Lately I was listening to a sermon about the birth of Jesus, and then the preacher was talking about Joseph being a righteous man. I was trying to recall all the stories I ever heard of the new testament Joseph, but sadly, I believe most of us are unable to recall much about him. Hence, I decided to call him, the unsung hero of the new testament.
Whenever any Christan thinks about the new testament and the stories of Jesus, image of Mary having the baby Jesus, the preaching of John the baptist and many other people and events come into our mind. But yet in most of these stories. Joseph is never featured prominently in them .
Yet, the bibles “verdict” of the man named Joseph is such as written in 1 small verse in Matthew,
“Then Joseph her husband, being a just man,” – Matthew (Matt 1:19)
In fact, God has chosen Joseph to play a very important role in the salvation plan of God. And Joseph was mainly chosen because of the fact that he is a just and righteous man.
If we could see the qualities of Joseph, you can see that Joseph was indeed a man that all guys have to aspire to be like.
So.. whats so special about Joseph?
Joseph Treatment To Mary
One of the greatness of Joseph as a man lies in the verse Matt 1:19. Joseph was suppose to marry his wife Mary, I believe he must be very excited about his wife. I understand that in Jewish tradition, when a lady is betroth to a guy, the guy will start to go back to his fathers house and start building a house for his wife and him to stay in.
(This is the same analogy Jesus use in John 14:1-4, that he must go and prepare a place for the bride of God, the church)
During that period, the man will use his best ability to make that future dwelling for his family, and we can imagine, that as he was working very hard and using his skills as the carpenter to create the best furniture, suddenly, there was a news that Mary his betroth was pregnant with a child, and he is definitely not the father of the child.
I believe my readers who are guys will agree with me, even if you do not uphold the tenets of marriage that this is a hard fact to accept. Moreover, the Jewish people valued chastity more than many other cultures. In fact, if we were to read up on the Mosaic law, you will know that Mary could have been killed by stoning (Deut 22:20-21).
Yet, as Matt 1:19 suggest, Joseph being a just man, does not want to shame Mary in public or to make a her public example, decided not to ask for Mary to be killed. But yet, because he is a just man, he cannot bear being treated unfairly, so he just chose to divorce Mary secretly.
For Joseph, he had chosen to bear with the pain of having an unfaithful wife, yet he has chosen not to take his rights for vengeance. This is an exact display of his character as a man. He will rather choose to suffer quietly and not shame Mary in public. This is one gentlemanly act that deserves admiration. Nowadays, we live in a world where we wanted so much to get even with people, with our family members and even with our fellow brothers and sisters in church. But over here you see that Joseph gave up his rights to get even, but rather he still move one step further to care for the person who hurt him.
In fact, if guys think that Joseph ability to make that decision is done without any struggle, maybe should read the next few verses of that chapter carefully.
“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do no…………” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife” (Matt 1:20-24)
So ask yourself this question, “is it possible to be thinking yet sleeping? Is that an contradiction?” In fact, i do not think so, lately I have been pretty distressed over problems in life, and sometimes while I rest on my bed, the thoughts are still bugging me. Sometimes that torment was so bad, that I did not realise i was sleeping. Hence, I can fully empathise with how Joseph must be feeling.
While the struggle was happening, can you still imagine Joseph building his new house using all his strength to build it, while feeling sad about Mary his wife? In order for Joseph to put Mary away quietly, he must continue to work on the house as if nothing happens. It is indeed both a mental and physical torture to Joseph. And I am sure he must be tired out both mentally and physically.
Joseph Knowledge of the Scripture
Have you ever wondered if Joseph had a dream or seen a vision? Over there we can see that Joseph must have dream a dream while being asleep. If you are skeptic, will you just accept what your dreams tells you? Joseph obedience is not because he dreams a dream, yet it was because of his knowledge of the scriptures.
The Jews had long awaited the messiah and most young Jewish boys should be very acquainted with the scriptures as they spend their childhood learning it. The Jews had waited for the messiah ever since they finished rebuilding the 2nd Temple (516 BC – 4BC).
So when the angel quoted the Isaiah Prophecy (Is 7:14) he is well acquainted that when the Messiah came, he would be born of a virgin. Hence Joseph obeyed words of the angel. In fact, in order to make sure Mary remains a virgin through the pregnancy period. He chose not to have any relations with Mary until Jesus was born (Matt 1:25)
In fact, Joseph was living in a era where most people had lost their faith in Judaism.They have waited so long for the messiah that they have lost their hope. Although there was the high priest and the sacrificial system, religion to the Jews had become a means of growing businesses. You can notice the nonchalant attitude of the Priest compared to the wise man, who came all the way from the east to seek the king of the Jews. This makes the faith of Joseph a contrast to most of the religious leaders of that time.
God’s Calling for Joseph
Perhaps some of you may wonder, what is God’s mission of Joseph? Although Joseph did not receive exact instructions (like Moses and the burning bush) on what his objectives are, we can easily make a educated guess by looking at the story of Jesus. Personally I felt that the movie “The Nativity Story” captures quite a huge portion it.
Joseph’s “Mission Objectives”
1. Help the heavily pregnant Mary to Bethlehem from Nazareth (approx 80 miles) bearing in mind
a. They need to pass by the lands of the Samaritans (Hostile Against Jews)
b. If they are on a caravan, that will be around 4 days journey (20 Miles per day)
2. When in Bethlehem, he needs to take care of Mary by getting her a place to rest and to give birth to baby Jesus.
a. This is to fulfil the prophecy of by Prophet Micah (Mic 5:2)
3. He had to help Mary and Baby Jesus to escape to Egypt safely and to protect and take care of them in a foreign land
a. To fulfil Hoseas Prophecy (Hosea 11:1)
4. After the death of Herod the great, to bring Mary and Baby Jesus back to Nazareth
a. To fulfil what the prophets says “He will be called a Nazarene (Matt 2:23)
5. To teach Jesus to become a carpenter and to take care of him all the days of his life.
Personally I think Joseph spent all his days taking care of Jesus, at least for a good 20-30 years of Jesus life. When Jesus started his ministry in Galilee, he was around 30, and there was no mention of Joseph anymore. Perhaps I would think Joseph would have passed away sometime before Jesus started his ministry. (CF Matt 13:55-56, Matt 12:46-50)
All these duties, Joseph had discharged quietly, away from the records of the apostles and the stories of Jesus. In fact, the failure of Joseph to take care of Jesus and to train him, would result to a big failure in Gods salvation plan. It is no wonder that God has chosen our unsung hero to take on this role, because he had so much qualities that the people of his time lacked.
Lessons from the life of Joseph
As I was pondering over the life of Joseph, a few points came to my mind.
1. Joseph had a very big heart.
To think that Joseph was willing to suffer in silence although he was very offended by what Mary did, is a big contrast to our modern world. Among the modern man, we can often see acts of revenge and vengeance. We seems to hold on to “An Eye for An Eye” “A tooth for a tooth” . Even among church brothers there are people who said “I will have my last laugh , wait till the table turn”. Yes, indeed in our walk of faith, there will always be people that will hurt us and we will be angry with. But is it worth it to keep holding on to the anger and let it burn your soul to death? Joseph would rather condition himself to deal with the situation, then to demand Mary to be made a public example.
2. Joseph remained a poor man despite his great work before God
Joseph service to God was very big, he got the honour to take care of the most precious Immanuel. This is not a simple task, as we can see the job scope of Joseph. Yet he never asked for anything from God. I am sure if we are in his shoes, we would ask God to bless us with possessions, to help us do our duties better. Yet Joseph received nothing, although the wise man brought with them the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, I have a feeling those are the items provided by God to help Joseph to get the passage to Egypt.
Alot of times, we tend to be able to hold on to our faith and to do Gods work when times are good, there are even times when we hope that God will bless us with things for our hard work. Personally, it is not wrong to ask God for blessings to help us perform our work better. But what happens when prayers for blessings are not answered? Will we still be willing to serve God even in poverty? Joseph is only a carpenter, not a very noble profession, and is not a work of the rich. Yet with all his strength, Joseph was willing to flee with Mary to Egypt and to stay there. It is not known how long they stayed in Egypt and how did Joseph survive there. (But I guess at least for a good 6-7 years, as boy Jesus was presented to the temple in Jerusalem at the age of 12)
In fact Joseph social status can be seen in the offering he made for Jesus in the temple shortly after his birth. Lev 12:8 tells us that a woman would have to offer a sacrifice to God after 7 days of her childbirth. If they unable to provide a lamb, they are allowed to carry turtledoves for sacrifice (as they can be caught at no cost). Joseph offered 2 turtledoves on the day of Jesus circumcision Lk 2:22-24.
It is hope that we can all emulate Joseph, to learn to serve God in all situation, irregardless of how tough the situation around us becomes.
3. Joseph serve God all the way till his death
I am always inclined to think that Joseph must have thought Jesus the art of carpentry and he must have taken care of Jesus with all his abilities all the days of his life. Although the bible was silent about the growing years of Jesus, we know that Joseph continue to be faithful to God and kept all the requirements of the law. From the incident of Jesus and the scholars of the temple (Lk 2:41-50) . We can see Joseph actually travelled from Nazareth back to Jerusalem to keep the Passover feast.
Many a times, Christians who found God, were very fervent in the first few years of their conversion. A while later, they would start to be lukewarm in faith and quite a good number of them are unable to keep their faith at the very end of their lives.
Let us recall what Joshua said to the children of Israel before his death
“Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua (Jos 24:14-15)
Let us learn to keep our faith and serve God all the days of our lives.