Mary & Joseph Believe

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Each year at Christmas, I revisit the story of the birth of Christ and try to see a new aspect of something I hadn’t seen before. One day while listening to the song “Precious Promise” by Steven Curtis Chapman, I thought about the unforeseen circumstances of their story.

Mary’s condition would have surely caused her and others to shame and question. Pregnant? Not wed? Mary had done no wrong to bring about this particular result. Luke reminds that she had found favor with God. Questions and fears were likely for Mary. How was this happening? And, would Joseph believe? Yet, she rejoiced. Her faith was remarkable in the Magnificat. She saw God’s mercy toward her, even though this may have been difficult: “His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).

Joseph’s faith was surely tested. Would he believe even when he didn’t understand the occurrences? At first, he considered divorce. But, God intervened supernaturally. Would he act on his faith and believe the angel, though his circumstances might be perceived as shameful? Would he worry about what others thought or continue to obey God? He chose to obey God.

Later, their son was crucified. Ouch and double ouch: The pain this couple endured. They were just ordinary people like us. Their marriage survived it. Hearing stories of others who face agonies, can inspire, embolden, and fortify.

This year I see something new in the Christmas story: humans and God together in the midst of confusing, unexpected events and facing shame, yet glorifying Him. Mary and Joseph both had to trust God and believe that God would do something bigger than their situation. They chose faith rather than fear. They must have believed that God was good.

In grief, this is essential too: to continue to believe despite plights and predicaments. It is hard and at times, hearts doubt, because suffering hurts so much. Your faith may feel like a tiny mustard seed some days, but that is okay. Maybe Joseph and Mary felt that way too at first. This story can strengthen and encourage perseverance through confusing hardship.

Psalms Devotional

Psalm 1: 4-6

The wicked are not so,

 but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1:4-6

Literally: “Not so the wicked, not so.” This is a double negative, emphasizing the fact that the blessings, previously discussed, are not true for the wicked. Wicked-this is such a strong word. What does this word mean? Those who reject God. Those who don’t enjoy the rushing water and refreshment of God-closeness with God. The wicked do not love the law of God; they are not like trees planted by streams. “They are like chaff.” The husks around the grain that have no life-giving nourishment. Chaff is easily carried away by the wind: no matter how much power–industrially, academically, monetarily. Chaff is dead. Dead to what? Dead to God…not alive in Him. 

This begs the question-who are the righteous? Scripture says that there aren’t any (Rom. 3:10)! True, so, the righteous are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered, whose iniquity is not counted, the one who trusts in the Lord (Ps. 32). They are not perfect, but real. They look to the Lord for help and for hope (Ps. 146). They do not have a righteousness of their own or from the law (Phil. 3:9), but from faith in Christ.

On earth, the righteous and the wicked commingle. In heaven, they do not. This is sobering. In heaven, tares are separated from the wheat.

The Lord watches/approves/attends/acknowledges/affirms/guides the righteous, even when they are in darkness or in the “tempest of affliction” and He understands. Job says, “He knows the way I take.”

But, the wicked perish and so does their “way.” Their way leads to separation from God. This is heartbreaking. The righteous should have deep concern and compassion for this. The righteous are here to live amongst the wicked, sharing a message of deliverance: “He delivered us from such a deadly peril and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Cor. 1:8-11). The message that no matter the circumstance, the despair, the sin, God can deliver us and help us. We reap what Jesus has sown. When we are burdened beyond our strength-there is a Savior.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is your victory?

 O death, where is your sting?

The sting of death is sin & the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:54-58).

The sting is sin that is exposed by the law. The law exposes sin. And, all people sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Without a law there is no transgression (Rom. 4:15). Absolute truth reveals sin and that sin leads to death (separation from God). But, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:23). One can have faith. The law does not justify, but Jesus does. No one is justified by following the law, the righteous live by faith…Christ redeemed believers from the curse of the law. Sin entered through Adam, but grace entered through Jesus (Rom. 5:17). He made Jesus who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:17). On the cross, Jesus remained holy, but was treated as guilty for all the sins of those who would ever believe. The wrath of God came down on him. Righteousness is credited to the believer. It is a credit in your spiritual bank account; He erases your debits. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces (Is. 25:8). This is the paradoxical Gospel. And, this is what I am banking on for myself and others, because I know for sure that daily we do not measure up. Even the best of us. However, I know we are loved regardless.