“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18
His mind was a jumble. Nothing made sense. He retreated to his workshop with the empty expectation of finding clarity and even solace. The smell of sawdust, once the scent of hope, now assaulted his nostrils with disappointment. The wood was rough beneath his hands, the chisel stubborn. Before he knew what had happened, the chair leg he had been fashioning was little more than kindling for the fire. He had been hard at work building the furniture for his own home, preparing the special place where he would bring his wife Mary. Now he wondered if there was any point in continuing.
He had been so certain of God’s purpose when he first pledged to wed Mary. She was a descendant from the line of David as he was. Humble and devout, skilled in the arts of homemaking, and more beautiful than words could describe, she had all the qualities of a wife of noble character that Solomon extolled in his proverbs. Her virtue was unblemished, or so he thought. Mary left Nazareth suddenly over three months ago, without any message left for him. He later learned from travelers passing through that she was staying with an aunt who was much too old to have children but who was pregnant, nonetheless. That was hard enough to comprehend, but he couldn’t wrap his mind around what his eyes had seen, and his ears had heard earlier that day . Mary was home and came to see him immediately after her return. She was obviously pregnant, and she was calmly radiant as she affirmed her virginity in spite of her condition!
He had been too stunned to say anything, mute with shock and dismay. The minutes of his silence might have been hours, but finally he summoned enough strength to tell Mary they would talk later. She smiled shyly and confidently, and left him reeling. Incredulous and fearful, he thought the order of his workshop would provide some clarity, but he knew now that wasn’t going to happen. The sun was setting as he closed the door and wandered up into the hills, Psalm 121 resonating like a mantra through his mind. “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” The only thing he knew for certain was that only God could make sense of this waking nightmare for him.
Much later, with only the stars to light his way, he crept home to his bed. He was still perplexed and confused, but he knew that he would not expose Mary to any public disgrace. Legally he could bring her before the elders for punishment, possibly even stoning to death, but Joseph was a man of mercy. He simply could not do this. And yet, he was fearful to simply take her as his wife. Her shame could extend to him, to his parents. He had only his carpentry to provide a living, and if her guilt was laid on him, they would be left destitute. After hours of thought, his mind was convinced that he would quietly divorce her, she could go away again, and no one would ever be the wiser. He fell into the exhausted sleep of the heavy hearted with the words of the Psalm still running through his mind: “He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you . . .”
God was not finished with Joseph. He was watching over him. God chose Mary and He chose Joseph. His plan did not involve a quiet dismissal by a perplexed and fearful carpenter. And so, just as God sent an angel to appear to Mary, He sent an angel to appear to Joseph in his dream. “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. . . All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, God with us.”
Joseph, descendent of King David from whom the promised Messiah would come, heard the Word of the LORD, and obeyed without question. Waking from that dream Joseph was filled with the same clarity and calm determination he had seen in Mary. Washing and dressing quickly, he immediately went and brought Mary home to be his wife. Consummating this marriage would have to wait, but Joseph joyfully embraced this beautiful woman and returned to his carpenter’s shop to fashion the most perfect cradle he could imagine. From perplexity to purpose, all fear left as together, Joseph and Mary gave glory to God each day and prepared for the birth of a Son, whom Joseph would name Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
Joseph’s perplexity has left me asking some questions of my own life:
- Where do I look for answers when life doesn’t make sense anymore?
- How will I respond to the truth of God’s Word even when what He asks of me is scary?
- In what ways am I preparing to welcome Jesus this Christmas?
- What has God called me to do?
Father, thank you for allowing perplexities to drive me to You. Thank You for the truth of Your Word that brings clarity and purpose to the most perplexing circumstances in my life. Help me to be like Joseph and to lift up my eyes to the hills knowing that my help comes from You, the Maker of heaven and earth, and to respond in obedience to Your call. Thank You for watching over my life, my coming and my going, both now and forevermore!
2 thoughts on “Perplexed”
I can’t even imagine what Joseph must’ve felt like. And how many times in my life have God’s plans felt unbelievable and like they made no sense? Have I trusted God anyways or tried to handle things on my own? So much to reflect on thanks to your beautiful blog!
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You are the second person that gentle reminded me Christmas is about Christ. I had to ask myself what am I doing that is totally focused on Jesus. Not as much as I would want this Christmas season. Will change starting today. Thank for the reminder friend.