He is described as a just man but we know little else about him. He loved his fiancée and was dismayed when he found out that she was pregnant, knowing that the baby was not his. Because of his love for the young woman, he decided to quietly walk away rather than make a big scene. It was a difficult decision, but to divorce Mary was Joseph’s only right choice. She had betrayed him, so he thought.
How many times do we think that we understand a situation in which we find ourselves only to find out that we don’t have all the facts? Fortunately, an angel came to Joseph to give him the missing details so that he could make a better decision.
The angel told Joseph “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife” (Matthew 1:20). It is normal for an angel to begin his message with “do not be afraid” which carries the sense of stop being afraid. The normal usage is a present tense command. Here, the angel doesn’t use an imperative (command) nor does he use the present tense. When the angel tells Joseph to avoid fear, his words convey the sense of “never be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”
Most of the time when the angel says “do not fear,” the angel is the source of fear and it is of short duration once the person receiving the message comes to grips with the fact that a supernatural being is speaking with him.
In the case of Joseph, the source of fear is the pregnancy of Mary. Until the end of his life, Joseph would have to deal with the wagging tongues of the gossips in the area. The normal length of time from conception to birth was just as well known then as it is now. When Jesus would be born, the gossips would figure out that from the time of the wedding celebration to the time of birth was a month or two short. People would naturally assume that Mary was not pure prior to her wedding.
We know how cruel people can be in what they say. We know how gossip spreads and makes life difficult for the subject of the gossip. Joseph would have to deal with this for the rest of his life. He would have to draw strength from the encouragement of the angel. He would have to push through the fear and not second guess his decision.
Joseph followed the angel’s instruction and went through with the wedding and became the adopted father of Jesus. We know little else about him except that he put down his fear and did the right thing and continued doing the right thing even when it was difficult.
By definition most of us, like Joseph, are ordinary. We are not the smartest, best looking or most talented people around. But the example of Joseph tells us that by being obedient and doing the right thing, even when it is difficult, we can be used by God to accomplish extraordinary things.
So get out there and be ordinary.
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