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God at Risk with a Righteous Man

Do you believe that God will take a risk, or put Himself at risk, in His dealings with humanity? In reading the account of Matthew this week regarding the birth of Jesus Christ (1:18-25), I was reminded afresh that God will indeed put Himself at risk if He can find the right man with which to do it. The kind of man of which we speak is a righteous man. The Scripture tells us that Joseph, the legal father of the Lord Jesus, was a just man (1:19), and exactly the kind of man required for the entrustment of the Holy Child Jesus.

A stewardship of this magnitude has never been equaled! A parental responsibility has never been greater! The story of Christmas, unlike any other, illustrates the unfathomable relationship between sovereignty and vulnerability! I call your attention to four distinctive character traits that were evident in Joseph the just man, the man with whom God placed Himself at risk. 

The first is a refusal to participate in the public humiliation of another. In this case, it was the woman to whom he was engaged. While he contemplated a divorcement as part of his initial response, he was determined that under no circumstances would it be done in a manner that would inflict public harm or embarrassment upon her. It would remain a private matter. Such is the disposition of a righteous man.  

I recall a 1974 college chapel service, in which the preacher (a soul-winning icon among Independent Baptists) spoke of his public rebuke of an usher who was too slow (in his opinion) in getting an information card to a visitor in the congregation. He sought to justify the action in terms of his spiritual authority as pastor. The fact is this “man of God” was self-absorbed and deceived. He abused his position to humiliate another in a public venue—something Joseph refused to do! 

The second is an aversion for impulsive decision-making. Although he was minded to put her away, we are told that he thought on these things (1:20). The Greek verb translated thought indicates an inward reflection upon, and consideration of, a matter. It means to ponder. Joseph knew the stakes were high. It was no time for haste! After an ample season of reflection, the angel of the Lord appeared with revelatory light regarding the Holy Ghost conception. Time given to reflection brought heavenly direction and the right decision! Deliberative restraint is one of the marks of a righteous man! 

The third is an obedient response to revelation. A righteous man does not necessarily have all the answers. Sometimes darkness may temporarily obscure his path as he waits patiently upon the Lord. The exercise of restraint, however, does not demonstrate a lack of resolve. In the dream, the messenger of the Lord brought light. After Joseph was raised from sleep, he did as he was bidden (1:24). A righteous man is predisposed to obey the light he is given. 

The fourth is sexual purity. We are told that these events took place before they came together (1:18). The virginity of Mary, as the sign of Divine conception (Isaiah 7:14), usually overshadows the fact that Joseph himself was a sexually pure man—a virgin engaged to a virgin. There was no promiscuity, nor surrender to lust, within this relationship. Joseph proceeded to marry his sweetheart in obedience to the Lord, and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son (1:25). A righteous man is a sexually pure man, who, by the grace of God, has mastered his God-given sexual passions. The events surrounding Christmas demonstrate the direct link between sexual purity and spiritual privilege! 

Brethren, the Christmas season is the celebration of Emmanuel, God with us. It concerns a virgin maiden, chosen of the Lord to be the vehicle by which God Himself, robed in human flesh, would enter this world for the purpose of saving His people from their sins. But it also involves a righteous man named Joseph, the spiritual head of his household, to whom God the Father would entrust the care of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world.  

Although Joseph is seldom the focal point of Christmas, his righteous character speaks volumes about the kind of man with whom God will put Himself at risk to accomplish His will in the earth! A sober reflection upon the manner in which Joseph conducted himself during the most critical years of human history prompts this question: Is God willing to put Himself at risk with me?


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