The Bible - the word of God

Bible Study – July 2021

Getting ready! Joseph’s story

In our last study we looked at Mary and Elizabeth, and how their getting ready for the next stage of their lives was disrupted by God for a different, greater purpose. They responded with joy and understanding that, through his interruption in their lives, God was bringing salvation to the world.

Today, let’s consider Joseph. He too was getting ready: for marriage to Mary, for children – maybe a son or three to follow him in his carpenter’s trade. We know that God fulfilled Joseph’s hopes and dreams, but not in the way he expected!

Joseph gets ready

Read Matthew 1:18–25.

In Biblical times, for Jewish people, betrothal was the first half of the marriage ceremony. The bride was legally married to her husband in the betrothal ceremony but remained living in her father’s house until the wedding, which was sometime later (traditionally one year on). She couldn’t belong to another man unless she was formally divorced from her betrothed.

In the wedding ceremony the groom came to bring her from her father’s house in a joyful community procession, to lead her to the new home he had prepared for her. There the marriage ceremony took place, and the relationship was finally consummated.

What has happened in Mary’s case? (You might like to discuss and/or write down your responses to the reflection questions in this study. Use your prayer journal or a notebook.)

Can you imagine how Joseph would feel?

What was his legal right in this situation? See Deuteronomy 22:13–21.

But Matthew writes that because Joseph was a righteous man and did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, he was planning to divorce her quietly. Joseph must now get ready for a completely different set of circumstances.

How does God intervene in Joseph’s plans?

Consider Joseph’s response to the angel’s message from God.

What does it cost him to respond this way? In his relationship with Mary? With his family? In his standing in his community?

Why and how do you think Joseph was able to carry this cost?

God gets ready

As we continue to read Joseph’s story in Matthew’s Gospel, we start to notice some patterns in the way God and Joseph interact. Read Matthew 2:9–23.

Count how many times in this passage God speaks through a dream! In Scripture, the angel of the Lord is a messenger who brings God’s Word to human beings.

How does Joseph respond each time to God’s Word via the angelic messenger?

Joseph’s obedience to the Word of God in these dreams tells us that he has come to trust God’s Word to him and acts in response to it. He does this even when it means he must take a huge decision and action – such as uplifting his young wife and baby son in a rushed night journey to get out of Judah and flee to the foreign, godless land of Egypt! He has no idea how long they will be in Egypt, nor how and where they will live there. But what would the outcome have been if he had not listened to the Word of God? (2:18)

For Joseph, getting ready for the next stage in his family life was a matter of listening for the call of God, for God’s Words to him – and then obeying them.

How do you suppose Joseph learned this response? How did he get this habit of listening to and trusting God?

God had been getting Joseph ready for his whole lifetime! God had been speaking his Word to Joseph in the Old Testament writings proclaimed in synagogue and Temple worship, and Joseph had learned to recognise the voice of God, and to obey it. Joseph knew his God, who had prepared and grown him for this time of responsibility.

How do any of us learn to trust and obey God? Consider Romans 10:14–17.

How has God grown faith in you? Who proclaimed it to you through your life?

How is God growing and deepening your faith now? When do you receive the nourishment of God’s Word, and Jesus’ body and blood?

What responsibility or task might God be getting you ready for?

It’s clear that Joseph took very seriously his call to be the earthly father of Mary’s son, to protect and care for the child Jesus. Recall again all that Joseph has heard about Mary’s son:

  • • from the angel in Matthew 1:20,21
  • • from the shepherds in Luke 2:10–19
  • • from Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:28–38
  • • even from Jesus himself in Luke 2:49.

What might Joseph be thinking about this baby boy?

We get ready

Joseph provides an example to us of what it means to listen for the Word and call of God, and to obey – even when it goes against our own preparations, plans, and hopes.

God spoke to Joseph in dreams, using an angel as his messenger. While God can also speak to us in dreams and visions, we have the great gift of God’s Word written in the Old and New Testaments, and of the Holy Spirit sealed in us at our baptism. God speaks to us in his Word every time we open the Bible, and the Spirit of God enlightens our minds and hearts to understand and to obey God’s call. Jesus said to his disciples and to us: If you love me keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever  the Spirit of truth …the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:15–17,26) NIV

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the desire to read the Bible, and to open your mind and heart to understand and to obey his Word.

What are you getting ready for in your life, right now?

Maybe it’s an LWA convention? Or perhaps an important event or a new season in your life? Maybe you are even preparing for the journey home to God … Whatever you are getting ready for, you and I can do no better than to do as Joseph did: to tune our ears and hearts to God’s call, and to trust and obey his Word.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you that you are always communicating with us, especially in your Word. Give us ears to hear and a heart to obey what you call us to do. In the name of our Lord Jesus, Amen.

About the Author

Pauline Simonsen

Pauline Simonsen is the dean of Emmaus, a Christian training provider in Palmerston North, New Zealand. She loves to teach, and especially enjoys opening God’s Word to people who are hungry to understand more of God and his ways with us. Pauline is a trained spiritual director, and is regularly invited to lead retreats, or as a guest speaker for the wider Christian church. She is married to Roger and they live with two much-loved cats in the beautiful Manawatu region of New Zealand.

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