Points Covered: Living righteous in an unrighteous world based on the life of righteous Joseph, Jesus’s father.
Introduction: It is always easy to travel downstream than to travel upstream. It is easy to be living like the world than to live according to the word of God. How is you life? Are you living like the world or living according to the word of God? It needs courage and determination to travel upstream isn’t it?
There is a story of courage that took place in the very first Christmas. But it is a story we often miss because people’s Christmas focus is mostly around young mother Mary and her son, Jesus. Truly, that is the theme of Christmas. But do you know there is a man who stands silently next to the manger in the nativity scene? He is not even given a single line to speak! Then he disappears completely from history after the teenage years of Jesus. Joseph was the man to whom God entrusted the great task of protecting the mother and her child from the time Mary conceived Jesus to the life-threatening early years of his life. His name is Joseph of Nazareth.
Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son
18This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph. 19Because 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. 20But 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. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:24-25 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
I like Joseph. He doesn’t stand in the spotlight very long, & we don’t know a whole lot about his life, but Joseph was the kind of man God could trust to be strong in the midst of a crisis. He would stand for God. He went through all possible crises a man can go through but displayed great courage in those circumstances. The reason Joseph had such courage was because of his relationship with God: Joseph was a righteous man. Matthew 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Qualities of Righteous Joseph.
1. Trust God at all times.
Joseph teaches us to trust God at all times.
Put yourself in his position. Joseph and Mary’s parents come with the proposal. They like each other and get engaged. As per tradition Joseph is working hard to earn a steady income. Once established, he will marry and bring Mary home.
Probably, all necessary arrangements are in progress and the wedding ceremony was soon to take place. Joseph dreamt of marrying and that they would settle down in Nazareth. He would continue on in his carpenter business, & they would live happily together ever after.
But then one day Mary sent him a whatsapp message, “Joseph, I am expecting a baby.” It must have hit him like a bombshell. He thought that Mary loved him as much as he loved her. But now, seemingly, she had been unfaithful to him. He knew the child was not his, & so the only conclusion he could reach was that Mary had been unfaithful to him.
According to the law, Mary should be stoned to death. But Joseph loved her so much that he didn’t want that. So he decided to divorce her quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” God was in turn telling Joseph, “Joseph I know you are confused. You do not know what is happening. Trust me, I am in this. You may not understand all that is happening, but just trust me & everything will be all right.”
Sometimes it is hard to live by faith, isn’t it? If God always does what we expect Him to do, if our breakthrough is on time, then maybe it’s easy to have faith. But when God doesn’t do what we expect, then it’s hard. See, Joseph trusted God. Even though he must have had a list of questions, he trusted God because he believed that God’s will was best.
Child of God, you may not understand all that is happening. You may suffer a temporary setback, a disappointment, an unfair situation but if you keep moving forward and trust God it will not be permanent. God is faithful to take care of you.
What you are facing maybe stronger, more powerful, or a herculean task. Deep down you must know that you cannot be defeated. The creator of this universe is on your side.
This is what Joseph did. He had one bad break after another right from the time he got engaged to Mary. It looked like everything was over for him. Joseph could have become bitter, angry, God is not fair. No he trusted God at all times and God took care of him, protected him, and led him through those difficult times.
Sometimes we find ourselves in the same position as Joseph. Christmas comes as a time of peace, but there is conflict in our lives. Christmas comes as a time of joy, but there is so much sadness. Christmas comes as a season of love, but there are so many problems, uncertainties, and issues we deal with. Sometimes we do not know how it will all end up.
We cry out, “God, how can this be?” But like Joseph God is speaking to us this morning, “Trust Me. My ways are not always your ways. My thoughts are higher than your thoughts. You may never understand everything that God is doing, but Trust Me, & it will all work out good,” Says the Lord.
Paul wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Today, you may not know how things will work out in your life but I want to exhort you to trust God like Joseph did and everything will work our beautiful in His time. It is a matter of time before God gives you a breakthrough. When you trust God today, God is going to stand by his word and bring you to a flourishing future.
2. Give love instead of anger.
Restrain anger and chose to love others. We can only imagine how Joseph reacted when he found out that Mary was pregnant. The only way he could explain her pregnancy was that she had been unfaithful to him.
What would be initial response of any man?
- Shock. He must have been shocked to the core.
- Deep sorrow. His dreams of marriage to a virgin girl now seemed to be forever shattered.
- Anger. Joseph must have felt betrayed. He would want to punish Mary!
But Joseph’s godly character (righteousness) enabled him to rein in his anger. Under all these circumstances Joseph did not speak a word about Mary but found a way to protect her.
How do you react to the people who hurt you? Do you forgive or love them? 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Maybe as you are sitting here this morning, your remember people who have hurt you, maybe you are angry with them. Maybe you worked hard for a promotion but it did not come through. Maybe you stood firm in a relationship but it did not work out. One of the best things you can do is to forgive, let go, give grace and love instead of anger.
If you struggle to find out why it all happened that way, it will end up giving you pain, bitterness, and steal your joy. You may have not understood it, it may not have been fair but when you chose to forgive and give love, it is an act of your faith. You are doing a righteous thing in God’s sight.
You are saying, “God I know you are in control and even thought it did not work out my way, I know all things will work out for my good. So I believe you still have something good in my future.” There is power when you let go your bitterness and learn to love. Let go that frustration, trust God and God will begin to work in your favour. The problem is we don’t let go and trust God.
Joke: There was a mountain climber who reached almost the peak of the mountain and suddenly he slipped and fell. As he was falling down, he got hold of a bush and soon he was dangling up in the air 100s of feet above. With all his voice he shouted, “Is anybody up there.” A voice came from heaven, “I am here for you, what do you need?” He said, “God, I cannot hold on any longer, please rescue me.” God said, “Leave your hand and I will catch you down.” After a long pause the man said, “Is there anybody else up there?” That is the way we do many times, God I want things my way, the way I want it but I am not going to release, let go what I am holding on to.
Joseph’s life did not turn out to be as he wanted but he courageously chose to accept Mary and move on in life. Give love instead of anger.
Moving on: Remember, Joseph was living in a society that was hostile towards him. As Mary’s pregnancy became obvious to the people in their small town, Joseph knew that he also would be publicly embarrassed. The society would have asked him to divorce and insult Mary. His own father, family would have been against him and this marriage. Joseph would have been justified in publicly divorcing Mary. In fact, the society he lived in expected him to express outrage and punish Mary. That is where a righteous man makes a difference.
3. Do not live for people’s approval.
Joseph lived for God’s approval. Joseph was struggling in-between 2 opinions – Divorce her or accept her. Listen to the family and society or listen to God. But, after an angel explained to him that Mary was pregnant because of a miracle, Joseph decided to marry her.
Matthew 1:24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Do not live for people’s approval. Too many people get their worth and value out of what other people think. Do they like me, do they approve what I do. Only insecure people seek people’s approval but a righteous man seeks godly approval.
Don’t let anyone control or manipulate you. If people want to control you and that gives them joy, they are really not your well wishers, they are manipulating you. They will end up stealing you dream and destroying you. You do not need anyone’s approval, you just need God’s approval and when you stand for that, God will bring people to fulfil your dreams. God will take care of you.
So, don’t spend your life trying to keep everyone around you happy, pursue righteousness by keeping God happy, obeying him and following his plans and God will make your life happy.
4. Display moral righteousness.
Joseph displayed moral integrity. Integrity means always taking the high road. Joseph finally accepted Mary as his wife. Listen, he had not even known or touched her when they were dating. He kept his youth clean even after the engagement. He was courageous enough to live a moral life in a corrupt culture. However, after marriage he had a problem. He wife is conceived in the Holy Spirit, so Joseph did a noble and courageous act. Matthw 1:25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The Bible displays the integrity of this man which is the key to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Although Joseph had his legitimate rights after the marriage, the Bible says he did not have physical relations with Mary until after Jesus was born.
Men and women, it takes courage to say no and stick on to moral holiness. The world says it is okay to engage in sex before marriage but the righteous man says, “No, I will live for moral righteousness. I will stand for the principles of the word of God.”
The fact that they did have sexual relations after the birth of Jesus is a model for us that within the boundaries of marriage; sex is a pure and beautiful gift of God.
I am challenging youngsters, “God has a higher calling in your life. If you want to reach that height, that great life and future; it demands a higher level of lifestyle. He wants you to display moral righteousness.” God is calling for youngsters for abstinence.
Oh! Pastor, the society is bad, my friends are doing everything. They will call me insane, frenetic. What will she or he think? Joseph grew up among people who were very religious, morally corrupt but Joseph pursed moral righteousness. Joseph in the OT had the same type of pressure in his life. He left his garment and ran from the bed of the adulteress.
Truly, people have never treated righteous men very kindly; they are hated by the society, not accepted by friends. Joseph was put in the prison. They killed the OT prophets. They even rejected and killed Jesus but God approves and honours righteousness. My question is: Will you stand for God in a morally corrupt world.
5. Godly righteousness is not self-seeking.
One final lesson we learn from Joseph is to care and provide for others who are in need.
Proverbs 21:26 Righteous gives without sparing.
You know, Joseph’s assignment was a pretty simple one in the manger scene and in our Christmas cards. We picture Mary looking so angelic. Then there are excited shepherds, & the wise men with their gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh. In the midst of them all is the Christ child in the manger, looking so pure & clean.
Over on the side stands Joseph. His isn’t a starring role, but his part is so important. His task given by God is this, “Take care of Mary & the baby Jesus and give his best to them.” Joseph had the important role of caring and giving for the needs of others.
Christmas came because Joseph was righteous and cared about Mary & Jesus. He gave whatever he had to give. He didn’t know that after Jesus was born that he would have to take Mary & the baby into Egypt. He didn’t know that he would be separated from his home town & his loved ones there for a long period of time. Many times his plans and preferences were sacrificed. He didn’t know all the demands that would be made him, but whatever God asked of him, Joseph freely gave.
The first Christmas came because a righteous Joseph gave his life to help and care for Mary and Jesus. Christmas truly came because God loved us and cared for us in giving his only begotten son to die in our place. Christmas will be true to us when we learn to love and care, but the greatest gift is the gift of love.
Conclusion: Joseph was an ordinary man but a God-fearing man but the Bible calls him righteous Joseph. Who is righteous? 1 John 3:7 The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
As we being our Christmas month what is it that God is speaking to you today?
People who are righteous:
- Trust God at all times.
- Choose to give love instead of anger.
- Don’t live for people’s approval.
- Live for moral integrity.
- Care and help others in need.
Righteous people make righteous decisions because those decisions are the right things to do even when those decisions hurt them.