Joseph-the Dilemma of Doubt

We are using the SkitGuys Christmas series entitled “Christmas Dilemma.”  Sunday, December 9 2018 we focused on Joseph and his struggle with doubt.  

Matthew 1:18-25

Last week we looked at Mary and her dilemma of saying yes.  Saying yes to God is not always easy, nor convenient.  Her reputation with her church, family and future husband were on the line.  How do you explain away an unexpected pregnancy? Yet she took God at His word and believed the angel Gabriel.  Remember the name Gabriel means “Warrior of God.”  God was declaring war against sin and death through the birth of His Son, through God’s entrance into our world as a baby.  Unbelievable?  Yes!  But believe it.  God was on the move!  God is still on the move!

Today we are considering Joseph and his dilemma of doubt.  Doubt in two senses.  First of all he doubted what we call the virgin birth.  Wouldn’t you?!  

“Mary, that is a great story.  You are pregnant.  It is not my child.  And, sure, you say it is a miracle—a God thing!  Right!  An angel told you it is the child of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Mary, I love you, but this is crazy.  Sorry.  I cannot do this. I cannot trust you anymore.”

Joseph was a kind, gentle man.  He didn’t want to embarrass Mary, so he determined to quietly dissolve their marriage contract—and yes betrothal meant married—just not a sexually consummated relationship yet.  

But—and this is a big but—he wrestled with what to do!  He tossed and turned.  He talked to himself.  He shouted at God.  And finally decided to “absorb the problem himself.  Absolve Mary.  Let her keep the dowry and promissory money, but not marry her nor publicly disgrace her.  After he decided this he was able to finally lie down and get some shut eye.  Now that he had reached his decision he sleeps.  

And as he sleeps an angel of the Lord appears to him with an incredible message that changes his mind.  

Have you ever had that happen.  You wrestle with something for hours, trying to sleep but cannot because your thoughts are spinning and turning in your mind.  You toss and turn.  Then when you are finally able to sleep your subconscious mind continues to process your problem and — wallah! A solution pops into your brain.  You wake up and you have a workable solution to your nightmare problem.  

This was not Joseph’s subconscious mind at work however.  It was God.  God on the move.  God through an angelic messenger telling Joseph the exact same thing Mary had told him.  The child is not another man’s child.  The child is God’s Child—God’s Son, conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Nothing is impossible with God.

Joseph doubted the virgin birth.  Those among us who doubt the virgin birth should feel some comfort here.  You are in good company.  Yet, think of this.  Joseph came to believe the virgin birth as God’s intervention, a God thing caused by God’s Spirit.  We may not have a direct messenger from God convincing us, but we have Joseph’s account, and plenty of scriptures supporting the concept of the Incarnation—God coming to us in human flesh through the miracle of conception by the Holy Spirit.  

Once Joseph is able to overcome the doubt of Mary’s pregnancy, he then has to struggle with his doubt about how worthy he is to raise God’s Son.  How do you do that?  How does a simple carpenter raise a king?  How do you raise God’s Son?  Joseph felt inadequate, unworthy.  

I doubted my ability to raise my two sons.  Still do.  Yet God entrusted Joseph with His Son.  And I believe he did a great job.  None of us are perfect parents.  We do the best we can, and pray for God’s grace and help in the process.  And, accept His forgiveness when we fall short.  But we never stop parenting or loving.  

God’s plans for us is not easy. We bungle it enough times.  We make mistakes. We are human.  Yet God does not quit on us.  God doesn’t let us quit.  God entrusts the message of salvation to us.  God, through the Holy Spirit and through His Son Jesus lives in us and through us.  

God says, “I know the plans I have for you…” Jeremiah 29:11.  God is able to use us to help other find and experience the love and grace of God.  God used Joseph and Mary.  God even spoke through a donkey once in the Old Testament.  God can speak through us too.  And remember, actions speak louder than words.  Be kind.  Be patient.  Be forgiving.  Point to Jesus and what He did for us through His coming to us as a babe who lived and died for us in our place, and rose again so that we could live the new life.  

I am glad Mary said yes to God.  I am glad Joseph overcame his doubt and took his part in God’s pan also.  You and I can follow suit.  We can live as forgiven believers pointing to Jesus, God’s Son, Savior of the world.  God give us courage and grace to do so.  Amen.

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