As readers, we are very quickly thrown into the hurricane of controversy and surprise that is Joseph of Nazareth’s current life. After Joseph has brooded over his betrothed’s pregnancy alone, with his domestic hopes darkened and a large piece of his future happiness hampered, Joseph resolves to carry out the painful step of divorce, although in the least offensive way. However, the Lord Himself intercedes in Joseph’s sleep. The style in which God chooses to speak to Joseph is one he has most likely heard of, since he is a descendant in the line of David, a lineage which entailed prophetic dreams from the Lord of which even we have heard of in the 20th century. We can only imagine what Joseph is thinking after the Lord tells him that he should name this coming child Jesus, translating to “Jehovah the Savior” in Hebrew.
There is no doubt that we would all feel a little inadequate if God told us we were to parent the future Savior of the world, so we can only imagine what Joseph is thinking after he is informed of this child’s purpose. The author Matthew references Isaiah 7:14, detailing the happening fulfillment of prophecy, which so many Jews knew of and studied in anticipation for their coming Savior. In this reference, Isaiah writes “they will name him Immanuel” meaning “God with us”—not that Jesus is to have this title for a proper name, but that He should be known in this character as God manifested in the flesh, dwelling among His created people. Joseph awakens from this revelatory dream, his confusion about his betrothed dismissed. Now with clarity from the angel of the Lord, Joseph goes against all those in the community condemning Mary for what looks like unfaithfulness and commits in obedience to the Lord, following through in a marriage covenant to the soon-to-be mother of Jesus, God with us.
Take time to reflect on how this passage displays God’s character. What do we learn about God through the means and timing He chooses to interact with Joseph? If you know the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, what is the significance of the names God mentions in this passage? Finally, spend time in prayer thanking the Lord for how carefully and intentionally He orchestrated the birth of Jesus.