Saturday, February 3, 2018

Who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:25-37

Luk 10:25  And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 

Luk 10:26  He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 

Luk 10:27  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 

Luk 10:28  And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 

Luk 10:29  But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

Luk 10:30  Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 

Luk 10:31  Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 

Luk 10:32  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 

Luk 10:33  But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 

Luk 10:34  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 

Luk 10:35  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 

Luk 10:36  Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? 

Luk 10:37  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

The parable of the Good Samaritan is familiar to us but its message is always for today and is a challenge to us.

Jesus was approached by a lawyer whose occupation was to interpret the Law and make additional laws to ensure that the Law was not violated.  They were experts at making life miserable with burdens God never intended for his people to carry. He came to Jesus with a perhaps a prideful attitude and wanted Jesus to know that he was a great example of one who kept the Law or possibly he came with a sincere question.  The question he posed to Jesus was to find out who Jesus would say was truly his neighbor.

The scribe who asked this question was in earnest. Jesus asked him what was written in the law, and then said, "How do you read?" Strict orthodox Jews wore round their wrists little leather boxes called phylacteries, which contained certain passages of scripture--Exodus 13:1-10; Exodus 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-20. "You will love the Lord your God" is from Deuteronomy 6:4 and Deuteronomy 11:13. So Jesus said to the scribe, "Look at the phylactery on your own wrist and it will answer your question." To that the scribes added Leviticus 19:18, which bids a man love his neighbour as himself; but with their passion for definition the Rabbis sought to define who a man's neighbour was; and at their worst and their narrowest they confined the word neighbour to their fellow Jews. For instance, some of them said that it was illegal to help a gentile woman in her sorest time, the time of childbirth, for that would only have been to bring another gentile into the world. So then the scribe's question, "Who is my neighbour?" was genuine. (William Barclay Commentary on Luke)

When we look at the life of the Samaritan we notice several things about his life.

1.       He was a Samaritan.  The Jews regarded the Samaritans as rebels and they wanted nothing to do with them.  They were outcasts who were a mixed breed as they had married outside of the Jewish nations.  The strict Jew did not want to have any association with a Gentile and because the Samaritans were a mixture of Jew and Gentile they were rejected.  Jesus used the Samaritan as an example to the lawyer which gave even greater impact to his story.  The lawyer would be comparing himself to someone he rejected yet in the end would have to come to a conclusion that he could not deny.

2.      The Samaritan traveled alone and this was not a safe way to travel on a road that was known for its robberies.  The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was called the “The Red or Bloody Way”.  It was a road with many twists and turns which made it easy for robbers who hid behind the rocks to quickly jump out and rob people.  The Samaritan was not using good judgment to travel alone on this 20 mile road.  So as Jesus told the story, those listening were probably making judgments about the Samaritan that reinforced their prejudice against them and labeled this man as careless.

3.      The Samaritan made himself available.  The Levite and the Priest did not respond to the need.  They avoided making themselves available to help the injured man. They were more concerned with violating the Law which forbid them from touching a dead person if they wanted to stay ceremonially clean.  The priest would lose his turn of duty at the Temple and would be unclean for 7 days.

4.      The Samaritan was a risk taker.  When he saw the injured man on the road, he took a risk to help him.  The injured man could have been faking his injury so that someone would come to aid him and then the robbers who were part of the plan would jump out and rob the one who came to help.  The Levite came a little closer than the Priest but was not willing to do more than just look at the injured man. The lawyer was probably thinking that the Samaritan was acting foolishly by taking the risk but Jesus was emphasizing his courage to reach out to help someone who was injured.

5.      The Samaritan had compassion.  Maybe he saw himself in the injured man.  He could have been in the same situation and would have wanted someone to help him.  The word compassion means more than just pity.  It is a very strong feeling, a yearning in the heart.  It is as though you see something that takes your breath away. It is more than a reaction and has with it the desire to do something to aid the person in trouble.

6.      The Samaritan made his resources available to the injured man.  His material possessions of cloth, oil, wine and his donkey were readily used to help the man.  He used them to bandage the wounds as best he could and transport him to a safe place where he could receive care until he recovered.

7.      The Samaritan was generous and trustworthy.  He must have developed a relationship with the Inn keeper that he could be trusted to pay whatever additional expenses incurred. He went beyond what was expected of him to provide additional help in his absence.

When Jesus finished telling the story, it was obvious to the Lawyer who the true neighbor was but also what it means to be a neighbor.  The applications to our lives should also be obvious.

1.       At times we find ourselves facing situations that we did not expect to encounter.  We have the opportunity to make a response to come to the aid of a person in need or we can make excuses or justify our lack of involvement. 

2.      We can choose to make ourselves available to help someone in need.  If we are so set on our agenda or schedule we will not give ourselves the option of stopping to help someone.  An act of kindness or assistance may only take a moment of our time but if we do not have a mindset that we are available we probably won’t do anything .

3.      Involvement usually carries some amount of risk to ourselves. Pulling someone out of a burning house or car is a high risk that few people would be willing to take.  In some situations we may risk our health and safety.  Intervention is not always and easy task and may result in people opposing what you are doing to help the person in need. 

4.      When we truly love our neighbor then having compassion toward them in times of need should be a natural reaction and response.  Love is an action word not just a feeling. We can measure our love by the type of response we give to situation we encounter.  We must be able to put ourselves in the situation the person is confronting and allow ourselves to experience to some degree what they are feeling.  If we were in the same situation they are facing how would we want someone to respond to us?

5.      A true neighbor will make their resources available to someone in need.  We will give what we can to help them and give it immediately.  For some people delaying in giving often leads to not giving at all.  It is not impulsive giving but spontaneous giving from a generous and compassionate heart.  If God is the true owner of everything we have then it should not be difficult to give away what he has given to us when he prompts us to do so.  An open hand is better than a closed fist.

6.      Another way we can help is by getting people the help they need.  Connecting them to other people who are better prepared and skilled in dealing with situations the person confronts is important.  Follow up care is a great way to show compassion to others.  Checking up with them to see how they are doing is very meaningful to the person we are helping.

Throughout this week of your ministry with us you have seen people in need in many areas of life be it physical, emotional, spiritual.  You have responded in love through the ministry you have given to the people and for this we are very grateful.

As you return home I pray that you will continue to reach out to people in need in your community and make yourself available and do what God leads you to do to demonstrate his compassion.  We live in a broken world and we have many opportunities to demonstrate the love of God.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Testimony of Anna, a prayer warrior

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher (she was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and herself as a widow up to eighty-four years) who did not depart from the temple with fastings and prayers, serving night and day. 38 And at that same hour she approached and* began to give thanks to God, and to speak about him to all those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Ministry of Prayer

As we begin a New Year, one area that God has been speaking to me about is the area of prayer, both individual and corporate prayer.  The ministry of prayer is for all believers and is critical for our spiritual growth as well as the impact of our ministries.

Anna is given to us as an example of a woman who was dedicated to both prayer and fasting.  She was on a 24 hour prayer schedule in the temple.  Her prayers were in part for the redemption of Israel and the manifestation of the promised Messiah.  When Jesus was presented at the temple when he was 8 days old, she was there and recognized that he was the fulfillment of the promises of the Messiah.

She was from the tribe of Asher. Deuteronomy 33:24-25 is a prophecy about the tribe

And of Asher he said:

Most blessed of sons be Asher;

may he be the favorite of his brothers,

and may he dip his foot in oil.

Your bars are iron and bronze;

and as your days, so is your strength.

Asher was favored. The anointing of oil is symbolic of joy and happiness and the iron and bronze symbolized strength.

Anna had all of these characteristics in her life.

She was anointed by the Holy Spirit as a prayer warrior and one who heard the voice of the Spirit. She declared the prophetic words given by the Holy Spirit to all who were in the temple.

She was at least 84 years old but was strong enough to continue to pray day and night.  She was remembered by Luke as an encouragement to all women regardless of their age that they have an important ministry.  Unfortunately women were not regarded as very important in the Jewish culture but Luke made sure that she was acknowledged for her ministry.

Anna’s name means “favor, grace”. In Hebrew her name meant to bow or bend in kindness and find and show favor.

God’s favor and grace were demonstrated to her by rewarding her in her old age with being able to see the Messiah.  Her years of prayer and fasting were rewarded in the fulfillment of the greatest desire she had of being able to see the Messiah.

Anna’s prayer life is marked by three important characteristics that are examples to us.

Her prayer life was consistent, constant and involved two way communication.  


Prayer for many is not very consistent.  Some days prayers are offered but other days they are neglected.  Prayer must become a discipline in our lives in order for it to be consistent.  Set times of prayer are important because it helps us focus our mind and set aside time to be able to pray.  John Wesley’s mother set aside a specific time every day to pray.  Her children knew that when she sat in her chair in the kitchen a put a cloth over her head that is was her time of prayer and she was not to be bothered.  At times it may be difficult to find a quiet place but we can do our best to shut off as many disturbances as possible and not let other things invade our time of prayer.  Our time of prayer should become habitual but we must always be careful that it does not become mechanical or just going through the motions, repeating the same prayers.


Anna was a prayer warrior day and night.  Prayer must become a lifestyle for us.  We should be ready to pray at any occasion or any time of the day or night.  Paul is an example of one who prayed constantly for the believers.

1 Thes. 3:9-10 For what thanks can we repay to God concerning you, because of all the joy with which we rejoice because of you before our God, 10 night and day praying beyond all measure that we may see your face and complete what is lacking in your faith?

Rom. 1:9-11 For God, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, is my witness, how constantly I make mention of you, 10 always asking in my prayers if somehow now at last I may succeed to come to you in the will of God. 11 For I desire to see you, in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, in order to strengthen you,

Eph. 1. 15-16 15 Because of this I also, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention in my prayers,

Col. 1:9 Because of this also we, from the day we heard about it,* did not cease praying for you, and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual insight

Paul encouraged believers through his prayers for them that did not cease, he prayed day and night for others.  We should always be ready to pray in every situation we face at any time of the day or night. It should be almost like breathing, something that we do all the time though we are not conscious of it.  It should be a natural part of our daily life, throughout the day that we pause and pray when we are presented with situations that are brought to our attention and need prayer.  Often we see a need or hear of a need but don’t stop to pray immediately for the person or situation and as a result forget to pray. When you see an accident or witness someone being mistreated, neglected etc. it is a great opportunity to pray for the people involved.  As you read the news or watch it on TV it should be a call to pray a prayer for the situation. 

Two way Communication

Prayer should be a conversation where we listen as well as speak to God.  Anna was a prophetess which means she heard from God and directed her prayers accordingly.  Listening to God is hard for most people.  We like to talk more than listen and in our times of prayer it can become the same.  Waiting on God in silence is uncomfortable for some people.  We are so used to doing something that we get nervous or feel agitated when there is silence.  We teach hearing God’s voice and it is part of the teaching on intercessory prayer but do we truly practice it in our personal times of prayer?  It is easier to fill our prayer time with petitions and requests and not open our spirits to receive words from God. 

Andrew Murray has written a book on “The Prayer Life” and in it he gives an example of how he approaches prayer. 

1.     Begin by thanking God for his great love which invites you to come to him and freely talk to him. Thank him for the assurance you have that he will bless your time of prayer.  Thank him for the grace you have received and the gift of the Holy Spirit who helps us in our weaknesses in prayer.

2.     Read the Scriptures and apply what you are reading to yourself.  Ask God to make his word light and power in your heart.

3.     Be specific and thoughtful of your prayer requests. Let your prayer be something definite, arising either out of the word which you have read, or out of the real soul needs which you long to have satisfied.  Write down your requests.

4.     Pray for others, don’t be selfish. Examples: church, pastor, fellow workers, missionaries, leaders in governments, education, families, media and the arts.

5.     Keep the attitude of prayer with you all day long. Prayer unites us with God.  When we sin we are drawn away from God and break the fellowship that invites us to pray.  Repentance, confession and forgiveness will reestablish our fellowship.  The time of prayer is intended to bind man to God, to supply him with power from God, to enable him to live for God alone.

As we begin a New Year let’s make prayer one of our priorities in our personal lives and in our ministry.  If we believe in the power of prayer and the importance of prayer it should follow that we spend time in meaningful prayer, individually and as a body of believers. Time spent in prayer prepares us and prepares the way for our ministry to be more effective.  Andrew Murray states in his book, that Prayerlessness is a sin as we are called to be people of prayer.  We do not pray because we have to but we pray because we need to avail ourselves to all that God has to offer us through prayer.  Prayer should not be viewed as an obligation but an invitation to connect with God. 

May our prayer lives become consistent, constant and a two way communication throughout this next year. May our time spent in prayer be one we anticipate each day and reap all the benefits that God has in store for us as well as the people and situations we present in prayer.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Mary’s extraordinary life

Mary’s life like Joseph’s was very unique and remarkable life.  She was a young virgin possibly about 15 years old, whom God chose to bring His promised Son into the world through a miraculous conception.  The angel of the Lord, Gabriel, was sent to give her the announcement that she would bear Jesus.

Luke 1:28-33

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

An angelic visitation alone would startle anyone but the way he addressed her and what he said to her was even more startling!

She had found favor with God.  Special grace was given to Mary

God was with her.  These were words of assurance that God’s favor was with her. There had been 400 years of silence before John the Baptist came to proclaim the coming of the Messiah.  During these 400 years it would have been a natural response of the Jews to think that God was no longer with them as he had been silent.  These words were comforting for Mary.

She was the one chosen to bring the Messiah into the world, who would rule forever.

For a Jewish woman this was like winning the lottery!  She was specially chosen, given special grace and the privilege of bearing the Son of God.

This news was beyond her understanding and she like anyone else asked how this could be.

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

What she was going to experience was a God thing.  He was going to sovereignly through the Holy Spirit enable Mary to bear the Son of God.

And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:36-38)

The assurance she needed was in part confirmed when the angel told her of Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy. The words, “For nothing will be impossible with God” were meant to stir faith in her heart that these words would truly come to pass.

When we compare our lives to Mary’s we can draw some similarities at least in how God deals with us.

We like Mary have found favor in God’s eyes.  God’s grace has been extended to each one of us to bring us where we are today.  None of us have been self-appointed to be here and to be involved in the ministries God has given us.  Our mission comes from God and ultimately He is the one who is going to bring his purposes to be established through us.  We are favored by God, we are graced by God to be a part of his Kingdom purposes.

God is with us.  This is the message of Christmas, Immanuel, God is with us.  We are not alone.  We have a God who is intimately involved in our lives.  He knows us, loves us, cares for us and desires the best for us. We are not orphaned children who have been abandoned.

Like Mary we don’t completely understand how God works in our lives and how he will bring to pass the mission he has given us.  We may not feel prepared, adequate, equipped or possessing the talents needed to do what God has asked us to do.  I remember one of my Bible School teachers saying, “If you can do anything but ministry, do it.”  These were not words to discourage the students from ministry but were words that challenged them to truly examine their hearts and be certain that God had called them into ministry

This past week we visited a family with the pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Alotenango and he shared his testimony with them.  He had a very good job working in a coffee farm but one day the administrator who was his father, told him his job was over.  He was perplexed as to why he was being dismissed because he had not done anything wrong.  At this point in his life, God had been dealing with him about becoming a pastor but he did not want to be a pastor.  When he looked at the troubles pastors encountered he knew that he did not want to be one.  He got a job working at another coffee farm but became ill the first day and was sick for a week.  He began to realize that God was using these unwanted circumstances to confirm his calling to ministry. He followed God’s call and has been pastoring for many years.  He needed God’s nudge to confirm His calling.  He knew what God wanted and was from this point obedient to follow God’s call to be a pastor. He could have refused to obey but in doing so would live a life of regret.

Like Mary, God has given each of us big responsibilities that are beyond our abilities to accomplish.  When God calls us to his service, he calls to do things that are beyond our abilities.  When we are obedient to God call, he will do the impossible in accordance to his will.  He has given us the Holy Spirit, just as Mary had been assured that through the power of the Spirit, what was promised would come to pass.

Through the Holy Spirit, God gives us the power to do what he has called us to do.  God wants to overshadow us with his Holy Spirit to enable us to do his work.  Thank God that we have the Holy Spirit at work in us to teach us, guide us and help us understand God’s mind and purposes so we can do what he wants us to do.

Mary’s response to all that had been said to her was a response that God loves to hear from of us. 

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Lk 1:38).

Mary made herself available.  She surrendered her life to God and was ready to do what God wanted her to do. God is looking for people who will make themselves available.  When a task needs to be done, God looks for people who are available to do what is needed. Some people stay away from certain ministries, they make themselves unavailable for a variety of reasons.  Tom Elie who leads Oasis World Ministries, conduct evangelism training.  One of the prayers he offers daily is simply, “I am available.”  Available to share the gospel with anyone God places in my path today.

Mary saw her role as being a servant of the Lord and this is our role as well.  We are called to serve not as slaves of God but as co-workers with God.  We serve God’s purposes and labor with him to accomplish what he desires.  He is our master and we are his servants whom he entrusts great responsibilities and gives us many opportunities to work with Him. He may call us to serve in a place that is hard, doing ministry that is difficult with people who are not very receptive. We have to be available to serve His purposes and his plans.  He assigns us to different works of ministry and he can move us around to wherever he needs us. When I joined the U.S. Army my drill instructor made it very clear that my life was no longer my own.  The U.S. Army owned me and they could put me wherever they wanted me to go.  We filled out a form that everyone called “the dream sheet” which allowed you to choose where you wanted to serve and what you wanted to do.  I don’t think it was ever looked at by anyone after it was submitted as they military put you where they needed people to serve.  For almost everyone the “Dream sheet” never became a reality.

I don’t see God in the same light as the military, he operates differently in that he does not force you to do something but gives you the opportunity to serve in an area that you may not feel qualified.  If he calls you to do something, he will help you do it.

Mary submitted her will to the will of God. She did not resist or try to negotiate with God.  Her submission was 100%.  This should be our response as well.  God’s will for Mary was extraordinary.  It was exciting, scary at times, inconvenient, challenging, but ultimately supremely fulfilling and worth every effort she exerted.  When we submit our will to God’s will we open ourselves to tremendous things that can happen. If we insist on doing our will we will miss out on greater things that could happen in our lives.  When we resist we restrict ourselves from experiencing the greatness of God at work in our lives. God’s will is good because God is good.  What he desires for us is much more than we could ever ask or think.

After the angelic visitation, Mary went to visit Elizabeth.  Mary shared these words in response to Elizabeth’s confirming and congratulatory words to her.

And Mary said,

    “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Lk 1:46–55).

Mary was filled with praise to God for what he had done for her and for her nation Israel.  She knew God as a God who was:









This is how we should think about God and how we should share him with others.  Unfortunately some Christians do not share a very positive image of God and that image does not draw people to become believers.  God’s nature and his character are critical to our understanding of who he is and how he operates in our lives. Without correct knowledge of God we can present him inaccurately and keep people from experiencing him in truth. Dean Sherman has said, “Never judge the Scriptures based on your experiences but judge your experiences through the Scriptures.”  The same can be said about our understanding of God.  We cannot rely on our experiences to give us an accurate perspective of God, we must rely on the Scriptures to show us who God is and how he works in us and in the world.

Mary knew her God because she knew the Scriptures. Though she was young, she had a firm foundation regarding her knowledge of God and could place her trust in him.  We can learn much from her life and I would encourage you to go through the Scriptures that talk about her experiences and responses.

Mary lived and extraordinary life and so can we. She was to be honored among women but not honored above women.  She was like you and I and what God accomplished in her life is an encouragement to all of us of the great things God can do in our lives if we respond as Mary did.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Joseph’s incredible life.

Joseph lived an incredible life and there are many things we can learn from him as we look as his life.

Jesus was not born into a rich family.  Mary and Joseph came from very poor homes, ones you would not expect a King to come.  Joseph was a carpenter, a job that provided for the family but certainly not a lucrative money making profession.

Joseph’s decision to marry Mary took place in three stages.  William Barclay in his “Daily Bible Study” explains each stage.

(I) there was the engagement. The engagement was often made when the couple were only children. It was usually made through the parents, or through a professional match-maker. And it was often made without the couple involved ever having seen each other. Marriage was held to be far too serious a step to be left to the dictates of the human heart.

(ii) There was the betrothal. The betrothal was what we might call the ratification of the engagement into which the couple had previously entered. At this point the engagement, entered into by the parents or the match-maker, could be broken if the girl was unwilling to go on with it. But once the betrothal was entered into, it was absolutely binding. It lasted for one year. During that year the couple were known as man and wife, although they had not the rights of man and wife. It could not be terminated in any other way than by divorce. In the Jewish law we frequently find what is to us a curious phrase. A girl whose fiancé had died during the year of betrothal is called "a virgin who is a widow". It was at this stage that Joseph and Mary were. They were betrothed, and if Joseph wished to end the betrothal, he could do so in no other way than by divorce; and in that year of betrothal Mary was legally known as his wife.

(iii) The third stage was the marriage proper, which took place at the end of the year of betrothal.

 His engagement to Mary was a very serious commitment to her.  During the normal one year waiting period, the groom would work and save money to be able to provide a home for his wife. The time between was a sort of testing of fidelity with the couple having little, if any, contact with each other.

I am sure that Joseph and Mary where both looking forward to their wedding date.  Jewish weddings were very important for both families.  The actual wedding did not last only a day but lasted a week in which the couple stayed at the groom’s family’s home and were treated like a Prince and Princess.  Friends of the bride and groom came to visit during the week so it was like an open house.  But we do not know if Joseph and Mary were able to have a true wedding ceremony and celebration as described.  Her pregnancy most likely changed everything they had planned.

When we look at the life of Joseph we note several things about him.

Joseph was a chosen man.

Joseph was chosen by God and was a recipient of God’s grace.  He was from the right lineage from which the Messiah would be born.  His ancestry was recorded by Matthew to the time of Abraham, the father of the Jewish faith.  Abraham received the promise that through his lineage the blessing of God would come.  The blessing is singular indicating it was meant to be the Messiah.  Joseph was chosen by God to be the final link in the ancestry of the Messiah.  It could have been one of Joseph’s brothers instead of him but he was specially chosen by God to be the earthly father of Jesus.  This was an act of God’s grace that Joseph specifically was chosen.  He did not deserve it nor was he a person who others would probably say was the perfect future father as he was from a humble family.

Each of us in the same way have been recipients of the grace of God.  Our salvation is totally an act of God’s grace to us.  It is his gift which he freely gives to us but we have to receive it by faith.

Joseph was a troubled man.

God’s choice of Joseph was not quickly accepted by him.  He did not understand what God was doing and his perspective at the time regarding Mary’s pregnancy was a shock to him and Joseph did not know how to respond.  Questions must have flooded his mind and doubts about Mary’s fidelity had to enter his thinking. Being pregnant before marriage was not acceptable in the Jewish culture. 

Jewish law provided that his betrothed, because of her unfaithfulness, could be placed before the elders for judgment and stoned to death or he could chose to privately divorce her with two witnesses testifying of his statement of divorce.  Joseph opted to just put her away quietly without public knowledge. Betrothals or marriage engagements in those ancient times were binding and could only be terminated by an official divorce decree.

Mary’s pregnancy would damage both of their reputations and Joseph was greatly troubled by her news.

At times we like Joseph experience situations that are unplanned and at times unwanted.  We may lose a job, suffer a sickness, experience financial difficulties, be misunderstood or mistreated, neglected or overlooked, lied to or lied about, and a host of other situations that we can encounter in life in which we do not understand why they are happening.  We are troubled because we lack understanding and often we do not see things from God’s perspective and his plan for our lives.

Joseph was a righteous man.

Joseph was a man who followed the law and wanted to do what was right. He was a man of character whom God could entrust this mission. The best option he could think of was to secretly end the relationship.  He did not want to continue his promise to Mary as the covenant they had made in the engagement was broken.  I am sure that he felt shame, disillusionment, discouragement and a lot of emotional ups and downs after receiving the news.

But Joseph was a righteous man and he did not want to publicly announce his intentions to end the relationship.  I am sure he was heartbroken over the situation and God understood that he needed a special message to convince him that what Mary had told him was true.

In our lives God is looking for people whose hearts are right before him.  People who have his character and whom he can entrust his mission.  Our character will determine our mission God wants to give us.  If we cannot be trusted to stay faithful we will not be given much responsibility in His Kingdom.  Joseph was a man God could use because he was a man of Godly character.

Joseph was a relieved man.

God met Joseph at his point of need.  Joseph needed to have a sure word that Mary was telling the truth.  God sent the angel Gabriel to him and gave him the message he needed to hear. We don’t know what Joseph’s reaction was to this message but we do know that he did not end the relationship but continued to be engaged to Mary.  The news from the angel convinced him that this really was a God thing that was happening and he was specially chosen by God to carry out the mission God was giving him that no one else in history would be able to say they did.  Perhaps Joseph understood the magnitude of what was going to happen and he felt relieved that God was truly involved in this situation.  Joseph had to be convinced because of his doubts but also because of the trials he and Mary would face in raising Jesus. Throughout Mary’s pregnancy there must have been many people who judged them, possibly gossiped about them and thought badly about them.  Their story of her pregnancy was difficult to believe.  Once Mary began showing that she was pregnant the speculations ended and more accusations must have started.  The assurance they had received from the angels gave them strength to endure whatever came their way.

Any doubts he may have had were most likely dispelled when the lowly shepherds came to worship Jesus in the manger after his birth.  The humiliating conditions of the birth place of Jesus must have affected Joseph.  As a man and soon to be father, I am sure he wanted a better and cleaner place for his wife to give birth.  The rejection of the inn keeper must have been a very humbling experience for both of Joseph and Mary.  Would it have made any difference if they had announced that Mary was going to give birth to the Messiah?  Would the inn keeper have made a special place for Mary to give birth?  Joseph did not demand special treatment but accepted what he was given and probably did the best he could to make the manger as comfortable as possible for Mary.

The arrival of the shepherds with their story of the angelic visitation was another confirmation to Joseph that Mary was giving birth to the Savior of the World.  The excitement of the birth combined with the visitation of the shepherds made for an extraordinary night!

In our lives we also need the assurance and confirmation from God that what we are experiencing is part of God’s plan.  We may not have complete understanding until later but we desire to have the assurance that we are in the right place at the right time with the right people who are doing the right thing.

Joseph was a responsible man.

Joseph accepted his role as what we would call today, “the step father”.  He remained faithful to Mary throughout her pregnancy and cared for her. He took her to be his wife and fulfilled his promise to her.  Being married was a great responsibility but being the father of the Son of God must have been heavy on his mind. What must it have been like for him to know that his wife was carrying the Son of God, the Messiah and Savior of the world?  He would become the earthly father to this royal son, both a privilege no one else would ever know and a responsibility that was beyond his comprehension how he would be able to fulfill his role.

When Jesus was born Joseph gave him his name “Jesus”.  He was told in the angelic visitation that this would be his name and Joseph did as he was told.  The name Jesus means “Savior”. His name had great significance and it was important that Joseph give him this name.

But even as a proud father, we do not read where he publicly announced that he and Mary were raising the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for to arrive.  How could you keep this news silent?  Wouldn’t you want everyone to know?  But Joseph did not do this as far as we know.  He and Mary kept this information private which must have been difficult to do.

Throughout Jesus’s life we can see how Joseph fulfilled his responsibilities of raising Jesus.  He provide a home for him, he fulfilled the Jewish laws of circumcision at 8 days old. He protected him by fleeing to Egypt as instructed to avoid the jealous wrath of Herod who sought to kill all boys 2 years old or less.  He brought Jesus to the temple when he was 12 years old as required to dedicate him. He taught Jesus the trade of a carpenter to help him provide for his needs. Jesus became a responsible adult and it appears that Joseph died before Jesus began his public ministry as he is never mentioned in the gospels during this time.  Jesus took on the responsibility as the oldest son to care for his widowed mother.

As Disciples of Christ we too must fulfill our responsibilities no matter how difficult they may seem at times.  Often the easiest thing to do is quit, walk away and leave everything behind which often includes a disaster that will be created.  We will all leave a legacy behind regarding the fulfillment of our responsibilities God has entrusted to us.  I think we all want to hear Jesus say “well done my good and faithful servant.”  We want to end our mission knowing we have accomplished what God has given us to do.

Joseph was a rewarded man.

Joseph’s life of obedience, sacrifice and service was worthy of receiving his reward.  God is a rewarder of those who live by faith and fulfill their mission.  Throughout his life he must have thought about the mission God had given him in raising Jesus.  We have very little information about the childhood and young adult years of Jesus.  He was most likely a normal child who went through the phases of growing up and Joseph was there to guide him.  Raising Jesus was a reward in itself.  Joseph most likely died before Jesus began his ministry and he went on to receive his heavenly reward.

During our time on earth we may not see all the results of our work or be rewarded by people.  The acclaim of man is not what is really important but we know that God sees what we do and he will reward us for our labor for his kingdom and our service to others.

William Barclay in his "Daily Bible Study" cited this story.
One of the loveliest of all stories is that of The Fourth Wise Man. His name was Arabian. He set out to follow the star and he took with him a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl beyond price as gifts for the King. He was riding hard to meet his three friends, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, at the agreed place. The time was short; they would leave if he was late. Suddenly he saw a dim figure on the ground before him. It was a traveler stricken with fever. If he stayed to help he would miss his friends. He did stay; he helped and healed the man. But now he was alone. He needed camels and bearers to help him across the desert because he had missed his friends and their caravan. He had to sell his sapphire to get them; and he was sad because the King would never have his gem.

He journeyed on and in due time came to Bethlehem, but again he was too late. Joseph and Mary and the baby had gone. Then there came the soldiers to carry out Herod's command that the children should be slain. Artaban was in a house where there was a little child. The tramp of the soldiers came to the door; the weeping of stricken mothers could be heard. Artaban stood in the doorway, tall and dark, with the ruby in his hand and bribed the captain not to enter. The child was saved; the mother was overjoyed; but the ruby was gone; and Artaban was sad because the King would never have his ruby.

For years he wandered looking in vain for the King. More than thirty years afterwards he came to Jerusalem. There was a crucifixion that day. When Artaban heard of the Jesus being crucified, he sounded wondrous like the King and Artaban hurried towards Calvary. Maybe his pearl, the loveliest in all the world, could buy the life of the King. Down the street came a girl fleeing from a band of soldiers. "My father is in debt," she cried, "and they are taking me to sell as a slave to pay the debt. Save me!" Artaban hesitated; then sadly he took out his pearl, gave it to the soldiers and bought the girl's freedom.

On a sudden the skies were dark; there was an earthquake and a flying tile hit Artaban on the head. He sank half-conscious to the ground. The girl pillowed his head on her lap. Suddenly his lips began to move. "Not so, my Lord. For when saw I thee hungered and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw I thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked and clothed thee? When saw I thee sick in prison, and came unto thee? Thirty and three years have I looked for thee; but I have never seen thy face, nor ministered to thee, my King." And then like a whisper from very far away, there came a voice. "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me." And Artaban smiled in death because he knew that the King had received his gifts.
Our lives are to be marked by our service and willingness to sacrifice and use whatever resources God has given us to be a blessing to others.  Joseph's life was one of service and sacrifice to raise Jesus and prepare him for the mission God had given to him.

Joseph’s life reflects our lives in many ways and is a model to us.

He was a chosen man by the grace of God to have the mission of raising the Son of God.

He was a troubled man having received news that was not what he expected.

He was a righteous man who obeyed God’s laws and wanted to do what was right.

He was a relieved man after receiving the assurance from the angel that the situation was ordained of God.

He was a responsible man who faithfully fulfilled his mission.

He was a rewarded man during his time on earth and he received his eternal reward in heaven.