I have always been challenged by Joseph’s life and faith. I don’t know if we have ever learned to appreciate Joseph. He gets very little attention in scripture and really, very little attention in the church. The most we know about Joseph comes from v. 19 “Now Joseph was a righteous man,” or as the KJV says, “he was a just man.” That’s pretty much the most we are told in scripture on this extremely important man. I believe he is a perfect model of faith. Joseph was a righteous man.
Matthew 1:18‑20 & 24‑25.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” vv. 24,25 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Has it ever occurred to you that Joseph obeyed the Lord because of a dream he had? What is to say he didn’t eat too many burritos the night before and his dreams were the product of indigestion? Just think what might happen if he was told to do something really crazy in his dream, would he respond? Is he the kind of man we want roaming the streets, the kind that thinks all of his dreams are reality? He had a dream. A dream of all things! And from that dream came an amazing and radical faith.
Would you believe it if God stood in front of you? I am not so sure I would. I would think it was some nut case or some person trying to swindle me. I doubt I would have faith like Joseph’s faith. What kind of faith does it take to respond to a dream? It seems to me that Joseph was more naive than anything. If we use our logic then Joseph’s actions don’t make a lot of sense. Maybe you are like me, I don’t know. I have a hard time accepting God’s commands and being obedient to God when it doesn’t make any sense. That seems logical enough.
But if that is the case, then someone needs to tell Joseph that God doesn’t really mean it when He asks you to do something crazy. Are you with me on this? Some of us have become our own judge and jury on what God will or will not call us to do in our lives. But Joseph wasn’t that kind of guy. He was a just and righteous man because he did exactly what God told him to do without question. “Well,” you say, “he had a dream. He knew God better. He….” I say he knew the same God we know and he knew him the same way we found out about him: Genesis, the Pentateuch, the prophets. He didn’t have any special information that you or I haven’t yet received. He knew God the same way we know God.
To be considered a just and righteous person perhaps we have to follow God in such a way that others can’t believe we are doing it. We have to have a radical, a real faith; not this faith we like to put on before others. It is much easier to talk about our faith than it is to act out our faith. We like to appear as though we have all the answers. Now let me just stop here and say I am not writing this to bust your chops; but let’s face it, we have rationalized our faith. In many cases our faith isn’t exactly inspirational to the world around us. Our obedience to God is often conditional. We often only obey those things we feel like obeying. If it’s outside our logic or comfort zone, we just rationalize it away and don’t do it.
Sometimes being righteous means we chose to live a life that might be viewed by some as odd or different. Let’s face it, we are different. We have a different set of rules to live by than the rest of the world. Being a good person isn’t good enough. We must be bold in our witness, not only in word, but in deed.
The more I think of this man Joseph, in whom meekness was a strength, the more I want to honor him. In every story about the birth of Christ, most people are talking. Everyone has something to say about it, but not Joseph. He didn’t talk, he obeyed. Silently and steadfastly, he acted. He served God.
When the baby Jesus was born and Herod was going around killing all the children, Joseph didn’t have to leave his home to run from Herod. He didn’t have to hide a baby that wasn’t even his flesh and blood. When he looked into the crib of Jesus he didn’t see his own reflection. Jesus didn’t have his eyes or his nose or his dimples. He didn’t have to care for that child. But Joseph, kindly, righteously adopted Jesus. At least Mary could say she gave birth to Jesus. Joseph didn’t have anything but a dream. He was nothing more than a front for Mary and Jesus.
Joseph was God’s tool because he was obedient without question, without rationalization and without doubt. By faith and obedience this adoptive father still chose to be the father. Joseph was accomplishing a task of terrible glory, raising a child who was born in the image of God. Has any parent or grandparent a different task? He fulfilled his parental role and his role as a follower of almighty God precisely because he didn’t do it for his own benefit. By loving God, Joseph loved Jesus. By following God, Joseph led his son out of the house, into adulthood and into the purpose for which he was born. A righteous father raised a righteous son, and then released him to fulfill all righteousness.
Please take a hard and long look at Joseph. Joseph may have the least written about him, but he has the most to offer us today. We can’t go wrong by imitating Joseph. In ignorance and in humility we are called to obey. We are called to seek the wholeness of others by giving ourselves away to them. We are called to follow God even when it makes no sense, when it’s not easy or practical.