I Shall Give Him My Situation

Title: I Shall Give Him My Situation

Bible Book: Matthew 1 : 18-25

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Christ, Birth of; Trust; Peace; Christmas



We are looking again tonight at our Christmas series on the thought and theme: “What Gift Shall I Give This King?”

We began by considering Zacharias and Elizabeth who could well have said, “We Shall Give This King Our Son.”

Then, last Wednesday, we dealt with the message of the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1. And Gabriel could well have said, “I Shall Give This King My Service.”

This past Sunday, we looked again at Gabriel’s message to Mary in Luke 2. But we focused on this account with Mary in mind. And Mary could well have said, “I Shall Give This King My Self.”

This evening, we are going to Matthew 1, where we are introduced to Joseph, the man to whom Mary was espoused. And in Joseph’s case, he had to say, “I Shall Give This King My Situation.”

I. Joseph’s Situation Involved A Strained Relationship

Several men named Joseph are mentioned in the New Testament, the most important being the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ (Matthew 1:16). Though we learn in Matthew’s gospel of Joseph’s parentage (Matthew 1:1-16), and his profession as a carpenter (Matthew 13:55), in many ways he lived a life that is veiled in obscurity. Much of what we do know about Joseph is discovered in this first chapter of Matthew. In the first 17 verses, we learn about the patriarchs in his lineage, and then in verses 18 and 19 we are informed of the perplexities in his life.

According to Luke 1:56, Mary had spent about three months in the hill country with her cousin Elisabeth, and then she had returned home. It was possibly upon her return that she told Joseph of her expectant condition. Adam Clarke said, “What conversation passed between her and Joseph, on this discovery, we are not informed; but the issue proves that it was not satisfactory to him.”

Herbert Spencer said, “Marriage (is) a word which should be pronounced ‘mirage’.” And Joseph must have felt this way about his own marriage now. Nothing was, as it had seemed to be.

A. Notice The Dilemma In This Relationship

1. Their Relationship Had Involved A Betrothal

(Matthew 1:18) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Albert Barnes explains the ‘espousal’ by saying,

Betrothed, or engaged to be married. There was commonly an interval of ten or twelve months, among the Jews, between the contract of marriage and the celebration of the nuptials, yet such was the nature of this engagement, that unfaithfulness to each other was deemed adultery.

John MacArthur wrote…

By Jewish custom, a betrothal signified more than an engagement in the modern sense. A Hebrew marriage involved two stages, the kiddushin (betrothal) and the huppah (marriage ceremony). The marriage was almost always arranged by the families of the bride and groom, often without consulting them. A contract was made and was sealed by payment of the mohar, the dowry or bride price, which was paid by the groom or his family to the bride’s father. The mohar served to compensate the father for wedding expenses and to provide a type of insurance for the bride in the event the groom became dissatisfied and divorced her. The contract was considered binding as soon as it was made, and the man and woman were considered legally married, even though the marriage ceremony (huppah) and consummation often did not occur until as much as a year later. The betrothal period served as a time of probation and testing of fidelity. During that period the bride and groom usually had little, if any, social contact with each other.

2. Their Relationship Now Involved A Barrier

(Matthew 1:18) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary states…

As he brooded over the matter alone, in the stillness of the night, his domestic prospects darkened and his happiness (was) blasted for life.

As for Mary, Adam Clarke says…

Her situation was the most distressing and humiliating that can be conceived. Nothing but the fullest consciousness of her own integrity, and the strongest confidence in God, could have supported her in such trying circumstances where her reputation, her honour, and her life were at stake.

B. Notice The Decision In This Relationship

(Matthew 1:19) Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

1. His Choice Would Be Divorcement

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says that…

Betrothal was, in Jewish law, valid marriage. In giving Mary up, therefore, Joseph had to take legal steps to effect the separation.

John MacArthur said…

As already mentioned, although Joseph and Mary were only betrothed at this time (v. 18), he was considered her husband and she was considered his wife. For the very reason that he was a righteous man, Joseph had a double problem, at least in his own mind. First, because of his righteous moral standards, he knew that he should not go through with the marriage because of Mary’s pregnancy. He knew that he was not the father and assumed, quite naturally, that Mary had had relations with another man. But second, because of his righteous love and kindness, he could not bear the thought of shaming her publicly (a common practice of his day in regard to such an offense), much less of demanding her death, as provided by the law (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). There is no evidence that Joseph felt anger, resentment, or bitterness. He had been shamed (if what he assumed had been true), but his concern was not for his own shame but for Mary’s. He was not wanting to disgrace her by public exposure of her supposed sin. Because he loved her so deeply he determined simply to put her away secretly.
Apoluō means literally to put… away, as translated here, but was the common term used for divorce. Joseph’s plan was to divorce her secretly.

2. His Character Would Be Displayed

We have already been told that he was “a just man,” meaning…

just – Greek 1342. dikaios, equitable (in character or act); by implication innocent, holy, righteous. It has the idea of being fair.

(Matthew 1:19) … not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

Albert Barnes said that to make a “public example” of her meant…

To expose her to public shame or infamy. Adultery has always been considered a crime of a very heinous nature. In Egypt, it was punished by cutting off the nose of the adulteress; in Persia, the nose and ears were cut off; in Judea, the punishment was death by stoning. This punishment was also inflicted where the person was not married, but betrothed, Deuteronomy 22:23-24. In this case, therefore, the regular punishment would have been death in this painful and ignominious manner. Yet Joseph was a religious man – mild and tender; and he was not willing to complain of her to the magistrate, and expose her to death, but sought to avoid the shame, and to put her away privately. The law of Moses gave the husband the power of divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1. It was customary in a bill of divorce to specify the causes for which the divorce was made, and witnesses were also present to testify to the divorce. But in this case, it seems, Joseph resolved to put her away WITHOUT specifying the cause; for he was not willing to make her a public example. This is the meaning here of “privily.”

II. Joseph’s Situation Involved A Supernatural Revelation

While little is revealed about Joseph, some very significant things were revealed to Joseph. Like his Old Testament counterpart, Joseph was a man that God spoke to through dreams, for we find time and again that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. As Manfred Kober stated, “The first divine directive, given in Nazareth, was to ‘Marry Mary!’ (Matthew 1:20)” “The second angelic command is, ‘Escape to Egypt!’ (Matthew 2:13)” “The third dream occurred upon the death of Herod. The command was, ‘Proceed to Palestine!’ (Matthew 2:19)” “The fourth revelation came in a dream while he was back in Israel. The command came to ‘Go to Galilee!’ (Matthew 2:22)”

The occasion of this first revealing dream was when his heart was filled with consternation and concern. If anyone ever needed a word from God, it was Joseph at that moment. But at such a time as that, God sent a revelation of consolation and confirmation to Joseph saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1:20).

A. Joseph’s Life Was Affected By The Revelation Of An Angelic Word

1. The Angel Had A Message Of Help For Fear

(Matthew 1:20) But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

He had been trying to build up his own courage as seen in the meaning of the word “thought”…

thought – Greek 1760. enthumeomai, meaning to be inspirited (that is, to instill courage or life into), to ponder.

The Barnes’ Notes commentary says that the phrase “fear not” meant…

Do not hesitate, or have any apprehensions about her virtue and purity. Do not fear that she will be unworthy of you, or will disgrace you.

God Settled His Direction fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife

God Settled His Doubts for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost

2. The Angel Had A Message Of Hope For The Future

(Matthew 1:21) And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

This Was Better Than Joseph Realized thou shalt call his name JESUS (Jehovah is salvation)

This Was Bigger Than Joseph Realized for he shall save his people from their sins

B. Joseph’s Life Was Affected By The Revelation Of An Ancient Word

(Matthew 1:22-23) Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, {23} Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

1. Let’s Consider The Context Of This Ancient Word

Albert Barnes says…

The prophecy here quoted is recorded in Isaiah 7:14. The prophecy was delivered about 740 years before Christ, in the reign of Ahaz, king of Judah. The land of Judea was threatened with an invasion by the united armies of Syria and Israel, under the command of Rezin and Pekah. Ahaz was alarmed, and seems to have contemplated calling in aid from Assyria to defend him. Isaiah was directed, in his consternation, to go to Ahaz, and tell him to ask a sign from God (Isaiah 7:10-11); that is, to look to God rather than to Assyria for aid (2 Kings 7). This he (Ahaz) refused to do. He had not confidence in God, but feared that the land would be overrun by the armies of Syria (Matthew 1:12), and relied only on the aid which he hoped to receive from Assyria. Isaiah answered that, in these circumstances, the Lord would himself give a sign, or a pledge, that the land should be delivered. The sign was that a virgin should have a son, and that before that son would arrive to years of discretion, the land would be forsaken by these hostile kings. The prophecy was therefore designed originally to signify to Ahaz that the land would certainly be delivered from its calamities and dangers, and that the deliverance would not be long delayed. The land of Syria and Israel, united now in confederation, would be deprived of both their kings, and thus the land of Judah would be freed from the threatening danger. This appears to be the literal fulfillment of the passage in Isaiah.

2. Let’s Consider The Comfort Of This Ancient Word

When Ahaz was attacked, he was depending upon Assyria for help. But Isaiah gave him the promise of Immanuel (God with us). Isaiah indicated that the house of David would not be utterly destroyed so that this prophecy would be fulfilled. Joseph, this “son of David,” must have felt like he was under attack from the circumstances. But these circumstances would not utterly destroy him for God was fulfilling the promise of Emmanuel (God with us).

III. Joseph’s Situation Involved A Submissive Response

Helen Rowland said, “Before marriage, a man will lay down his life for you; after marriage he won’t even lay down his newspaper.” But this certainly wasn’t the case with Joseph. He responded with obedience to God’s leadership. I wonder, how would you react if you learned that your fiancée was expecting a baby, and you knew that you were not the father? How would you respond if you received supernatural and unusual instruction to proceed with your marriage plans in such an event? What would be your reply to a transcendent voice that repeatedly selected you and your family for relocation? Hesitation and reluctance would surely rule our course. Deliberation and uncertainty would doubtless be factors in our response to the divine mandates. As has so often been the case, we might attempt to bypass God’s instruction and follow the dictates of our own hearts; but not so with Joseph. The best way to know God’s will is to say, “I will” to God.

A. Joseph Committed Himself To This Special Word

(Matthew 1:24) Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

While Joseph’s response did not involve articulation, it did include action. In response to God’s will for his wedding, the Bible says, Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife (Matthew 1:24). Any hesitation and fear that may have found residence in the heart of Joseph was dispelled when the angel informed him that the child’s name would be JESUS, for as Mr. Spurgeon reminds us, “Truly, no name can banish fear like the name of Jesus; it is the beginning of hope, and the end of despair.”

1. Submission Is Seen In His Movement

a. Let’s Point Out His Consistent Silence Matthew 1:24; 2:14, 19-23

There is not a single word spoken by Joseph recorded in the Bible. I think it safe to conclude that Joseph was physically able to speak. The dream environment may have not allowed a dialogue in which both the angel and Joseph would speak as opposed to the monologue of the angel. Perhaps the wonderful realization that God Almighty had a word and a work for a lowly, uncelebrated carpenter literally left Joseph speechless. Joseph may have believed with the psalmist that there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether (Psalms 139:4), and therefore felt that his words were unnecessary. Whatever the case, Joseph said nothing, but quietly and compliantly did what God had told him to do.

b. Let’s Point Out His Compliant Silence (He didn’t declare; he did.)

2. Submission Is Seen In His Marriage

a. He Associated With Mary

and took unto him his wife (took) – Greek 3880. paralambano, meaning to receive near, i.e. associate with oneself (in any familiar or intimate act or relation); by analogy to assume an office; figuratively it means to learn; to receive.

b. He Accepted Mary and took unto him his wife

B. Joseph Committed Himself To This Special Woman

1. His Commitment Is Seen In A Patient Way

(Matthew 1:25) And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Some believe that this was such a scandal that even years later, Jesus detractor’s had this in mind when they said…

(John 8:41) Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

But perhaps this marriage took away the possibility of such a scandal being propagated; for the Bible says…

(Luke 3:23) And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,

2. His Commitment Is Seen In A Paternal Way

In naming the child as specified in verse 21…

(Matthew 1:25) And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.


As the Christmas story is reiterated year after year, we always recognize the role of Mary, the angelic host, the shepherds, and even the wise men that actually didn’t arrive until some time after the birth of Jesus. But, as Manfred Kober states, “There is one person who normally receives little or no recognition in the drama of the incarnation. That individual is Joseph.”

While Joseph is often overshadowed and subtracted from the Christmas story, the personal name Joseph means “adding,” and I want to say with great confidence and certainty that Joseph adds to the dynamics of the wonderful event of Christ’s birth.

He adds to the account because he gave his situation to the Lord. None of us will ever be in the same situation as Joseph. But like Joseph, we all face dilemmas and doubts in our lives. And like Joseph, we must give our situation to the Lord. Giving your situation as a Christmas gift would no doubt seem to some like a gag gift. But the Lord wants us to cast our care on Him.

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