Matthew 1:18-25; 2:19-23: December 22—Courage
Dec 15, 2013

Courage can be understood as the ability to face difficulty, pain, danger, etc., in spite of fear. It is related to bravery. We understand when we read an obituary that says the person died after a courageous battle with cancer. At times, courage can be understood in its being associated with faith in what God says in His Word. Those willing to take up their cross daily in living for Jesus must have the courage to live out their convictions. In all my years of teaching God-called people, I never got over the respect I had for those who gave up the comfort of one way of life to enroll in college. God always knows best, as the life of Joseph, Mary’s husband, illustrates.

Let’s begin with his role in a unique marriage (v. 1). At this point we need to clarify our understanding of terms. I once heard a Baptist preacher in chapel at Christmas time proclaim with more zeal that knowledge, “We all believe in the Immaculate Conception.” 

Well, no. that doctrine is held by those who believe Mary was conceived without original sin and therefore Jesus owed His sinless nature to Mary, who had been immaculately conceived. 

The Bible says Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Son of God is uniquely begotten because He is God in the flesh. 

Closely aligned with the system of Mary’s unique conception are three other assertions, (1) that Mary was a Perpetual Virgin, bearing no other children, (2) that by her Bodily Assumption into heaven she never died, and (3) she now has the title Queen of Heaven. 

Baptists, along with other evangelicals, reject these doctrines as utterly lacking in Scriptural support. Nevertheless, Mary was a woman of great courage, as was Joseph, to whom we now turn our attention.

In his marriage to Mary, he soon faced a moral dilemma (vv. 19-21). 

He became aware that Mary was pregnant, but he did not know the details of how she became with child. Being a good man, he preferred not to make her a public spectacle by announcing a divorce. He would “put her away privately” (v. 19). 

As revealed in Deuteronomy 22:23, 24, a betrothed “damsel” who has been raped is treated as his wife. Therefore the act of putting away a wife was not exactly the same as a divorce (Dt. 24:1-4), but nevertheless the husband was required to provide her with a “bill of divorcement” (vv. 2-4) as protection against her being killed for being unchaste if she should marry another man.

Joseph’s laudable concern was soon given a radically new perspective. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream which probably made him think he was having a nightmare. The angel explained Mary’s condition resulted from the miraculous intervention by the Holy Spirit. The child, to be named Jesus, would save His people from their sins.

The Bible then appended a brief summary of the fulfillment of prophecy (vv. 22-25). The fact that Jesus fulfilled scores of Old Testament predictions and ritual types provide powerful evidence about the truthfulness of Jesus and His ministry. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated nearly 100 years before Jesus’ birth, provides irrefutable proof of the genuineness of the prophesies. All books of the Old Testament, except the Book of Esther, are represented in the scrolls.

We complete this study with an allusion to Joseph’s courage in bowing completely to the angel’s further instructions (2:19-23). Herod had decreed the destruction of the Jewish babies in Bethlehem in a vain attempt to kill Jesus. The angel told Joseph to flee for safety in Egypt. 

After Herod’s death, the angel appeared a second time to Joseph, using identical language (cf vv. 20 with 13) so as to assure Joseph of the angel’s validity. 

In going back to Nazareth, the Bible alludes to prophesies about His being a Nazarene. The word Nazareth does not appear in their writings but the word could means sprout or branch. Several references to Jesus, the Branch, occurs in Isaiah 11:1, and Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12.

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