Vantage Point: An Advent Devotional - Week 1 | Be a (righteous) Man!
One of my favorite things to do on a warm sunny day is stare up at the clouds as they roll by. Often, I’ll do this with my kids and play a little game where we say what we think each cloud looks like. It’s always amazing to me how different a person’s perspective can be. Where I might see a dragon one of the boys might see a dog. Where they might see a football player throwing a touchdown I might see a rabbit hopping through a field. Perspective is powerful. Perspective changes the way we see things.
Today we’re kicking off an advent series that we’re calling, “Vantage Point.” Where for the next few weeks we’re going to look at some of the major players in the Christmas story. Each of them provides a different perspective on the Christmas story but all of them culminate in one incredible, history altering moment, the birth of Jesus Christ. Today we begin with a man who doesn’t get a lot of press on the pages of scripture, but whose story is vital to the birth of Jesus. His name is Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus. And what an inspiring man he is. Let’s dive into God’s Word;
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25
So, let’s summarize the high nails of this account written by Matthew;
Joseph, a great grandson many times removed from the “house of David” is pledged to be married to Mary. In those days that meant you weren’t officially married yet, but you might as well have been. It was a binding contract between the families of the soon to be bride and groom. The betrothal period would last about one year as the groom made preparations for his bride-to-be; building a home, getting finances in order etc. During that time the couple was not permitted to see each other. It was during this time that Mary discovers she is pregnant! Ruhroh Shraggy! Can you imagine the scene as Mary tried to explain to Joseph that she has been impregnated by the Holy Spirit and that she is carrying God’s long prophesied messiah? Suuuuurrrrrre you are Mary! Put yourself in Joseph’s sandals. He would have been disgraced, embarrassed and feeling the sting of betrayal in a big way. And yet what Joseph does next hits me like a paint can hitting Marv and Harry in Home Alone! Look at what it says;
19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:19
Joseph had EVERY RIGHT to put her on trial, divorce her, and publicly shame her in front of the entire town according to the law. AND YET; HE DID NOT WANT HER TO BE DISGRACED. And because of that Joseph found himself between a rock and hard place. Why? Well, he was faithful to the law (he was righteous) so he knew he couldn’t go through with the marriage, but because he was righteous he did not want to shame her. He loves her and he doesn’t want her to be disgraced in front of the whole town. So, he decides to “divorce her quietly.”
But before he can do this something miraculous happens. God shows up in a dream and confirms the unthinkable, Mary is telling the truth! Don’t be afraid Joseph, she hasn’t cheated on you and she IS carrying the messiah. You are to marry her and help raise him! How Joseph responded next should inspire us today;
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:24
Notice what Matthew tells us, “Joseph did what the Lord commanded!” Now that might not seem like a big deal but it is. Many guys would have turned and run faster than Forrest Gump. The million dollar question is, why didn’t he?
Because Joseph was a RIGHTEOUS man, and he proved it from start to finish;
He showed incredible empathy in not publicly humiliating her.
He obediently agreed to marry her and help her raise Jesus when he could have said, “nope, not my kid.” This was at great cost to his own reputation, his bank account and whatever future plans he had for himself.
He had to wait to consummate his marriage, a challenge for many men.
We learn that he raised Jesus in a Godly home; he circumcised him on the 8th day, took him to Passover and modeled righteousness for him.
He protected his family when Herod later sought to kill Jesus by willingly moving to a foreign land.
Finally, he provided for them with an honest trade by taking on the occupation of a carpenter.
He was truly a righteous man, and his life has much to teach us about what it looks like to be a real man. When you think about what makes a real man what comes to mind?” Because here’s what our culture says; A real man has “drip” and swagger (cue the Bee Gees “Stayin Alive”). They wear a power suit and tie and have a power grip. They’re educated CEO’s, esteemed in their field. They’ve got money, bling, cars and a fat 401k.
But here’s the truth: so many men are missing the mark; it’s an epidemic.
They care more about their careers, sports teams, fantasy teams and hobbies than following God and loving their families. There is a self-centeredness that pervades our culture and a mindset of “what can bring ME the most satisfaction.” Men are deeply addicted to pornography, alcohol and drugs, sex and partying. Many are devoid of maturity, choosing to play “Call of Duty” in their moms basement rather than grow up and become responsible men who are making an impact in the world.
The core of the problem? It can be found in the heart. The bottom line is that for many men their love of self is greater than their love for God and others. In Joseph’s day someone was considered righteous because he kept the law, but often their motivations were selfish, it was all about THEM looking good. But true righteousness is motivated by LOVE for GOD and LOVE for PEOPLE. And Joseph showed this in an incredibly tangible way. I can sum up his “love motivated righteousness” in three ways. He showed;
Compliance; Because he loved God he obediently trusted God’s plan even when it seemed crazy and he was willing to give up his own plans to do God’s will.
Compassion; He showed incredible compassion to Mary even before he knew she was telling the truth.
Courage; In spite of what others thought he took responsibility for Mary and Jesus and in the face of great danger he saved them from Herod and put his own reputation on the line.
So here’s the question, what kind of man are you? Do you really want to impact your world? The world says you do that through getting greater power, earning more money and developing a bigger brand for yourself. But what if we viewed success through a different lens? What if we viewed success as simply being a man like Joseph? That’s my challenge to you today;
Be compliant; Follow Jesus in obedience no matter what. First and foremost by leading your wife and children to love and follow the Lord. Second by modeling the way a Jesus-follower lives; by sharing the gospel and serving in Christ’s church. That is what makes you a real man.
Be compassionate; Empathize with the pain of people around you. Be motivated by grace and forgiveness. Seek to protect others who can’t protect themselves and see enemies as souls to be transformed by Christ.
Be courageous; Stand up for what is right and be willing to take risks for the gospel no matter what the cultural pressures are. And be willing to sacrifice for the good of others. At the end of your life this is what will matter.
The truth is by the world’s standards Joseph didn’t amount to much; he was overshadowed by Mary, he wasn’t a business mogul and he didn’t achieve a huge platform. But think about his legacy? He gave up the life he might have wanted to obediently serve the Lord and it changed the world!
What’s crazy is Joseph was just doing what the child he would help raise would one day do for the whole world. Thirty-three years later Jesus would model what a perfectly righteous man looks like. Like Joseph, Jesus too was obligated by the law to take action against sin and yet he loved us and did not want us to be shamed. He left his throne in heaven to sacrifice himself and show us what true righteousness is. By dying on the cross he fulfilled the punishment that the law required by taking the wrath of God upon himself. While at the same time shielding us from the shame of our sin. THIS is what the Christmas story is ultimately about. The birth of a messiah who would one day save the world through one incredible act of sacrificial love.
So men, I leave you with this challenge today as you think about your life and impact during this Christmas season; be a man like Joseph, because Joseph was a man like Jesus!
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