God’s Teaching Methods: Parables/Stories “Theatre” (Isaiah 20:1-6; Ezekiel 4; Jeremiah 13:1-11) Biblical “types” (Genesis 22 is the preeminent example) Figures of Speech (metaphors, similes, hyperbole, etc.) Special Case: The Marriage Relationship God seems to use the marriage relationship to teach us some of His most important, and intimate lessons:
Marriage as the “Imago Dei” “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) The Hebrew word translated “one” in this verse is “echad”.
Turning to Deuteronomy 6:4, “The Shema”, we see the exact same word echad presented again, but this time, in a description of God Himself: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4) Our marriage relationships somehow echo the very nature and imprint of God Himself (the Imago Dei). God is three, existing eternally, in perfect harmony, as echad. And He created you and I to become echad through a very special relationship we call marriage. Wow! (bought any flowers lately guys?)
Marriage as God’s relationship to His people: Old Testament: Isaiah 54:5; 61:10; 62:5 The entire life of the prophet Hosea was a theatrical parable comparing Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute with God’s “marriage” to His chosen people Israel. Jeremiah 3:14a: “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you…” Song of Solomon? New Testament: Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 9:15 Romans 7:4; 2Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23-33; Rev. 19:7-9
What can “Marriage” teach us about Joseph? Let’s take a quick look at the customs of the ancient Jewish wedding before we look at our passage:
Ancient Jewish CustomParallel to the Church Shiddukhin (The Match) Initiated by the father of the groom An agent is sometimes used Choice of groom considered Consent of the bride is given Christ acted at the initiative of the Father, John 5:30 Holy Spirit acts as agent of Father in the world today, 1 Cor. 2:10; Gal. 4:6; (prefigured in Gen. 24) Christ chose His disciples, John 15:16 We respond to Christ's love and accept Him, 1 Pet. 1:8 (c.f., Genesis 24:57-58) Mohar (The Bride Price) Required by law Paid by the father of the groom Reflects the value of the bride Our Mohar was the very life of Jesus The price was required by the Law, Rom. 8:3,4 The Mohar was paid, as required, 1Cor. 6:20, 1 Pet 1:18 The value placed on the bride was high, John 3:1 Mattan (Love Gifts) Given by the groom to the bride. Not required, an expression of love. Believers are given gifts by the Lord out of love: Eternal Life, John 10: Anything, John 14:13-14 Peace, John 14:27
Ancient Jewish CustomParallel to the Church Shiluhim (Dowry) Given to the bride by her father to equip her for her new life, part of her inheritance. Believers are given gifts by the Father to equip them for their new life: The Holy Spirit, John 14:16, 17 Spiritual Gifts, 2 Cor. 1:21-22 Ketubah (The Marriage Contract) Written document stating the Mohar, the Rights of the bride, the promises of the groom. Our written contract stating the Mohar, the rights of the Bride, and the promises of the Groom is the Bible 2Cor. 3:5-6 Heb. 8:6 Mattan (Love Gifts) Given by the groom to the bride. Not required, an expression of love. Believers are given gifts by the Lord out of love: Eternal Life, John 10: Anything, John 14:13-14 Peace, John 14:27
Ancient Jewish CustomParallel to the Church Kiddushin (The Betrothal) (This is the stage that Joseph and Mary are in when Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant) Legally bound at this point. The betrothal could not be broken except by a formal certificate of divorce. Sealed with the 'cup of acceptance’ Responsibility of the Groom: o Preparation of a dwelling place, usually a room added to his father’s house (symbolized by the Chuppah) Responsibility of the Bride: o Purification (Mikveh) o Undistracted devotion o Anticipation Cup of the New Covenant, Matt. 26:27-29 Christ goes to prepare a place for us, John 14:1-3 We are 'set apart', 2 Cor. 11:2, 1 Pet 15:1 Purified by 'washing,' l Cor. 6:11 We are not to be distracted by: o False Teachers, 2 John 7-11 o Worldly Things, l John 2:15 We anticipate Christ's return, Matt. 24:42-44
Ancient Jewish CustomParallel to the Church Nissuin (The Nuptials) Groom's father decides when Son may return for the bride. Arrival unexpected by the bride Abduction of the bride. o Consummation of the marriage while the “friend of the groom” stands at the door and listens for his voice o Finely dressed and crowned o Marriage Feast o Bride and Groom dwell together in happiness Only the Father knows when the Son will return, Matt. 13:32 We do not know when He will return Mark 1 3:32 We will be 'abducted,' I Thess. 4:16- 18, Luke 17:34-36 John the Baptist/Elijah are the “friend of the Groom”, John 3:29 We will be crowned, l Pet 5:4, James 1:12. 2 Tim. 4:8 He will be crowned, Rev. 14:14 We will take part in the marriage feast of the Lamb, Rev. 19:6-9 We will dwell forever with the Groom in happiness, IThess. 4 :17, Rev. 2 1:3. Now read John 14:2-3. We’ve all read it before. It is such a beautiful and comforting passage, many of us probably have it committed to memory. But how many of us realized that Jesus was drawing directly on the customs and practices of the Jewish wedding ritual. He wanted His disciples to understand this and make the connection.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Let’s try to slip Joseph’s sandals on our own feet for a moment, and try to really get an sense of what he must have been feeling… Joseph and Mary were in the “betrothal” phase. Legally bound to each other through the “ketubah” But were not to engage in sexually intimate activity When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, he: Believed she had committed the most terrible, personal transgression imaginable Thought that she had rejected him; denied and broken her obligation under the ketubah; and given herself in the most intimate way possible to another man. Joseph was most likely outraged, ashamed, and heartbroken all at the same time. He was experiencing the kind of emotions that cause men to react in the most horrifying ways. So, when we are told that Joseph was a “just man”, I am frightened for Mary’s sake
Do you want God to give you justice? I’ll pass. If God suddenly decided to give me the justice I deserved, I’d be a dead man; separated from my Lord and suffering for all eternity. I don’t want God’s justice; I want his “Mercy” and His “Grace”…
Mercy vs. Grace Mercy = Not receiving what you deserve (i.e., Justice and therefore death) Grace = Receiving what you do not deserve (i.e., Forgiveness and therefore life)
Joseph was a “just man”. In other words, he was not able to simply “excuse” what he believed to be a horrible transgression committed by Mary. He demanded justice, so he made up his mind to write a certificate of divorce and terminate the betrothal. But in the very next words of the passage, we learn something else about Joseph. We learn that he was not only a man of justice; he was also a man of grace and mercy. He was “unwilling to put her to shame” so he “resolved to divorce her quietly”. What do you think this really means?
When it says that Joseph resolved to divorce Mary quietly, I think it means that he decided not expose her pregnancy. Months later, when her “condition” became public knowledge, Joseph intended for everyone to assume that he, himself had broken the strong Jewish customs and had engaged in sexual relations with Mary (most likely against her will), and then had decided to divorce her because, through his own outrageous and shameful behavior, she was no longer a virgin and therefore no longer “pleasing” to him.
Joseph knew that he would become a “lightning rod” for all of the public outrage and criticism. All of the shame and rejection would be directed away from Mary and toward himself. Through Joseph’s merciful decision, Mary would be viewed as a victim, and he would be viewed as a thuggish, despicable brute. His good reputation would be destroyed, and most likely even his ability to earn a living and maintain residence in his own hometown.
To me, this is one of the most incredible displays of grace and mercy found anywhere in the Bible (at least on Joseph’s side of the cross). His decision would have come at tremendous personal cost. Joseph was a just man. He could not simply excuse Mary’s sin and sweep it under the rug. The transgression had been committed and therefore it must be “paid for”. But he was also a merciful, loving man, so he resolved to divorce her quietly, and in so doing, pay himself the penalty for her sin… Hmmmm… Does that sound familiar?
This is the decision Joseph made. This is the type of man he was. Exactly the type of man God needed to nurture, and teach, and love His only begotten Son. I can’t wait to meet him in person…