Summary: Joseph was not afraid to take the lead in his family, and opened his heart and his home to the Son of God.
Joseph was a dreamer. This was true of the Old Testament Joseph, the son of Jacob, derogatively referred to as “this dreamer” (Genesis 37:19). It was also true of the New Testament Joseph, recognised here as “the son of David” (Matthew 1:20).
Joseph Ben-Jacob’s dream got him into trouble through the young man’s seeming arrogance. But the fulfilment of his dream saved many lives internationally, and changed the history of Israel. Joseph Ben-David’s dream helped him find the path of duty, and his obedience helped change the salvation history of the world.
Joseph the betrothed of Mary found himself in a dilemma when his intended was found to be with child by the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1:18). To break off the engagement and put Mary to public shame was an intolerable idea. Yet, on the appearance of things, Joseph could not marry Mary (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
So being a gentle and considerate man, endowed like all true believers with the righteousness which comes from God (Matthew 1:19), Joseph did nothing that he might regret afterwards (Isaiah 28:16). Joseph no doubt acted as all believers should, praying things over until the path of duty became clear. The answer came through an angelic appearance in a dream (Matthew 1:20).
Sometimes when we are having a restless night whilst waiting for an answer from the Lord, we are like the night-watchmen who long for the morning shift to relieve them (Psalm 130:6). We long to sing “Morning has broken”, but are uncertain what the day might hold. At such times we might turn over just one more time, and suddenly be awakened by a moment of lucidity which puts everything into its divine perspective.
It was while Joseph was turning things over in his troubled mind that he received the angelic visitation. Although this was a dream (Matthew 1:20), a vision of the night (Job 20:8), it was no nebulous apparition. The angel was substantial, a tangible reality, with a message from God.
Joseph was instructed to put aside his fears and, as the son of David, to operate in faith (Matthew 1:20). What he was then told was remarkable, but confirmed what Mary had also been told by the angel (Luke 1:35): the child was conceived by the Holy Ghost. Mary would bring forth a son and call His name Jesus (the same name as Joshua, which means Saviour) because He was sent to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
Matthew then adds one of his trademark quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures (Matthew 1:22-23). As we will often find throughout Matthew’s Gospel, the applications which he makes are somewhat surprising, adding a new dimension to the fulfilment of the prophecies. The young woman who would bear a son called Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14), was not ultimately the queen bearing Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:7), nor yet Zion bearing the remnant, but Mary bearing Jesus the Saviour.
When Joseph was aroused from sleep (Matthew 1:24) he had a choice, as we have a choice today: believe it, or believe it not. Since Joseph was a believer, he put his faith into action (James 2:18) and, oblivious now to the potential for gossip or stigma, obeyed the angel’s message and married Mary. If we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15), no matter how painful to the flesh they may seem.