Lessons from Joseph

Advent 2019  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:32
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LESSONS FROM JOSEPH Spring Valley Mennonite; December 8, 2019; Selected from Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 2 Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker that reads, “My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter.” The life of Jesus before His earthly ministry began is largely overlooked, and because Scripture is silent about all those years, that information is probably not too important. What we know is that as the oldest son of Joseph, who was a carpenter, Jesus would have learned the craft of woodworking from his earthly father. I too grew up with a father who was a carpenter. He built and remodeled houses for many years before moving on to working as a mechanic with John Deere. He used this hammer on the job, and when I inherited his tools, it reminded me of going on the job with him on Saturdays and helping out, mostly with clean-up chores. Other than the memories I have attached to this hammer, it is really pretty ordinary. But an ordinary hammer in the hands of an extraordinary carpenter can accomplish very special things. This hammer was used to build beautiful homes where children grew up. This hammer was used to build cabinets where food and precious possessions were stored. There is a lesson in this hammer, for with great regularity, our extraordinary God takes ordinary people and accomplishes great and mighty things. The Christmas story is filled with ordinary people through whom God did extraordinary things. Such an ordinary person was Joseph, the husband of Mary, the man God chose to be the protector and mentor for the Lord Jesus Christ. I love Christmastime. This time of the year is especially significant for the believer; along with Easter, Christmas speaks of God breaking into human history in a tremendously significant fashion. And while the secular world minimizes the birth of Jesus, this may be the only time of the year when the world thinks about our Lord. The season gives us many opportunities to share about our faith. As a character in the Christmas story, Joseph pretty much stays in the background, but his importance is undisputed. Have you ever wondered why God selected Joseph? What was there about this simple carpenter that qualified him to have such a significant part in the life of our Savior? The work my Dad did was very different than that of a first century carpenter. For starters, there were no Lowes or Home Depots or True Value Hardware stores just around the corner. If you were a carpenter, you first went to the forest, cut down a tree, sawed it into usable lengths, carried it back to your shop or job site, sawed it into planks, and planed it smooth; only then could the carpenter make it into whatever was needed. His vocation was extremely labor intensive. Remembering that Jesus didn’t begin his ministry until the age of thirty, our Lord most likely spent 10- 15 years working in the carpentry trade. When Jesus visited Nazareth and spoke in the synagogue, as recorded in Mark 6:3, the people remarked, “Is this not the carpenter?” As the oldest son, Jesus would have been the first among his brothers to learn the trade. Why is this significant? It tells us that Jesus was not born into the lap of luxury, nor did he grow up in poverty but he came from a blue-collar family where He learned to work. Jesus had calloused hands; he worked in a vocation that required physical strength. He was a skilled craftsman before He began his ministry. He could relate to the common, working class people who were attracted to His teachings. But the most important thing about Joseph was not that he was a carpenter. Often we identify a person by his or her vocation. And while our vocation or job is important, we are much more than just what we do to earn a living. The most important thing about us is our character—what is inside. This is especially true of we who are followers of Jesus Christ. So, what kind of person was Joseph? What kind of man does God select to be the guardian, protector and teacher of His Son? And what can we learn about becoming and living as a person God chooses to use to build His Kingdom? All we read about Joseph is contained in three chapters of scripture; Matthew 1 and 2 and Luke 2. Turn to the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, and follow along as I read, beginning in verse 18. First, I would point out that: I. JOSEPH HAD THE RIGHT FAMILY BACKGROUND Like Mary, Joseph was of the house and lineage of King David. We must remember that this had nothing to do with Jesus’ bloodline, which came through Mary. However, because Joseph was of the tribe of Judah and of the family of King David, when the edict concerning the census went out, Joseph had to go to Bethlehem, the ancestral home of King David. Prophesy had clearly stated that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. God moved the heart of the Emperor, Caesar Augustus, to require this census and taxation. It was Joseph’s family ties which moved the holy family to Bethlehem, for Joseph was of the family of David. I find it somewhat humorous that this great and mighty Caesar, so filled with self-importance and worldly power, is now only remembered because he ordered a census which took a Jewish carpenter and his pregnant wife to Bethlehem where Biblical prophecy would be fulfilled. So Joseph had the required family background. But let’s consider family in the more common sense. I have found that our family of origin determines much about how we raise our children. We raise our children much in the same way we ourselves were raised. I would be very surprised if both Mary and Joseph did not come from strong and caring families. I also have observed that the majority of pastors, missionaries and church workers come from strong Christian families. Consider the impact of both Mary and Joseph’s parents in raising godly children whom God could use. Two of Jesus’ brothers became leaders in the early church: James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and Jude wrote the New Testament book that carries his name. Parents, your most significant contribution to the Kingdom of God may be through your children. This is the truth of Psalm 127:4-5: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…” Arrows extend the effectiveness of an archer. What an opportunity parenting offers to change the world! What a responsibility! We also observe about Joseph is that he: II. (JOSEPH) WAS A MAN OF ACTION One thing you pick up as you read about Joseph is that he was a man of action. Everyone else in the Christmas story speaks: Mary, the angel Gabriel, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds, angels, the wise men, Herod: everyone has lines—except Joseph! There is never a word recorded that Joseph spoke! He simply obeyed immediately. Although he obeyed immediately, we don’t get the impression that Joseph was impulsive; upon learning that Mary was pregnant, and before his vision from the angel, he deeply considered how he should respond to the situation. He did not react impulsively. But when given divine direction, he responded immediately. Here is a lesson for us: when faced with a crisis or decision, we should not react impulsively, but respond in a godly, considered way. When we are sure a course of action is of God, we should obey immediately. Look at Matthew 1:24: And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife. My impression is that Joseph hardly waited for morning, showing immediate obedience. Now look at 2:13: Now when the Maji had gone, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the child and His mother while it was still night and left for Egypt. Again, Joseph obeyed immediately. Verse 19: But when Herod died, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Get up, take the Child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead. So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother and came into the land of Israel. (Read vv. 22-23) Joseph once proved himself a man of action, obeying God’s direction. He was ready immediately. No words are recorded for Joseph, just complete obedience to God. God knew the dangers His Son would face in the world. Jesus’ safety as an infant and child depended upon a man who would not hesitate to obey God’s voice. Joseph didn’t procrastinate; he didn’t try and figure out the “whys” of God’s commands. He didn’t question God’s will—he simply obeyed immediately. For some people, talk is a substitute for action. For others, learning is a substitute for action. James tells us that we are to be “doers of the Word, not merely hearers”. Joseph was not a talker, nor merely a learner but a doer. He was a man of action. Some people have to have all the details, know all the “whys” before they move. God’s best servants move ahead once they have heard God’s voice. This was the man God chose for the crucial role as protector and mentor of His Son. A third observation we can make about Joseph is that: III. JOSEPH WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN In Matthew 1:19, Joseph is described as a “righteous” man. In God’s eyes, to be considered a righteous meant that you did more than simply follow all the Jewish laws and traditions. Joseph obeyed Jewish law. For instance, when Jesus was 40 days old, As Luke 2, vv. 22-24 tells us, He was taken by Joseph and Mary to the Temple for His dedication to the Lord, and where the price of redemption of a first-born male was paid. Furthermore, Scripture tells us that every year Joseph and his family made the trip to Jerusalem to keep the feast of Passover (Luke 2:41). But Joseph kept more than the letter of the law as demonstrated by his response when Mary became with child by the Holy Spirit: he decided to take the compassionate response and he planned to quietly divorce her (as required under the rules of betrothal). Mary would then be spared public embarrassment. He was a righteous man who looked for a merciful solution for a difficult situation. He carefully weighed the alternatives; he wasn’t sure what God’s will was. While a man of decisive action, Joseph prudently thought through the situation. As we observed before, Joseph was not impulsive. Righteousness tempers justice with mercy. In Joseph, God chose a compassionate and righteous man. Jesus was raised in an orthodox Jewish home where He learned and studied the Old Testament. While all the requirements of the law were kept, compassion and mercy were also demonstrated in the family. Also related to Joseph’s righteousness was his kindness and tenderness. I believe we can read love and devotion to his wife in his response to the surprise pregnancy of his bride-to-be. I believe we can read between the lines and see a man who was caught between his love for Mary, and the desire to do what was right as required by the Law. As we look at God’s pattern for marriage, we husbands are told to love and cherish our wives. I cannot doubt that the family God chose for His Son was filled with a deep mutual love between Mary and Joseph. It is a true saying that the best thing I as a father can do for my children is to love their mother. As we look at Mary and Joseph, we see two people who loved and obeyed God completely and wholeheartedly. They didn’t completely understand what was going on, but they obeyed without questioning. Joseph, by his actions, proved he, like Mary, was the bondservant of the Lord. One last thing I want to point out about this hero of Christmas is that: IV. JOSEPH WAS BOTH HUMBLE AND COURAGEOUS It is not easy to be a father. But imagine being given the task of raising God’s Son! Yes, it was a great honor to be chosen to guide and train God’s Son, yet think of having that responsibility! What a humbling experience to raise a son who never sinned! Jesus really was the perfect son being raised by an imperfect father. How did Joseph face this challenge? He did the best he could, realizing that God does not call us to do the impossible. With any task God gives us, He gives us the resources and ability to do it. I am sure Joseph made mistakes like we all do. He must have thought himself a failure when he couldn’t provide a good place for the birth of Jesus. He might have asked himself, “What kind of a husband allows his wife to bear a child in a stable?” Yet that was exactly where God wanted them to be. It was where the shepherds would feel comfortable coming. And the stable was private, whereas the inns of the day often were a single large room where everyone crowded together. Joseph learned that living by faith means taking risks. Notice how Joseph courageously and repeatedly did what was risky: he married a pregnant girl, risking his reputation. He took a wife 9 months pregnant for a long donkey ride that would have taken several days (assuming they had a donkey!) He defied the King of the land, journeying to a foreign land of Egypt with a newborn son. Remember that travel was usually done in groups for safety. A lone couple with a child would have been very vulnerable. And I think we completely underestimate the courage it took to return back to Nazareth, choosing to live with the talk and gossip of small town life. When Joseph married Mary, in the eyes of others, it was admitting that he was the father of the child and that they were guilty of immoral behavior. What kind of person does God choose to do His work? He chooses one like Joseph: a righteous man of integrity, kindness and compassion, a person who makes the right choices to obey God contrary to the conventions of society. He chooses one who is willing to act obediently rather than just talk about it. He chooses ordinary people to do His will, for an ordinary tool in the hands of an extraordinary God can accomplish amazing and extraordinary things. Joseph was just such an ordinary man in the hands of an extraordinary God. Joseph passes from the scene after Luke chapter 2. He quietly did his job well and without fanfare. Yet over 2000 years later, we honor him as a father we should imitate.
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