Joseph, a young man from the house of David, was probably like every other soon-to-be husband: nervous, but excited all the same. That is, until his fiancée came to him with shocking news. Mary was pregnant, but Joseph was not the father. The world, as Joseph knew it, had collapsed around him. He felt betrayed, hurt, angry. Break the engagement, whispered his pride, and walk away from this woman.
Everything had changed. Plans were ruined. Reputation was at stake. Unchartered territory lay ahead. At this precarious moment in his life, Joseph had nothing to hang on to… nothing, that is, except the Word of the Lord.
The Word gave Joseph courage. “Don’t be afraid!” It was the word that showed Joseph how to be faithful. “Take Mary as your wife. She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Matthew 1:20-21).
Perhaps, in holding on to the Word, Joseph remembered the experience of his ancestor, Adam. Perhaps, in a moment of truth and with eyes focused, Joseph could picture Adam standing next to his wife, Eve. Perhaps, with wisdom only from the Holy Spirit, Joseph recognized the significance of Eve’s creation by God from man’s rib.
God made (literally: “built”) woman using part of man. With this, He established their relationship within the order of creation. A rib is structural; it supports. A rib guards and protects the heart and breath of life, yet it is vulnerable. Under attack, it can easily be fractured or even broken. Satan despises the order of creation that God uses to protect the man and woman He so loves. So, that day in the Garden, Satan set his target and went straight to Adam’s rib. The man was responsible for using God’s Word to cover his wife, yet he did nothing. Joseph knew the consequences that followed.
Perhaps, with discernment only from God, Joseph understood that he must not repeat the sin of his ancestor and do to his rib what Adam had done to his.
Perhaps, in remembering what Adam had failed to do, Joseph was given the courage to cover his wife, Mary, and lead her to safety. Let the village talk! Adjust carefully-made plans! Trust the Word of the Lord! Although it meant leaving his zone of comfort, Joseph did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him to do. He covered his rib by taking Mary as his wife. And, when Mary’s child was born, Joseph named Him Jesus.
God wanted Joseph to make a difference – a difference that would impact the world. But, such a difference could be made only by being faithful. Such faithfulness required that Joseph leave all that was familiar and put his life and the life of Mary into the hands of God.
Today, when a young man pressures his girlfriend to have sex, he is leaving her physically, emotionally, and spiritually vulnerable. He has placed his “needs” before hers and, in so doing, left her open to attack. When a man does not promise to love, cherish, and cover a woman with his name, but simply share living quarters and a bed, he is leaving her open to attack. When a man fathers a child but does not accept the privilege and responsibility of being a daddy, he is leaving both mother and child uncovered and vulnerable to the world.
But, when a man remembers God and His call to leadership, he is able to make a difference. A young man who guards his girlfriend’s virtue makes a difference. A husband who remains true to his wife makes a difference. A dad who understands the privilege, responsibility, and generational influence of fatherhood makes a difference. Men of faithfulness have a grand opportunity to defend against chaos and leave a legacy of hope.
Convenience told Joseph to walk away from Mary. Self-defense told Joseph to think of “number one.” Pride told Joseph that he could do better. Fear told Joseph to hide. But, God told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.
Joseph did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He covered Mary, his rib, and the unborn Child whose heart beat under her own. And, after the Baby was born in the most humble of circumstances, Joseph named the Child Jesus. Through all the frightening days ahead, Joseph remembered the Word of the Lord. And the Lord did not forget Joseph. In the midst of danger, the angel of the Lord warned Joseph. When uncertainty abounded, the angel of the Lord directed Joseph.
It’s true that life wasn’t ever the same for Joseph. It certainly wasn’t what he had planned. But, Joseph remembered the Word of the Lord. And, in doing so, he received courage to do what was asked of him. Joseph was faithful to cover Mary, his rib. He raised her Son Jesus in a godly home and took Him to worship. Some 2000 years later, the Boy who grew to be a Man in the house of a carpenter is still changing lives.
Joseph made a difference.
by Linda Bartlett
“Joseph & His Rib” available from LFL