Matthew 1:18-25 Getting God’s Help This Christmas

Matthew 1:18-25 Getting God’s Help This Christmas December 22, 2013

Matthew 1:18-25 Getting God’s Help This Christmas

Matthew 1:18-25 Getting God’s Help This Christmas is a sermon on help we can receive during Christmastime.

We are going to take a journey this morning. A journey toward Christmas. Just as Mary and Joseph had a physical journey on their way to Bethlehem, they also had a spiritual journey in which they learned how to trust in God’s help.

The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18, HCSB)

When we read these verses, we may miss the outlandish statement that is made here. But first, we need to understand something about Jewish customs related to marriage. The custom is not the same customs we have now about marriage. Instead, there were three steps before a person became married.

PROCESS OF GETTING MARRIED

Engagement

The first step was engagement. You have to understand that it was the father of both families who arranged the marriage. Joseph didn’t go buy a ring and bend on his knew to ask for Mary in marriage. Joseph’s father and Mary’s father made an arrangement. Mostly, these arrangements were made to benefit the families. More importantly, this engagement time was used to see if the couple would be well suited for one another.

Betrothal

The second step was the betrothal, the public ratification of the engagement, with a period of one year for the couple to become known as belonging to each other, but not having the rights of living together as husband and wife. The only way a betrothal could be terminated was by a divorce. In Jewish law there is a phrase which states that a young woman whose fiancé dies during the period of betrothal is called “a virgin who is a widow.” Mary and Joseph were in the second stage in the account of this text.

Marriage

The actual marriage ceremony would take place after this betrothal period.

So Mary and Joseph were legally ready to be married to each other. Divorce was possible during this period. That sounds different than today. However, they did not have the marriage ceremony. They weren’t living together or shacking up before marriage. They were carefully relating to one another under the authority of both sets of parents. So this sets the scene. What comes next is the conflict in the story.

So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.” (Matthew 1:19, HCSB)

Realize the shock which Joseph experienced. What has Mary been doing? How could this happen? However, instead of blaming Mary and smearing her family’s name all over the public arena, Joseph decided to divorce her secretly. What does this mean?

Joseph had the right to divorce Mary according to the Mosaic Law:

But if this accusation is true and no evidence of the young woman’s virginity is found, they will bring the woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city will stone her to death. For she has committed an outrage in Israel by being promiscuous in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from you.” (Deuteronomy 22:20–21, HCSB)

Why did Joseph “decide to divorce her secretly”? Because he was a “righteous man.” If there was ever an example of being a great husband in the Scriptures, Joseph rates right up there at the top. In these verses, we find FIVE characteristics of being a Godly husband:

BEING A GODLY HUSBAND MEANT THAT HE WAS A MAN OF:

  1. Justice (1:19) “being a righteous man” 
  2. Discretion (1:19) “not wanting to disgrace her publicly”
  3. Reverence (1:20) “after he had considered these things”
  4. Obedience (1:24) “he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him.”
  5. Self-Discipline (1:25) “but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son.”

What if this were you? What if at Christmastime, you get a shocking discovery? How would you handle it? We know that Joseph tried to handle it the best way he knew as a religious, law-abiding, God-fearing Jewish man. But divorce was not on God’s mind. Many times it is hard for us to “read God’s mind in a situation. We struggle just like Joseph did. In the end, however, God revealed His answer to Joseph’s problem.

Joseph took time “consider these things” and I take that to mean that he was wondering why this was happening to him and asking God if he himself taking the right path. Joseph was asking God at this point in the story: “Help me, God.” “I don’t know what to do. So please show me how to get out of this mess.” Have you ever prayed that prayer? Have you seen yourself get in a situation, which you don’t understand, and you don’t know what to do about it. So then you get on your knees and you ask God about it. Nobody seems to be able to help you. So you have to go to God.

Maybe its an important decision about your career. Maybe its an important decision about your family, like it is here for Joseph. Maybe its an important decision about what you think you want to do. When you are in that kind of dilemma, you need God’s help. Here, God revealed how He was going to help Joseph. He used three different ways to help Joseph understand what God wanted him to do.

God revealed to Joseph another path. God revealed how He planned to help Joseph in a dream.

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20, HCSB)

UNDERSTANDING HOW GOD HELPS ME

God’s help begins with the Holy Spirit

God’s help had already begun to work by the Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit will initiate God’s actions. Remember Acts 13. Who called out people to be missionaries? The Holy Spirit did. In this case, the Holy Spirit acted to give birth to Jesus Christ. Jesus had already existed in Heaven, but the Holy Spirit initiated Jesus’ work on Earth through the birth. As Christians, we call this “The Incarnation.” The embodiment of God in earthly form. God in a Bod. So whenever God’s doing something, He initiates it through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts as the initiating work of salvation.

God’s help is confirmed by Holy Authority

In this case, God’s help was confirmed by a Holy Angel. Many times in the Bible (and even today) God would reveal His acts to His servants in a dream. An angel would come and explain what God is going to do and how He is going to help them. The purpose of these dreams were to confirm God’s direction in a matter. In this case for Joseph, it was to tell Joseph to continue to do what God planned to do. The angel explained that there greater things going on than Joseph’s reputation or his family’s honor. God was doing something great in their lives:

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20, HCSB)

The angel addressed Joseph as son of David, which refers to Joseph’s royal history. This has to do with the promises that God gave David. This isn’t just about Joseph. It is about history and the future of God’s people. There is a bigger picture here.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”” (Matthew 1:21, HCSB)

Now God reveals to Joseph the plan. Mary will give birth, and he will be son. God tells Joseph to name his son Jesus. This is not a name Joseph probably planned to use. But God has other plans. God says: Name Him Jesus. Then God tells Joseph why. God’s got big plans for Joseph’s son. But Joseph won’t get the credit. It going to be God’s work.

God’s help is contextualized by the Holy Scriptures

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.”” (Matthew 1:22–23, HCSB)

When God helps you in a situation, it will always line up with God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures. It will be in context with the Word of God. It may not be in a way you expect. In this case, Joseph probably did recall the prophecy in Isaiah about a virgin giving birth to a Son. He probably would recognize the idea that naming his son Jesus will prove that God is with His people.

‘Immanuel’ means ‘God with us’, and finds its echo in Jesus’ promise at the very end of the Gospel: ‘I am with you always’ (28:20).

When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24–25, HCSB)

Here is the final truth from this text:

If I want to get God’s help, then I have to do things God’s way. 

It says here that Joseph did what the angel commanded. He married Mary but didn’t have sexual relations, and then he also named the boy Jesus. Joseph didn’t turn around and go: “OK, God. I see that You helped me. You got me out of this problem. Now let me take it from here. I can do it all by myself. I can do it my way now.”

There is a big problem with this attitude. It makes God into a tool in the hands of a man, instead of God using us in His hands.

If I want help from the doctor, I don’t go to an appointment, hear what he prescribes and then walk out the door doing my own thing. If want help with my car, I don’t go to the mechanic, tell him what is wrong, listen to his advice and then try to do it my own way.

You let the expert be the expert. Ask for God’s help and let Him be the expert in every part of your life this Christmas.

Footnotes:

1 Myron S. Augsburger and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Matthew, vol. 24, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 18.

2 Iain D. Campbell, Opening up Matthew, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2008), 26.

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