderful deeds of God both in Scripture and in history.

When we are familiar with the stories, especially the gospels, we see the tender heart of God. The gospel produces a desire to know more and to cling more closely to the Lord. This was the experience that worked in the heart of Simon Peter (John 6:68-69), “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Peter says what was lived out in Joseph’s life, these words of revelation are good for my life; I will live them.

May God shape us by the Word of grace and may we be formed by God’s tender care of us. May we know God’s faithfulness so that we may trust God for what is ahead.

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