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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lenschow

Joseph and the Angel of the Lord

Preparation for His Birth

Day 10 Tuesday, December 7th

Matthew 1:18-25, emphasis on 1:18-21

1. Recognize the Context:

Matthew's Gospel begins with a genealogy (1:1-17) and continues with the birth of Jesus (1:18-25). Several words and phrases connect the birth narrative with the preceding family history. These parallels include the same introductory phrase, “the birth (genealogy) of Jesus the Messiah,” in verses 1 and 18, the specific reference to Joseph and Mary, and the reference to Joseph as “the son of David.”

2. Read the Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25, emphasis on 1:18-21

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

3. Reflect on the Scripture:

According to first century A.D. Jewish customs, Joseph and Mary were in the betrothal stage of their arranged marriage. This was a year-long period before the actual wedding ceremony. The woman still lived with her family, but the prenuptial arrangements had been made between families, and this was a binding contract.

In verse 18, Matthew provides the reader with inside information about Mary's pregnancy by the Holy Spirit, which was information Joseph did not initially have. When he found out, he assumed Mary was guilty of adultery. However, because he was "faithful to the law" or righteous (the same adjective used to describe Elizabeth and Zechariah in Luke 1:6) and had compassion, he was forced to make a decision. He could have made the situation public and humiliated her. But he chose to divorce her, which only required two witnesses privately.

Angel Appears to Joseph in a Dream painted by Gaetano Gandolfi, c. 1790

His plan was interrupted by the appearance of an angel of the Lord in a dream. Joseph was instructed to take Mary as his wife because her conception was by the Holy Spirit. He was informed Mary would have a son. Finally, he was instructed to name the son Jesus because "he will save his people from their sins." The name Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) means “Yahweh saves.” Therefore, the name and mission of Jesus were inextricably linked to the person and work of God the Father.

4. Relate to life:

Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.

To pray:

Today, prayerfully reflect on the miraculous mystery of Jesus’ conception and virgin birth by the Holy Spirit. What does this reveal about God?

Today, prayerfully consider the meaning of Jesus’ name and his mission to bring salvation from sin to the world, and specifically to you.

Prayerfully consider how both the mission of Jesus in salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit impact your life today.

To do: (Actions with the Holy Spirit's help)

Considering the prayer suggestions above, what is one thing you want to incorporate into your life today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words.

At the end of your day, take a few minutes to reflect on the name and mission of Jesus the Messiah. Remember, he has come to save from sin! If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have heard this numerous times before. Perhaps it has lost the meaning and significance it once had. Take some time to express thanksgiving to God for the saving work of Christ. If your heart isn't filled with gratitude, ask God for his help.

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