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 Vol. 5, No. 2 

February 2003

Associate Editorial

~ Page 3 ~

Along Came Joseph

By Steven P. Smithbauer

Image Human beings are worriers! We fret and stew about nearly every situation in life that involves some difficulty. The famous Serenity Prayer, though not a Scripture itself, nonetheless contains much wisdom.

God grant me the serenity
To Accept the things I cannot change,
To Change the things I can change,
And the Wisdom to know the difference

Also, it is not without scriptural precedent! We should in the face of difficulty heed the advice of Psalm 46:10 -- "Be still and know that I am God..." Romans 8:28 reads, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." There is a master plan and God is in control. When the situation warrants, God has always provided what was needed to get through a difficult time. And, he has usually specifically chosen one to accomplish his task. Such is the case with men in the Bible, all of them named Joseph. Let us study about...

The Joseph who saved
his family from starvation

Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:19, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." Remember, Joseph's older brothers, being jealous of the coat their father had given him and the favoritism shown to their younger sibling, treated him poorly. Eventually they cast him into a pit and sold him into slavery in Egypt. But, all of this was necessary to get Joseph in the position roughly equivalent to that of prime minister over all Egypt, second only to Pharaoh in power. His family was saved from the seven-year famine by Joseph's wisdom and God's providence.

What a great attitude Joseph had when he might have been vindictive. He was in a position to do hurt to his hateful brothers and even may have felt like hurting them, but instead he showed them mercy. He realized God was in control of everything and that even the difficult times he endured had set the stage for the salvation of Jacob's house. We are reminded of Mordecai's words to Esther in Esther 4:13-14:

"Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

We today would do well to have this kind of attitude. God uses even the least of us in great ways. The late brother Batsell Barrett Baxter wrote a book entitled Every Life a Plan of God. It is indeed comforting to acknowledge that the loving, all-powerful God of heaven is in control of our lives, rather than fate and blind chance. God is eminently more qualified to control our destinies than we ourselves. "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). Then there is...

The Joseph who saved God's Son
by fleeing from Herod into Egypt

Three times the Lord spoke in dreams to Joseph, the betrothed husband of Mary. First he was told, "Fear not to take unto thee Mary, thy wife" (Matthew 1:20). It is of note that we realize here that Mary was not with child illegitimately, but Joseph was her husband. It took a great deal of faith in God, not to mention faith in Mary, for Joseph to go ahead into his marriage. Of course, Mary was innocent, a virgin and that which was conceived in her was of the Holy Spirit.

The betrothal in ancient times was much stronger than today's modern engagement. Often marriages were pre-arranged by parents and on a set date the betrothal began. The couple was considered married in all respects save one -- consummation of the marriage. It is certainly marvelous to consider the workings of Jehovah God providing in the minutest detail for his Son to be born into a good, God-fearing family, without any reproach because they were legally married, and yet without any doubt that Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph!

In the second dream, in Matthew 2:13, Joseph was warned to flee from wicked King Herod into Egypt to save the life of the young Jesus. Herod had learned from the wise men that a king had been born in Judea. Imagine how difficult it would be to leave a place of employment, a means of living, to go into a foreign country to live. Yet, this is what Joseph did, seemingly without question or hesitation. A third dream was given to Joseph telling him it was safe to return to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19).

When Jesus begins his ministry, Joseph is not in the picture. Nothing more is known of him after the incident at the temple when Jesus was twelve. This leads us to suppose that he had died by this time though we cannot be certain of this, but whatever happened to him, think of the great faith he had in God. Today much emphasis is placed upon Mary in some religious circles (much of it undue particularly where the deification of Mary is concerned), but God also chose Joseph to be an earthly father for the Savior. This provided Jesus with a stable family background. We know that Joseph taught his son the carpentry trade. The Nazarenes of his own country asked, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?" (Mark 6:3). Although little is known of Joseph after the childhood of Christ, we can still deduce that he was a proper father figure and loving husband to Mary, providing a living for his family as a carpenter and training his children to work honestly for their living. We should also consider...

The Joseph who supplied
a tomb on short notice

Luke 23:50-54:

"And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on."

Like Nicodemus, Joseph was a secret disciple. He was not a part of the sham of a trial conducted by the Sanhedrin in the wee hours of the morning, but no doubt he felt remorse. He begged the body of Jesus, which would have been cast away as refuse, and buried it in his own tomb. This was a most generous gift, made even more so by the inconvenience of the approaching Sabbath. Remember Jesus died at 3:00 p.m., the Sabbath began at 6:00 p.m. (See Matthew 27:46ff.) In this hour of need and crisis, Joseph stepped up to the plate with only three hours to get the body of Jesus interred. Add to this the fact that he would be unable to participate in the Passover if he touched the body. (See Leviticus 5.) Joseph, the secret disciple, now very publicly was confessing his faith in the Savior of men.

Legend has it that Phillip the Apostle commissioned Joseph of Arimathaea to go to Britain to preach the Gospel. While we cannot be entirely certain of this, it would not be an unlikely turn of events. God uses men like this in great ways. Men like...

The Joseph who stepped
in to fill a needed position

When the disciples were gathered together just before the Holy Spirit came upon them, they reasoned that the Scriptures needed to be fulfilled and one needed to be selected to take Judas' place. Acts 1:21-23:

"Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias."

When the disciples chose a successor for Judas, who had hanged himself, they settled on two men. Matthias was chosen but the other, Joseph Barsabas, called Justus, was also nominated for the office. We do not know much about him since he is only mentioned here in the Scriptures, but his character must have been impeccable since the other apostles held him in such high regard. Just his willingness to serve as an apostle is noteworthy. We have need of men who will step up and fill positions of leadership today. No we do not have any openings for apostles, for none are qualified. (See Acts 1:21-23 above.) But, we do have need of elders, deacons, teachers, preachers, etc. Paul left Titus on the island of Crete with the specific mission: "...ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee" (Titus 1:5). Such was and is of the utmost importance! Where are the "Josephs" of today? We need men who are willing to step up and take responsibility in the church of Jesus Christ.

The name Joseph means, "Jehovah has added." These men in the Bible did not rely on their own strength, but upon God who increased their abilities so they could serve in difficult situations. Like Paul, we should confidently affirm, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:12). In times of distress and need, God has always provided a "Joseph" to accomplish his will. We need men of such caliber in the Lord's church today.Image

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