Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by [the power of] the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her [promised] husband, being a just and righteous man and not wanting to expose her publicly to shame, planned to send her away and divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus (The Lord is salvation), for He will save His people from their sins.”
All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet [Isaiah] “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel”—which, when translated, means, “God with us.” Then Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and he took Mary [to his home] as his wife, but he kept her a virgin until she had given birth to a Son [her firstborn child]; and he named Him Jesus (The Lord is salvation).
Matthew 1:18-24 (AMP)
God with us.
I recently read a statistic that the phrase and theme “I am with you” appears collectively 365 times in the Bible. After spending over 30 years walking with the Lord – I have no idea why I find that surprising. I mean I KNOW that He has said it quite a few times and I have heard, and even lived out, a few stories of His faithfulness, but three-hundred-and-sixty-five times? That makes me both laugh and drop my jaw. He is consistently, overwhelmingly, intentional.
Joseph came from a rich heritage of men who knew this Truth about God. As a man who was just and who respected the law of God, I would assume he knew the story of when God told Moses He would be with him in Deuteronomy 31 – backward and forwards. I am sure he knew of when God told Joshua the same truth and when David reminded Solomon that God wouldn’t leave. The concept of God being with His people was a rich part of the heritage that came from being a descendant of David.
I make this assumption because Scripture tells me that Joseph had a reputation of being a Jew who faithfully followed the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He not only knew his family history, but he also carried the torch of faith into his generation through both respect and knowledge of God’s Word. And even when the plans he had made to marry a young girl from his home town took a horrible turn toward both legal and moral betrayal, he responded with integrity that came from putting his faith into action.
In those days, the engagement or pledge of marriage preceded the wedding ceremony. It involved not only the man and woman but their families as well. In the period of betrothal, the families would enter into a contract – a promise of marriage. It was like the signed marriage certificate was acquired first and then they tied it all up with a bow by having a ceremony, sharing a home and consummating the marriage bed.
This “betrothal” agreement was just as binding as the wedding would be. If a couple broke things off during this engagement period, their “divorce” still carried the same weight as if they were already married.
Now, add to the mix a pregnant bride. Both parties would not only be dishonored for their divorce, but the wife would also be worthy of being stoned because of her (perceived) adultery.
God with us.
When we consider Joseph’s rich heritage and his love for God’s Truth it seems understandable that after finding out that his betrothed is with child, he would take time to think and consider what to do. Even though the circumstances made it LOOK like Mary was unfaithful to him and had BROKEN the law, he didn’t want her to be disgraced. He wanted to protect her, to make it easy on her and not to make a scene.
God with us.
Joseph considers his next step, falls off to sleep and the Angel of the Lord enters in to clear things up.
“Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus (The Lord is salvation), for He will save His people from their sins.” All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet [Isaiah]: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel”—which, when translated, means,
“God with us.”
I think it’s highly likely that Joseph would have been familiar with the prophecy from Isaiah 7. He would have not only known, but he would have also been anticipating the arrival of Messiah. He would have been waiting for the child called Immanuel to be born to a virgin. But can you imagine how he must have felt when he woke up with the realization that HIS BRIDE was THAT virgin and this child was THE Messiah?
As I have considered all of these things about Joseph, he has become so much more to me than that somewhat obscure character next to Mary in my Christmas nativity set. He didn’t play a small role in this Christmas story – He was a giant of the faith. His circumstances were beyond overwhelming and yet he didn’t react abruptly – he was thoughtful and caring in his response to this shattering news. He put others first. His deep relationship with God overflowed into his character. In the midst of difficulty, he leaned into the God who had promised for generations never to leave or forsake. He considered. He rested. And when he got his answer he didn’t question, he didn’t doubt. He wasn’t obstinate or rebellious and he didn’t argue or fight for his truth. Instead he leaned into The Truth putting his faith into action.
I know that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever and I only hope that when my circumstances seem to overwhelm me I will lean into the same God that Joseph leaned into and find my comfort and strength trusting Immanuel … God with Us.
Heavenly Father, during this Christmas season, help us to lean into You, into Your Truth. Help us find all of our comfort and strength through trusting in you…for you are God with Us.
Today’s post was written by Nora Elkins.
Nora is married 31 years to her first love, Scott. They have raised four children into adulthood and are now enjoying the reward of professional grandparenting. Nora can be found living the real-life version of “Fuller House” in her four generation household – where her 96-year-old dad is the favorite playmate of her precious grandkids. She is a “maker” at heart and loves creating personalized gifts – whether it’s for her shop on Etsy or special orders from friends. She also enjoys coloring in her bible and documenting her faith through journaling and bible study. You can find her serving at our Longwood campus where she practices the spiritual gift of warm hugs and happy smiles and if you’re lucky you may even catch her dancing to the music in the parking lot before service.