Joseph Chose to Obey

By Gil Rugh

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife… When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…” (Matt. 1:19-24).

Joseph and Mary were betrothed. They were bound in a marriage agreement—bound from the standpoint that they were called husband and wife. This agreement was so binding that it could only be broken by a bill of divorce. If Joseph had died during this time, Mary would have been called a widow.

But, Mary was discovered to be pregnant. Scripture does not reveal very much about Joseph, but we are told he was a righteous man. He and Mary were devoted to God and were committed to maintaining purity in their relationship with one another. Joseph knew he had not had relations with her, and yet she was pregnant. This was surely a tremendous burden to Joseph.

Joseph had two options. He could make a public issue of her condition and disgrace her in a public divorce, or he could “send her away secretly”—an expression that refers to a private divorce. Joseph had decided to divorce her, but to do it secretly and not make a public display of it. We can assume from his decision that he still had a strong attachment to Mary.

Joseph probably had many sleepless nights. He surely spent much time in prayer, asking for guidance. Then, an angel appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20, 21).

Joseph arose from his sleep and did as the angel commanded, without questioning the instructions. He knew the message was from God. He took Mary as his wife and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son. In further obedience, he named the child Jesus.

We don’t know what life was like for this family. We do know that because of Joseph’s faithfulness to God, to Mary, and to this new little baby, his family endured each hardship.

Joseph was a righteous man, yet God called him to face difficulties. Joseph didn’t choose the easy road, he chose to be obedient, and trusted God would bring him through. And He did.