Summary: A first-person narrative of Joseph, showing his dilemma and his decision.
Joseph’s Tenacious Love
Rev. Brian Bill
[Note: A spike was placed under every chair in the auditorium]
It’s a bit awkward for me to be speaking to you today because I’m known as a man of very few words. I may look like one of your long-winded pastors but my name is actually Joseph. I’m the only character in the Christmas account that doesn’t say a word. I actually did speak a little, and at times I wanted to scream a lot, but Matthew and Luke didn’t write down anything I said. I’m fine with that because it helps to keep the focus where it belongs.
Most of my relatives lived in Bethlehem but my home was in Nazareth. This was a small agricultural village that at one time was beautifully secluded. When I was a young boy the pagans started putting up altars to their gods and it became a pretty dark place to live. Then, when the Romans started pushing their weight around, my little town was run down by them and became known as a place of bad morals. People even made fun of how we talked, kind of like how many of you tease people from Wisconsin for their accent. A disciple named Nathanael, who was from Nazareth, said these words in John 1:46: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
I’m known as a carpenter but I was more like a general contractor. I was good with hammers and nails [hold up spike] and I also worked with stone. Most of the homes in Nazareth did not have much wood in them but I would make furniture and sell it to other communities that could afford it. My father’s name was Jacob and he was a carpenter as well. I dreamt of the day I could pass along my trade to my son. My parents always teased my about being a dreamer, pointing out that the Joseph of the Old Testament was also known for his dreams.
One of my dreams was to be as righteous as I could be. I loved God so much that I wanted to live out my faith in every way. I’m a bit embarrassed that Matthew referred to me as a “righteous man” in 1:19 but I had become known as a tsaddiyq (sawd-deek). That’s a Hebrew word that was reserved for someone who was known for his uncompromising obedience to the Law of Moses. I was careful about what I ate, who I hung out with, and how I spent the Sabbath. I didn’t just do spiritual things; my very identity was a tsaddiyq. People admired me and little boys wanted to be like me. I understand in your culture that people look up to athletes and actors; from what I’ve been reading I think you’re aiming way too low.
I should tell you that while I was a tsaddiyq and therefore kept my distance from anything out there that would derail me spiritually; I was also unsettled by what kind of blood flowed within me. Let me explain. I had the wonderful benefit of being related to King David. That meant that I had some royalty in my veins and I knew that the Messiah would one day rule on David’s throne. However, just as many of you have some nuts hanging off the branches in your family tree, one of my relatives really messed things up for me. Let me take you way back to an incident that happened in Jeremiah 36. In David’s line there was a wicked king named Jehoiakim who when confronted with Scripture, decided to burn the scroll written by the prophet Jeremiah. As a result, verse 30 states: “…He will have no one to sit on the throne of David.” I’ll come back to this curse later.
So I had some fame but my family name was also filled with shame because of what Jehoiakim had done. As a tsaddiyq I determined to delight in Scripture and not disparage it like he did. I had it all – a strong faith, a good family and a lot of friends. My business was going well and my dreams for the future were filled with images of a beautiful maiden named Mary.
Our families had known each other for many years and our parents had actually arranged for us to get married. I was OK with that because she was beautiful on the outside and on the inside. I was really attracted to her faith because she was a woman who feared the Lord. There was no way I wanted to marry someone who was lukewarm toward the Lord. I hear that believers in your culture often settle for a spiritual mismatch in matrimony.
I was quite a bit older than Mary when we got engaged. My dad used to tell me a joke that went something like this: Son, I hope you marry a pretty girl on our side of the street because your mama says you’re too young to cross the street! Then he would tip his head back and laugh for a few minutes. Our engagement period, or betrothal, was very serious. We had a ceremony with two witnesses and we signed an official marriage contract. I gave Mary a present and her father made a down payment on her dowry. This betrothal period often lasted a year and people referred to us as husband and wife.