Thoughts on Matthew 1:18-25
It had to be Joseph, and it had to be done just the way it was done. If Mary had been single, her pregnancy would have been even more of a scandal. No good Jewish man would even consider her as a bride, and her parents would have had to care for her and her fatherless son. In this way, the prophesy of the virgin bearing a son could have been fulfilled, but there were other prophesies that would not have. It’s possible, but unlikely, that Mary’s parents would have uprooted and gone to Egypt (Matthew 2:15). Would Jesus have been born in Bethlehem if it were not for Joseph having to take Mary and register for the census, or would He have been born in Nazareth of Galilee? There are many reasons why it had to be Joseph, at that time in history and before his marriage to Mary was consummated, but while they were legally bound in betrothal. One of the major reasons why it had to be Joseph as well was because the Messiah was to come from the kingly line of David. Mary was a descendant of David, but through the line of Nathan, so that would not have fulfilled the prophecy. Because Joseph was Jesus’ legal father, Jesus was reckoned to be of the lineage of David through Solomon – the kingly line.
Why was Joseph so confident in the message his dream? What was it about that dream that persuaded him it was unlike other dreams to the point that he should immediately and fully obey what he was directed to do? Was there just a sense that “this was real” when he awoke? Was it that the angel called him by name, acknowledged his lineage, named his wife and described the conundrum he was facing – that his “virgin” wife was pregnant? It appears Joseph’s decision to quietly divorce his wife was not a quick or easy decision. The passage says he was a “just man” and apparently loved, or at least regarded, Mary enough to not seek to ruin her for what appeared to be infidelity. This was no small deal. It meant she was a ruined, unfaithful adulteress who seemed to disregard all propriety, trust and love for Joseph. He could have made a public spectacle of her in order to preserve his integrity and image. The more he denounced her and saw fit she was disgraced, the more agreeable he would have been in the eyes of many of his countrymen, especially the religious. He was taking a risk letting her off the hook quietly if anyone knew the child wasn’t his.
Despite the possible ramifications and the fact he was heeding the words of an angel in a dream, Joseph nonetheless obeyed and trusted that what he was told was true. He had more chances later on to heed messages in dreams, and he listened. It’s also possible that he allowed Mary to share with him about the appearance of the angel to her and allowed that to convince him of the validity of what he saw.
What does this mean for me? It means that the Lord has and does speak to us at different times in various ways such as dreams, Spirit-filled people (prophesy) and, primarily, His Word; and that we need to be careful to test with the Scriptures what is heard and then obey it if we believe it to be from the Lord. It might be that we are called to do something that is socially unacceptable and/or seemingly crazy, as Joseph was. The main thing though is to pray for listening ears. The Lord speaks to us continually in the Bible and, sometimes, maybe, in other ways, but how often are we listening? Note: any “other ways” will never contradict God’s revealed Word, nor should they be given more weight than the Scriptures.