Today we head over to Matthew’s Gospel to read about Joseph’s perspective, and another angelic announcement. This angel has very specific instructions for Joseph: even though you have discovered that your fiancée is expecting a child that is not yours, do not be afraid to marry her.
In Jewish Law, a betrothal (an engagement) was legally binding. Women were betrothed very young, and then there was a gap before the wedding. A betrothed couple lived apart and did not sleep with each other, but they were faithful to one another as if they were married. The only way to end a betrothal was by a divorce. Even though Mary and Joseph were not actually married yet and did not live together, they were legally as good as husband and wife.
So, Joseph could not let Mary’s pregnancy go without doing something as it seemed as though she had been unfaithful to him. He could have publically shamed her as unfaithful, or privately divorced her in front of only two witnesses, or gone ahead with the marriage.
Until the angel visited him, he had decided on a private divorce, hoping to save Mary from public shame. However, like Mary, his faith was such that he obeyed what the angel told him to the letter, whatever the cost to himself.
Yesterday we thought about the cost to Mary of becoming pregnant, and the chance of her losing everything by obeying God. This passage in Matthew’s Gospel reassures us that God knew exactly what Mary’s fears were, and already had it under control.
The husband that God had chosen for Mary was up to the task. He was loving, compassionate, faithful to God and obedient too. God made sure that Joseph knew what was happening, and was confident that Joseph would obey so that Mary would not be cast aside, ashamed and disgraced.
When God asks us to walk a difficult path, we can be absolutely sure that he has gone before us and will provide everything we need.