Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:18-21)
Joseph was presented with a quandary. Take Mary to be his wife and believe the fantastic tale she'd told him or make a public spectacle of her and have her stoned.
That's right. Stoned.
As her espoused husband, it was his legal right. Any sexual relations outside of their engagement was considered adultery.
Yet the Bible tells us, he didn't want to do that. On the other hand, he didn't really believe her either. So he opted for mercy.
Though Joseph was a righteous man ... and knew that the law required that such persons as he supposed his wife to be should be put to death, yet, as righteousness is ever directed by mercy, he determined to put her away or divorce her privately, i.e. without assigning any cause, that her life might be saved; and, as the offense was against himself, he had a right to pass it by if he chose. (Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible)
He had the right to pass the offense by, and that is mercy.
Deliberately and on purpose, he looked past the wrong it seemed was done to him and gave her a chance to be saved.
We should do the same and focus not on the offense, but on the possible recovery of the offender.
Think again of Mary.
Her situation was the most distressing and humiliating that can be conceived. Nothing but the fullest consciousness of her own integrity, and the strongest confidence in God, could have supported her in such trying circumstances, where her reputation, her honor, and her life were at stake. (Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible)
Imagine how Joseph felt that day. This woman he's engaged to comes to him saying, "I'm expecting. Oh, and it's God's child."
Right. Sure, you are. Looney.
Yet still he opted for mercy, giving her plight some serious thought. He wasn't hasty, didn't make a rash decision, but considered her reputation as much as he did his own.
He did not act hastily. He did not take the course which the law would have permitted him to do, if he had been hasty, violent, or unjust. It was a case deeply affecting his happiness, his character, and the reputation and character of his chosen companion. God will guide the thoughtful and the anxious. And when we have looked patiently at a perplexed subject, and know not what to do, then God, as in the case of Joseph, will interpose to lead us and direct our way. (Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible)
In the end, he listened to his heart and allowed God to direct his path. Though it did take the words of an angel to confirm it in his thinking, he chose to protect her. That's what his decision amounted to. Shelter. Security. He offered Mary the safety of being his wife.
And Jesus likewise offered us mercy, in so doing, following the examples of both of his fathers. The man who'd raised him - Joseph - and Abba God whose power moved through him.
What fabulous examples to live by.
Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.