It’s about time we jump into the text… and get our feet wet in the gospels.
We’ve talked about context… and getting to know the neighborhood… and the promised Messiah. Now lets just look closely at the arrival of that Messiah. We’ll ask the question… “When little baby Jesus arrived, was there anyone, in faith, looking for Him”?
You may have already noticed it. How is Joseph described? The text says he was “a righteous man”. How should we understand that description? There are a couple possible interpretations.Sometimes the term is used to describe those who think they are righteous… but they really aren’t (Matthew 9:11-13, Luke 15:7,Luke 18:9, Luke 20:20). These are the self-righteous folks who are more concerned with their outward appearance than their inner spirituality. Jesus warns us against being like these people (Matthew 23:27-28).Other times the word “righteous” is used, from God’s perspective, to describe the true spiritual state of someone. We know from our studies in the rest of the New Testament that no one is righteous in and of themselves… but true righteousness comes only from God… through faith in Him (Galatians 3:11). It’s been this way since the beginning. Faith is the reason Abel was considered righteous (Heb 11:14). It’s why Abraham was considered righteous… because he had faith in God.So we come back to how Joseph is described in Matthew 1:19. Is the text suggesting that Joseph was a self-righteous man… or is it pointing to the fact that he was truly righteous from God’s perspective? I believe the next few verses give us the answer.An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream (vs. 20) and says, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid…”. I think that little description is another clue. Joseph… you are a son of David… don’t be afraid…
Son of David is another way of saying that Joseph is a man of faith. In the Old Testament, God gave a promise to David that his kingdom would last forever. The problem is… David died and his earthly kingdom didn’t last forever. God was communicating the promise he had originally made to Eve… then passed along to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God was telling David that the promised Messiah would come from his line. The genealogy in the beginning of Matthew tells us that Joseph was a physical descendant of David… Joseph’s response tells us he was a spiritual descendant as well.
The angel gives Joseph some specific information about Mary’s baby… and some specific instructions about what to do (vs. 20-21). In faith, Joseph follows the instructions. Now that he knows what God is up to, Joseph doesn’t show concern about what this is going to look like. If he was self-righteous, he would have divorced her very publicly and put some distance between himself and Mary. But, that’s not what we see him do. From his place of faith, Joseph obeys God’s instructions. Righteous people recognize when they hear God speak because they already have a relationship with him.