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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Why Joseph?

Four Lessons From Christmas' Quiet Hero

By Steve Lim
Dec. 21, 2014

Perhaps you’ve wondered why God chose an ordinary man like Joseph to become the earthly father of Jesus, to nurture and raise the Son of God. Why didn’t He select someone with position and authority? Or someone who possessed great education and wisdom? Perhaps someone highly regarded spiritually, such as a priest or prophet? Instead, God chose a common worker.

From Joseph’s life, we are reminded human status doesn’t impress God, but He honors those who honor Him (1 Samuel 2:30). This Christmas, as you remind yourself of the singular events surrounding the birth of the Savior, give some thought to these four lessons from Joseph’s life, key ways in which you can honor God and fulfill His greatest plans for you.


If Joseph was like most people, he initially felt angry, confused, and brokenhearted at the discovery of Mary’s pregnancy. Deeply hurt by the apparent betrayal, perhaps he considered how he might punish his bride-to-be. But how did Joseph respond?

In those days, an engagement to be married was binding. It could be broken only by a legal divorce, either public or private. Joseph may have thought:

I can do it publicly and cause Mary shame and humiliation. I can tell everyone the ridiculous story she made up as a desperate attempt to defend herself against accusations of immorality. What a joke for her to say, “I am pregnant by God’s Spirit.” How can anyone believe such a crazy story?

Joseph had every legal right to a public divorce. This would protect his honor and reputation. But he could also divorce Mary privately. This would spare her the public humiliation.

Amazingly, Joseph decided to do the kind and loving thing. To spare Mary public disgrace, “he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19, NIV). Joseph would save Mary from as much grief as possible. When it was too hard to love, Joseph loved anyway.

Do we just love when it’s easy? It’s usually not difficult to love our family, friends, and people who do things for our benefit. But what about those who hurt us badly? Through the help of God’s Spirit, we can learn to love those who are too hard to love.


In a dream an angel tells Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She 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 1:20,21).

What would you think if you had such a dream? Would you doubt what you saw and heard? Beyond the angel’s command for Joseph to believe Mary’s claim that she had not been unfaithful to him came the announcement that Mary was carrying the very Son of God in her womb.

Yet Joseph believed what the angel of the Lord told him. He accepted the fact Mary’s Child was conceived by God’s Spirit to be the Savior! Joseph believed when believing was too hard.

In her youth, my wife, Yen, lived in what is now Bangladesh. As a teenager God gave her a dream of attending Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo., to prepare for ministry.

People laughed, “Your father will never let you go! He’s not even a believer.” Also, in that culture females never went anywhere alone. Yen’s family, friends, and other Christians felt it was impossible.

Yet Yen dared to believe that nothing was too hard for God. Years passed. High school graduation came and went, and still Yen’s father refused to allow her to come to the United States to attend college. Yen kept believing what God had revealed to her. After another two years passed, God finally brought the dream to pass.


“[Joseph] did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (Matthew 1:24). In a small town like Nazareth, everyone quickly learned that Joseph had married Mary. Many undoubtedly concluded, “Joseph is such an idiot! Mary fools around and gets pregnant. And he still marries her!”

This isn’t the only time Joseph obeyed when it was too hard. He consistently did so.

After the Wise Men visited the home of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” the angel said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matthew 2:13).

At a moment’s notice, Joseph had to leave his family, friends, home, and business. He took Mary and Jesus on the long, strenuous trip to live as refugees in a foreign country. Joseph very likely did not know the language or customs.

Perhaps the Egyptians would discriminate against him as a foreigner. As citizens of a highly civilized country, they might look down on Joseph as an uncultured village peasant. He could not know if he would find a job to support his family. (It is possible the gifts of the Wise Men were God’s provision to Joseph and Mary during this critical season in their lives.)

Time passed. “After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead’” (Matthew 2:19,20).

Had Joseph and Mary grown adjusted to Egypt? Had they made friends among the Jews living there? Perhaps Joseph had built up a decent business. Now they were told to uproot again and go back to the town that probably had not understood what God had done through Mary in the first place.

Again, however, Joseph obeyed when obeying was too hard.


The story of Joseph’s faithfulness extends beyond the events in Bethlehem with which we are so familiar and beyond the years in Egypt.

“Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover” (Luke 2:41). Celebrating Passover remains important for observant Jews and had been commanded throughout the Old Testament. Passover commemorates God’s love and miraculous acts in delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt. Jewish men who lived within a certain distance from Jerusalem were expected to attend the celebration every year.

But Joseph lived four days’ journey from Jerusalem. He did not have to go each year. Yet, he and Mary went to every Passover anyway. To them, worshipping God was a priority, although certainly inconvenient. They wanted to worship God, even when worshipping was too hard.

A few years ago, my wife and I spoke at a conference for pastors and wives in Nepal. Their spiritual commitment amazed us. Many of them lived in remote places. Some of them walked three days just to catch the bus to the capital city of Katmandu in order to attend. However difficult the journey, these men and women wanted training and inspiration in order to become more effective for God.

Joseph never became great in the eyes of the world. He did not gain success, wealth or fame. But Joseph models for all followers of Christ what it means to honor God. That’s why God chose Joseph to fill such a critical role in the arrival of God’s Son and in Jesus’ nurturing years.

Regardless of our station in life, honoring God is our central calling and our greatest privilege. In eternity, what we have done in obedience to Him is all that will really matter.

STEVE LIM is professor of practical theology at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo. YEN-SHA LIM chairs the National Chinese Fellowship for the Assemblies of God, and is a general presbyter.

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