The Scandalous Betrothal

Scott Murray | December 18, 2018

Matthew 1:18–20

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

—Matthew 1:18–20 

The world loves a good scandal. It seems we almost crave it at times. Perhaps it helps us deal with our own messed-up lives when we know that other people are messed up as well.

When Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant, Joseph was faced with his own scandal. Can you imagine what must have been going through Joseph’s mind? After all, he was betrothed to Mary. But what does “betrothed” mean?

A betrothal was a length of time, usually a year, after a son from one family and daughter from another were arranged to be married. When a daughter left her household to become part of another family, she could no longer support her family directly. One less hand working the land or taking care of everyday needs would cost the family resources. The soon-to-be husband would work for a year to save money.

When they became man and wife, after the betrothal, the groom and his friends would surprise her family with a wedding celebration and money would be given. During the betrothal the couple would live separately, until, at the end of this year they would consummate their marriage.

When Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant, Joseph couldn’t just leave her. Joseph would have to legally divorce her because a betrothal was a legal bond. Joseph was not about to publicly shame Mary, so he chose to divorce her in private.

But then an angel appeared to Joseph one night, and changed everything. The angel said, “Joseph son of David, 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 1:20b-21).

This was enough for Joseph. I don’t think Joseph knew how important those words were, but I do know that he did not go through with the divorce.

We all have life experiences that we do not completely understand. Joseph was experiencing perhaps the hardest time in his life, and God was there to guide him through it.

Questions for reflection and discussion How have you seen God guide you through a hard time? At what point did you trust Him: during the hard time or after He brought you through it? Know this, there is never a moment when God is not in control.

This week's devotionals were written by Scott Murray, Young Adults Pastor of Wheaton Bible Church. Married to Katie and the father of four, Scott graduated from Phoenix Seminary with a Master of Arts in Biblical Leadership.

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