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Joseph: A Man of Heroic Character

 There is one person in the entire Christmas story that doesn’t receive a lot of attention. It’s Joseph, Jesus’ earthly, and oftentimes forgotten, father. We (the Christian church) do a great job talking about Jesus and, without a doubt we should. We talk about Mary and her role as Jesus’ mother. But, for some reason we neglect Joseph and we shouldn’t. We could learn a lot from him.

We find Joseph in the first two chapters of Matthew and when we read this Scripture we discover that Joseph was a man of character. I love what Dr. J. Ligon Duncan said about Joseph, “The character of Joseph, the man God chose for his Son to have for an earthly father, is not only interesting, it is also instructive to us. There are many who are religious, but not kind. There are many who are kind, but who are not religious. Joseph, however, loved God and his law, and that love of God touched his heart, causing him to be a kind man. When God chose a human father for his Son, he chose a man who would be righteous and kind, qualities that reflect God the Father himself. Is that not instructive for every one of us to be like our heavenly Father, and be like Jesus’ earthly father? Righteous and kind. Concerned for God’s law. Concerned for God’s people.”[1]

Joseph was a just man, not just a man. Matthew 1:19 says, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” The Word Study Dictionary tells us that the Greek word used for “just” is díkaion. It means, “one who acts conformably to justice and right without any deficiency or failure.”[2] It is a word that is applied to God (John 17:25; Romans 3:26) as well as to Jesus (Matthew 27:19; Luke 23:47).  It’s used here to describe Joseph. He was just (or righteous). He wasn’t self-righteous or condemning. He was just and this sense of personal righteousness led him to be kind.

Joseph’s kindness sprang from his deep sense of conviction to God. His díkaion sprang from his personal rightness that was a result of loving God, being rooted in God’s character, and as a result, he loved God’s people.

Joseph has two options. He could publicly expose Mary’s condition by bringing her before the court. Or, he could discreetly divorce her by handing her a short document in the presence of two witnesses. Joseph, however, was a man of character. He was just, kind, righteous, merciful and gracious. He deals with it all in secret and he shows tremendous commitment to his soon-to-be wife.

We can learn a lot from this short testimony about Joseph.

Quoting Tennessee preacher J. W. Shepherd (1861–1948), J. Dwight Pentecost wrote, “Jesus grew up in an exceptional home. His foster-father Joseph was known for his saintliness of character and integrity of conduct (Matthew 7:11).”[3]

Do you see how loving God and knowing Him personally led Joseph to be a man of character?

What if you, like Joseph, committed to seeking more of the presence of God in your life? How would being desperate to know God more help shape your holidays? Your future?



[1] J. Ligon Duncan, III, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, edited by Nancy Guthrie, (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers, 2008), 51

[2] Word Study Dictionary, E-sword edition.

[3] J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ: A Study of the Life of Christ, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 72

One response to “Joseph: A Man of Heroic Character”

  1. […] Just. Matthew 1:19 shows us that Joseph was just man and not just a man. He was right, righteous and upright in his everyday life. Plus, Joseph tempered justice with mercy and grace. […]