Read: Matthew 1:18-25, 1 Thessalonians 1:6
And her husband Joseph, being a righteous man… Matthew 1:19b
When I was a child I remember often times feeling indignant with some of the people of the Bible especially those ones that are part of the Christmas story. For example, the Inn Keeper – you are saying there is no room. Are you crazy?!? Don’t put that poor pregnant teen-ager on the street! Or Zechariah – Gabriel is an angel! If an angel comes to you with a message, believe what he says! Joseph – you’re kind of hard-headed aren’t you? I have since come to see that I was too hard on the characters in Scripture, especially Joseph.
Consider that before the angel comes to Joseph he found out that his fiancé is with child (Matt. 1:18b). It is easy to imagine Joseph’s struggle. Joseph’s trial comes to further light as we focus on the phrase, “And her husband Joseph, being a righteous man” (v. 19). The word “righteous” translates the Greek word “dikaios” which translates a Hebrew term “tsadiq.” A tsadiq was known for his uncompromising obedience to the OT Law. A tsadiq did not eat unclean foods, didn’t mix with the wrong kinds of people, and didn’t keep their carpentry shop open on the Sabbath. It is reasonable to assume that Joseph’s entire identity was wrapped in the fact that he was a tsadiq. And now Joseph has a serious problem. The girl that he has promised to marry is going to have a baby and Joseph knows he’s not the guy (v. 19a).
There is no question that God is teaching Joseph an important lesson. God is going to teach Joseph what it really means to be righteous. In getting his world turned upside down Joseph will have to struggle between what he thought defined righteousness and his longing to show compassion to this young girl. And through this struggle God is preparing Joseph to come to a whole new understanding of what righteousness looks like.
This one thing is for sure, Joseph’s days as an Old Testament tsadiq are over. Whatever the future has for him, it will not be the life of respectability. Things were never the same for Joseph.
People never looked at him with the same respect and adoration. Perhaps God decided that Jesus, who would be called a friend of sinners, should be raised in a family that knew first-hand what it felt like to be regarded as spiritually second-class. Maybe part of why Jesus had such a heart for unrespectable people is that he was raised in a family by a father who sacrificed his respectability for his son.
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Discuss: What lesson(s) does the story of Joseph’s trial teach you? How would you define righteousness? Does your definition of righteousness match what Scripture says about it?
Pray: Our Father, use this Christmas season to learn afresh that true righteousness only comes through having a relationship with your Son.
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