…we are moving forward (surprise to everyone!), as last week we studied Matthew 1:18–20. Here is the entire section
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. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 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, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23……“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
……………….and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Last week we covered vv. 18–20. I will only offer a few selected notes from last Sunday and a few extra comments. With vv. 2–17 God situates himself in history through his miraculous acts, using even the “unmentionables” for his divine purpose. Now the miraculous and impossible takes center stage: God himself will come to his people, not just a prophet, not just another pretender king. But the prophet, the king, who is none other than God himself.
Matthew follows the narrative of Jesus’ origins/birth from Joseph’s side, while Luke follows Mary’s side of the same events. In v. 18, Matthew uses the same word as v. 1, γένεσις translated as “genealogy” or “lineage,” while in v. 18 it is most often translated “birth.” Matthew ties together Jesus’ legal genealogy through Joseph (with the caveat “the husband of Mary”, v. 16) with the birth of Jesus, but from Joseph’s perspective.
The unrighteous deterioration of the line of promise from the “highs” of Abraham and David to “lows” of captivity and ultimately the unknowns now leads to Joseph who is “righteous.” He is righteous only in the sense that Abraham and David were righteous, believing in the promises of God and being counted righteous (Gen. 15:6, Romans 4:3–6). Ultimately, Jesus is the righteous One, but the focus here is that God shows the hope of people who waited for promised “seed” even if it meant some sorrow and angst for Joseph.
“Betrothed” designates something more profound than our view of engagement. Today, when someone breaks an engagement, it might be emotional turmoil, but not much more. However, in the 1st century world of the New Testament, “betrothed” is tantamount to marriage. That is, to break a betrothal was to divorce the person. In the Old Testament, being betrothed meant a man was exempt from military service (Deut. 20:7).
Joseph recognized the situation with Mary’s pregancy, how under Deuteronomy 22 guidelines, no matter what Joseph did, Mary would face public humiliation by having to demonstrate that she was still a virgin (Deut. 22:15–18), or worse, she would be stoned to death (Deut. 22:20–21) So even for Joseph to take the lesser of two evils, he would put Mary in a humiliating position. Notice that Joseph’s decision reflects the fact that he believes Mary is still a virgin. Thus, when Matthew identifies Joseph as righteous, he signals another aspect of God’s concern for the promise and the care for the one who is the link to God’s ultimate fulfillment.
Significantly an angel of the Lord appears to him. The angel greets him with not just a simple greeting by name, but “Joseph, son of David.” Specifically Matthew ties Joseph to Abraham with the description “righteous” and now the angel ties him to David, with the title, “son of David.” The angel sets Joseph straight about what is going on with Mary. The Holy Spirit conceives the child in Mary. Joseph in his righteousness wanted to do the right thing for Mary. But God in his righteousness wanted to bring about the right person, God’s very own Son. Now in his righteousness, Joseph can do the righteous thing so that righteous One can come.