A MAN CALLED JOSEPH

When we think about the birth of Christ or read the story of Christmas, we tend to focus on a number of specific happenings and people.

The angel appearing to a virgin, Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth pregnant in her old age, Joseph silently thinking of putting Mary away, the angel speaking to Joseph, their marriage and trip to Bethlehem, the appearance of a star, the wise men bearing gifts, the shepherds being visited by the angels, flight to Egypt etc. Generally the attention in Christmas plays is whittled down to the birth, the manger, the star, the shepherds and the kings. All these do play a major part in the birth of the Savior, but often one person gets lost in the milieu of events and folks. That person, a very important and crucial person in the life of Jesus, is Joseph, the faithful and unassuming carpenter, who became father to the Son of God when He came in the flesh!

Apart from the Catholic Church conferring sainthood and celebrating a feast each year (Mar 19th) in his honor, the christian world, in general, tends to ignore or sideline Joseph, and forget the part he played in the birth and life of Christ.

The Bible talks about Joseph wanting to quietly divorce Mary when she is found to be pregnant during the engagement period, betrothal being akin to marriage in Israel at that time. Pregnancy indicate infidelity and illicit relationship with another, and so, Joseph decides to put her away quietly rather than make her a public spectacle. However, God sends His angel to make him aware of the virgin conception, urging him to accept her as his wife. Joseph proceeds to do so and refrains from consummating the marriage or having intimate communion with her until after the birth.

Not only so, he adopts the Child as his own, giving Him his name, providing for Him, raising Him as his own and doing good by Him all the days of his life, until his death, which was probably when Jesus was in His teens. He fulfilled the role of a father, teaching Jesus his trade (carpentry) and gave Him the status of being his firstborn, again an important aspect in Israel. He fulfilled all his duties as a father and raised Him to know the scriptures as any Jewish man would, obviously never discriminating Him, and thus we see his townsfolk calling Him son of Joseph.

Neither does he bear any grudge or ill-will against Mary, but treats her as his wife, giving her honor and respect due to that position and role. Herein lies his greatness, his uniqueness, for which we need to admire him and emulate his example, taking lessons from his humility.

Joseph stands as an example and a model of how a man (or anyone) should consider and treat his wife (or spouse/family member) who has a call and an assignment from God. He shows us how to respond in faith, even when you don’t understand what is happening but trusting God and His call as a spouse to a woman with a mission from God.

Here are a few things that we can learn from him. In relation to his spouse’s assignment, he:

1. UNDERSTANDS & ACCEPTS HER CALL Joseph is unique in that he receives the fact that God has spoken to her and not to him, especially in an age and culture when women were considered second class citizens of society and home. Once the angel reveals to him the truth of her condition, he unreservedly moves forward to make her his wife. Many a man today fails to acknowledge or accept the call God has given his wife.or that even understand that his wife is hearing from God. Many a woman fails to be like Mary, ready to be the handmaiden of the Lord, for there aren’t many men who welcome or encourage to.follow the Lord wholeheartedly. They box women within societal constraints and restrict their commitment to the Lord. Women fear to yes to God scared of the price they have to pay for such a commitment.

2. ENDOWS HER WITH THE COVERING & AUTHORITY OF HIS NAME: That Joseph did not ostracize or ill-treat his wife nor treat Jesus in any way other than as a son is obvious from the way the people of the place they lived in mention Jesus as the son of Joseph the carpenter. Such an outstanding character to emulate, to accept her fully as his wife and Jesus as his own flesh and blood. Joseph in effect totally and fully adopts Jesus as his own and considers him the firstborn, conferring the Son of God with the title of Son of Man. Joseph is a true man, husband and father, and an outstanding example to follow and learn from.

3. RECOGNISES HIS CALL WITHIN HERS: Joseph understood that not just Mary, but he himself had been chosen by God for the special task of birthing and raising the Son of God. Many a woman has let go of her assignment from God or been restricted in it because of the lack in her husband. His failure to grasp her role will not only limit her, but will make him also not rise to the occasion, which will cause him not to reach his full potential. He fails to grasp that when his spouse moves forward, he does too. Joseph was unique because he lived in a time and culture where women were considered secondhand citizens, not given freedom or rights the way men were. He lived in period of history when women were not thought of as being equal to men. It is Jesus who brought emancipation and recognition to women, and  well exhibits the nature and demeanor of one who is worthy to be called the father of the Son of God.

4. REFRAINS FROM INSISTING ON HER FULFILLING HIS NEEDS: Joseph is so mindful of his role and call in the birthing of the hope of Israel that he puts aside his needs and sacrifices his pleasures for the fulfillment of the plan of God for the whole nation and the world! Most men may acknowledge the call or task for their wife but will hardly put aside his own needs for the sake of the work that is to be done by their spouse. Rare is the man who would give up satisfying his needs songs to help his wife fulfill hers. Result is that few women truly rise up to their real call in life or even consider obeying the Lord, for they are too tired or don’t even have energy enough to do their role after expending it on their spouse and family! Joseph is such a gem of a man who must have waited atleast a year or so before consummating his marriage. What a legacy and pedigree for the Son of God Who came to give His life as a ransom for His bride the Church and is patiently seated on the right hand of the Father waiting for her to become mature enough to be with Him!

5. SUPPORTS AND HELPS HER FULFILL HER TASK: Joseph plays fully the role of a husband to a pregnant wife, without ever impregnating her, bearing all the duties such a task entitles with no sign of murmuring or grumbling. He is not the cause of the conception yet willingly pays all the price of a man expecting a son, inspite of the fact that the child is not his own. All the idiosyncrasies that a women exhibits during a pregnancy he has to tolerate, besides having to travel a long distance by foot with a full-time wife. Reaching the place, helping her with the birth, then having to flee to an unknown place for saving the child’s life, then returning to setup life in their hometown, raising the child, so much Joseph did to help Mary. No man has ever done so much for a woman with an assignment from God and with no applause for all that he quietly did without any fanfare!

Joseph exemplifies the true nature of a man laying down his life for his spouse and standing with her in her mission for God, sacrificing his own agenda for that of the Lord through his spouse.

Women by nature and practice are veterans in giving up their own dreams and desires for the sake of the call and work of their men. Ministers of God as well as other service-industry personnel, such as those in the medical field, transportation sector, police and defence services, all will bear witness to the fact of the unassuming back end support of their wives. However, when the shoe is on the other leg, not many are like Joseph, willingly being taken for granted and often ignored in his contribution to the work of God.

Blessed are you if you are a Joseph to a Mary and blessed are you if you are a Mary with such a Joseph.

I am blessed with a Joseph and thankful for his calm and content part in my life!

*Pic courtesy https://osjusa.org/st-joseph/art/st-joseph-worker-2/

BEST FOR THE LAST

wedding table.jpgThe ways of God and the values of His Kingdom are so diametrically opposite to the ways of men in this world in this age. They are extremely puzzling and incomprehensible to this world. They seem to be mindless and impractical, a true enigma to those who have achieved much with their mathematically precise calculations.

Take, for example, the matter of water-changed-into-wine in the wedding reception in Cana of Galilee. In itself the production of wine from water in the time interval between the pouring of it into the vessel and the pouring out a sample of it for the event manager who declares it as wine, is stupendous. Add to it that it was better than the first served one, by a person who is clueless as to its origin. Top it up with the fact that the best wine is normally served first and the inferior one later usually when guests are too intoxicated to discern the change. What do you have – a total unconventional happening that shatters human concepts and experience. You learn that God’s ways are very different from our carefully planned and well-executed machinations!

Consider another incident, that of 5 loaves and 2 fishes being stretched and multiplied to fit a crowd of not less than 15k people (men alone 5k, so assuming 1 woman per guy and adding 1 child per). Compare it with a similar one in another place and time wherein 7k people were fed with 7 loaves and few fishes. What do you have but a mathematic puzzle have of how a lesser number can feed a larger number and vice versa. It doesn’t add up and that’s the miraculous beauty of God’s ways and means – that He cannot be confined or limited. After all, if He created it all, including the natural laws, doesn’t it make sense that He can transcend them if He wants to!

Or let’s ponder the fact of the deep sea fishing incident. Jesus instructs veteran fishermen, experts in their field of work and arena of operation, the Sea of Galilee, to fish in broad daylight when they have had total loss in their prime workplace timing. No wonder that Peter fell to his knees and declared Jesus Lord of all when he garnered in the best catch of his life, a catch that needed help from colleagues and friends to haul all in. Wonder if these latter were standing around watching and waiting to ridicule Peter’s mistake in following the advice of an unqualified consultant and were astonished at the result!

As illustrated and explained in the Bible, that’s how God thinks and works His will, demonstrating the immense and immutable omnipotence of Who He is! He cannot be fathomed or analysed for He is infinite and we are finite beings in finite time setting in finite physical framework. He cannot be understood for He is outside time, inhabiting and in control of eternity past and eternity future. He cannot be seen or touched or felt for He is Spirit who has chosen to interact with concrete confined and limited beings and world. He can only be acknowledged, accepted and paid allegiance to, not by sight or feeling or thinking but by faith.

If God Himself is so, how much more different, unintelligible & indecipherable will His thoughts and ways be. As pointed out in the Bible, God thinks very differently from us and works very dis-similarly from the way we do. The only way to understand Him is to flow in His Spirit for as it says in I Cor 2: 10-16 “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

I have seen this happen over and over again in my life. When I think something is impossible based on circumstances or when my well-thought out planning fails. I find that He is not limited by my scant resources nor boxed in by expectations. All I can do is follow and flow in His Spirit, trusting His supreme love that works all things together only for my good.

Bottom line is: God is Sovereign and He will do all that He purposes to do at all times, while at the same time not trampling over the sovereignty of my freewill and the ensuing choices. God often works contrariwise to human intentions and human manipulations!

In the words of the coordinator of the wedding feast to the man of the hour, the bridegroom, in the first incident I mentioned above (John 2:1-10) “EVERYONE brings out the choice wine FIRST and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but YOU have saved the BEST till now.

*Written in time of discussion of the wedding preparations of a mentee!