Bible Study for Dec. 9: Joseph’s Obedience

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Matthew 1:18-25
Jim Duggan, Pastor
Bellevue Baptist Church, Macon

Often God’s greatest work is found in what appears to be the interruptions of our lives. The announcement to Joseph concerning Mary’s pregnancy was not something he expected to hear. Yet, through this miraculous birth, God provided His plan of redemption. Joseph had to consider his options. Thankfully, he chose the option of going along with God’s plan.

Joseph’s Plan Interrupted

“…Mary had been engaged to Joseph…” In the first century, betrothal was a legally binding agreement that a man and woman would marry. During the betrothal period, the groom made all the necessary preparations to begin life as a couple.

“…it was discovered….”  Luke 1 reveals that Mary spent about three months with her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant as well. Apparently, she was beginning her third trimester and unable to hide the physical evidence of her pregnancy. 

“…before they came together…” During this time, betrothed couples refrained from intimate relations and did not live together. They were legally married but did not physically consummate their relationship.

“…being a righteous man…” The same fidelity expectations existed during the betrothal period as after the marriage ceremony. Joseph would risk his own reputation and public standing by proceeding with the betrothal agreement.

“…divorce her secretly…” The law allowed him to legally divorce her on ground of apparent infidelity. Joseph’s motive for the secret divorce was to avoid shaming Mary. 

In one moment, Joseph’s future seemed be falling apart. He had to decide the best course forward for himself and for Mary. Often, we fail to realize that changes to our perceived plan may be God’s intended course all along. 

God’s Plan Revealed

“Joseph, son of David…” From a legal standpoint, Joseph would be Jesus’ earthly “father.” This description reminds Joseph that he is in line to be part of fulling the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah 9:7 and 11:1. The genealogy in Luke traces Jesus’ ancestry through Mary back to David.  In both the legal and forensic senses, Jesus would be a descendant of David.

“…what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit…” Joseph found himself right in the middle of the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. Had he acted merely from a human and legal standpoint, he would have missed being part of the most awesome event in history.

“She will give birth to a son…” In Isaiah 9:6, God promised that a son would be given. This child would not be just another child, He would be the gift of God to the world. John 3:16 reminds us that God so loved the world that He gave…”

“See, the virgin will become pregnant…” The language of the Old Testament in Isaiah 7:14 leaves room for what is translated there as “virgin” to also mean young woman. However, the word chosen in the New Testament language of Matthew leaves no doubt that Jesus was born of a virgin – a woman who had never had intimate relations with a man.

The virgin birth of Jesus was not inserted to make the story more interesting. It is an essential doctrine relating to God’s plan for our salvation. The Bible teaches that sin is passed down through Adam. Sin is both an inherent nature and a willful choice. Through the virgin birth, Jesus came as a sinless sacrifice.

God’s Plan Followed

“…he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded.” Joseph obeyed God in three areas. He went through with the marriage. He abstained from intimacy with Mary until after Jesus’ birth. And they named the child Jesus.

How often does God speak to us through Bible study or a sermon, clearly leading us to obey Him, and we either delay or fail to obey? Joseph’s obedience was immediate and complete.

“And he named Him Jesus.” In verse 21, the angel told Joseph what the baby’s name should be and why. This baby would be the deliverer. Jesus would save people, not from Roman domination, but from an even greater enemy – their sins.

Questions for Reflection:

When was a time that something worked out differently than you expected?

What are some ways your life has been shaped by unexpected circumstances?

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