Summary: A character study of Joseph’s (Mary’s husband)life that challenges us to live life with awesome purpose.
HOW TO LIVE A LIFE THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD
Isn’t it true that a person’s real character comes out when they’re under stress? And stressful times can either be moments of growth or of devastation - or both.
Take the Aussie bush for example. A fire (stress) can bring about renewed growth in the bush – in fact for some plants fire is essential for survival.
Well Joseph knew about stress. In the Christmas story we see him faced with an enormous decision. And we see his true character revealed.
You see, Joseph’s choices at this point in history would not only transform his life, but would literally change the world forever.
In Joseph’s life we see an example of how people can live lives that will change the world.
1. Be of good character (v19a) (Righteous)
…Joseph her husband was a righteous man…(v19a)
The first thing we discover about Joseph is that God chose to work through him because he was a righteous man (v19a). Not righteous in the sense of being holier-than-thou, arrogant, smug and pompous. Not “self-righteous” – but fit for God’s purposes because he was beyond reproach.
That is, Joseph was a man of good character (OHP).
In other words Joseph kept the spirit of the law and conducted himself well in the community. And some words that might describe this kind of person are good, just, blameless, upright, honest, respectable, moral, and decent. And each of these qualities are matters of the heart.
Elsewhere in the Bible the Apostle Paul urges Believers to put on the armour of God. One of the items is “..the breastplate of righteousness.. ” (Ephesians 6:14).
Now Paul had the armor of a Roman soldier in mind. And a Roman soldier wore a breastplate to protect his heart in battle.
So if we want to be people who are used by God to change the world, we need to start by guarding our hearts. We need to be righteous; we need to be above reproach; we need to be of good character.
2. Be Compassionate (v19b)
(Mk 10:27; 2 Cor 2:14-15; Mt 5:7)
Now because Joseph was a man of good character, it shouldn’t surprise us to find that he was also a man of compassion (OHP).
We read in v19b that Joseph did not want to expose Mary to “public disgrace,” and that he “had in mind to divorce her quietly”.
The Christian writer J.I. Packer once said, “Only restraining and renewing grace enables anyone to keep the commandments.”
Joseph showed immense restraint here. Can you imagine how he must have felt when he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was pregnant? Furious? Betrayed? etc. There were probably a plethora of commandments Joseph wanted to break. Like spreading rumours about Mary, or perhaps even killing her (which he had the right to do in their culture – by stoning).
But Joseph must have been a man ruled by his character not his emotions. So God found Joseph to be a fit agent for change in the world because he was emotionally stable; a man characterized by thoughtful, deliberate and controlled compassion.
The ancient Greek writer Epictetus said, “No person is free who is not master of himself.” Joseph must have mastered his emotions enough to treat Mary with compassion.
I should explain that in ancient Israelite culture marriages were often arranged and an engagement was as good as marriage – though you didn’t live together. It was a bit like defacto relationships in Australian culture today – these relationships were legally recognized and so there were official obligations to each other. That’s why a certificate of divorce was necessary.
What strikes me about Joseph’s actions here though is the extraordinary depth of his compassion. I must say, he’s a better man than me – to keep his cool and not unleash the full extent of his wrath on what looked like an unfaithful wife.
When most other men would have just lost it, Joseph has a God moment. It kinda reminds me of a promise Jesus once gave, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27). Joseph’s compassionate response to this devastating news is quite simply a miracle from God.
And it’s the kind of response we would expect from someone God was using to change the world. His response is so unworldly that it must be of God. And isn’t that how Believer’s should be characterized? The Apostle Paul wrote that Believers …
2CO 2:15 are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
A Believer’s compassion must be of a depth that is so unworldly that onlookers can’t but admit that there is a God at work in our lives. A God who enables us to love with a depth of compassion unknown anywhere else in our world.