Read: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (v. 19)
Joseph was a good man. He was “just,” which means he was a righteous man. This was the goal of every Israelite: to be righteous in God’s sight. Being righteous meant your life lined up with God’s expectations. Thus when Joseph discovered that his fiancée was pregnant with—obviously—another man’s child, he chose not to shame her. He would leave her quietly. He could not afford to have his righteousness soiled by Mary’s sinfulness.
Yet God intervened and told Joseph he was going to reveal a higher kind of righteousness. It turned out that staying with Mary was the righteous thing to do. No doubt Joseph’s reputation got dented by this. But then, Mary’s child was likewise deemed unrighteous by the religious leaders of the day. Their concept of righteousness had become twisted over the centuries. Righteousness became all about rules and regulations, about avoiding outsiders and sinners and the undesirable. Yet Jesus was a magnet to attract precisely those kinds of people.
Matthew wrote his Gospel to convince fellow Jews that Jesus was the true Messiah and that he came to redefine righteousness. Righteousness in God’s sight is all about grace and forgiveness and an embrace of those considered too far lost to bother with. God told Joseph to revise his idea of what it means to be a righteous person. And that was only the beginning of what Mary’s child would do for the whole world. —Scott Hoezee
As you pray, ask the Spirit to open your eyes to see and love all people.
About the Author
Scott Hoezee is an ordained pastor in the Christian Reformed Church of North America. He served two Michigan congregations from 1990-2005 and since 2005 has been a faculty member at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he serves chiefly as the Director of The Center for Excellence in Preaching. He is the author of several books, including most recently Why We Listen to Sermons (Calvin Press 2019) and is the co-host of the “Groundwork” radio program.