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Summary: How Joesph�s problem with Mary is illustrative w/God�s problem with mankind.

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Sermon: God�s Problem

Text: Matt 1:18-25

Where: Arbor House

When: Sunday, December 26, 2004

Occasion: Christmas I

Who: Mark Woolsey

I . Intro

"Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately." (Mat 1:19)

In this one verse are two phrases whose juxtaposition has puzzled me in times past. First it describes Joseph as "a just man", then turns right around and says, "not wanting to make her a public example". Most people today, I suppose, would not be puzzled by this at all. They would read the second phrase as an explanation of the first. That is, since Joseph was a just man, therefore he desired to not make a public example of his wife�s embarrassing condition. However, this never set right w/me. For one thing, being a just man does not mean kind; in fact, they are quite frequently at opposition with each other. For example, what would you do if you visited your only child and found out that his house was filled with stolen goods, and he knew they were stolen? To turn him in would be to guarantee his separation, not to mention his wrath. Yet to remain silent would be to participate in his crime in some way. According to John Calvin, this is the better interpretation of this passage.

II. Joseph�s Problem

Joseph was a just man, meaning that he desired above all else to maintain the integrity of the law. He must uphold the commandments of God as all faithful Jews were required to do. Accordingto Lev 20:10:I

If there is a man who commits adultery with another man�s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend�s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

This is justice. This is not simply what civil law demanded; it was God�s command.

And yet, he did not want to stone her; he didn�t even want to expose her to public ridicule. He loved his wife and desired to deliver her from this predicament if he could. How could he obey God and yet not violate his own tender feelings for this fair rose of Sharon?

III. God�s Problem

I�ve spent some time on this issue because it is illustrative of a similar problem God faced when He made the human race. Just as Joseph and Mary had started out with bright prospects of a happy future, so our sojourn in the garden in the person of Adam was full of promise and delight. But alas, Adam, and by representation we all, sinned. And not just any sin. This sin was a spiritual kin to adultery, the same sin of which Joseph suspected Mary. Unfortunately for God, though, what appeared to be true actually was true. We, His beloved children, those made in His own image, had rebelled and incurred the just sentence of death. God cannot go back on His word:

...for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Gen 2:17)

What�s God to do? How can He be just and the justifier of his guilty children? To pardon our guilt would be to deny His very essence, which is righteousness, yet to condemn our guilt would be to break His heart. How can He be righteous and yet not send us to everlasting misery in hell which burns, and all those in it, forever?


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