Friday, December 28, 2012

The Quiet Man

Whenever the Biblical Joseph comes up in conversation – and you know he does all the time – I immediately think of the son of Jacob who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, falsely accused of rape, forgotten in a dungeon and then finally appointed as second in command of all of Egypt. Great life application throughout that story for sure!
But… there’s another prominent Joseph in Scripture that consistently, in my opinion, gets the short end of the shepherd staff. And round about this time of year may be just the right time to bring him up.
Joseph, as in Mary’s Joseph, as in Jesus’ legal earthly father – you know, Joseph.
He lived in incredible times, the most incredible time in history. He had a front row seat. But he was no bystander, no simple observer, no mere member of the peanut gallery. No, Joseph’s role was critical. And it wasn’t easy.
To begin with, he was but a poor carpenter. The only thing he had going for him was his heritage – the line of King David himself. I imagine his expectations for life were humble – set up shop, marry a local gal, have children. Nothing outrageous or lofty. In fact, his engagement to Mary was probably a highlight – whether arranged or not, I’d like to think he was looking forward to becoming a husband.
Imagine, then, especially in light of their culture, when he found out that his Mary was pregnant – long before their wedding, long before he ever gave a thought to ‘being’ with her in the Biblical sense. Devastation doesn’t even begin to describe it. Ruined just scratches the surface. Crushed, pulverized, heartbroken – He had the ‘right’ of the culture to stone her. But Joseph must have been deeply kind-hearted because in the midst of humiliation and grief, he chose to ‘divorce her quietly.’
If that hadn’t been excruciating enough, God asked more of him. He asked Joseph to marry her anyway.
Take a second to think on that. You think Joseph just shrugged and said, “Yea, sure, whatever you say”? I’m thinking not! I’m thinking he agonized over this.
But he obeyed.
But he didn’t just obey. He believed and cared for his Mary responsibly, dare I hope tenderly?
Still, it wasn’t easy. Of course there would be a call for census just when the baby was about to come. What a harrowing journey that must have been. We’re not talking a walk around the block. We’re talking at least four days but probably more to go 80 miles, and traveling those days was always dangerous for one reason or another. Any of you 8-month-plus pregnant gals out there want to give that a shot? Any of you men want to be responsible for that trip? Yea, me neither.
And then not to have a place to stay. Did Joseph lament over his station that couldn’t ‘buy’ a room – *wink*wink* - and that the King of his people would be born in a stable not a palace? I’m also thinking he didn’t have access to a doctor or a midwife during this all-too-human birthing. How solid of a man did this Joseph have to be to get through all of this?
Using what little we know of Joseph, who it says in the Bible was ‘known as the father of Jesus’ (not a bad rep in my opinion), plus a healthy but steeped in reality imagination, I’ve decided that I really, really admire him. Shoot, I like him. A lot.
Here’s this guy who stands just outside the limelight. He’s suffered for his faith and his kindness. And yet he’s legally and spiritually responsible for the King of the Universe, GOD in human flesh, God’s Son. He wisely listens and obeys when via dreams and visions God helps him with this responsibility, including moving his entire family to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod’s maniac, greed-infested slaughter of innocent baby boys under the age of two.
Just think, what would have happened had Joseph not been the good and faithful man he was? He had free will. He wasn’t super-human or God’s robot. But he was God’s called, for a specific and crucial purpose, and he knew it.
Do you feel like you’ve spent your life just shy of the limelight? Have you suffered in seemingly needless fashion – a broken heart, a senseless loss, an unfair twist of circumstances or outright betrayal of evil people? Do you feel insignificant or forgotten?
Listen here… Joseph, Mary’s Joseph, had more reason than most to turn bitter, rant at God, chose himself for once. But… he didn’t. And thank God for that! After all, he enabled God’s plan of salvation for you and me to manifest and come to fruition. He did what God, in all His wisdom and knowledge and perfection, asked of him.
And we should too. You never know what part of history you play by humble obedience, devotion, and service.
Hope you all had a blessed Christmas, Dry Ground friends!