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Dec 04, 2022

Joseph, Man of Righteousness

Passage: Matthew 1:18-24

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Advent 2022

Keywords: compassion, trust, marriage, righteous, angels, purity, priorities, honor, parenting, commitments


Joseph, Mary's husband, has much to teach us about being righteous people. This message looks at what all of us can learn and embrace who long to live righteously in our day.


Joseph, Man of Righteousness

Advent Sunday #2—December 4, 2022

Matthew 1-2


If God decided to send His Son to earth again to be born as a baby, and if He was looking for a suitable home where the child would be well-raised, would your home be in the running? Mine?  What spiritual, moral, educational and relational qualities would God be looking for?   What kind of a marriage and home would qualify?

Why do you suppose that of all the people God could have chosen, he picked Joseph and Mary? I would have expected God to pick somebody of relative prominence in the culture so that Jesus would have been exposed to people inaccessible to the masses.  Since the only Savior of the world would need to be well-cared for, I would have expected a family that was comfortable financially and protected from injustice and threats. Since the Messiah would need a first-rate education, I would have thought that God would probably pick a well-educated couple with intellectual connections. Since all of this would most likely occur in a city, I would have expected the “right” couple to hail from Jerusalem.

But God didn’t do it that way. He picked an obscure couple, unknown in the religious and social circles of Jerusalem. The man was not a ruler or even a rabbi, but a common laborer, a carpenter of no notoriety. As far as economic class, as Grant so ably reminded us last week, we know they were poor because they offered the poor-man’s sacrifice at Jesus’ birth—a pair of turtledoves or pigeons (Luke 2:24). As far as we know, they were not terribly well-educated. They were common, working people, living in the small, out-of-the-way village of Nazareth in the northern part of Israel known as Galilee.

Why this couple? Well, if you were with us last week and heard Grant talk about Mary, you have half of the reason why.  Among other things, Mary was submissive to God’s costly call on her life.  She was a young woman full of the grace of God.  She was morally upright.  She loved God and worshipped Him passionately.  And much more. Go listen to Grant’s message.

So today I want us to learn from the other half of this couple—Joseph. Why did God pick him out of all the other young men in Israel for the awesome responsibility of being the earthly father to His incarnate Son? Though not much is written about Joseph in Scripture, enough is said to piece together a portrait of a man that actually has a lot to teach any of us who want to grow in godliness and God’s grace.

Today we’ll mostly be in the Gospel of Matthew.  Mathew focuses his Advent narrative more on Joseph than Mary while Luke does the reverse.  From the opening 17 verses, Matthew traces the genealogy of Joseph from Abraham through biblical greats such as Boaz, King David, Solomon and Hezekiah.  But Luke’s genealogy seems to trace Mary’s family line (for reasons I don’t have time to get into today). 

We’re looking today at what God might want to say to us through this previously very obscure young man, Joseph.  He has a lot to teach all of us about life, about pursuing God, about marriage and about fatherhood.  Men, his life particularly has a lot with which to challenge us.

            First off, try to set aside for just a moment whatever pre-conceptions you have of Joseph.  He wasn’t known beyond the little village of Nazareth, probably no more than a town of about a few hundred people.  And even there, he may even have been a small fish in a small pond.  He wasn’t in any kind of notable profession.  He was on the poorer end of the economic spectrum.  He was probably in reasonably good shape physically, working with rough timber and hand-tools all day long.  He undoubtedly had tough, calloused hands with a decent share of cuts, blisters and scabs. He was a new, struggling business owner whose very survival depended on a good reputation for good products.  Working all day alone in his shop, he probably tended to be a man of few words who had plenty of time to think…and dream…about life.   

            As we’ll see, there was a lot more going on under the surface than met the eye.  Mentally, spiritually and relationally, Joseph was a deep book with a plain cover. 

NOTE: Which should all be very encouraging to all of us.  Most of us don’t stand out from the crowd.  Many of us may well be living from day to day, dollar to dollar, paycheck to paycheck.  Apart from what God is doing in our lives, most of us will never be known much farther than by a handful of friends and neighbors.  We may not have any outstanding skills or abilities.  We may look a bit rough around the edges. 

            But that is precisely the kind of person God repeatedly has tapped throughout history.  He seems to love to pull people from obscurity and insert them into His eternal Kingdom plan.  Whether ignored shepherds or insignificant farmers and fishermen, God doesn’t look on the outward stuff—education, wealth, social position or power.  He always looks on the matters of the heart. 

            Which is probably why it matters a whole lot more to God today what is going on in our hearts than where we live or what we do or where we’ve been in this world. Every one of us is a candidate to be grabbed by God and thrust dead center in his divine drama of saving a lost world. 

            But let’s see specifically WHY God chose Joseph to be the human stepfather of Jesus.  [Clarify “step-dad.”]

            Matthew’s Gospel is all about Jesus, just as our lives should be.  So, even as he introduces us to people like Joseph and Mary, the leading role of the hero is not them but their little baby. 

Matthew 1:18—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. 

Here in a few short words, Matthew sums up what Luke takes an entire chapter to develop.  We simply know that…

  • Mary has been betrothed to Joseph.
  • They haven’t consummated the marriage
  • She’s pregnant… by means of something that has never happened before or since to a woman in human history. She is a virgin, willingly carrying a child that has no human father but was created in her by a divine, miraculous act of God.

This is essentially a stage-setting statement from Matthew.  As Grant told us last week, young, teenage Hebrew women were “betrothed” to slightly-older but still young Hebrew men.  This engagement period (if I can call it that), usually lasted about a year.  That was enough time for the young man to prepare a home and himself for marriage.  But the “engagement” was much more binding and serious than our engagements.  If you wanted to end the betrothal at any point prior to the marriage, it required a divorce decree.  Engagement was a legally binding step.  And the husband-to-be usually had to come up with some sort of bride-price to be paid to the bride’s father.  There was no “dating” as we know it and probably not a lot of “marrying for love” as seems so important today.  Poor young men married poor young women and expected a lifetime of raising children in relative poverty. 

            We’re left to imagine what it was like for Joseph to get the news that his young wife-to-be, Mary, was pregnant. We know from Luke that Mary was the first to receive the news from the angel, Gabriel, that hers would be the only divinely-created virgin birth in human history.  He explained just enough of the miracle to her for her to say essentially, “Okay, I’m the Lord’s servant.  May your [angelic] word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) 

We’re not told how soon thereafter she conceived by the Holy Spirit.  But if I read Luke correctly, she left almost immediately to go visit her much older cousin, Elizabeth, who was already 6 months pregnant, also miraculously but in her case by means of her human husband, Zechariah. 

            We don’t know for sure, but either Mary told Joseph what Gabriel had said to her prior to her leaving for three months to visit Elizabeth OR possibly immediately after she returned to Nazareth some 3 months pregnant.  Either way, nobody else but Elizabeth and Mary knew that Mary was pregnant.  Either Joseph had to wrestle with Mary’s story about an angelic visitation and promised virgin birth for a few months OR he had to wrestle with a truly troubling reality at least a few days. 

            Whatever the timeframe, the next verse tells us how it unfolded.  19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  So here we are introduced to THE most important quality about Joseph or any man, for that matter.  He was a “just” or, as most versions translate it, “righteous man” (Gk. dikaios).  

Q:  What is a “righteous man”?  Someone who genuinely reflects the character of God…lives out God’s right-ness…thinks and acts and lives in line with the nature of God.  Justice is a part of that just as mercy and love and compassion is.  Young Joseph was perfect, but he was of the same moral and spiritual cloth as saints like Noah and Job and Samuel and John the Baptist.  This obscure, poor, hard-working, good man was simply living his mundane, unremarkable life in right relationship with God.  And, surprise, surprise, God had matched him up with a young woman of equally remarkable relationship with God. 

APP:  Singles of any age, if you want to be married, focus on being the kind of person you want to marry, not finding the kind of person you want to marry.  Spend your energies becoming righteous and God will take care of leading you to someone else with whom you will be ‘equally yoked.’ 

Let’s look at the defining marks of a righteous man.  Of course, when I say “man” I’m not limiting this to the male gender of humanity.  Righteousness knows no gender boundaries.  But I don’t want to downplay either what God is saying to men through Joseph.  Men, if you’re interested in being a righteous man…a good husband…a godly father…a good man in the community, Joseph has something to say to us. 


#1.  Righteous men/women make commitments that obligate them to care for, love and bless others. 

Vs. 18—Joseph was ‘pledged’ or ‘betrothed’ to this very young, still changing, yet unproven and certainly not ‘mature’ by most standards woman, Mary.  This man was, as all men who marry are, taking a risk. And so was Mary, by the way!