Matthew 1:18-25 - The Coming Birth Continued
The angel of the LORD appears to be allaying Joseph’s fears. In the previous insight into Joseph’s mind, we are given to believe that his divorce of Mary has to do with the fact that he is is a just man. He is going to do it quietly. But the angel, speaking in verse 20, tells him not to be afraid. So there is an element of fear involved in his action and, especially, in any decision to keep her as his wife rather than divorcing her. He specifically substantiates the call to not fear by affirming the Divine origin of the baby in her womb. He needs to know this is from God. He is a “just man” or “righteous man” and can be satisfied to go ahead if he knows it is from God and not from immorality.
I suppose we all deal with fears in a move of God. His actions are often so counter-cultural, so much at counterpoint to our hopes, dreams, or plans, as mentioned above, that there is an element of fear. So the angel makes a specific point of helping him with those fears in the process of affirming the Divine origin of the baby. That is what we almost always need and that is why the prophetic voice is so important in the church and in our lives. We need to know a thing is of God to go ahead. On the cutting edge of the kingdom, whether in our personal lives or in the life of a church body, there is risk of deception, risk of flesh involvement in our decisions, and risk of sinful motives at all levels that could easily take us away from God’s plans. Even in this case, on the surface, any righteous Jew would have applauded Joseph for being merciful in his intent. It seemed just and merciful. It was not tolerating sin, but was being kind to the sinner. Yet he had it all wrong. He was completely ignorant of what was going on - or refused to accept Mary’s testimony. We are not informed here, but Luke certainly reveals that Mary had advance knowledge of the origin of the baby. Surely she would have said something to her husband. But we don’t know. We only know that Joseph needed a prophetic revelation and words of comfort to deal with his fears in order to move ahead in the plan of God.
So do we. All of us.
Also, it is of note that the angel appears. He doesn’t just speak. Nor does God appear. Angels were the “messengers” of God to bring his word before the Holy Spirit was given. They may still have some of that function, but the point here is that God wants to make it really clear to Joseph. He doesn’t just have a dream or a vision, but an actual angel appears in the dream. It is somewhat curious that it appears in a dream and not in person. It probably has something to do with Joseph’s state of mind, being troubled by the impending loss of his fiance and bearing the reproach of her pregnancy. The LORD appears to him in a form his culture and history would recognize immediately as a revelatory word, and appears to him in a manner and time when his spirit would be most peaceful and open to receive revelation.